PayPal freezes the finances of Burning Man's Temple crew (UPDATED)

|
(117)

PayPal has frozen the account of the Flux Foundation – a large crew of Bay Area artists and burners that is headed to the Black Rock Desert this week to build the most ambitious Temple in Burning Man's 25-year history – claiming the right to profit from the money until the group formally attains its nonprofit status from a backlogged federal government.

“All that money is just sitting there and we can't touch it,” says artist Jess Hobbs, referring to the tens of thousands of dollars that the crew has raised this summer through events and other fundraising drives to supplement an art grant from Black Rock City LLC that didn't come close to meeting the project's $180,000 budget.

PayPal -- which has been criticized for its secrecy, financial manipulation, and other corporate misbehavior -- was founded in San Jose in 1998 to facilitate online financial transactions and in 2002 was taken over by eBay, the company from which billionaire California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman acquired her wealth.

The company has not returned inquires from the Guardian made this morning. Hobbs and a crew that includes more than 200 other artists and burners have voluntarily worked almost every day this summer to build the Temple of Flux, a series of massive dunes that replicate peaks, canyons, caves, and other natural land forms – a project that I've been embedded with for a Guardian cover story that comes out Sept. 1.

“They will take the donations and their fees, but they won't give us our money until we get our nonprofit status,” Hobbs told a meeting of the crew last night at the American Steel warehouse in West Oakland, where they've been working on the project since early June, before she and other principle artists PK Kimelman and Rebecca Anders left for the playa today. “And the IRS is so backed up they're taking at least six months to give out nonprofit status.”

Hobbs and other Temple crew members are now scrambling for ways to support a difficult on-site build that will take more than two weeks to complete, including asking crew members for loans and encouraging everyone to put the word out to the community, hoping to find generous benefactors who can at least extend a bridge loan.

Burning Man crews and camps are traditionally informal groups, but given the scale of this project, the Temple of Flux crew this year tried to create a new model for fundraising and sustaining the organization beyond this year's Burning Man event by filing the voluminous paperwork required to create the nonprofit Flux Foundation.

But now, PayPal has thrown the effort into a real state of financial flux, taking its cut of nearly 3 percent but refusing to even explain why the corporation has deemed it necessary to freeze the group's finances.

UPDATE: PayPal has released the fund due to reader outcry. Read more here.

Comments

a-holes!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

the last batch of responses are just driven by greed....WE GAVE OUR MONEY to build OUR temple... they see a way to SUCK a profit from it. Strange they don't raise any issue until the money is to be withdrawn [removing their interest potential] any other excuse is BULL SHIT.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

I for one will be cancelling both my pal pal AND MY E-BAY account. This is corporate greed.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

I too will be canceling my Paypal and eBay accts.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

Gosh! I'll watch for where Paypal and Ebay go bankrupt, I guess?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

Ok, no doubt Paypal is bad, anyone who's ever had an account can tell you that.

But < rant on > in my opinion - Many of the large scale art projects including the temple crew - as creative as they are - have fallen into the "mine is bigger than yours" mentality since 2000. Its like an out of control ego-fueled arms race with no regulation or self-reflection on the core values of burning man.

Even in the year of the greening man, one of the largest "art" projects was to burn thousands of gallons of propane in 90 seconds. No one seemed to contemplate the irony in that act.

Sadly its reflected across the entire "art" spectrum especially in the unbelievable hubris of some of the "dance" music camps where they build larger and larger sound systems and expect some sort of financial reciprocation for something they initially did as a labor of love.

Bigger isn't necessarily always better. Small is beautiful. Leave your egos at the door.

And of course, it was better when you were.

Posted by Art Action on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 6:07 pm

Bigger may not always be better, but the temple is a truly great work of art.

Burning Man may be about radical self reliance and great art - but why can't many members of the community come together to support radical art like the temple via donations?

The temple is one of the most sacred spaces on the playa. Without its presence I believe Burning Man would loose much of its spiritual connections. The temple burn is the moment of rebirth for Burning Man. The festival events are all but over, and as the flames settle and all physical artifacts of the event are removed, there is nothing left but the memories made. The temple burning is always a great memory for me.

