Burner artists go bigger and wider

BrollyFlock and other burner-build artwork helped light up last weekend's Electric Daisy Carnival
Jessica Hobbs

I've been covering Burning Man for many years, both for the Guardian and my book, so it's easy to feel a little jaded about another year of preparing for that annual pilgrimage to the playa. But then I plug into the innovative projects that people are pursuing – as I did last week for the annual Desert Arts Preview – and I find myself as amazed and wide-eyed as a Burning Man virgin.
And when the weekend came, I watched my old camps go bigger than ever – with Opulent Temple throwing a rocking Rites of Massive six-stage dance party on Treasure Island, and the Flux Foundation lighting up the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas with its newest installation, BrollyFlock – demonstrating the ambitious scale at which veteran burners are now operating.
Increasingly, burners are putting their energies into real world projects not bound for Burning Man, often with the help of Black Rock Arts Foundation, the nonprofit spinoff of Black Rock City LLC that funds and facilitates public art projects. BRAF's latest, a project that is also receiving a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, is The Bike Bridge, which pairs noted burner artist Michael Christian with 12 young women from Oakland to turn old bicycles and bike parts into sculptures that will be built at The Crucible and placed throughout Oakland.
“The Bike Bridge is the next evolution of our community-focused public art projects,” BRAF Executive Director Tomas McCabe said in a June 23 press release. “This educational and creative project is designed specifically to engage Oakland’s youth.”
Later that evening, McCabe and other burners gathered on the waterfront in Kelly's Mission Cafe for the Desert Arts Preview, where he ticked off a long list of projects that BRAF was working on around the world, from the conversion of a bridge in Portland, Ore. into an elaborate artwork to a sculpture made of sails for next year's Figment festival in New York City to a bus opera (written about bus culture and performed aboard buses) in Santa Fe to a cool interactive floating eyeball artwork that will tour Paris, London, Barcelona, and San Francisco to the BOOM Parade (combining bicycles and boom boxes) that will roll through Bayview Hunters Point in October.
But the most ambitious artworks are still being planned for that limitless canvas of the Black Rock Desert, where Burning Man will be staged in late August. This year's temple, The Temple of Transition, is being built out of Reno by a huge international crew from 20 countries headed by a pair of artists known simply by their nationalities, Irish and Kiwi, who built Megatropolis at last year's event.
“We built a city block of buildings and burned it to the ground,” Kiwi told the gathering, noting how impressed he's been by a number of recent projects he's watched. “When you start doing that, you feel challenged and wonder what you can do next.”
Irish said they were particularly inspired by watching the Temple of Flux go up last year, a project involving more than 200 volunteers that I worked on and chronicled for the Guardian, and said it made them want to bid to build this year's temple. “That's what inspired us,” Irish said.
The project includes a series of towers and altars, the tallest one in the center reaching about 120-feet into the air, a phenomenal height against the vast flatness of the playa. They said volunteers have been plentiful and the city of Reno has actively facilitated their work, “but our main concern is having enough finances,” Kiwi said.
The project got a grant from the company that stages Burning Man, Black Rock City LLC, which gave almost $500,000 to 44 different projects this year, but most didn't come anywhere close to covering the full project costs. The Temple of Transition bridged its gap by raising almost $25,000 in a campaign on Kickstarter, which many projects are now using.  
“It's a great way to cut out the middle man. You guys are funding art directly,” longtime artist Jon Sarriugarte, who got a BRC art grant this year to build the Serpent Twins (with his partner, Kyrsten Mate), said of Kickstarter, where he was about three-quarters of the way to meeting his goal of the $10,000 he needs to cover his remaining project costs.
Serpent Twins is a pair of Nordic serpents crafted from a train of 55-gallon containers and illuminated with fire and LED effects that will snake their way around the playa this year, one of many mobile artworks that have been getting ever more ambitious each year.
“I love the playa. It's a beautiful canvas, but it's also a beautiful road,” Sarriugarte told the group, conveying his excitement at driving his art into groups of desert wanderers: “I can't wait to split the crowds and then contain them.”
Another cool project that is in the final days of a much-needed Kickstarter campaign is Otic Oasis, whose artists (including longtime Burning Man attorney Lightning Clearwater) brought a scale model to the event. It's a slotted wood structure made up of comfy lounging pods stacked into a 35-foot pyramid design that will be placed in the quietest corner of the playa: deep in the walk-in camping area, inaccessible to art cars and other distractions.
That and other projects that are doing Kickstarter campaign are listed on the Burning Man website, where visitors can get a nice overview of what's in store.  
One project that didn't meet its ambitious Kickstarter goal was Truth & Beauty, artist Marco Cochrane's follow-up to last year's amazing Blissdance, a 40-sculpture of a dancing nude woman that has temporarily been placed on Treasure Island. But the crew has already made significant progress on the new project, a 55-foot sculpture of the same model in a different pose (stretching her arms skyward), and Cochrane told me they will be bringing a section of her from her knees to shoulders as a climbable artwork.

