BURNILEAKS: Commodification Camp Employment Email

If you’ve had enough of all the Commodification Camp controversy, don’t bother reading this post. For those who still care

Thanks to Anonymous Burner for leaking this email that was sent to workers employed at this notorious Commodification Camp. I’ve removed some names and email addresses, but I think by now we all know which camp this is.

JT has apologized, and if he wasn’t still on the Board of Directors of Burning Man, I would probably let it go. Unfortunately, he is – and in his “apology”, he tried to downplay the commercial nature of his camp. If he’d just said “I did this, I fucked up, my bad, I’ve learned my lesson and it won’t happen again” – I think most of us would have found that acceptable. Instead he blamed his staff, his build crew, the camp next door, all the while trying to use the Ten Principles to convince us that everything his camp did was totally fine. He claims that because he failed to make a profit, we should believe that this 68-room hotel with 50 paid staff where 120 guests were charged $17,000 for rooms with porcelain toilets…was never intended to generate money.

Read this, and decide for yourself if this was a pure gift to the Playa, or a commodified VIP experience sold by a commercial enterprise. The email confirms some of the claims that were made earlier by Sherpagirl, including that there were 50 employees in this camp. What sort of “gift” requires 50 staff? How does this promote Radical Self Reliance and Decommodification? How did they know they could get 170 tickets, and all the Early Access passes required to create a camp like this?


 

Caravancicle Schematic for Staff

 

Subject: Burning Man Staff – Please Read by August 6
*Dear Villagers,*
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(*Following is a lengthy note that contains all of the relevant information you need to  prepare for our upcoming time together. There is a great deal of time sensitive information. Please read this in its entirety by the end of the day on August 6th….*)
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We are delighted that each of you has decided to join us for this year’s Burning Man extravaganza. It’s going to be an amazing and remarkable experience for all. We have the privilege of facilitating other people’s transformation and we take this responsibility seriously. it takes great intention, attention to detail, humility, joy, and a commitment to hard work. We have chosen each of you because you embody these values in your everyday life and you truly understand what a gift it is to be of service to others in this way.
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Please take a moment to read this email in its entirety as it contains important information about logistics and expectations.
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*Expectations*
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We have spent nearly an entire year putting all of the pieces of our puzzle together. From the initial creative design sessions to packing each of our fourteen shipping containers, we have worked hard to ensure success in every regard. Now it comes down to all of you – the beautiful, talented, incredible people who will bring the vision to life.While each of you is being hired to “work” this event, we expect much more from all of you. More than employees, we want you to think of yourself first and foremost as an inhabitant of the village we are a creating. This year’s Burning Man theme is the *Caravansary*.
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In the words of the Burning Man Org,”For countless centuries, travelers along the Silk Route crossed paths in caravansaries, a network of oases and sanctuaries that dotted the 4,000-mile road from Europe to East Asia. These bustling caravan stops offered more than just shelter from the desert wilderness; they were vital centers of cultural exchange, bringing together traders, pilgrims, monks, nomads, traveling entertainers, and wild-eyed adventurers from all points of the compass to share their stories around a common fire. Though fueled by mercantilism, their legacy to us is a grand commerce of ideas — a swirling exchange of languages, legends, technologies, philosophies and art that helped shape nearly every aspect of our modern world.”
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As the inhabitants of our village, we will embrace our guests as if they wandered in off of the long and dusty Silk Road. Our job is to welcome them, feed them, hydrate them, entertain them, share stories, listen to theirs, and to provide the highest form of hospitality possible. There is a distinct difference between getting someone a drink, and nourishing someone in body and spirit. We are here to do the latter. To read our guests’ body language and to anticipate what they need even before they need it. In this way we will help them to feel seen, heard, and cared for in every way.
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At the same time, it is Burning Man, and we are also here to help them engage with the ethos of the Burning Man experience. This means helping them to find a healthy level of self-reliance and active participation as a member a larger community. We’ll show them how to wash their own plates during meal time. We’ll instruct them on how to conserve water in our showers and toilets. We’ll invite them to participate in gifting to others on the Playa. Together we’ll find the perfect balance between service in the highest form and encouraging our guests to truly participate as a citizen of the Playa.Please begin thinking now about who you are going to be, what character you are going to play, and how you can truly embrace this creative, theatrical opportunity to truly invent yourself as an inhabitant of our shared world for eight days in the desert.
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*Work Schedule, Arrival and Departure Dates*
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We have two distinct crews this year – a *Build and Strike Crew* and an Event Crew. While a few of you are crossing over, most of you are on one or the other crew.If you are part of our *Build & Strike Crew*, we will begin building camp on *Monday, August 18th at 12 noon*. Please plan to arrive at that time. Build will take place until everything is done so be prepared to do whatever it takes. We have thoroughly planned and estimated how long it will take to do everything and we hope it will take no more than 12 hours of work per day. That said, our timeline is entirely weather dependent. For example, last year the weather was so bad we could not build anything almost three whole days. Please be prepared for such an eventuality.*If you are part of the Build crew, that means you are part of the Strike crew as well, *and you are expected to stay until camp is completely taken apart. Our goal is the end of the day on Tuesday, September 2nd. That means you will most likely begin your return trip to the Bay on WednesdaySeptember 3rd. That said, Strike is also dependent upon weather and other factors. Please be prepared for any eventuality.
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If you are part of our *Event Crew*, the event begins on *Sunday, August 24th*. Unless we have specifically discussed different timing with any of you, everyone is expected to arrive at camp by *3:00pm on Sunday, August 24*. The gates open at 10:00am which should give you all enough time to make it through the entry gate and to camp on time. Please plan to leave early enough Sunday morning or the night before to ensure you can make it to camp by our start time. Our event ends on *Monday, September 1st at 6pm*. You are expected to be present for work up until this time.