The propane explosion during the Green Man year was incredible not because of the awesome show put on when that much fuel is ignited, but also because of the wonderful irony in the choice to use a commodity made from crude oil - the biggest enemy toward the green movement. I am sure igniting the same amount of hemp oil wouldn't have been nearly as memorable (not to mention much less explosive).

All in all, don't hate on the temple. It is a beautiful space that is created for all of the Burning Man community. Monetary donations toward the temple's construction are a form of participation. It allows for a large-scale structure to be assembled, and also shows how much the temple means to the population of Black Rock City.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

And by "spiritual connections", you do mean "drug induced rave party", right? Because let's face it...minus the piles of ecstasy, ghb, meth, coke, etc. etc. - half the people that go play on "the playa" wouldn't even speak to each other, let alone have any sort of "spiritual connection". What a farce.

I have never experienced such egotistical, self centered and self righteous dolts as I have in the "Burner" community.

Oh yes...let's all be individuals but wear the same lame costumes that everyone else wears...and then chastise people who don't line up like sheep and wear the same awful crap. It's not unique if everyone else does it - DUR! Who the hell wars faux fur to the damn desert anyway?

Get over yourselves. Nothing about Burning Man is unique or innovative or as hippy dippy la-la love you as all Burners like to make it out to be. It's a drug fueled desert rave, full of people who think non-stop hedonism is a great way of life. Pre-compression, de-compression, playa this, playa that...every damn party in the city for months before AND after the event are thrown sheerly to fund the same repetitive BS that happens every single year, with the same overhyped DJ's (yes, half the local SF burner DJ's are HORRIBLE and should stay far away from the decks).

If you want a true spiritual connection with your friends, try having normal conversations that don't include a handful of drugs and a sweaty, sandy backrub and anonymous sex with some HPV or herpes ridden rave trollop/douchebag.

Posted by Jerkface McGee on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:03 pm

seriously, i don't think all that is necessary. people have been using drugs for spiritual purposes for thousands of years because it wakes parts of the brain and consciousness that aren't typically active. sometimes, drugs can change your life for the better- they are neither good or bad- just like everything else. Not to mention all the people who are sober who enjoy participating in the gift economy and viewing all the art and experience that thousands of people spend thousands of hours creating as an act of generousity.

Yes, there are plenty of 'egotistical, self centered and self righteous dolts' in the burner community. I do believe they are called 'human beings' and can be found in all sectors of life. They are not specific to the burn community. AND- perfectly respectable people can also have moments where they are being that way- and many others where they are being kind, compassionate, generous and all the other wonderful attributes that humans are known to possess. When they want to.

Yes, there are a lot of people who look alike and talk about their independence on the playa. Yes, fake fur on a hot desert day is dumb. Going to the desert at all in the summer is a pretty stupid vacation if you ask me. But I love it. And I leave the fake fur at home. And how can you simultaneously criticize people for looking the same while acknowledging the many people who show up and DON'T look like that. There may be burner snobs who give them a hard time for not expressing themselves a certain way. I have found that when I don't have a problem with how I am expressing myself, the judgements of others have no impact with me. Some people are just gonna be assholes- in the face of their ideals. That's how it is.

I heard the shittiest DJ at Roots Society last year- so I left the fucking place and went somewhere else. viola- problem solved. Shitty DJs or no- burning man changes lives. Some people like to have random dirty sex with strangers- not me, but their business is their own. Same thing with good conversation- sober or intoxicated if it is good, it is good. Burn culture has changed my life- and I like the changes. I am not without any criticism, but I don't think all the hate is necessary. If you are so over burning man- why are you reading the article, let alone taking time to comment?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:33 pm

You should probably switch to decaf.

Posted by Cpt Samshy on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

Let me guess: you've never been to Burning Man.

