Was Burn Wall Street the most controversial art installation ever on the Playa? Here’s some (relatively positive) coverage from New York magazine, the Huffington Post and Business Insider – although if you read the comments, the feelings are much more mixed. Here’s some video of it burning:
Artist Otto von Danger is a former member of the DPW crew, who now fancies himself as a cutting edge artist who created “a political piece that stems from a neutral point of view”.
Otto has been a builder and artist for most of his life and served in the US Marines from 1985-91. He attained the rank of Sargent in the infantry. He is a disabled veteran with extensive nerve damage through out his body but still builds art and receives a small disability check monthly.
Otto started building at Burn Man in 2001 working on the Man and man base (the building under the Man) and still builds the Man presently. Some of his art projects are FrogBat, Barley Man, Cow with Gun, Zombie Raver Hockey Shoot, Norse Man, Megatropolis and the Hippie/Raver Powered Lawn Chair. He has also worked with other artists on projects like the Serpent Mother, Crude Awakening, the Lilly pond project and many others
During the build of Burn Wall Street, word started to trickle out about incredible problems and personality clashes on the project, mostly seemingly related to Otto’s leadership style. A number of volunteers were fired for having a bad attitude, and there was also a report of sexual harrassment towards a volunteer from a senior member of the team.
It’s nothing personal, and I have no issue with the rest of Otto’s art – I hope that in the future he is inspired to keep creating and contributing to the Burner community. Burn Wall Street is a different matter.
Once we got to the Playa this year we were confronted with a whole bunch of big, ugly square boxes. It looked more like a prison complex than an artwork. The “mock city” created for this art piece, 5 huge buildings that dwarfed the Man, was built by a team of 50 volunteers for $100,000. On top of them were a whole bunch of corporate logos. The idea of “Bank of UnAmerica” and “Goldman Sucks” might be hilarious to some, to me they’re not particularly original jokes. From a distance, it looked exactly like a Bank of America logo, so much so that I wonder if they actually sponsored it. They might as well have, no corporation got more powerful advertising exposure at Burning Man this year, or any other year.
Forged from the financial unrest and injustice that has incensed the American public, Burn Wall Street’s core intention is built on participation, one of the Ten Principles of Burning Man. . . . This art project is sponsored by Veterans for Peace, a 501c3 non-profit. . . . We see the Tea Party and the Occupy movements as very similar. They are both well-intentioned groups of Americans that know that things must change. Unfortunately, one group has been hijacked by Right-wing extremists and the other by Left-wing extremists, and both groups have been used as pawns through the use of political wedges to keep each other from the actual goal of reforming Wall Street and saving our economy. . . . So BWS is asking these disparate groups to put down their Bibles and their Communist Manifestos in order to unite, share ideas and come up with actual solutions from a rational perspective.
Here’s the artist himself discussing his vision, at Black Rock City:
The piece was supposed to burn on Friday night, but for some reason was delayed. It was also supposed to be full of fireworks and explosives, but no-one saw any of this – the boxes just burned down and crumbled, after the man Burned on Saturday. I missed it burning, but a friend who saw it said that there was a real violent, angry energy to it – it was not celebratory like the Man, or reflective and contemplative like the Temple.
Did the Tea Party and the Occupy movement unite at Burning Man? Did Wall Street get the message, and change their wicked ways? Was this just a massive amount of timber destroyed in an act of wanton destruction, or did Burners get inspired in some way by this piece? Please add your own comments and opinion.
Otto himself was rumored to have been evicted from the event, for acting crazy and bringing multiple firearms. There was also a rumor about people committing suicide during the Wall Street burn [see below – this doesn’t sound true]. During 4th of Juplaya, there was someone wearing a DPW Jacket and charging $20 admission to Frogbat, an event at the nearby hot springs featuring people blowing up a half frog, half bat statue with automatic weapons. Again, this person was rumored to be Otto the artist, rather than someone actually part of Burning Man charging money on the Playa.
Burn Wall Street was ugly boxes, not art; constantly having to look at the logos of banks wherever you went on the Playa, is not what Burning Man is all about. Even more so, it was a political statement. An attempt to bring politics and angry feelings from the streets, to our festival of art and music and freedom and love. Let’s hope we never have to endure another installation of this kind.
[Update: 9/4/12 6:14pm]
Burner Deb has objected to the lack of links in this article to rumors. I am not trying to propagate baseless rumors, and it’s hard to link to things that trusted people have told me verbally. I don’t want to get into a game of “he said, she said”, calling out every person who has ever criticized Otto; if you’re on Facebook on the Burning Man (Group) as opposed to the Burning Man (Community Organization), you would have heard many of these rumors too. Are they true? Well, it’s the Internet. You shouldn’t assume anything is true. But I have heard a lot of such rumors coming from this project, versus almost none from any of the others this year. I am not trying to personally bash Otto, just pointing out the reasons that this installation has been so controversial. If anyone can confirm or deny these rumors, please add to the discussion. In the meantime, here are some specific opinions from other Burners about this art installation:
Burner KentuckyDerbyLatte said : I hated this POS. Happy to know it failed in everyway. Let’s keep default world logos and struggles OUT of the burn. I head to the playa to free myself of this kind of crap. It was very cool to see it be tagged all over though. Hated that thing
Burner Anjelika said: I did not like it at all. It looked so foreign and so annoying. I want more things like Peter Hudson does, or Bliss, or Temple, something that we don’t see in default world. The burn was big, yes. But just a big fire doesn’t really make an art installation outstanding
Burner Nick said: Ugly structure with a negative vibe. Vilifying an entire industry, offering no solution or new viewpoint and needlessly reminding me of a world I chose to leave behind for a week. This was something I would expect from an angry high school student who just learned about the injustices of the world but not something I’d expect to find on the playa.