The Flux crew has been working for months on BrollyFrock, a renegade flock of flaming, illuminated, and shade-producing umbrellas that was commissioned by Imsomniac for its Nocturnal and Electric Daily Carnival music festivals, and it was placed at the latter festival near Wish, large dandelions that were built near the Temple of Flux at Burning Man last year, as well as new artworks by Michael Christian. Flux's Jessica Hobbs said burners artists have become much sought-after by the large festivals that have begun to proliferate.

"I really think a lot of these music festivals are looking at how our pieces make an experience," Hobbs said, citing both the spectacularity and interactivity that are the hallmarks of Burning Man artworks of the modern era. The Flux crew was pushed to meet a tight deadline for the project, preventing them from doing a big project for Burning Man this year, but that's just part of the diversification being experienced by burner artists these days. "We challenged ourselves and we came away with another great project."



As a 10 year veteran attendee of burning man from 1995 until 2006, one of the main reasons I stopped going were rise of these mega-camps and mega-structures.

They seemed to me to be antithetical to the very nature of radical self-expression which was turned me on about burning man in the first place. I was free and not subject to group-think, sure i was part of the totality that was burning man but wasn't guided by it.

How does one self-express in a group of 100? Are you not just following the vision of one or two people? Sure, once you've completed said structure, art piece etc you're free to roam the playa and express yourself, but if you've spent 5 days on it, watch the man burn and go home, is there anything "radical" about that?

Of course people attending for the first time typically go with friends in a group and then come back the next year full of ideas they can execute on their own.

To be part of a tribe within the city is great and offers many benefits, but ultimately isn't it at the sacrifice of the self?

Posted by old burner on Jul. 08, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

I wondered which troll wrote the title "Memo to Steven Jones..."

My money was on old man Evans. It sounded more like his style than Secretia or Meatlick's. I was right.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 06, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

"My money was on old man Evans. It sounded more like his style than Secretia or Meatlick's. I was right."

- Greg

Didn't you once claim that Evans, Lucretia, and Matlock were all the same person? Is your paranoia softening of late?

Haven't you urged others not to read Evans' posts? Why haven't you followed your own advice?

Have you ever written a post on this subject free of age-ism? Maybe once or twice, huh?

Are you really a high-school dropout? Or is that just the impression you like to convey with your posts here?

Bottom line:

If this is the best defense that Burning Man can come up with, it deserves to go up in flames.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jul. 08, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

Discussions about Burning Man often degenerate. I'd like to take a brief look at why I think that happens, and respond to some of the questions and observations in the thread.

Burning Man is about as gender balanced as any organization I've ever been involved with. The LLC has six partners, three men and three women, and there are men and women involved in every aspect of the operation; fence building, heavy equipment operation, cleanup, planning and management. Burning Man seems to attract lots of tough, smart, capable women at every level, and I think that's part of why it's been so successful. It isn't nearly as racially balanced though. My experience would indicate that that's because it doesn't draw from non-white communities rather than resulting from racial bias.

Attending Burning Man is an immersive experience, and for some of us it has a significant, even profound impact on our outlook. It can be difficult to express that to those who have not shared the experience. I'm sure that lots of those who have not attended but who have had a conversation about it with someone who has, have come away wondering just what sort of alien they were talking to, and that it would be very easy to brush the whole thing off as the frothing of a stoner. While Burning Man--like any other city of 50,000--has it's stoners, just experiencing the event can also be mind altering--and can be very difficult to describe in a way that makes any rational sense to someone who hasn't been there. (Unfortunately, it's easy to get defensive about it too.)

Burning Man takes it's name from the first event in 1986 where a small figure was burned, and it has become a mecca for fire art of all kinds, but there is lots and lots of other art there as well; photography, sculpture, painting, performances of all kinds, and events that range from raves to a Quaker Meeting.

Over the years Burning Man has evolved into a very well organized event; it is an experiment, and what is learned is folded back in every year in an ongoing effort to optimize the experience and minimize problems. Issues that surface in the stories that go around have often been solved. On the other hand, Burning Man is not a place where there are protective barriers and warning signs; part of the attraction is the opportunity to touch and even climb on things. But there is also an obligation to be sensible and make responsible personal choices--it's not Disney Land.

So what is so special about Burning Man? The desert setting, the art, the community, the lack of commerce, the tradition of gifting, the tradition that everyone is a participant not just an observer or consumer, all contribute to a surreal experience that's very different from everyday life. Unlike other events, it hasn't been designed by someone to entertain us. Instead, every single thing that's there, is there because someone in the community decided to put it there, to personally make it happen. So it's not slick; instead it's homegrown, roll your own, open source, and over the years we've gotten pretty good at it. There have even been a few masterpieces.