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Each of you on the *Event Crew* will be expected to work approximately ten (10) hours each day, divided into two (2) separate five (5) hour shifts. You will have a three (3) hour break between shifts. Ultimately each of you is expected to work as long as necessary to fully complete whatever needs to be done. As weather and other factors can quickly change plans on the Playa, please be mentally prepared to do whatever it takes.

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We are planning for each of you to get at least one full day off during the week. Please note that this cannot be guaranteed. If things go as planned, everyone will. If, on the other hand, Burning Man throws us some unexpected curveballs, you might not. Please be mentally prepared for this possibility. Your exact schedule for each day will be shared with you during orientation on Sunday night, August 24th.

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*Compensation and Employment Paperwork*

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Each of you will be compensated $180 of shift pay for each day worked. If you do indeed get a day off during the week, you will not be paid for that day. If you get a half day off, your pay will also be divided in half. There will be no tracking of hours or overtime provided. Each of you is required to complete a W9 form as well as an employee agreement and a waiver of liability to participate as a contractor for this event. Please complete the attached forms and return them to me no later than *FridayAugust 8th at 5pm.*

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*Camp Location*

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We are happily located at 8:45 and Kandahar. Yes, this is the outer ring of the Playa. We are located on a circular promenade next to other amazing theme camps. Right next door to us is the Lost Hotel and the Playa-Famous Raw Bar. You are highly encouraged to spend time with them at the Raw Bar. It’s an awesome place to meet people and get to know the artists artisans who make the Playa such an incredible place.*Orientation and Training – Sunday, August 24, 5pm to Midnight. *We will work together upon your arrival on Sunday afternoon, from 6pm to midnight, to introduce you to every single element of camp. Attached to this email is a copy of our camp schematic that we have shared with the Burning Man organization as part of our Theme Camp application. This document provides a basic overview of the many amenities we’ll have at our
camp. Please show up ready to focus on Sunday night.
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*Tickets and Early Arrival Passes*
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For those of you who live within one hour of our office in [snip], please schedule a time to come by our office, Monday through Friday between 9am and 5pm to pick up your ticket and your Early Arrival Pass if applicable (only *Build and Strike Crew* need early access passes). For those of you who live more than one hour away, please email me your mailing address *no later than Thursday, August 7th* so that we can mail your ticket and Early Arrival pass to you. Please note that *YOU MUST NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET*. We do not have any extra. Also, if you do need an Early Arrival Pass, you MUST have the actual Pass assigned to you on your person to get through the entry gate. Each Pass is specifically bar coded and entry will not be granted without one.
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*Transportation*
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For those of you departing from and returning to the Bay Area, we are happy to provide up to 2 mini-van or passenger van rental vehicles for you to use and share to carpool to and from the event. If you are willing to volunteer to be a driver, please let me know by *Friday, August 8th *so that we can plan to add you as a driver on the rental agreement. Depending on the number of you who want to utilize this option, there will be 1 or 2 vehicles departing from the Bay area on either the evening of SaturdayAugust 23rd or approximately 4am on Sunday, August 24th. The exact time of departure will be determined by those of you choosing this option. This vehicle(s) will return from the Playa to the Bay Area on Monday, September 1st or Tuesday, September 2nd. *Please note that vehicles may not be parked at camp*. You are welcome to drive up to camp to unload your personal items. Once you are done we’ll show you where to park your vehicle nearby.
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*Bikes*
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You are required to *provide your own bike for the event*. While we may have some extra bikes available for use at certain times, there is no guarantee that one will be available at any given time, so please plan accordingly. You are welcome to bring your bike to our office in [snip] before *August 11th* if you’d like us to transport the bike for you. Another option is to rent a bike on the Playa. They cost $150 for the week, plus a $150 deposit that is returned to you when you return the bike. As of yesterday they still have bikes available. *I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this option*. You can email [snip] to find out more and reserve your bike. Directions to our office are listed at the bottom of this email.
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*Drugs*
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Illicit drugs are prohibited on the Playa. This includes marijuana as it is not legal medically or otherwise in the State of Nevada. Burning Man is required by law to allow State of Nevada police personnel to patrol the Playa in search of drug offenders. Most of these personnel do this undercover, dressed as a typical Burner. Please be aware that absolutely anyone might be an undercover agent, even someone inviting you to participate in the illicit use of drugs. Even the smell of Marijuana is enough probably cause for an agent to search your body and/or your shelter so be smart!Illicit drugs are also prohibited in camp while working as a contract employee for us during this event. You are expected to show up for every shift sober, alert, and prepared to fully carry out what is expected of you. No exceptions.You are welcome to drink at our bar when you are not on a working shift. You are expected not to drink while on shift.
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*Sleeping Accommodations*