Burner Josh said: Most of us hate the politics of Wall Street as well as seeing logos at Burning Man. I met Otto in 2011 through people on the Temple Crew and he can be hard to take, however he is a human being, and if Burning Man were to teach us anything, it is that at our cores we are all just looking to find our way in this world. Even if you hated Burn Wall Street and think Otto von Danger is a jerk, please remember he is just a man looking to find his way through self expression. If we can find compassion for those we dislike, imagine what we could do for those we love. )'(
For what its worth, none of that stuff described inside the buildings ended up happening. They were just 3/4 finished empty facades. At one point there was a giant bat on top… for some reason. Not that there wasn’t a lot of hard work and money poured into the project, but it seemed like they thought up some elementary school puns and left it at that. More white elephant than bold art piece.
Burned pretty good, ‘tho.
This comment suggests that a whole bunch of press was being done about the piece (isn’t that also a Burning Man no-no?), and someone was feeding some bullshit to the press about things going on to make the art installation interactive, that never actually happened.
[Further update: 9/5/12 4:53am – yes long night in Reno at the Grand Sierra, there were thousands of Burners there, the party was still going off when we left]
I am now being accused of slander, with threats of legal action. In my opinion this is a false accusation, from a friend of the artist determined to stick up for him. I have provided links to other articles, expressed my opinion that this art piece was a blatant violation of the Decommodification principle, and mentioned some of the rumors that have floated around this art piece. I am not providing links to all the rumors, and I’m not going to name some of my friends who have discussed this with me personally; it’s up to you readers to decide what you believe. I have no agenda in this, other than that I do not like seeing neon corporate logos at Burning Man, art or not, I don’t think that’s what it’s all about.
M Otis Beard is the administrator of the Burning Man Facebook group. He’s one of the volunteers who was kicked out of the project. I suggest you read his group for more of his opinions. He said this on August 10 2012:
Oh god, it gets worse: one of the women who was fired from the project for no particular reason just wrote to me and said this about Fester/Jonathan, Otto’s second-in-command:“Fester the molester on my second day of working told me that I had to go out to the desert to help him when he took me out there all he wanted to do was try to make moves on me and tried to kiss me and i denied him then he got all bitter and started spreading all these rumors about meHe told me im shallow I told him hes just plain ugly”
You make up your own mind Burners. Perhaps that’s not sexual harrassment, it’s just something that every girl has to deal with, all the time. Otto von Danger was a sergeant in the Marines, I’m sure he has endured worse things in his life than being called a “dingbat“. I’m not slandering anyone, I just think this was a shitty art piece covered in corporate logos, that was not in line with what Burning Man is all about. Did he really expect that he could put a giant neon Bank of America sign up on the Playa, without some criticism or dislike of his artistic statement?
In 2007 Uchronia caused problems with some Burners who thought it was a front for a Lexus commercial, and the destruction of this enormous structure inspired at least one Burner to think about building things and keeping them to re-use as art, instead of all the money and materials going up in smoke. Sure, much of the art of Burning Man is about destruction and waste. But there are also art cars, theme camps, art installations, that we get to see every year. Some of them even grow and improve over time. This is what I think the future of Burning Man, and applied art, needs to be. Creation and permaculture, not environmental degradation, pollution, waste, and angry protests. Did burning through $100,000 and all that useable timber really make a statement that changed people?
[Update 9/5/12 3:33pm ]
Hal from Veterans for Peace is the first person actually associated with this project to give us some feedback and further information
Reality Check: BWS was conceived DURING Occupy Oakland last year. Inspired by the 1970 burning of Bank of America in Isla Vista CA by UC Santa Barbara students, (at the height of the war against Vietnam, & after the “secret” bombing of Laos AND Cambodia was revealed by nixon – see Kent State) I sought space in Oakland to build a bank and burn it to the ground. For some reason, a suitable space could not be found, in Oakland. Otto suggested we do this in Black Rock City and an art piece was born! I’ve little issue with burning symbols of corporate and/or capital America and personally, would much rather have seen “Bank of America” burn then what the neon said! You don’t like what those corporate logos stand for? Do something to alter our consciousness and political realities instead of criticizing art meant for theatrics. YOU could have helped burn it down or added more graffiti. Wall Street did not burn on Friday because primarily, the perimeter safety crew had not been complete and nothing burns without. No fireworks could be loaded on Friday due to lack of said crew. One red rocket, in honor of the dedicated and awesome crew, began the burn. Elements of interactivity were never played out & most were unaware they were walking on the U.S.Bill Of RIghts when they entered the NYSE. BIG hugs to an incredible crew who came together to build and complete this project! And, btw, Veterans For Peace did NOT sponsor this project. We were simply the non profit financial conduit for funding. Personally, while it was not quite what I envisioned, I enjoyed watching BANKS and the NYSE burn. Some New Yorkers felt the BoA fall was reminiscent of the 2nd Twin Tower fall. All the better
And I think we should all reflect on Burner Jared’s very salient point:
Only thing wrong with it was that it was an effigy. With 60,000 people we could burn down the real Wall Street
If everybody got that message, maybe Wall Street really would change.
[Update 9/7/12 11:53am]
Wall Street took notice. Bloomberg News, the main source of information for Wall Street, covers the piece with bewilderment. And here’s some interesting commentary on the piece from Market Ticker.