For those of us who call it home, Burning Man really is special.

Posted by Gary on Jul. 03, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

Thanks, Gary, for your thoughtful post above about the attractions of Burning Man.

It's good to know that there are burners who don't go into a fit when reasonable questions are asked, and who can respond in an intelligent manner without foul-mouthed explosions and personal attacks.

Everybody gains when a discussion is reasonable.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jul. 03, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

Just checking Troll-Town.
I sense a certain sadness in Ruthie's response to assuming the position marc referenced, I guess when you no longer have the flexibility and joi de vivre of your glory days you inevitably become a dried up, myopic, old misanthrope.
Have a groovy weekend y'all. I'm outa here.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

"you inevitably become a dried up, myopic, old misanthrope."

- Pat Monk

This comment by Pat Monk is additional evidence that for some people, at least, Burning Man is a mirror of, and not an alternative to, the ugliness of the dominant system of life.

The basic problem with Burning Man is its underlying current of irrationalism. Burners become hostile and defensive when rational questions are asked.

They believe that emotions should be exempt from evaluation. They resent it when thinking intrudes on their fantasies.

History has witnessed many examples of movements that seek meaning and community through emotional acting-out, free from rational overview. Despite good initial intentions, such movements sometimes come to final historical outcomes that are ludicrous. And sometimes, horrific.

Let's be reasonable.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jul. 01, 2011 @ 8:48 am

"It's an experiment in alternative social organization."

- Greg

It's not dominated by straight, while males?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 8:23 am

Stephen, thank you for the excellently personal update on some of Burning Man's finest artists. I enjoy volunteering for the ARTery on playa, and I unfortunately could not attend the Desert Arts Preview. Your article has been circulated among some of the volunteers, and we're all grateful for the recognition and attention you've given them and the people and organizations who support their work.

Commenters, let's discuss the content of the article and related topics. Let's not trade rhetoric for the delight of scoring points. It's a rigged game, after all.

Those of us who may identify with Arthur may wish to post the comment that, once-and-for-all, condemns Burning Man in this way or that. But what will have been accomplished? This is certainly not the forum to effectively challenge public opinion on the matter.

In turn, those of us who may identify with Massimo / Burningmax may wish to post the comment that, once-and-for-all, defeats those condemnations of our beloved Burning Man. But how does one defeat an opponent with nothing to lose and no goal? The comments in this thread pretend to debate without agreeing on the topic -- without identifying the problem -- and so there is no possibility of arriving at the solution.

It may be that Arthur would be satisfied if every article, comment, and mention of Burning Man from here-on-out included a disclaimer along these lines: "By the way, I'm fully aware that Burning Man is insignificant to society at large and one's thoughts related to Burning Man are inappropriate for serious dialogue on serious topics." The audience and participants being so-cautioned, Arthur would then concentrate his rhetoric on the topic at hand.

And it may be that Massimo / Burningmax would be satisfied if Arthur confessed to a bias against Burning Man and agreed that from here-on-out, he would no longer condemn those who proclaim its virtues for society. The audience and participants being so-informed, Massimo / Burningmax would then concentrate on the topic at hand.

Of course, neither scenario is possible, and this is not a debate. This is a rigged game. Arthur is an antagonist, and he can only participate by provoking response. -- antagonists cannot win. Massimo / Burningmax is a martyr for beliefs not truly threatened -- martyrs cannot win, either.

Posted by Mark America on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

"It's an experiment in alternative social organization."

- Greg

Please elaborate. Sound interesting.

By the way, I'm glad to see that you're capable of rational dialogue. Your common pattern here has been to explode with foul-mouthed personal attacks on anyone who dares to question any of your dogmas.

This sort of behavior is common in sects, both of the right and the left, both in religion and in politics.

Let's be reasonable.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

Being on the Brollyflock crew at EDC we saw that while it's great that events like this are bringing out (and paying for) big art, the event attendies are a very different crowd when compared to Burningman participants. The attenties, by and large, greatly appreciated the piece, but it was clear that for them the event experience was not specifically about the art. On the other hand, it was very exciting to bring our vision to people who would not otherwise have experienced our kind of art. The most wonderful times for our crew was when, every so often, a few of the tens of thousands of electronic music enthusiests would express the wonder we had evoked in them, and that they had been inspired to seek our opportunities do work on projects like ours. There was nothing better than hearing "I live in [hometown]. Who in my area is leading an art crew?" Those kids are the future of our genre, and these events are how they will find us.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 11:57 am

Thank you, Massimo aka Burningmax, for your thoughtful post above. Some responses follow.