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We are providing a combination of cubes, hexayurts and playa huts for each of you to share. Each structure is double occupancy and will include either a cot with a foam mattress or a foam mattress on a frame. Each unit will also have a light, an air conditioner and an outlet for you to use to charge a personal electronic device. You cannot use a hairdryer with these outlets. *Please note that you must provide your own pillow, sheets, and blankets or sleeping bag. *Also, accommodations are tight. It’s the Playa. Look forward to getting to know your bunkmate :)

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*Mindfulness in Community*

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we are going to be living in close quarters amidst one of the most profound, disorienting, mind blowing environments on planet earth. there will be 120 camp guests, an ecclectic collection of some of the most interesting and influential people in the world and 50 crew members ranging from cooks and bartenders to musicians, belly dancers, filmmakers, acroyogis, bodyworkers, and artists of all forms. each one of us is a key player in a small, contained ecosystem. each of our behaviors will greatly affect others. embraced one way, this experience invites you to reimagine yourself anew and to choose which character with which spirit you choose to bring to the rest of the group. the more intentional you are,  the more likely you can positively impact and co-create the experience with others around you.

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*Food and Drink*

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We will feed all of you three awesome meals a day as well as an incredible assortment of snacks and other delights. You will all eat the same food as our camp members. You are also welcome to eat and drink at our bar and to generally enjoy all of our delicious, organic food and drink. Within reason, you are welcome to invite friends and family to come by camp for a drink or a bar snack. We’ll keep you informed throughout the event as to our inventory supply. Should we face any shortages we will have to limit the amount of guests we invite to eat or drink. Please note that breakfast, lunch and dinner are for camp members and staff *ONLY*. Guests may not be invited to share actual meals.

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If you have any food allergies, please notify us immediately so that we may do our best to accommodate your needs. In addition, if you have specific”treats” or “food needs” that you enjoy and need to have around, please
prepare in advance and bring this food for yourself. If you are so inclined, bring yummy treats to share with other staff as well. While we’ll provide amply for you, it never hurts to have a bit more of anything on the Playa.

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*Personal Items*

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Please provide your own costumes, goggles, dust masks, head lamps, water bottles, mugs, and anything else you need to be a full citizen of the Playa. Please take a moment to review the Burning Man Survival Guide to
make sure you are 100% prepared for your time with us.  You can find it here – http://survival.burningman.comIn addition to what you’ll find on the Survival Guide, the following are
also very helpful items to have on the Playa:
- Hydration pack
– Cup w/ a carabiner
– Neti pot (kitchen can provide the salt)
– Utility belt
Silk underwear for cold nights
– alarm clock
– Supplements (Vit.C, B Complex, 5-HTP, etc.)
– Sunscreen
– Skeleton of a ancient Siberian snow leopard
– The preceding bullet was a joke. We’re just checking to make sure you
have read all of this information.
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*Headshot and Bio*
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So that we may include you in the camp program, please send me a 2″ x 2″ digital image of you and a short bio, 30 words or less, *by Friday, August 8th*. Sorry for the short notice on this, but we’ve got a lot going on :).
Please include your real name, meaning the name you go by every day, and your Playa name if you have one.
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*Attached Documents*
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We have attached a number of documents for you to complete and review. Please make sure to return all necessary paperwork by the dates noted above.
+   w9 Form
+  employment agreement & emergency contact form
+  Participant Agreement, Release of Liability, and Assumption of Risk
+  Camp schematic – placement
+  Camp Invitation (this is the invitation sent to prospective camp
members. it will give you a good sense of the experience we intend to
cultivate)
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*Thank You!*
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That’s all for now! Thanks so much for being part of this experience with us. We are delighted that each and every one of you is joining us and we look forward to sharing this special journey with you.With love, respect, appreciation, and excited anticipation for what’s to come,
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[snip]
“Experience is not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens
to you.” – Aldous Huxley
Where did they park all the cars?