[Update 9/10/12 11:14am]
There’s a lot of discussion of the piece over at Reddit, and peoples’ viewpoints seem pretty consistent with our poll. I’m surprised by the amount of people who liked it, just as many have been surprised that I would dare to criticize it.
djrollsroyce calls this the “rumor du jour”, although unlike many of the other rumors related to this piece, this is the only place we’ve heard of it, so take the rumor as you will:
rumor de jour: Friends former boss rode up with a board member of JP Morgan who kicked in the final 100k to make this thing happen, notice no jp morgan building…
Our information is that the total amount raised for the project was $170,000. FYI, “Chase Manhattan” was acquired by JP Morgan in 2000, forcing the name to be changed to “JP Morgan Chase”. So technically “Chase”/Chaos is a part of JP Morgan, but they’re a 200+ year old firm, it makes sense that they would love to be rid of the suffix. $100,000 is not even a tip to the hookers for these guys.
Burner Tykeryerson nailed it with this comment:
I think the main outcome of the Wall Street burn is a ton of fodder for whomever to claim that anarchists are out of control and new legal measures must be put into place to control them. Videos of that event will be WAY more useful for those who want to protect Wall Street… and mostly hurtful for any positive cause, or push for change.
It looked like a big advertisment for Wall Street, and showed how much they dominate our lives – we can’t even escape banking on the Playa, this one thing we made where commerce (supposedly) isn’t allowed. Our one chance to be free of Western society and the world of money – and nope, there we are, it’s the biggest thing there, it’s neon logos staring down at us. djrollsroyce’s rumor certainly would explain a lot.
Burn Wall Street created a message that plays perfectly into their hands. Certainly, the Wall Street coverage of it that I’ve linked to above is already playing out the story line Tykeryerson predicted. Although it’s hard to tell if the Bloomberg reporters are shocked more by the sentiment of West Coast liberals, as they are by the huge insensitivity such images present to anyone who lived through 9/11. The anniversary of that date is tomorrow, let us know if you notice any link made anywhere in the media.
Another bonus of this project for The Powers That Be may have been distracting 50-100 underemployed Burners, so that for a few months their energies went towards Burning Man instead of the Port of Oakland or the San Francisco public transportation systems. We’ll see what happens over the next 12 months – did Burners teach Wall Street a lesson, did our fire magic create a positive intent that benefitted us…or does Wall Street and whichever Government they bought use this as yet another excuse to crack down on our freedoms?
Artist Alex Schaefer has famously been creating art about burning banks, Wall St and so on
The New York Stock Exchange – what the buildings on Wall Street really look like
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Maybe I read this too fast or just didn’t pay enough attention but I wonder why no comparison has been made to the 1996 HELCO installation that the self-absorbed Otto von Ego obviously pinched his Wall Street installation from. There was absolutely *nothing* original or creative about this large scale dreck and entertaining Otto as some gifted, creative visionary for something so abysmally pretentious detracts to those others who pinch and scrape to realize their vision rather than exploit his adoring little malcontents into pumping money into a Kickstarter. OVD is a professional victim when it suits him and a scowling, self-absorbed prima donna anytime someone tries to reveal the fool behind the DPW curtain. I actually wish him good luck getting a job post-DPW. Just hope he gets to the point where he realizes that *maybe* he was let go because, generally speaking, he is and remains an anti-social ass of the first order.
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It is obvious that BWS stirred up mixed opinions and a fiery discussion and that’s what some art is supposed to do, not just be inspiring and beautiful and blah, blah, blah. Similarly, this blog entry is doing the same thing, which makes it just as controversial, utterly useful and useless.
The biggest difference is that BWS took many, many hours of blood and sweat and tears – real human investment, whereas writing this blog and the subsequent opinions takes a few minutes sitting at your computer with a beer. It reminds me of movie critics who couldn’t find the shutter button on a camera but feel qualified to trash someone else’s hard-fought, if unsuccessful battle.
Now for my own opinion: I generally enjoy this blog because it reports things I wouldn’t have known otherwise, written with an enjoyable style. However, ultimately, it’s the content that must stand true as its foundation, not the writer’s opinion. This particular entry is far too heavy on one-man’s-not-so-humble-opinion and, thus, is not the kind of thing I would return for. There are enough controversy-stirring windbags on the internet/Fox News already.
thanks JB. It’s obvious you’re missing the point that the whole thing is my opinion. Not just this post. The entire presence of this blog. There are thousands and thousands of man hours into this blog now, how long do you think it takes to write 500 posts? Linking to references, finding images and videos, managing comments. Replying to things like this. It’s way more than just a few minutes here and there. I’ve never pretended to be humble. But at the same time I’m not trying to stroke my ego or anything, that’s why this blog is (relatively) anonymous. There are other writers on this blog, and others who make their opinions heard in the comments. If I can’t comment on the art at Burning Man on my own blog about Burning Man, where do you think would be the more appropriate place to comment on it? And I’m not allowed to express my opinion, who is, and who makes that decision?
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I thought it was a fine and flammable installation.
Ans seriously, if the mangled company names irritate some, they must walk around the playa being angry and bitter over all the other mangled names, logos, and trademarks.
I worked with Jack, DaveX, and Wally of Black Rock FX rigging the fireworks and pyrotechnics on Anubis (full loading list and behind the scenes photos: http://foxfuramused.com/2012/09/19/excuse-me-your-dog-is-on-fire-burning-man-2012 ). Our other team was supposed to rig BWS. They were not able to field a perimeter crew and we were unable to rig it.
Whatever. It would have been better with pyro but it was still a spectacular burn.
It had the two most important components of a good burn; fuel and fire.
Keep Burning Man Potentially Fatal,
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Firstly, you are going to lose credibility by siting anything M. Otis Beard says. He is only admin of the unofficial Burning Man facebook page because he conned the original admins into adding him with the promise of taking over the tedious chore of removing spammers, and then immediately deleted them, in essence taking over the group by force. He is now using it as a podium for his own vendettas and social experiments. That group has been compromised and M. Otis Beard does not speak for the burner community on any level. He has banned and blocked anyone in the community that disagrees with his hostile takeover, so many that a new group has formed that has close to 400 members, people who were either banished, or left voluntarily to avoid censorship and bullying on the part of Beard. He speaks for no one but himself.