You say:

“- funds that gets all sucked in budgets such as military and war / defense / paranoid-obsessive control over the masses and other unreal expenses that ARE the real problem.”

We agree that the military-industrial complex and the institutionalization of male violence are real problems.

You say:

“See how many problems?”

Yes, human folly causes many problems.

You say:

“So why blame Burning Man and the burners, if we just want to retire from the ‘default world’ to radically express our cultures, creativities and selves?”

As I’ve noted before, it’s fine with me if people (in this case, mostly single, straight male stoners) want to get together in a safe space and act-out. Who could object to that?

However, Steven T. Jones holds up this sort of acting-out as a model for a new America. How can any thoughtful person buy into his Philistinism?

You say:

“I don't say let's redesign a world in the model of BM”

You have more on the ball, then, than Steven T. Jones.

You say:

“I'm proudly part of the Temple of transition Crew this year and also one of the donors of $25 to make the Temple happens.”

Have fun!

You say:

“I feel that being part of the Temple is the most important and inspiring Burning Man experience I ever made so far.”

Admittedly, burning things down does have its charm. But have you ever thought of contemplating the art of Michelangelo, or reading the poetry of Emily Dickenson, or listening to the music of Bach, or reflecting on the dialogues of Plato?

Try it some time.

You say:

“Keep burning.”

Socrates once said:

“For a human being, the unexamined life is not worth living.”

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 8:07 am

Hi again, Arthur -

Why are you so negative against Burning Man? And yet, if you don't care about it, why do you waste so much time and energy talking so badly about it? I really think you should go out there and give it a try, before judging things (and experiences) that you don't know first hand.

Just let me say that I'm male and straight, but I'm not single or stoner. I'm an artist and also a professional, and I work hard in my everyday job. And so are many of the fellow burners, that go from the starving student to some of the richest people on Earth, including Google's founder (plus half of the Silicon Valley professionals) and Anna Getty (yes, from the Getty Foundation in LA). And top artists, musicians, performers, architects, philosophers, anthropologist and creative minds from all over the world - all stoners? I don't think so...

I read, listen (and play) music, and get easily engaged in philosophical conversations. I don't know where you live, but I live in Rome - three minutes walk from the Coliseum. Same distance but slightly different direction and there is San Martino ai Monti, where the Moses of Michelangelo is kept, and exposed to the public. Did you know that when Michelangelo finished the Moses, he looked at the artwork and suddenly hammered the statue at a knee, saying that it was "too perfect" and needed some scratches?

Yes, I guess it's fun to release a great creative tension. We burn, and we feel good - also because we are also taking care of what we burn - no chemicals, and no toxic fumes. This is the Temple, not the Thunderdome! =)

Massimo / Burningmax

Posted by Massimo / Burningmax on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 10:21 am

Thanks again, Massimo, for your latest post.

You say:

"We burn, and we feel good."

Good for you! I support your right to have fun in the desert.

However, when Burning Man is put forward as a model for a better America, then it's appropriate for it to critiqued rationally. Otherwise, why should one model be adopted over another?

The Puritanical tradition, which has long influenced the U.S. to some degree, used to say "If it feels good, don't do it."

On the other hand, the Countercultural tradition, which came to the fore in the 1960s, used to say "If it feels good, do it."

Both are traditions are wrong. Whether something feels good or not is no indication, in and of itself, of whether that thing is worthwhile.

Rational judgment decides such questions.

And that's what I'm looking for from burners who claim, not just that Burning Man is fun, but that it is a model for a better America. Steven T. Jones, among others, makes this claim.

Where's the rational argument?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 11:06 am

Better America? I don't belong to the Burning Man community to build a better America. I lived in the Bay Area for 5 years, but I'm now VERY happily relocated back to Italy, traveling across Europe for work on regular basis - there is no comparison with the standards of living of "America" and the European quality of life - I feel much better here in Europe, thanks.

But let's point out something important. Burning Man is not a festival happening in Nevada once a year. Beside of the fact that BM has not to be filed under "festival" (more like a "project", or an "experiment in temporary/alternative community"), it is important to underline the fact that Burning Man is an all-year-round community. An international community, with thousands of members who don't live in "America" and who brought the BM principles elsewhere.

Just for you to know, I'm leaving tomorrow for Spain, where I'll be part of Nowhere, the European regional Burning Man event http://www.goingnowhere.org - now at its sixth year, Nowhere is a small but very dynamic event happening in a Spanish desert, with people flying in from all over (this year we are expecting people from all over Europe, the States - including the Bay Area), South Africa and New Zealand (both countries also have their own regional BM events).

