October 4th, 2011


Burning Man: notes for the essay I will never write

Why write about it? Why write about anything. "How I met your mother" To crystalize experience and share. To think aloud (i.e. to think)

20000 mile view - for people just asking @ it in the context of where liska and i met, not looking for a lecture on the subject. "it's a big art festival in the desert."
500 mile view - why should you care? why is it interesting?
convince you to go?
-but i never really want to convince anyone. if they ask should they, sure, but it's too big as is and not for everyone

reasons to go
- you are into art. you are the sort of person who goes to modern art museums when visiting cities, you pay attention to installations/art galleries etc
- you are interested in cities, self organization, etc
- you like the desert
- you enjoy riding your bike around
- you want to meet someone (i.e. your future wife)
- you want to experience a one of a kind surreal event
- you're a pyro / like seeing things burn
- have heard of it want to understand the hype
- want to experience crazy movie-esque parties

reasons not to go
- you don't like being hot and dirty
- the people you know who are into it are lame
- you don't want to work so much for a vacation
- (maybe) you don't like drugs or drug scenes

ways you can should experience:
1) super light, super quick (thurs-fri) - minimal packing no group camp commitments rely on others for shade etc basically just go to experience/party, not contribute
2) as part of a camp - group experience, communal cooking, building, etc. make art as a group
3) w/ your own personal projects - you as the artiste
4) as a survival thang - go for the whole week (mon-mon) - bring everything you need to survive
5) as a ranger, lamplighter or part of the BM org. * haven't done this yet
6) help build a large scale installation. * haven't done this yet

my evolution of experience
year 1: no clue, thought it was @ barter. came for thurs-sat, partied, left.
year 2: now i get the gift economy and want to contribute. joined pinhole, did the whole group thing .
year 3: personal projects. (fortune cookies etc.) spent lot of year thinking @ doing
year 4: hanging w/ cool folks,chill. lots of cooking, costumes, events. left before the burn
-i like how katie & co get into the fashion aspect of it. they are good refs for playa fashion
would be interesting to ask noel what his evolution is, if he views it like that
probably pretty different
but you don't wanna just go and party
but scantron crew do
so can't over generalize

techno/mechnical aesthetic
there's some types of art I enjoy that share some things
the whole notion of public art, public space
transience - like zen monks who sweep away sand

should there be internet? cell service?
sure why not but to me a true vacation involves little to no internet

vivid reality
some days at BM feel like they pack in a month of stuff
you remember things so strongly
a lot happens
elements of other things (hippie festivals, punk concerns, DIY raves, site-specific installations, art car scene in houston, carnies, etc) but really not that comparable to any other specific thing

why did BM catch on?
why did jesus? why do memes take? why do some things last and grow?

at least some of it is down to larry
but there's an unwritten history of other helpers, e.g. john law
shooting guns in the desert

will i tell izzy to go?
maybe, but part of me hopes she has her own equivalent.
burners are old
-selfishly, seems better for things to burn out than fade away; quit while you're ahead
-but why deny others of the joys i had?
it will always have been cooler 5 years ago
to me only things that would really ruin it are loss of the commerce restriction or loss of the art.

coming upon something in the middle of the outer desert beautiful and anonymous put there by someone for someone to come upon or not

the desert
riding your bike on the flat playa
getting caught in whiteout windstorms
lots of stars
-magnuses rant on how it's not wilderness there's tons of generators noise etc

DIY/self reliance
gift economy
finding your niche - art project, camp, whatever
spilled out into SF as a whole
large collectives who put on parties & events
public art sponsored by the city
events that aren't BM but are somehow connected or in the spirit-- i.e. chicken john's camp tipsy
camp tipsy is a great embodiment of what i mean by the burning man spirit (punk - DIY - art - not taking self too seriously)
for me the appeal now is in events like that rather than BM itself
-loop in that other thing i wrote maybe... BRC as summer camp for adults. "everything you don't know is an obstacle to your creativity"

Things to think about
origins in cacophony, death of that spirit.
-paul addis brought it back by burning down the man early - thoughts on him
project management, what survives and why - building institutions that last beyond individuals
what is the value of a T.A.Z. for bourgeois hipsters?
so much time/money/energy spent on this for naught, if a fraction of it spent on charity etc what we could do!
-some refute by pointing to burners w/out borders etc
this is fine but besides the point. i think the bigger thing to consider is that there is value in utopian communities even if they fail or exist only for a week
same as w/ critical mass - the value is in the suggestion of an alternate reality
gives us the capacity to imagine alternatives
what if public art was everywhere? what if billboards and ads in public space were banned?
why can't women walk around topless?
obv. the gift economy couldn't scale, but it captures imagination
also inspires you creatively
-art doesn't have to have social cause, but art still has meaning/value
-do you ask about art festivals, what's the point?

Part of the problem perhaps is that many of the spokespeople for BM, vocal burners etc, espouse incoherent/silly ideas about the event and its radical self expression etc etc
But that's just cos the event is so big
It encompasses multitudes
Obs: BM isn't one thing. It's dirty hippies, it's yuppies in fur boots, it's artists toiling year round, it's burnouts who like to work construction equipment

Should Larry Harvey & LLC get rich?
-eh. sure. i don't care.