Second, you as a writer should know better than to publish libelous rumors without verification. Like or hate Wall Street or Otto von Danger himself, you can’t say the things you’re saying based on rumors, especially rumors started by disgruntled employees or volunteers. I expect to see that from the likes of Beard, or random community members, but you should be more responsible.
A sensible response to an irresponsible bit of writing. Do, pray tell, reveal the secret of the other Burning Man facebook group.
Despite occasionally getting hung up on the subject of how ridiculous it is that so many contributors to both the event and the online community have been railroaded out of the original group by one egomaniac who has stepped foot on the playa one year only, it’s actually a much less muddled dynamic of both old and new burners, discussing the same things as the large group, but more respectfully and without fear of being banished by Beardo.
It was in this group that this blog post was linked, and there is an equally spirited discussion on the subject being had there.
Let’s break your comments down a little here, ‘Hyrdaphonic.’
Step 1. Commit libel, spread rumors and opinion-presented-as-fact without verification, toss in some ad-hominem against someone with whom you have a personal issue
Step 2. Accuse Burnersxxx of committing libel and spreading rumors without verification
Not only are you a hypocrite, you’re comparing apples and oranges. . . your apples of libel and rumor with Burnersxxx’s oranges in the form of first-hand reports from eyewitnesses. FYD!
This was really not a great project idea…almost too obvious. I would have rather seen that effort/resources put into a real occupy statement.
I visited the Wall Street Project and had some interesting conversations with people. Especially so after mentioning that most of those banks are clients of mine! I even met some investment bankers from Goldman on top of the Goldman Sucks building. They all just thought it was funny. In most of the conversations people felt that the problem with wall street is nothing more than the problem with people in general. The evil banker on the 99th floor isn’t much different than your stoner friend who decides to drive home wasted so he won’t be late for work the next day. Both rationalize their decisions and act without thinking about the possible repercussions. Like your friend who religiously believes tarot cards can tell the future or that they can feel your healing vibrational energy, most bankers religiously believe that the random lines on their charts can predict the movement of the markets and that capitalism has the power to heal all the world’s ails. Same delusions, different people. In order to be good at anything in a competitive society, whether its playing a guitar or managing a bond desk, requires focus. Anytime we focus on one thing, we tend to neglect attention to other areas of our life that suffer as a result. Investment bankers on wall street are not always the most well rounded people you will meet. Many have been on a track they were told would lead to success and they’ve never taken a moment for self reflection. The sad result is that other people often cross the path of the stoner driving home and the banker selling bonds and they get hurt. So for me the very presence of the ill conceived and poorly thought out Wall Street Burn project was itself a symbol of the real problem with Wall Street. It was a symbol of our human problem. So Burn Baby Burn.
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Otto has been a part of Burning Man for a long time, and while that is worth something, I don’t think it’s worth the Org granting money to this piece. Serious artists will think twice about showing at Burning Man when they will be associated with this kind of thing. Big flats? It’s the simplest of structures, and when viewed in the same frame as a David Best Temple and a Kate Raudenbush sculpture it looks every bit as amateurish and childish as it really is.
I have worked on large art out there many times as well as having led a major project. I am not questioning their motives so much as their process. If your crew is cursing loudly at one another the entire build, something has gone drastically wrong with the most basic elements of your project. The finished piece shows that in a way that conveys to those who have no idea about the infighting that led to it. This is why you are seeing so much negative press. Garbage in, Garbage out.
BM giving money to this lowers the entire artistic dialogue (IMO), and it makes me gun-shy to submit another piece there. I would prefer to have an artistic career post burning man, and being associated with this caliber of ‘work’ makes that harder.
This blog reeks of old-school-hardened-burner rhetoric that causes close-minded burners to sit in their camps all day complaining about how great things use to be. The Wall Street Art project was fucking awesome. I visited it many times with different groups of people and shared amazing conversations interpreting the meaning and ideas behind it. The very foundation of the society we live in (that allows Burning Man to exist) is built on Wall Street. Wall Street has become more and more corrupt and useless to the masses and more and more efficient as a device to make the rich richer. If ever there was a time and place for art like this…especially art that burns, it is right now.
I’m so sorry you didn’t like the boxy buildings…and the logos that reminded you of things you try to escape from when you goto Burning Man. Not all of us goto Burning Man to escape. Some of us go to learn, evolve and be inspired. Next year I’m going to do a fucking logo camp in your honor. My camp will look like a fucking nascar racecar. Probably with a few dildo’s hanging out of it for you to ride.
I know it sounds like I’m getting nasty but I would LOVE to see some old-school burners embrace the changes, contribute to the changes and accept that their ideas of what Burning Man is about are always going to be wrong. Burning Man is about whatever radical people expressing themselves radically results in…sometimes its giving out candy in the deep playa, sometimes it burning the ultimate symbol of greed and corruption.
Burners would be better to
Embrace wall street than destroy it. The corruption that exists in our system runs much deeper than wall street – educate yourself on that and you will realize the futility and reverse irony in the gesture.
Your dildo installation sounds cool though, perhaps you could call it “go fuck yourself”
Embracing Wall Street sounds like a terrible idea (unless you’re Mitt Romney). Burning symbols of it to inspire action and discussion about what should change is a better idea. Yes, there is corruption everywhere. I know that, you know that, we all know that. The problem is, the corruption on Wall Street has been slowly evolving to the point where the consequences are devastating to the economic basis of the country.