Beside of this, here in Europe we are organized into Italian Burners, UK Burners, Irish Burners, German, Spanish, Swiss, Scandinavian, etc.... and we all have local events with the entire community flying over. Our Italian group (certainly not a sect), while already mentally being at Nowhere in July and getting organized for Burning Man in August, is planning for the Italian Burning Weekend (now at its forth year) in October, while I'm already scheduled as dj for both Dublin and London Decompressions (November and December respectively) - and last month I attended an event in Belgium organized from the French Burners to field test their interactive installations for Nowhere.

We are not building a better America - I personally don't care. I am - with all my fellow burners friends - building a community. We meet several times per year since years and we are all friends - more, brothers and sisters. Fellow burners. And very creative, smart, self-reliant people.

Burning man is an emotion, a state of mind, a soul community. None of these can be put in the same dish as rational argument. You like movies, or sports, and often go to the cinema or to the stadium. Or you like the feeling of nature, or art, and often go to a park or a museum. Or you like to run, and run 10 miles per day, rain or shine - where is the rational argument?

We go to Burning Man. And to Nowhere. And to Kiwi Burn. And to Afrika Burn. Or Mount Shasta's. Or to Santa Cruz, Brooklyn or London. We are a creative community. We ARE Burning Man.

It's not a sect - sects are generally supported by (true or false) rational arguments. We are all different yet we share. We get together because of the soul. Sorry this one does not apply to your evaluation metrics.

Enjoy the burn -
Massimo / Burningmax

Posted by Massimo / Burningmax on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

"Burning man is an emotion, a state of mind, a soul community."

- Massimo

In the absence of rational judgment, emotions, states of mind, and communities can turn out very badly.

Rational judgment has a role to play in every aspect of human life, even when people are burning things.

Let's be reasonable.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 8:53 am

Sometimes, Arthur, and let's be reasonable, you've just got to throw your legs in the air and take it up the ass, not all is rational.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 9:15 am

"you've just got to throw your legs in the air and take it up the ass"

- Marc Salomon

Now we all see what's on your mind.

Inspiring stuff, huh?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

I wonder if he posted this after commenting on the record with the BAR re: circumcision. "as a gay man who has been around a lot of penis"

always classy that Marc guy

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

Such homo- and sex-phobia, and in San Francisco of all places!

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

"Such homo- and sex-phobia, and in San Francisco of all places!"

- Marc Salomon

You missed the point, Marc.

Crudeness can be found in every sexual orientation and gender. In fact, it's the default state for human beings when the quest to be civilized is absent.

Plato was right, after all. By developing character and intellectual excellence, we stand the best chance of becoming good and refined persons.

Otherwise known as evolving.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

To the contrary, such "evolution" has led humanity down the path of philistinism. We've seen the progress of civilization, which was predicated upon the study of the humanities, actually cut off that source of intellectual inspiration by allowing the liberal arts to atrophy in the academy.

To its credit, Burning Man tries to demolish some of the more oppressive aspects of "civilization." Whether the alternatives BM presents are sustainable or viable models is another question entirely.

Human beings are both crude and refined, all of us. Often time, those who see themselves as the most refine are often the crudest. It is possible to be as evil and mean using civilized, refined language as it is using the crudest of street language.

The damage comes when we are made to repress part of our animal nature. To its credit, Burning Man does bring people together around fire and that touches something special about what it is to be a social human animal. And escaping the city for an intentional community does allow us to drop our urban armor that we've defensively built up, which changes the way we behave over the long term, often for the better.

Apparently, communicating in metaphors goes above your rational head. The world is both ordered and chaotic. Sometimes, you've just got to say "to hell with it, I'm horny."

Each of chaos and order brings its own plusses and minuses. One would do well to embrace them all rather than pretend that only that which you favor exists and the other does not. There will always be chaos, against entropy, you can never win.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 01, 2011 @ 11:48 am


You say:

“To the contrary, such ‘evolution’ has led humanity down the path of philistinism.”

Without the development of character and mind, art and technology are just different words for barbarism.

You say:

“Burning Man tries to demolish some of the more oppressive aspects of ‘civilization.’”

Such as?

“It is possible to be as evil and mean using civilized, refined language as it is using the crudest of street language.”

We are all born savages. Through decades of developing mind and character, we have some chance of becoming civilized. No guarantee. But without character development and mental development, there is no chance of becoming civilized.

You say:

“The damage comes when we are made to repress part of our animal nature.”

What about the animal urge to hate and destroy in the face of opposition? Shouldn’t that be repressed?

Our animal nature has the potential for both good and bad. The good should be cultivated. The bad should be repressed.

Otherwise, we end up as high-tech monsters.

You say:

“Burning Man does bring people together around fire and that touches something special about what it is to be a social human animal.”

What is this something special?

You say:

“escaping the city for an intentional community does allow us to drop our urban armor that we've defensively built up.”

Provided we escape in a thoughtful, positive manner.

The Unabomber also escaped city living.

You say:

“Apparently, communicating in metaphors goes above your rational head.”