Where did they park all the cars?

Does Commodification Matter?

bm shark jumping

If you think Burning Man is just a big party in the desert, then no – it doesn’t matter. Who cares? Just go and have fun. Avoid articles critical of BMOrg’s management, just pretend everything is great. We have more than a thousand happy, positive articles about Burner culture on this site alone that you can read, and there’ll be many more to come. You can start with these ones about Burners trying to end poverty and bring peace to war zones.

If you think there’s something unique and special about this temporary city made by all of us, then keep reading. Because this isn’t over yet.

burningman.org’s post this week of the apology from Jim Tananbaum has brought Commodification Camps back to the fore of Burner dialog. I know that some Burners would like to give it a rest, and say nothing more until Burning Man 2015. Other Burners still feel upset, betrayed, and disillusioned. JT’s statement received 217 comments in 2 days at the official site, almost all of them negative.

This is about more than just one camp. BMOrg placed between 12 and 25 Commodification Camps, by their own differing accounts. They even created a name for the area they put them in, “Billionaire’s Row”.

This is about the future of the event, and the integrity of our culture. It’s about Selective Rule Enforcement, more than equality. Do the Ten Principles still matter at the Nevada event? Or are they just some catchy marketing speak, used to promote the brand expansion into new market segments like education and commerce?  Are they even relevant to where Larry & Co wants to take our culture in the future? Burning Man has jumped the shark, and is embracing the mainstream. Happy Days went onto its greatest commercial success, after Fonzie jumped the shark.

Do Burners even care? Do Veterans even matter…or is it all about indoctrinating the 40% virgins now?

Should we just shut up and take it, be good little Burners and only say happy things, keep any negative comments to ourselves? Or is it OK to talk about it, express our frustration and discontent?

Image: galleryhip

Image: galleryhip

If there are problems in the event, and its leadership, will they magically go away if we all just shut up about them? It seems like things have been getting worse, not better. Larry and Marian said in the Spark movie that they were giving up control, but they didn’t do that. They’re still there, trying to control a very different corporate beast – and it seems like things may be unravelling. Nobody wants that. We all want Burning Man to be awesome forever, to be true to its values and get better and better with age. I’m not writing this blog to facilitate the unravelling – it’s the decisions being made, and the spin being fed to us, that is doing that.

Larry likes to say “people have been saying Burning Man is dead since we started”, but I’m not saying Burning Man is dead. Now that they’ve been on The Simpsons and all over the mainstream media, telling the world it’s full of billionaires, celebrities, politicians, Mistresses of Merriment, and free drugs, there will be plenty more people who want to visit. It’s the Bucket List/Selfie destination of the EDM Generation.

The culture may not be the same, though. And that’s the thing that I think is worth speaking out about, and fighting for.

The thing about PopsicleGate that is particularly jarring is that JT is a Director – and was only just appointed to the Board a couple of weeks before Burning Man. At that time, they were well aware of the kind of camp he was bringing to Caravansary. A healthy civilization gets positive, inspiring leadership from its rulers. As well as ethics, the Bylaws of their 501(c)3 public benefit corporation specifically require Directors to uphold the Ten Principles. Larry can say “they’re not rules, just an ethos”, but it’s there in black and white – they’re rules now. BMOrg can say “the Directors have no influence over the event”, but if that’s true – then who is in charge? Should Directors be able to just ignore the Principles, because they have no influence? If so, why have them? What value do they add?

Image: Charis Tsevis/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Charis Tsevis/Flickr (Creative Commons)

In the typical Silicon Valley startup story, some founders get together with a cool idea. The pioneers on the fringe of society like to try new ideas, they don’t care that they’re boldly going where no man has gone before. They bring their own flavor and personalities into it, and a little community of early adopters emerges. The founders grab the first people they can find to help them out, building a team based on accessibility rather than merit. Existing relationships with people they like and trust are favored over strangers and qualifications. Fun rules the day, not money. Doing something new is exciting. Some of their early customers go above and beyond, and become evangelists for the New Thing. As the New Thing catches on, the organization grows, the money comes in, and with the money come the suits. Doing something new is less exciting and more risky, than expanding the existing thing into new markets. Eventually, the Founders are in the way of the growth of the business, and it’s time for them to step aside or assume figurehead roles, while professional managers focus on the job of taking the business to the “next level”. Then the whole thing goes public or gets sold, and the culture gets blended into the general corporate culture of the Fortune 500.