The fact that you chose to say “educate yourself on that” is a reflection of your precious pseudo-intellectual righteous attitude that probably finds you hanging out with trendy hipster art-critics who are bitter about their own failed attempts at being fully realized artists and now try to soften the blow of their self-disappointments by trying to raise their stature as know-it-alls. What you need to do is take every ounce of “art-critic” energy in your soul and focus it on your own art. Give up on “helping” people see what’s wrong with other people’s art. Or, if you MUST stick to being an art-critic, be an artistic art-critic. That is to say, one who explores where the art may have taken us through constructive thoughtful criticism.
Obviously you have some creativity in you since “Go Fuck Yourself” is an awesome name for my installation! I’ll start lubing some of the dildos for you!
I’m a Burning Man critic – on this blog, anyway. This year the Transformoney Tree was a much better and more Burner-friendly statement about post-capitalism. We need evolution to a better system more than we need revolution that tears everything down and burns it. I am an Ayn Rand raver, but also a fan of Lyndon larouche and Ed Griffin. Read “the Creature From Jekyll Island” and you’ll understand why Wall Street is a false target. They’re puppets as much as the politicians.
quoting burnerxxx: “I am an Ayn Rand raver,”
Assuming this means you are an all-out supporter of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, this explains quite a lot about the content of your blog. Most people realize by their late teens that Rand was pathological, as were/are her fictional concepts. Most teens also realize that Reaganomics is the rich pissing on the poor.
Until labour is valued on an equal basis with capital both by the labourer and the capitalist and until the inputs/outputs/limitations of the planet are valued equally with labour and capital, capitalism will tend to be warped by human greed and the planet will be bound for destruction. Embracing human greed, as you are recommending, would be self-destructive since evolution has shown that we humans survive best in an interdependent social system on a planet with non-renewable life-sustaining resources.
Emotionally and intellectually stunted humans continue to advocate for Rand’s principles because they mistakenly cling to the belief they will be on the receiving end of the largesse when in reality it has been proven to only benefit the top .001%. Judging by your writing style, it will be a frosty day in hell before you become part of the .001% except possibly by inheritance. You will suffer the same fate as the many drones who mouth the praises of Paul Ryan, one of Ayn Rand’s truly devoted disciples. Paul Ryan will crush his supporters and Mitt Romney’s supporters on their single-minded path toward the top .001%. They will die miserable realizing they sacrificed their entire lives for entrance to a club in which membership was barred at birth for them and all but about 500 humans. Save yourself the misery.
Deb, you do realize don’t you that the Fountainhead was based on Frank Lloyd Wright? Fictional concepts indeed. And I challenge you to find even one teen that can discuss why Reaganomics pisses on the poor. Teens don’t even remember Bill Clinton, it’s 2012 now.
I can’t see how you interpret that I am recommending “embracing human greed”, from me objecting to Bank of America logos being rammed down my throat on the Playa in the name of “art”.
As for the rest of your Bolshevik rant, aren’t you attacking me more personally and with more virtiol than my criticizism of Otto’s piece? Is it OK if I collect money from others to build a huge empty wooden box on the Playa and stick a Bank of America logo on it, then burn it into nothingness; but not OK if I exercise my right to free speech for no financial gain by writing my opinions in the form of an Internet blog? Perhaps you consider writing to be an inferior art form to carpentry?
So, yeah, this project kind of sucked for me. I went to BM hoping to see inspiring, even psychologically challenging art, not OVD’s bold, visionary, ham-fisted view of a corporate meritocracy blah blah blah Ron Paul blech. That aside, the fact that he ran over his volunteers to the point where most of them quit is uncontested and worth noting on this site. The cost of those people’s time and their energy has to be considering in evaluating the effectiveness of this installation, and their experience is folded in as well.
The whole thing reminds me of the saying, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Was Burn Wall Street art? Yeah, probably. Was it good art? I don’t think so, others might. Was it appropriate for Burning Man? Not so much.
What’s the difference between this and say, a 400′ tall bottle of Krug?
Thanks, great response. If they called it Crug or Krewg or Krugg with the identical logo, that should be fine according to some commenters because it would be “satire”.
Speaking as objectively as I can on the matter, I thought your article used qualifiers appropriately, and was not slanderous (or, more correctly, libelous) in the least.
If you’d like to interview me about BWS, please submit your questions to me in writing.
M Otis Beard is correct: reporting slanderous statements is libel.