Should Budweiser be able to sell BM beer?
-for me, absolutely not. the absence of commerce/branding/trade is, along w/ the art, the most important thing
-i can accept a lot of contradictions/inconsistency in the event's organization/policies/planning if it keeps this the case
-if BM is in the public domain as a brand than it will get used by everything/everyone

-outfits not costumes
-EL is the new glow stick
-fake fur is fake murder
-leave no trace
-piss clear
-nothing's black and white, contradictions in utopian philosophy are ok because aiming for a complex utopian reality
-(via chicken john) - art is the key

BRC as city - urban design
-has a town square
-iconographic large middle structure for orientation (till it burns)
-no plumbing, just portapotties - this is where self reliance breaks down as does gift economy
-they hire somebody to come pipe the shit out
-admired alicia's attempt to do sanitation
-not provided, use generators
-pack it in, pack it out, leave no trace
-rangers - voluntary
-DMV - dept mutant vehicles
-gatekeepers - tickets enforced, population capped
coffee/ice at center camp - i like this concession, nothing in BM is black and white, i like that too
street life
-random encounters while hanging out
bicycle intensive - like amsterdam, everyone rides bikes
depends on collective goodwill, murderers etc would be handled by regular police (so not really urban in that sense)
no commerce - bring what you need to eat
streets - laid out, labeled (street signs), lighted (lamp lighters).
-cartographer - area surveyed, maps printed and provided
-would be interesting to map the territory for real - aerial photography helps here - GIS
has an air port
has a post office
has radio stations
has wireless i hear (not sure @ cell phones)
has a newspaper & an alt weekly

Safe space for nudity without too much leering/groping

BM is like the best holidays combined
halloween (costumes)
xmas (gifts)
4th of july (explosions)

Stuff I've read
that one guy's thing on flaming lotus girls - eh
some rando films that don't do it justice
aerial photos that kinda do
random photos like of the flower
piss clear / spock science gazette - the papers in general
julie h's thing - still best thing i've read on it overall

What doesn't need to be written about

Meeting liska
-funny how you rehearse telling a story until the telling of it becomes the truth (memory of it)
-you decide how you want to remember it and chisel that into your head and collective memory
-also the canned observations one makes. i always say
-we were off our heads and both dating other people, so who says drugs/rebound relationships don't work
-right place right time
-even back then she was forgetful - lost her jacket
-made me take off my blinky glasses and we made out before the burn
-i gave her my number with a picture of a ducky, which was my spiritual animal that year.
duckies in abundance - the ducky casino, ducky mobiles, i wore a ducky necklace obtained from someone
didn't want to be too forward, didn't know if she'd call, at that point didn't seem like it would/wouldn't be a thing
-we never made it to live miss pacman

How well known is it?
hard to say, in SF it's huge, elsewhere, who knows
how do i answer the question, what is burning man, when someone asks?
i usually don't bother really trying to explain
is that selfish? more just i don't think they care.

Surreality is commonplace

Next level pranksterism etc
-sell stuff illicitly
-burn down man early
-protest burning of man

Life as performance art
friendliness and whimsical interactions w/ strangers

Music/dance parties
-amazing soundsystems/backdrop like being in a movie club
-usually terrible music
-sounds bleed

The saga in a nutshell? footnoted elsewhere
related institutions? sunset parties, werepad, chillits, etc.

No commerce
gift economy

sex/drugs/rock and roll

- must one take drugs to enjoy?
- clearly many don't
- i always did
- it's like saying must you smoke pot to enjoy a rap concert

list: personalities big and small
-chicken john
-john law
-katie & the portland fashion crew
-nick and his crazy costumes that embody things (medicine cabinet, trading post)
-bill - seems more himself at BM than anywhere else! "welcome home," the greeters say

list: What I don't like
-porta potty smells
-bourgeois - white, monied by nature
-fur boots
-cheesy burner names/outfits/attitudes
-thurs/fri/sat crowd *
-terrible music
-more work than work itself
-bar camps*

list: fire/blew up good
-serpent mother
-big rig jig
-2BLEVE (bombs)
-have people done missiles yet?

list: cool art
-charon, swimmers, zoetropes
-dust city diner
-motorized flower
-big round cubatron
-too much too much

list: people who met and got married thru BM

list: cool cars
-glowing head mobile
-the contessa
-walker thing (did it walk?)
-sub that made the perfect 'ping' sound

list: Cool camps
-floss camp
-terror dome (or whatever where people battle)
-black rock animal control - emily's friends, wonderful. encompasses a lot of what i like about the best camps-- humor, imagination, coherent vision that works in the context of a group-- mission, activities
lots of op. to interact w/ others and create funny moments/experiences. same w/ terror dome, pinhole. not so much floss camp
-floss camp i like cos of the idea that not everything has to be grandiose
-pastie camps
-that one that was a guy in his cube by himself

would need to explain the concept of a camp, what is a camp exactly? literally it's a group of people camping together, they build shade structure, but beyond that
they tend to have a theme (which is vague cos it can be anything) their gift to the community is the experience they provide to others, but also it's a way for friends
to experience BM together
-typically involves shared kitchen, shade structure, etc. expenses etc

you just camping would not be a camp

list: "chill" camps for "old" people
-hammock camp
-hookah camp
-massage camp

list: memorable encounters
-feather dusting maids dusting bikers
-guy who simulated a video game
-gambling blackjack w/ marshmallows etc. in place of money
-guy with fire bike handles for smores
-too much too much

list: stuff
-monkey noise yoga
-tesla device
-the waffle
-david best temples
-chocolate cake in backpack
-stick figure EL people

-hooping (inexplicable) *
-fire dancing
-people who walk around on stilts
-BR rangers/volunteers (esp. the ones that build shit)

list: eng. marvels
-that huge boat
-that 10 story iron thing
-the waffles
-david best temples

list: thrills
-huge see saw

What would I want to hear from others?
what would you add to these lists?
what bears thinking about?
what would ruin it?
why do you keep going? how has your experience changed