The examples of a start-up growing from a few inexperienced people, to a large global organization, with the same few people in the same roles, are few and far between. Usually, growth brings change and strains relationships.

burning_man suitsI see parallels today with BMOrg. The lawyering, the brand-building, the media blitz. These are all suit things, not pioneer things. I see Commodification Camps being run by Directors, who blame others for MOOP and a failed build. I see a focus on pushing the safari tourist experience to an ever-increasing pool of newcomers, while they turn their backs on many who’ve been there for the long haul. Where is the retirement plan for long-term DPW crew, and others who’ve dedicated their lives to Black Rock City?

For all its aspirations of changing the world, Burning Man is, at its core, still an arts festival. That’s what their paperwork says, that’s the trademark they own.

Yes, there are many aspects of it that make it interesting, different, more than just a festival. But its essence is art, and entertainment. Fun. “Saving the world” is to my mind an unproven proposition from this party. Even if people have had transformative experiences there, fuelled perhaps by mind-expanding drugs and liberty and surviving outside your comfort zone – is this scaleable internationally? If so, how?

Looking at Burning Man as a startup wanting to grow to the next level, it’s not clear that they’ve solved the scaling issues. And it really doesn’t look like the leadership team who got us to where we are today, are the right people to fulfil the corporate mission of global growth over the next century.

Sometimes it seems like Alabama St live inside a bubble. To get close to the core, you have to LOVE Burning Man, and as a result, yes-men seem to get favored over straight-talkers. They employ a Minister of Propaganda, and pass it off – like so many other things – as an ironic joke. And yet, there is no better word to describe the type of corporate spin that consistently comes out in the Voices of Burning Man, the Jackrabbit Speaks, and their TED talks and panel discussions.

“Fuck you, it’s our business, you’re not part of it!”, they are probably tempted to cry. But it’s not that sort of corporation. Burning Man is a community. We’ve all built this city together, and destroyed it, again and again and again. Some have participated more than others, some have yet to contribute. The special thing about Burning Man is that it’s a pop-up city made by its citizens, and shared with each other – one free from commercial transactions, advertising, cellphones, TV, class and racial divisions, and the other commodities of Default society. We can go there and be Burners together, and express ourselves the way that amuses us the most. For fun.

I get that some people go to Burning Man and it changes their lives, sure. But not everyone. Many of us go to Burning Man and just be ourselves – and love meeting other like-minded people, and doing all kinds of entertaining and silly things with them. If you take it too seriously, you lose sight of that. It’s about FUN, and ART. We put the ART in pARTying.

If you create great art at Burning Man, should you be able to trade off that to build your default world career as an artist? Absolutely! Should Burning Man get a cut of your sales? Absolutely not! Should they sue you because you put a picture of your amazing creation on your web site? Fuck no! Should you be able to sell your art AT Burning Man? Fuck no!

Burners should be able to make money any way they want off the Playa, and if they want to use examples of what they’ve done at Burning Man in their fund-raising, fine. If they want to sell hoodies for their camp, fine. If they want to charge camp dues, fine. If they want to make money AT Burning Man, that’s not so good.

Ignoring and dismissing these problems won’t make them go away. An effort needs to be made to fix the things that aren’t working. Shooting the messenger might feel good in the short term, but it’s not helping their credibility, and it’s not solving any problems.

The response we waited 3 months for, really doesn’t seem like it’s going to alter anything. BMOrg told us they were listening, then they told us they didn’t want to rush the changes they knew they had to make, and then they told us that they’d made them. VIP Donation tickets got stopped. And…? And nothing. Commodification Camps have to have an interactive component, and be placed by the volunteer Placement team. This was already the policy, according to Answer Girl in How Turnkey Camps Get Placed. They told us they’d ban Commodification Camps in 2012. The Directed Group Sale – aka the World’s Biggest Guest List – is still opaque. If Caravancicle appears under another name, and wants another 200 tickets, will they get special privileges to obtain them? Will they get a ton of Early Access passes? We don’t know, but my guess is, yes.

The next Burning Man is 8 months away, so there’s still plenty of time. What else should we talk about, if not the future of our culture? Let’s be open and honest about what’s been going on, and as a community, let’s continue to be vocal about what we will and won’t accept.

The solutions are simple. Stop with the lies and spin-doctoring. Give us the transparency we’ve been promised for years. Open the books, and involve the community in the operations of the charity. Get rid of Directors trying to link the Playa with commercial activities. Keep the Playa free from Commodification. Sell tickets to everyone the same way. Apply the rules the same way to everyone.