Thanks very much Otis, I will message you soon
I just started reading this as an innocent bystander looking for information on this year’s burn. My daughter may be working/volunteering this year and I just wanted to have some insight on what she loves to do. May I give an absolute honest observation as to the BWS installation and it’s internal problems, as I happened to be there dropping off camping gear for my daughter, the day M. Otis Beard was fired from the project. He was a rude, unrespectful, sniveling baby, screaming at everyone without regard to who saw him or heard him. I didn’t know anyone on the crew other than my daughter and I had never seen anything they were working on, when this screaming maniac Otis, came raging like an overgrown two year old with a psycho -temper tantrum quality about him, throwing things and screaming. I wanted to put my kid in the car and get her as far away from that lunatic as possible. She has never said a word about it to me knowing I would worry about her, but she was on that build from almost the beginning and saw several people (or assholes who wanted the glory of being on the project – without working day and night in extreme heat and conditions) come and go. Otis was one of the problems that Otto had to deal with and for those of you that think getting on a project and just sitting around and getting high and eating free food and drinking free beer is how to participate in Burning Man are crazy. Otto may have been very “sargent” like as a boss, but how else do you get kids that obviously don’t have jobs and can spend that type time volunteering on a project do any work? If I had to put up with all the snot nosed brats who obviously have adequate time on their hands to spend months away from making a living and taking care of themselves, I think I would be authoritarian too.How the hell else do you get the work done? I don’t know how old Otis is but if they would post or film what a pathetic human being he acted like on the project, I bet his parents would be appalled. I was. And frankly as far as Otto goes it takes a lot of balls to run a project like that. He is an artist whether you like his art or not criticising how the project was done is a bunch of crap. I watched the webcams and read the posts and there was extreme weather and sand storms out there. The only problem with that build was getting a bunch of unqualified people to build it in extreme weather. Before anyone passes judgement, spend a day out in the sand in sweltering heat trying to put it together. It sounds to me Otis couldn’t handle it so he blamed it on everyone else and bashed the project. I suppose if he were allowed to laze about while young women were doing the work of professional carpenters, he would have been basking in the spotlight right now. No one gave a shit about burning man in the real world until BWS made headlines all over the world. Oh except that stupid little girl Nikki who ran away from her rich parents and got her name on her Aunts News program. You know all you people who actually believe anything at Burning Man is relevant to life or even art, are just full of shit. THATS WHY THEY BURN IT ALL DOWN AND A WEEK LATER NO ONE KNOWS IT EVEN EXISTED. It’s cleaned up and cleared away and all the Otis of the world find another burrow to leach off of/hide in for the Winter. For all of you that believe Burning Man is going to make some stockbroker rich have to know that in a year or two nobody is going to care about it. It will be like a Bigfoot Museum, dusty and unbelievable. That’s why the people in charge are cashing out now. Do you think the Nikki’s of the next generation are going to want to hang out in the desert with their parents and no internet and air conditioning? Get a grip and support your local art gallery. I’m sure even Jerry Garcia is looking down saying WTF!
M Otis Beard. I watched your temper tantrum and unbelievably un adult like behavior first hand. You did not know me or even acknowledge that you were acting like a complete crazy asshole in front of the whole world to see, because you were so wrapped up in your own little obsessed world of psychotic behavior. My 13 year old son watched your whole breakdown of crazed baby temper tantrum. I will say one thing to you. Thank You. When we witnessed your unabashed lack of self control, I just looked at my son and said “You- do not ever act this way. This lack of control is something I never want to see out of you.” He agreed and I know seeing you act like that will make him think before he reacts, especially in public. This happened once before when we were at the Market and he was two. Another little boy in the store threw himself on the ground, screaming because his Mom wouldn’t buy him candy. I looked at my son and said “You see that? Do not ever do that. OK?” He looked at me and said “I won’t, what a little jerk that kid is.” To this day my son knows the difference between being a little jerk and being a human being.
I was at Juplaya, and I missed Frogbat, though I did hear that a donation was requested. Do I care? Not really- watching Frogbat explode is not something anyone owes me. Anyway, Juplaya isn’t Burning Man, and thank goodness for that in a thousand ways.
I loved Burn Wall Street. Going to Burning Man is not just about happy woo-woo time for me. It’s a reminder of the world we live in, the privilege we have to go to the Burn at all. I loved having political talks on the Playa, especially as I witnessed multiple camps dealing with the increased police presence and sexual assault issues on the playa. Burning Man *is* political, hugely so, in multiple ways, and I was glad to see that as a way to balance the spiritual aspects. I visited Burn Wall Street to sit and reflect on capitalism in the way many visit the Temple to reflect on matters of the heart and soul, and I think it was hugely valuable in that way, at least to me.
I’m grossed out to hear that a woman was sexually harassed by Otto’s team, and I think that needs to be dealt with- I hope she has the support she needs to feel safe. I think there’s a lot of issues with male entitlement on the playa that’s been glossed over in the interest of kumbaya, and it’s about time Burners as a culture band together to reject these systems of oppression. I’ve certainly heard Otto was hard to work with, too- and those are issues that should be dealt with, discussed, mediated. But I don’t think Burn Wall Street as a concept is to blame for that- rather, that the artists involved need to have a long reflection on if they really genuinely want to burn these systems down, and, if so, they need to deal with their own patriarchy issues. Holding people accountable for their behaviour is a separate issue to their art being valid or not.
Thanks Kitty, great comment. I have no problem with whoever was charging money at frogbat, unless they were part of Burning Man (or pretending to be)
The original commentary written by Burnerxxx is what I was replying to. Its unacceptable to trash another human being without evidence.
If any untoward criminal behaviour took place during the construction of this project, then I still have some faith that in the US, this can be dealt with under the rule of law. Any victims can seek out assistance and/or counseling. That is what happens in a civilized country. I do not condone criminal activity. But I also do not condone false accusations published online. Slander is not acceptable in a civilized society either.
If Otto von Danger needs assistance with anger management or any other physical or emotional fallout from his military service, where is he to turn? The US has done an abysmal job of looking after veterans. The scary thing is you’re about to get several thousands more home from Afghanistan and no one can tell me that the ones home from Iraq have been properly helped yet, just like the ones from the first Desert Storm.
Burning Man is about art and having a completely different experience with other humans. Art is about life. Burning Wall Street was about an ugly side of American life that is affecting the world. OVDs art pointed to that ugliness and begged for answers and solutions.
Burners are allegedly the movers and shakers in their communities. OVD through his art is asking you to get off your asses and do something.
If you want to have a happy, happy experience, don’t go to Burning Man – go to a music festival.
Barb Bare, you may have the right idea. Seems this blogger is trading on the Burning Man name without making a contribution. His second post makes me think he’s trying to get his blog higher in the google ratings by mentioning mainstream media publications.
@burner.xxx what is the meaning of this statement:
“Just spoke to a couple of rangers . Suicide rumor sounds like bullshit”
I clearly identified in my post what is rumor and what is opinion. When I speak to rangers, ask them about it, and they say they don’t think that happened – I believe that and report it. Sometimes even at 4am.