Posted by Davoid on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

jerkface mcgee,

you smell like a meathead hater who has never been to burning man, but thinks he knows all about it. try it... you just might come home with a furry hat and a hippie smile.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

Iv'e been to burning man and furry hats suck!!!!!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 4:54 am

I don't know what event you went to to think it's just a drug happy rave full of hippies. Obviously you missed the point if you actually went. Drugs at the burn are just like the nudity, a mere fraction of the people attending actually do any drugs. The reason we go is the sense of community we feel when we meet people for the first time and they greet us with a hug. We also go to escape the mentality that capitalism is the only way to go. We give freely to each other and the community as a whole. If only regular society were to follow such guidelines maybe we wouldn't have so many social issues like poverty, exclusivity and wars. Have you ever given to anyone not expecting something in return? Try it sometime.

Also, if it weren't for Burning Man, there wouldn't be Black Rock Solar which has been working to donate time and money to bring solar power to the masses and just recently completed their new milestone of 1 Megawatt, nor would there be Burners Without Borders, where people donate their time to help out in disaster areas like Haiti and most recently the gulf coast.

You can criticize all you want, but if you don't know all the facts, your opinion isn't worth anyone's time hearing it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

I don't know what event you went to to think it's just a drug happy rave full of hippies. Obviously you missed the point if you actually went. Drugs at the burn are just like the nudity, a mere fraction of the people attending actually do any drugs. The reason we go is the sense of community we feel when we meet people for the first time and they greet us with a hug. We also go to escape the mentality that capitalism is the only way to go. We give freely to each other and the community as a whole. If only regular society were to follow such guidelines maybe we wouldn't have so many social issues like poverty, exclusivity and wars. Have you ever given to anyone not expecting something in return? Try it sometime.

Also, if it weren't for Burning Man, there wouldn't be Black Rock Solar which has been working to donate time and money to bring solar power to the masses and just recently completed their new milestone of 1 Megawatt, nor would there be Burners Without Borders, where people donate their time to help out in disaster areas like Haiti and most recently the gulf coast.

You can criticize all you want, but if you don't know all the facts, your opinion isn't worth anyone's time hearing it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

Typical response from a hater... and 99/100 times, someone who's never been.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 8:34 pm

Wow, that sounds so right on so many points.. I wouldn't have any connection, much less spiritual with most of these people, haha. But, I've enjoyed some great music there and danced for hours, without drugs. I think 20 years ago was much more enjoyable.

Posted by artgirl on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 9:54 pm

You are a jerkface McGee!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

Thanks for tellin' it like it is!!!!:)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 4:53 am

This guy is an implant to make people think burning man is no good, probably works for paypal and is openly justifying the money freeze. Sounds like he went with the wrong people, perhaps had too much of said drugs, nobody would talk to him, and woke up in a fake fur outfit on the desert floor next to dome society with a new friend called herpes.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 5:24 am

Here here. I got all worked up to think it was some kind of transcendental experience, then got there and realized... what a bunch of douchebags and nastiness goes on. Not a fan any longer- there are lofty goals there, but they seem to be dragged down by ego and simple hedonism.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 10:30 am

Well how interesting... You must be quite the pleasant human being, full of love compassion and respect...the reason why Burningman exist. I find it difficult to believe that you you have ever been to this event and if so you must of been shit faced the whole time and missed the whole mission of BM. What a pitty...I have been going for 5 years now volunteering as medical and ranger and I must say sex and drugs is a very small fraction of what we see. We are a community of all walks of life who come together and face the elements leaving behind all traces of the fucked up society we live in to just be present for one week, to be connected, to heal, to let free your inner child and creativity in a place of non judgment.
I feel sorry for you..take a good look at your self...who are you? Are you happy, I wish you the best my friend and you may want to start meditating :)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 10:33 am

This is my fourth burn, and i have never done drugs on the playa. Please do not generalize.

Black Rock City is like a microcosm of any community. Drugs will happen. Don't let that be the one aspect of the community that you choose to focus on.

Posted by SV on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 10:37 am

you sound like a lovely person. spending time with you must be pure joy, spiritually speaking.