Long live Burning Man! Long live Burners!

2014 Golden Rebar Awards

Every year, This Is Black Rock City presents the “Golden Rebar Awards” to camps that show innovative architecture. This year, there were some truly spectacular winners. Philippe Glade says:

This year, 2014 (my 18th burn), the streets of BRC were bursting with either small or huge shelters as well as makeshift or well planned camps. It was the year of the connectors, several designers came up with metal, wood or acetate resin nodes, resulting in easy to pack and assemble structures.
 
The city became more than ever a vibrant laboratory for daring creators looking in different directions to solve the equation of a simply built, extremely resistant, not too expensive and easy to haul shelter.
 
Because they are not mentioned on any maps I have to explore relentlessly all the streets of my dusty city in search of the diamond in the rough. 
 
The result of this urban exploration is this blog and these Golden Rebars  that, hopefully, with discernment and a bit of zaniness I award on the merits of creativity, design and architectural breakthrough.
See the full list here.

Some highlights:

Cloud Extruded by Frannie Marchese

Golden Rebar for Creativity
Using cut strips of insulation panels, the same used to build hexayurts,
Frannie spent 5 days preparing her shelter that was setup on the playa in
2 hours.

The ubiquitous markings of the insulation panels were painted over and coded for fast installation

She even had a marine toilet connected to a grey water tank.

 

The Playa Painted Lady

Golden Rebar for Whimsicality

Three story high with a top deck, this house could easily be found in pre-war Vienna, Europe.

 

The Pallet Palace

Golden Rebar for Repurposing

A frame of recycled 2×4 held the walls made of used pallets
Other use of pallets

Red Lightning Camp

Golden Rebar for Best Camp Design

This superb camp was designed and built by GuildWorks, founded by Mar C. Ricketts, who by serendipity was featured in my book (now sold-out) with his poetic installation Flight of the Future Seed in 2006.
This architect of the air also designed last year golden rebar winner for best camp design Sacred Spaces Village.

Check out the rest at thisisblackrockcity

Licensed to Sell

I just got off the phone with David Freiberg at the BLM’s Black Rock Field Office, who said he’s a fan of this site. He is going to track down the 2014 list of vendors who were granted a Special Recreation Permit to sell on the Playa this year, we will update this story when we get it. The number of vendors has increased from 45 in 2013, to more than 80 this year.

He said that BLM were looking into the Plug-n-Play camps, which are required to have a permit and pay a 3% share of their revenues to the BLM. He wasn’t aware of any such camps that did get a permit, but it seems like most of them should have.

Some of the triggers for if a permit is required:

  • advertising to the general public, or only to friends
  • camp dues as cost-sharing, versus funding a commercial enterprise
  • it doesn’t matter if you’re a bad businessman, if you lose money, that’s your problem; if you’re selling spots and paying staff, that’s probably commercial activity not casual recreation

It appears that Caravancicle had a commercial deal with The Lost Hotel to build their camp, commercially engaged sherpas and managers who were paid to work there, and produced promotional materials that were advertised to the public.

In JT’s recent “apology“, he claimed that his web site was “meant to be password protected”. It certainly wasn’t when we first wrote about caravancicle.com (now blacked out).

caravancicle room outside

Space Cubes at Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

JT says that even though he “gifted money” to the camp, it was not meant to make a profit:

I can assure you our camp generated no money and was not, in any way, a money making venture

This conflicts with Danger Ranger’s version of events, in which he claimed JT “lost money” only because the camp’s un-named producer embezzled “took the money and ran”. Allegedly. It also conflicts with Sherpagirl’s inside information, that campers paid $17,000 for a hotel room space cube. If you’re selling 68 rooms for $17k a pop , your camp is generating money. Discounting or even comping some of the rooms doesn’t alter that fact.

In their marketing materials, Caravancicle quite clearly state that this is based on the “mind-blowing” hotel they built last year at Camp Olympus. There’s no indication that this page on their web site was made by anyone but Caravancicle.

I printed their caravancicle.com/about page to a PDF on September 5 – no password was required, and there was never any indication that this was “camp-only” private information.

2014 Caravancicle – About Camp

Here’s their very commercial-looking Participant Agreement:

2014 Participant Agreement, R… and Assumption of Risk

It specifically mentions the following individuals and corporations in their risk waiver:

  • Back To Earth, Inc dba “dovetail events”
  • Ari Derfel
  • Jim Tananbaum
  • Space Cubes LLC
  • Brad Peik/Peik Construction Inc/Peik Investments LLC
  • Black Rock City LLC
Image: Phillippe Glade

Image: Philippe Glade

JT said:

Our camp breakdown was also compromised because the group responsible for providing the infrastructure was also responsible for part of the breakdown. In the end, our camp manager and some other members of the camp, plus breakdown staff, cleaned up our camp by Saturday after the event

Staff, responsibilities, infrastructure providers, managers – it sounds pretty commercial to me.