Deb, I agree with your comments that the government needs to do much more to help our veterans. I grew up on military bases and have a huge amount of sympathy for them.
That doesn’t change the fact that putting bank of America logo on the playa sucks
Just spoke to a couple of rangers . Suicide rumor sounds like bullshit
THANK YOU DEB!! I haven’t the patience or the energy to tell THIS jackass exactly what I think of the SHIIT he wrote, and nothing I could say would even come close to the eloquent way you wrote, I am sitting here witwondering “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU”, that gives YOU, Burnerxxx ANY credence.. frankly, at this point I dont care who he is, his opinion is shit. and as you pointed out, it is one thing to dislike someones art, (But, truly, aren’t those buildings on wall street big UGLY boxes, just out to rip off the american people anyway they can think of, can we say Bernie Madolf, among others) But to SLANDER a person that put so much time and effort into building a HUGE art project for the people is nothing short of SLIME and disgusting.. and makes what he wrote not even worth wiping my ass with it.. IF there were issues then that is between Otto and the person the issue was with, and unless this Jackass had a personal issue or axe to grind he may consider keeping his mouth shut. I am deleting my affliation with his site because his opinion means nothing and I dont care to be associated with him in any way…. I know Otto personally. I know him to have worked damn hard on MANY projects and I have great respect for the man… even when he is at his lowest and in pain he still keeps giving ti his burner community.;;; far as I know Bunerxxx is NOTHING and NO ONE!
THANKS DEB for being so rational and level headed and speaking a truth that at this moment I am incapable of doing except to say.. THANK YOU OTTO for bringing your art to the playa and giving people an opportunity to THINK about those UGLY REAL BUILDINGS on WALL STREET that have contributed to the downfall of the American economy and I Personally believe YOU and the crew captured that well in your building of a mock up wall street… I ENJOYED it, and it opened dialogue with my 18 yr old grandson about world issues that wall street has contributed to in both positive and negative ways…… Burnerxxx HAS NO CLUE except to spew his vile words of hated. and HE IS NOT MAN ENOUGH to apologize …..
Apologize for what? I shouldn’t have an opinion? Did you go to Burning Man? or your grand kids?
You continue to miss the point. I’ve laid it out as best I can. Opinion is fine, opinion about art is fine. But an opinion about the art should be just that. If you are unable to express how lousy you thought the art was without trashing the person in charge of the art, then you ought not to be publishing your opinion. That’s the point. Make the argument, do some research, figure out why this piece of art was offensive to you but do not trash the artist.
If you are suggesting in your updates that I am a friend of OVDs who is threatening legal action, you’ve got that all wrong. I am a friend of journalistic principle. I’ve met OVD on three occasions. I doubt he considers me a friend but I’ve never asked. Trashing any citizen is wrong.
If you cannot write an argument that explains why the art makes you hate it then don’t publish it. If you don’t personally like OVD then tell him in person, don’t publish it. If you don’t like the rumours you’re hearing about criminal sexual harassment, then report the rumours to the authorities, don’t publish the rumours.
That’s what I’m getting at, don’t publish if you can’t do it right. The journalistic principles in the US are abysmal and you are mimicking them.
Shredding the project is one thing, shredding the man is another. And using the excuse that this is commentary and is allowed brings you right down to Rush Limbaugh’s level. I have written reviews, commentary and investigative journalism for more than 30 years, I recognize slander when I see it.
OVD sought to elevate the discussion. Maybe the project as conceived was beyond his coping skills or his management skills and he resorted to his basic authoritarian skills learned in service to his country. In my opinion, I don’t care about the art project, I care that you have hurt a person in a highly unprofessional way. This is uncalled for and unnecessary except in tabloid journalism which seeks to profit from tearing down a community.
We try to teach children not to do what you have done. OVD deserves an apology from you for the slander. OVD has gifted his hard work to building the man for over a decade. He deserves a more rational, intelligent evaluation of the vision, the executed project (including its placement) and its impact on the community. It is irrelevant how many people are chiming in to express agreement with you. The popularity of an opinion in a mass of people does not make your blog entry correct or right. I have written hundreds of reviews and never once slammed a person – the execution of their role in a play or their art piece, yes, I’ve written scathing reviews but it is unnecessary to denigrate the person. You have failed to review the art and its impact on the community. You’ve engaged in lowly name-calling.
Having worked with marginalized populations here in Canada, I can tell you from personal experience, it is articles like yours, or verbal bullying, that contributes to further downward spiraling of hurt or hurting souls. Please educate yourself about US homeless and suicide rates. Slashing and burning a person for his inability to cope with a project of this magnitude is uncalled for. Having executed major undertakings myself, I can tell you, OVD will be his own harshest critic in the wee, small hours of the night.
Pointing out the obvious is not the reviewer’s role. Pointing out the art and its impact is. Describing an artist as someone who conducts sexual harassment, creates difficulties due to his ego and fires volunteers is slander unless supported by recorded examples in your background notes and at the very least ennumerated in your commentary. >>>>X number of people were fired from the project<<<<. And yes, a professional reviewer has background notes. Otherwise it may as well not have happened and you are shooting from the hip. Your credibility as a reviewer having to resort to slander to make your point is the lowest form of comment usually reserved for anonymous online threads that speed ever closer to collapse when the first one to say Nazi wins the argument.
Otto von Danger has actually been more successful than all of the American mainstream media – he has held up a mirror to Americans and they don't like what they see. They are bellowing and screaming. And he's done it possibly just in the nick of time. Maybe some will shut off their televisions and make sure the vote of every American is actually counted this time.