I’m trying the best I can to get up with your superior brain, marc.

Bottom line:

* * * * *

There’s no substitute for thoughtful reflection, even when escaping to the countryside and burning things.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jul. 02, 2011 @ 10:11 am

Conduct is more important than language, doing trumps saying.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 05, 2011 @ 11:28 am

"Conduct is more important than language, doing trumps saying."

- Marc Salomon

Isn't the above an example of language and saying?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jul. 05, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

Yes, and while true, it is not as important as doing stuff, no contradiction here.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 05, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

Intelligent action.

And intelligence requires deliberation.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jul. 05, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

All of the intelligence in the world absent action is meaningless.

Only intelligence translated into action has substantive meaning and even then not always.

If thinking, speaking and writing alone could change the world, we'd be living in a very different place by now, dontcha think?

Posted by marcos on Jul. 05, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

Intelligence minus action is useless.

Action minus intelligence is misguided.

Both are needed.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jul. 05, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

Of course action without thought is risky.

But thought without action accomplishes nothing.

There is no contradiction in these two statements.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 05, 2011 @ 10:15 pm



Posted by Arthur Evans on Jul. 06, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

It's great that groups of people with similar needs can meet together in safe spaces and act-out. There would probably be less violence in the world if more people did so. At least, there would be more fun in the world.

But is acting-out art? This question is especially relevant to Burning Man because the major demographic of burners consists of single, straight male stoners.

Is this group known for its esthetic vision? Is its politics known for its thoughtful acuity? Is its philosophy known for its depth?

Acting-out is fun. But there's nothing artful and progressive about Philistinism, even on drugs.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 7:41 am

And, to add to the mix, the Flaming Lotus Girls brought "Mutopia" (from Bman 2008) to EDC this past weekend, and they, too, are building a new piece called Tympani Lambada for BRC 2011. Please see this link for more info and to support this art group's efforts:


Posted by Guest on Jun. 28, 2011 @ 11:46 pm

Reports Steven T. Jones, with approval:

“’We built a city block of buildings and burned it to the ground,’ Kiwi told the gathering, noting how impressed he's been by a number of recent projects he's watched. ‘When you start doing that, you feel challenged and wonder what you can do next.’”

Tens of thousands of Americans have lost their homes through foreclosures, many millions of people around the world have become homeless because of natural catastrophes, schools and universities in CA are begging for funds, and SF has to borrow millions of dollars in order to do basic street repair.

At the same, a burner built “a city block of buildings and burned it to the ground” while hundreds of stoners looked on, applauded, and called it art.

Anybody see a problem here?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 28, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

Look up some photos of the Megatropolis burn. They are easy to find.

Then you will see, it wasn't a REAL city block. It was not actual shelter. It was plywood painted to resemble a city block.


What is your point anyway? Are you saying the economy is too bad to allow art. Are you saying artists and stoners are not doing enough to fix California's poverty?

What is your solution? I'd rather hear that than some misguided whining.

Posted by Ginger on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 8:45 am

In case you're not familiar with Arthur, he is what we call a "troll." He's not here to offer solutions.

And marcos... what can I say? You've never been, and you don't even want to understand.

Like you, I'm a world traveler. I've been all over this country, and some thirty others. Like you, I see the value in it, in spite of the carbon footprint, in spite of the priveledge of relative wealth, in spite of the criticism that someone could conceivably make, that the money I spend on travel could help x amount of poor people in need. And yet in spite of all the criticisms, I know that you agree with me because you spend money this way too.

But when someone once asked me, "What's the one place you would go back to?" The answer was obvious. Of all the places I've been, the one place I want to go back to -the one place I *do* go back to -is Burning Man.

The first time I took my wife along (who was reluctant to go for the longest time), she was in a daze on the way back (and no it wasn't drug-induced). Driving down the freeway, she tells me, "I feel like I'm in a foreign country now." Suddenly she understood why it is that people say "I'm going home" when they go to the playa... why it has to be so far away from everything for it to work... why it has to be in such an inhospitable environment, and so many other "whys."

It's hard enough to verbally explain even to someone who has an open mind about it. Damn near impossible to explain to someone who has never been, but *thinks* they already know everything.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 9:57 am

These criticisms by Arthur and Marcos are absurd. Burning Man is a wonderful thing which does indeed offer many lessons for how we view ourselves and each other outside of Black Rock. There is really no downside to it.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 11:36 am

“In case you're not familiar with Arthur, he is what we call a ‘troll.’ He's not here to offer solutions.”

- Greg

Thanks for not using any obscenities in your latest comment, Greg. You’re getting better!

As I’ve mentioned, there’s a difference between (1) acting-out at events and (2) putting these events forward as models for a new America.

The first is just a matter of having fun according to one’s personal taste. Fine.