Posted by DUR! on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

i don't do drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, not even tv, and i tell you that at least have of black rocks population will live in a similar way of health and consciousness. what you are describing is only a tiny aspect of the whole thing. burning man is the biggest mind opener that you can have, and definetly the most harrasment free zone on the planet. and, no one cares if you wear fur or a business suit there.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

i don't do drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, not even tv, and i tell you that at least have of black rocks population will live in a similar way of health and consciousness. what you are describing is only a tiny aspect of the whole thing. burning man is the biggest mind opener that you can have, and definetly the most harrasment free zone on the planet. and, no one cares if you wear fur or a business suit there.

Posted by Guestvsjerkface on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

why so angry?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

I do not go to the Playa to be spiritual, individual, smart, silly, hedonistic or to fit into any of the other readily overused descriptions of the event. I go to see old friends, meet new ones, enjoy some incredible art, ignore some really bad art and irritating music. I do not attend events during the rest year. I go each summer to have the time of my life. In the process, I encounter spirituality, individualism, hedonism and unbridled joy.
Please, by all means don't come. Do your own thing and enjoy it like there's no tomorrow. I will do mine.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

Jerkface, you didn't mention what you contribute to the culture. Yours, or ours. You'll be spinning where? Welcome home!

Posted by Guest)(hoenix on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

Thousands of self professed non-conformist people heading to the desert in search of a festival where they conform. Perfect.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 12:43 am

Strange, after 4 years of attendance, I have never had the experiences so carefully and crudely laid out in this posting. Could it be that Jerkface came upon a reflection of his own face/energy/expectations at the burn? I believe that our experience is directly influenced by the baggage we bring to an event.

As for The Temple, as a 65 year-old architect and artist, I see it as the most significant piece of art on the playa because it invites participation on a deep emotional level, a kind of participation that binds us together as an alternative community.

I have witnessed burners pouring energy into the playa community, and I have seen those sucking energy out of it. I asked why younger people seem to need drugs to escape, and especially why the need to escape from BRC, which is ALREADY an escape. The answers I received were that young people are afraid of their lives and their own futures, and choose to escape from the dominance of the corporate world any way they can. It is sad to see them missing the full experience of the burn, the event that could offer them access to the creativity they are seeking.

I would like to invite Jerkface to stay home from future burns untill he finds a way to leave his negativity here in The Default World where it belongs. We do not need this negative energy on the playa

Posted by David Ludwig on Oct. 21, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

Well said.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

Wow, I amazed to see so much vitriol and hatred and outright cult like obedience in a troll/flame war. You all have nothing to be ashamed of.

Back to my point - I'm not "hating" on the temple, I'm questioning the need for constantly increasing every art piece in size every year to make it "bigger and better".

Again, in my opinion, I don't agree that giving money to build someone else's art structure constituents participation, its patronage. In the same way artists for centuries painted the ceilings of churches, made statues of gods, adorned temples etc under the patronage of the local lord or merchant king. Calling it participation isn't doing anyone any justice to the context of burning man.

Its just sad to see something as creative and participatory as burning man turn into a feudal system so quickly.

At some point you have to wonder has the value of radical self-expression been replaced with group-think. Certainly there's a first time for every burner and being in a group alleviates much of the first year stresses, but if you never leave that group are you ever going to create something yourself or radically self-express?

Sure the pyramids needed hundreds of slaves to build them and some great art requires more than just one artist to finish it but I'd still rather see 50 mini temples on the playa reflecting 50 radical self expressions than one giant group effort that sucks up more money and more resources year over year.

Posted by Art Action on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 9:59 am

I would also rather see more smaller art by more great artist thatn one huge art piece by just a few artist. Art should not be a politcal hierarchy.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

Thank you as one artist to another.

I left my ego at the door many moons ago.

Maxi-minimalism i understand the participation, burningman i don't

Posted by Art Action on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

Dont't blame the art crews...blame evolution (if you insist on "blaming" someone. The point of this article is not about what you decided to get on your soap box for. Perhaps you should take a step back and judge yourself before you decide you should judge others.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

I'm not blaming anyone, I'm making an opinionated statement on a very pertinent and related topic. Why do these crews need so much money in the first place? I could care less about paypal, but what shocking to me is that donating money now qualifies as "participating". Why the need to grow so much and build a massive wang to slap in peoples faces? Does everyone suffer from small dick syndrome? Its puzzling.