You cannot say OVD was a failure in doing the one thing no one else on the continent has been able to do – illustrating just how ugly the corporatocracy that America has become really is. The corporate elite are choking America in the exact same way that BURNING WALL STREET choked Burning Man. OVD illustrated this ugly truth better than lifelong artists and journalists. By denigrating him personally and shining the light away from his art, you risk dampening the potential positive impact of his art. Burning Man is not just beautiful art and it is not just for the beautiful and rich. Burning Man is what it is. Reviewing art at Burning Man is not about finding the beautiful, its about finding the meaning. The meaning of BURNING WALL STREET has nothing whatsoever to do with OVD.
An apology is in order. The rule of law still applies in America, at least until the outcome of the next election determines who is appointed to the Supreme Court. In my professional opinion, you have committed the offense of slander. Without an apology, you may be called on to bear the consequences of that action at which point a court would determine if it is legal to accuse someone of sexual harassment in a published document without a shred of evidence. The small minds who have agreed with you are the chorus that will lead your country ever faster toward a fascist police state. Bigger minds can see the message OVD has gifted the community. It would be my heartiest desire to see the burner community take up that message and run out to the default world to effect change now.
thanks Deb for your well considered and expressed feedback. I don’t disagree with your comment that I am an armchair quarterback – read the title of the blog, it is Burning Man commentary. Criticism has a place to play in the art world, and most critics are not artists themselves. If I have a bad experience on a plane, I should be able to say so even if I am not a pilot.
I am certainly not trying to piss on a disabled veteran and make him beg on a street corner. I have been very consistent through this blog in supporting artists and their right to raise funds.
If you have a look on our facebook page (facebook.com/burnersme) you will see many comments from Burners agreeing with me. There have been a lot of other comments on other Facebook groups, some now deleted. It is difficult for me to link from this blog to specific comments on Facebook. I did however link to the article discussing Otto’s military service.
The offensive thing to me is seeing massive Bank of America neon logos, ten stories high on the Playa, on top of big square wooden boxes. To me “Bliss Dance” is art, neon corporate logos are not. If it’s fine to do this, then what’s to stop someone doing “Burn McDonalds” or “Burn Budweiser”.
Are the values of the Occupy movement, or the Tea Party, aligned with Burning Man? When the OWS protestors speak out in Oakland or the Mission, it is attached to vandalism and violence (most of the violence coming from the pepper spraying LEOs).
Is Burning Man the best place for political protest? Maybe, if the art is good. Perhaps if you had been there this year, you would have heard more of the talk from Burners about this particular installation. I think it would be difficult to find many fans of it.
If Otto or anyone else who was involved in the process would like to comment on the rumors or the article, I’d be glad to do an interview to clear things up.
The names chosen for the buildings were in your opinion “not particularly original jokes”. Neither is your title.
Unfortunately I wasn’t at the burn this year to witness this first hand so I cannot comment on its effect on the playa. I would however like to offer a constructive review of your blog entry.
The names chosen by the artist were advertised months ago during fund raising for the project. Possibly that would have been a more helpful time to comment. The dimensions of the project were also known. A comment at the launch of the well-publicized fund-raising campaign would have been more constructive.
By echoing rumours that may or may not be swirling, the article is a cheap shot designed not to inform but to denigrate. If you don’t have an actual quote from a person then how can you even say the words are being uttered? Or is this blog the place where rumours are started. If so, why not start a rumour that builds community rather than one that tears at its fibre.
By slandering a long time burner who has contributed to the community for years you are little better than the proverbial armchair quarterback. Its easy to sit back afterward and poke holes in a project – takes only a little effort and shows up in the writing.
Did you consider talking to OVD? There is no quote from him. Copy & paste from another source is not hard and is often called plagiarism,, a link to his background would suffice and be more honest.
You mention that OVD is a disabled veteran living on a small allowance. Is this rumour or fact. Is it from a reliable source? If so, then quote the person. You imply OVD was asking for donations at an event in July. Were you there? Did you witness this? If so, why not ask what he was doing? The year I saw Frogbat, the fireworks were spectacular and obviously expensive. There is nothing wrong with passing the hat, so to speak.
Given the way the United States of America treats its veterans (housed and homeless), how is a disabled veteran to raise a little extra cash in this economy to live on let alone to launch a major art project? Should a disabled vet beg on a street corner instead so the community can spit on him or ignore him. Essentially that is the sum total of your article. You’ve spit on a human, another burner, a disabled veteran – someone who has given and given to this community for years.
Some art projects are brilliant in their conception and are successful in their execution on the playa. Going by your opinion, its possible the execution of this art project was less than the original vision. Possibly the original vision needed more work prior to execution. Contrasting and comparing the vision with the outcome and illustrating the challenges and how they were or were not overcome would have been an article to build community.
OVD’s written outline originally sparked excitement in the burner community online attracting resources and people power. OVD was trying to bridge the gulf that has widened between the left and the right through the constant assault of a media demanding black and white stories – good/bad, lie/truth, haves/have-nots, etc.. With this art project, it appears OVD hoped to jump start a discussion toward a solution – something which is very much needed.
Given the state of the USA during this election cycle and economic depression, I submit to you that it was an act of bravery to conceive of an art project that would avoid the thrashing about of one side against the other, Recognizing that warring factions do not seek answers, OVD envisioned moving through to discussion and solution that would be good for America (and the world). OVD sought to build community then solutions for a nation he clearly loves.
Your blog entry is offensive to the intelligence of the burner community. This article is part of the problem not part of the solution. The entry mimics the anemic, prejudiced and destructive media in the US default world. Despite any personality or character flaws that may or may not have been exhibited during the cycle of this project, OVD illustrated that he is part of the solution. He had an idea and he tried to carry it through. That is not failure, that is education.