We hired a team to produce the camp…but Caravancicle did not participate in any advertising. The ‘promotional materials’ and website were sent to guests who were invited to join the camp. We did not actively promote the camp. No one in Caravancicle made money off of the camp

We’ve provided a link to some of their advertising and promotional materials, the About page at caravancicle.com. Creating a website and putting your commercial-looking brochure up on it surely counts as “participating in advertising”. There is no question that people who worked in Caravancicle were paid, so JT is not telling the truth here.

we used wristbands

some of our campers were “plug and play” participants

Seems pretty clear to me.

2014 lost hotel bathroom

From Interior Design:

Inside a Space Cube

Inside a Space Cube

Scott Mahoney created the camp “The Lost Hotel,” using his modular tent system called Space Cube that can stack up to three stories high. Mahoney used Adobe Illustrator to design the entire project from the stairs to the bed frames, and constructed everything within 10 weeks. Mahoney’s inspiration was “constrained only by ease of setup and breakdown,” he says. Also collaborating on the project was Joey Rubin of Adar Partners. Rubin’s process was one of “resourcefulness and adaptability,” he says, especially when designing two theme camps at the same time, since Mahoney’s team also assembled 68 Space Cube tents for Caravancicle, a camp produced by Ari Derfel…

Caravancicle Camp offered an all-inclusive experience to affluent deciders and Powerball winners who enjoyed a level of sophistication never seen before at BRC.
It took the teams of The Lost Hotel and of LMNOP 5 people working for 7 days 18h/day to complete this pushing the envelope of refinement camp

Here is how the Federal Government defines commercial use, in relation to their requirement for a Special Recreation Permit (SRP):

Subpart 2932—Special Recreation Permits for Commercial Use, Competitive Events, Organized Groups, and Recreation Use in Special Areas

§2932.5   Definitions.

Actual expenses means money spent directly on the permitted activity. These may include costs of such items as food, rentals of group equipment, transportation, and permit or use fees. Actual expenses do not include the rental or purchase of personal equipment, amortization of equipment, salaries or other payments to participants, bonding costs, or profit.

Commercial use means recreational use of the public lands and related waters for business or financial gain.

(1) The activity, service, or use is commercial if—

(i) Any person, group, or organization makes or attempts to make a profit, receive money, amortize equipment, or obtain goods or services, as compensation from participants in recreational activities occurring on public lands led, sponsored, or organized by that person, group, or organization;

(ii) Anyone collects a fee or receives other compensation that is not strictly a sharing of actual expenses, or exceeds actual expenses, incurred for the purposes of the activity, service, or use;

(iii) There is paid public advertising to seek participants; or

(iv) Participants pay for a duty of care or an expectation of safety.

(2) Profit-making organizations and organizations seeking to make a profit are automatically classified as commercial, even if that part of their activity covered by the permit is not profit-making or the business as a whole is not profitable.

From Burning Man’s FAQ (old site):

http://burningman.com/themecamps/delivery_faq.html

Q: Does my delivery driver need a BLM Special Recreation Permit (SRP)?

A:The Burning Man Event occurs on public land administered by the BLM. Commercial activities (services rendered with the intent of making a profit or financial gain, or delivery of goods and services onto public lands for a fee) are prohibited within the Burning Man Closure area unless specifically contracted by Black Rock City, LLC, and permitted by the BLM through a Special Recreation Permit (SRP).

In 2012, Minister of Propaganda Will Chase said:

we would like to address a few key areas of confusion, so everybody’s on the same page:

  1. “Adventure” outfits (defined as purely commercial businesses offering a full service camp experience that have no connection to our culture and community) providing “a Burning Man Experience” are not considered to be Turnkey camps, and as of this year they will no longer be allowed at the event. Before we had a formalized process for making deliveries to Black Rock City (introduced in 2011 as a “vendor pass” then renamed to Outside Services in 2012 to better reflect the variety of deliveries we facilitate which help build the city) we had no way of identifying these enterprises. Now that we do, we will actively prohibit adventure businesses that are not part of our community and merely capitalizing on our event. It will not be a completely clean process the first year; there are innocent people involved who need to be considered and, as always, a spectrum of outfits that could fit into this category or may be of benefit to the community. They will need to be evaluated and treated fairly, but rest assured, we will not allow our city to become a revenue stream for these sorts of businesses any longer. We are calling on the community to help us with this effort by identifying operations and reporting them to us by emailing outsideservices@burningman.com.
  2. There has been confusion on an issue referred to as taxation for Turnkey camps. These are the facts: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently informed us that they will require any business in operation at our event to obtain a permit and pay 3% of gross revenues to the BLM, just as Black Rock City LLC is required to do. This has always been their right. They began enforcement with commercial air charters at our airport in 2011 and this year they will require RV and trailer providers to pay as well. This will not apply to small “mom and pop” style operations or one-time deliveries. The BLM is not interested in capitalizing on every opportunity, but they do have federal permit regulations they are required to uphold, and this allows them to hold larger commercial operations accountable with regard to our event stipulations and their commitment to environmental stewardship.