As someone who's attended burning man for 10+ years from 1995 to 2008 and created multiple art structures with 1-2 fellow artists I find that the larger the crew the less the individual shines and that I think is sad and eats away at the core values of burning man.

FWIW, the comments section is an unbridled soapbox, "comments", in point of fact, would be the giveaway there.

This is an opinion, nothing more and nothing less, like assholes, everyone's got one. Not worth getting your panties in a twist over.

Posted by Art Action on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 11:19 am

They froze the assets because the longer they hold on to the money the more interest they will make.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

I worked in PayPal's call centre a few years ago and sadly, this is not an atypical situation. Non-profit/donation accounts were frozen on a regular basis. Unfortunately, until they are provided with that non-profit status information from the IRS, it is very much most likely that they will continue to hold the money.

The thing is, we were reminded frequently that PayPal was "not a bank", and therefore not subject to the same laws and rules as they are. PayPal gets to make it's own rules, and there's really no one to hold them in check.

Posted by Lis0r on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

Before Ebay bought Paypal, complaints were so widespread the federal government was threatening to force Paypal to become a bank and federally insure their holdings, through legislation. At some point during the transition, they made a verbal promise to stop being assholes and the issue was dropped...I haven't heard a story like this in a long time. Sorry to hear they're still assholes...but not surprised.

Posted by theperegrine on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 6:39 am

Is Pay Pal doing it just for something to do?

I would assume the the people who you talked to knew the reason that Pay Pal gave, for example; could it be that all money given to a non profit pays different taxes than other groups, and pay pal not wanting to be caught in the middle of that, possibly holding the financial bag froze the assets? Who knows? Because the blog has no information in it.

I do know who has owned paypal so that leads me to think there is yet another anti-progressive conspiracy at hand, because Meg Whitman hates burning man "artists?"

Posted by matlock on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

PayPal doesn't report to the IRS. They are not a bank, and unless they are handed a warrant, they keep all financial transactions confidential.

Posted by Lis0r on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 6:51 pm
Posted by matlock on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

First rule of pay-pal - Take out your money immediately! - transfer it to the bank account linked to the pay-pal account and then move it out of that account to an entirely different bank. (Yes, pay-pal can "reach in" to your connected account and extract $).

Posted by GuestCG on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

Who really gives two shits about this? This is news? As if the rest of us non muppet-fur wearing people actually care?

Burning Man is nothing but a big ol' frat/sorority clique society, full of scads of people with overblown Peter Pan complexes.

So your giant desert rave is missing it's giant temple. Big whoop. NEXXXXXXXXXXXT!

Posted by Jerkface McGee on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

eat shit fucktard

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

Burning man sucks. Its hot, its cold, its windy, there are rainstorms. The music is too loud, there isn't enough music. There are too many people. There are explosions. Burning Man sucks. DON'T GO.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

If you don't like chocolate ice cream, then don't eat it.
Just shut the f*ck up for those of us who do.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

It's not news that tens of thousands of donated dollars are being frozen by a private company with a liability to release them? yes, it's news, certainly better than what shoes Lady Gaga is wearing this week, or how many popped collar polos you have on. Also, FAIL TROLL IS A FAIL!!!!!!!111one

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 5:09 am

Not really, no. Bigger News would be something to the order of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that get "misplaced" daily by the U.S. government. Sure, it absolutely sucks for everyone involved that Paypal is unfairly freezing funds, but no matter how incredible, or valuable Burning Man may be for the tens of thousands of participants, the national effect of the whole event is marginal at best. There are truly much larger issues in this world that should be dealt with. Burning Man is a wonderful event of fantastic artistic expression, but in the world of business, private corporations often screw other private corporations. It isn't newsworthy, it's just life.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 7:49 am