The second, however, involves norms, values, and standards. These are subject to rational review and criticism, just like any normative claim.

Steven T. Jones and some others put Burning Man forward as a model. When questions or objections are raised about this model, its defenders become hostile, flustered, and inarticulate.

If you’re going to put forward a model for a better world, then you had better be able to defend it rationally.

Otherwise, you come across as a Philistine.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 10:28 am

You do love your straw man arguments, don't you, Arthur. I've written dozens of articles and an entire book on Burning Man, and I've never suggested it's a model for the rest of the country. You claim to be a big reader, Arthur, so you should read my book. Then you'll be able to offer more intelligent criticism. You'll also have a whole book's worth of my writing to criticize, which should make you very happy because criticizing me seems to be your favorite pastime. You can pick it up at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon, or directly through my website: www.steventjones.com. I'll even sign a nice inscription for you so you have even more of my words to criticize.

Posted by steven on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 10:54 am

Greg, Greg, Greg, What's with this "either you love Burning Man or you don't understand Burning Man crap?" I was first invited to Burning Man in 1993, but the friend told me that had gone too commercial, so I might not want to go. We may disagree, but please don't deny my perceptiveness.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Burning Man is not the first temporary autonomous zone phenomenon. In the US, there is a rich history of similar gatherings, Earth First! and Rainbow being two. I've attended many EF! gatherings and understand what it is like to shed the urban armor amidst fellow travelers.

But I've always disliked disco, techno and the assorted culture that is the core of Burning Man just like I've disliked the deadhead stinking hippie culture of Rainbow.

When I get away from civilization, I like to be unplugged, far from cars and preferably in the forest, with a smallish gang of like minded folks. Yes, there are folks who are like minded to me, believe it or not, and I don't think I'd find many of them at Burning Man.

The idea of hanging out in a dusty sterile desert sustained by fossil fuel generators and living amidst a RV farm populated with tripping wannabe hippies listening to pounding techno music makes me want to puke, okay?

The only aspect of Burning Man that entices me is the prospect of helping some young curious men to explore their queer sides, given that their barriers are already coming down in such special circumstances.


Posted by marcos on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 10:13 am

How about creating art that does not require 50000 people to motor up to a desert, to live in RV's, to burn fossil fuels to keep it all going, culminating in the release of all sorts of toxic and greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 9:07 am

Actually, marcos, Black Rock City uses far less energy and produces less waste than most American cities of 50,000 people. Sure, some fossil fuels get burned in generators and whatnot, but this is the most car-free city on the planet while it exists. Everyone walks, uses bikes, or rides on art cars (BRC's public transit system) the entire week, never getting into a car. And I honestly don't think the drive there should be counted that heavily because this is people's vacation and they're most likely going to travel somewhere, and a seven-hour drive is better than even a short flight. I'm not claiming BRC is some kind of eco-utopia, and we certainly do wantonly waste propane just so we can see fire explode, but your environmental critique is way overblown.

Posted by steven on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 11:07 am

Steven, the enviro critique is not overblown when compared to truly off the grid gatherings like Rainbow and EF!

I am told that it is very difficult to camp there because of the winds and the dangers of being run over by motorized vehicles and the steps required to pitch a tent are almost prohibitive. Hence, driving all of those 4mpg RVs over the mountains and into the desert casts a heavier footprint.

As far as air travel goes, those planes are going to fly anyway. The incremental cost per passenger due to weight versus flying an empty seat is insignificant.

BM is not pure evil, but it is quite contrived.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 11:23 am

You've been told wrong, Marc. The vast majority of Burning Man attendees camp in tents, which are easy to pitch, and there are roads for motorized vehicles and bikes, so getting run over isn't an issue. Honestly, the environmental argument is usually only made by people who have never gone because it just isn't true.

Posted by steven on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

Its been clarified, that it is onerous due to that you've got to use serous rebar to stake because of the wind, and to have structures to deal with dust and threat of rain, but not impossible, to do a minimal tent camping outfit at BM like you'd do in the forest.

Still, the heavy reliance on RV's and generators portends significant impacts.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

-No RV I know of gets 4mpg. The average is about 12, ranging from 7-8 for an old 25-foot clunker from the 90s, to about 16-17 for a new mini RV. That's not bad considering that the larger ones can fit 6 comfortably -much better than taking an SUV for 2 people and packed to the gills with all their stuff.

-It's actually really easy to camp and pitch a tent. About half the people do. And there's no danger of your camp getting run over by any vehicle. That happened once in the 90s, and the way it's set up it doesn't happen anymore. That comment is just so unbelievably divorced from reality, that only someone who has never been, could say something like that. Are you sure that you're talking about the same event, marcos?

These two comments taken together perfectly illustrate the point I'm making -that you don't know what you're talking about, you don't understand, and you don't want to understand.