Although Caravancicle is the most public of the Commodification Camps, and particularly egregious because it was backed by someone on the Board of Directors, it’s by no means the only such enterprise. Answergirl said they placed 25 of these camps on October 29, this was watered down to 12 by December 3 when “Burning Man” gave us their official response. If these camps are running commercial activities on the Playa, without a Special Recreation Permit from the Bureau of Land Management, they jeopardize the permit for the whole event – and thus are an existential threat to Burning Man itself, as well as a threat to our culture.

From burningman.org:

Decommodification
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

References:

BLM 2014 Burning Man Operating Plan

BLM 2013 list of permitted vendors

 

 

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

DJ Booth above the bar, Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

DJ Booth above the bar, Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

BMOrg Asks For A Gift AGAIN

Image: Vincent Albanese/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Not every charity has a $30 million budget. Image: Vincent Albanese/Flickr (Creative Commons)

 

As if we don’t have anything better to do with our money at Christmas time. Anyone else get one of these?

It’s not even a week since the last Jackrabbit arrived, begging us to give them money. Nigerian banking scammers don’t spam me this much.

What “experiences that transform peoples’ lives” will you create with our money, BMOrg? A trip to Amsterdam for “community leader” Crimson Rose?

How’s that transparency coming along?


 

From: Burning Man <steven.young@burningman.org>

Burning Man Project

Dear Steve

As you may know, 2014 has been a transformative year for Burning Man. We are growing and changing to more effectively support the Global Network, our Arts and Civic Engagement Program, and building Black Rock City to support growing connections and foster creativity around the world.

We are reaching out to you again to remind you that the end of the year is approaching. Everything we do is driven by community participation, communal effort and gifting. With your help, we will reach our goal of supporting more art, artists and community leaders.

We will focus our momentum on programs and experiences that transform people’s lives. Together we can inspire more creative and connected communities.

We appreciate your participation in our community and we appreciate your help in extending our work beyond Black Rock City. Please give today, every gift is valued no matter it’s size.

To learn more about the programs your gift supports,
follow the links below.

ARTS:
Global Art Grants
Big Art for Small Towns
Black Rock City Art

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT:
Civic Art Program
Burners Without Borders
Grants for Community Initiatives

GLOBAL NETWORK OF EMERGING COMMUNITY LEADERS:
Regional Network of over 250 volunteer Regional Contacts on 5 continents
Global Leadership Conference in San Francisco (April, 2015)
European Leadership Summit in Amsterdam (February, 2015)

Please make a donation today!

Want to learn more? Click here to read the Jack Rabbit Speaks…

catalyst for creative culture in the world

 


 

Related Posts:

All We Want For Chri$tma$ Is Your Money talked about the recent “Special Edition” of the Jackrabbit Speaks, which rather than wishing us a Merry Christmas, was dedicated to us giving BMOrg money, including a cut of our Amazon shopping.

Dear Burning Man… A reader responds to an email from BMOrg soliciting money.

The Art of Giving went through everything Burning Man Project (BMP) has done since they came up with it 4 years ago.

Art World Rocked By Burning Man’s Latest Move looked at the merger between BRAF and BMP, and the poor track record of both charities in giving grants out to the causes they support, versus accumulating cash in the bank and spending it on overheads.

2013 Charity Results looked at the performance of BRAF from the latest IRS filing. We’re still waiting on the 2013 IRS Form 990 for BMP.

Art Versus Money looked at the terribly one-sided Arts Grant contract, that seems to treat artists with contempt.

Charity Versus Tax-Free considers the idea that “non-profit” is not the same as “charitable”, and looks at some of the clauses in the organization’s new Bylaws that don’t seem consistent with Directors running lavish Commodification Camps.

Burning Man’s Gift Economy And Its Effect On Mainstream Society talks about the hypocrisy of BMOrg claiming credit for the charitable efforts of Burners, and pretending they gave financial support to charities that they actually didn’t – including a couple that were substantially funded by myself, and received $0 from BMOrg who promoted them as examples of “all the good Burning Man is doing in the world”.