And it's not about "liking" it. I know people who don't like it; it's not their thing and that's fine. But whether they wind up liking it or not, I think virtually 100% of the people who've ever gone will tell you that unless you've experienced it, you can't understand it. And what really irks me is when people try to dismiss it out of hand without ever having had the experience, and then make ignorant comments like yours, all the while smugly secure in their belief that they have their facts right.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

Alright, Greg, I'll talk to my friend who told me about the tents, who went last year, to confirm. I'm not making this stuff up. It is not like I don't know people who go and don't talk to them about it, like everyone who is not down with BM is clueless, in need of enlightenment via a little techno and E.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

What you're saying is ridiculous. We take the RV route, but most of my village camps in tents, and they're totally fine.

I just like to have my hot showers, bathroom, and ability to cook gourmet food on the playa. Some purists frown on RVs, but even they appreciate ice cream in the desert.

As for carbon footprint, consider that an RV gives you 12 mpg, not 4. If there's a group of several people, it's more economical than packing 2 cars. Consider also:
-You're not commuting to work during the week you're there, offsetting some of the gas you're using. And of course you're not driving once you're there.
-If you're from anywhere but San Francisco, you're not using air conditioning that you would be using if you were home. If you're from San Francisco, you're not using heat that week.
-Your water useage goes way down. Yes, you drink more, but that's offset many times over by the fact that even in an RV, you have to be ridiculously conservant with water. In a tent, you're using even less.

Oh, and I think it's also closer than Death Valley

Posted by Greg on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 10:21 pm

I'm not claiming that Death Valley is an eco friendly tour, but Burning Man proponents claim that it is some ecotopia. We'd rented a Prius last drive to DV, and we had to fill it up with 4 tanks of gas for 1500 miles.

One of my skills is preparing delicious vegan food on camping stoves, in the forest, under a canopy of old growth trees, where there is no risk of alkali dust poisoning my meal.

I confirmed last evening from my friend who attended last year that there are requirements for rebar to secure tents against the wind, that few if any use a single tent, and that most have elaborate contraptions designed to insulate burners from the elements.

Call it car camping on steroids, er, party drugs, but don't call Burning Man sustainable or ecologically friendly, okay?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 9:14 am

I'm not saying that people losing their houses or schools begging for funds are not a problem, Arthur. Also a lot of social services are shutting down in the US for lack of funds - funds that gets all sucked in budgets such as military and war / defense / paranoid-obsessive control over the masses and other unreal expenses that ARE the real problem.

By the way, ask yourself also why Hollywood actors score millions for a couple of months of work (while being VIPed and all luxury expenses covered), or why a football player has a salary of a few millions (and gets even more with advertising, just a photo shooting with a watch or other consumer product) while many people doesn't get to meets ends - or why other spend thousands and thousands of dollars for aesthetic surgery while entire families cannot afford basic health.

See how many problems?

So why blame Burning Man and the burners, if we just want to retire from the "default world" to radically express our cultures, creativities and selves? All this when a gift economy is set in place, discrimination doesn't exists and inspiration happens at every blink of our eyes?

I don't say let's redesign a world in the model of BM, but sure I say if we want to blame the dark areas and the lack of justice of our "democratic" society, we should start blaming (or better, fighting) in a different directions.

I'm proudly part of the Temple of transition Crew this year and also one of the donors of $25 to make the Temple happens. We funded our own art directly, also with the contribution of many burners and friends, who love the Temple on the playa and want to help us make it beautiful. Dozens of volunteers are working as we chat on the major structure in a warehouse in Reno, where they started cutting timber and nailing wood more than a month ago, many leaving behind their jobs, families and friends (I will join the Temple Crew - from Italy - a couple of weeks before BM opens its gates). You can follow the progress of the Temple build stage at our blog http://www.temple2011.org

We are committing to the Temple of Transition because we feel it very deeply and strongly as one of the pillars of our Burning Man culture - personally, after 8 years with the Burning Man community and working on many projects, I feel that being part of the Temple is the most important and inspiring Burning Man experience I ever made so far.

We need to build the Temple, so we can burn it to the ground, and release in the desert wind sorrows, pains, joy and a plentiful of other emotions that need to be let go. Too hippie? Maybe... but, whatever... you should get the playa and being inspired too - like Steven, myself and hundreds of thousands of burners worldwide. If you do, make sure to spend some time at the Temple, we'll love to see you there (also for the burn).

And if you want to contribute, we are running another fundraising campaign on IndieGogo.com http://www.indiegogo.com/Temple-of-Transition - we are far from closing it successfully like the one on Kickstarter, but we'll be honored if you will decide to contribute as you can, even if with just $25! =)

Keep burning -
Massimo aka Burningmax

Posted by Massimo / Burningmax on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 7:31 am