Topsy turvy world: Neon bank logos, OK; Angel suit, NO ?

Some Burners can’t understand why I would criticize the giant Bank of America advertisement Burn Wall Street. Well, while all that has been going on, other Burners are also giving it hard to Ka, the creator of this amazing outfit. What’s wrong with you, Burners? We understand that Feathers Won’t Fly, but there’s a point where too many rules results in a not-what-it-could-have been party. I think we saw that this year with only about 30% as many art cars as usual.

What are the more important rules to follow? The 10 Principles? Leave No Trace, above all others? I can’t see where Ka violated any of them. The Survival Guide? I saw plenty of LEOs with firearms and ATV’s. Why are they allowed to break the rules? Because they have a permit. It would be better to have a “costume permit”, in case someone wanted to express themselves going as Big Bird, than to say “no one can ever go to Burning Man as Big Bird”.

There have to be exceptions made when people go to these lengths to express themselves. Ka’s outfits made it into Rolling Stone, fer crissakes!

Ka in Rolling Stone

What she has created here is truly art, and greatly adds to all our experience. Check out the other amazing art on Ka’s blog. She says “Not Accepting Shame At This Time” – and nor should she! Shame on the Burner-than-thou idiots who sent her nasty mail:

I received a very heated email shaming me for wearing feathers to the playa this year. I would like to address this for any others who may be concerned or have the same sentiments. I understand the issue of feather moop. I agree that feather boas and any loosely adhered crafts and costuming should be left at home. The feathers on my embodiment are tediously glued down so much that one rarely falls. I did drop two at burning man this year, and picked them both up with my toes and asked a friend to pocket them for me. I always ask my friends who accompany me to keep an eye out for any dropped feathers. On top of that, I pick up all moop, especially feathers, I see throughout the week, and always do an painfully tedious mooping session before leaving the playa. I know how some may see this embodiment as disrespectful to the rules, and I do every thing I can to compensate and to be responsible for myself, my own moop and the moop of others.

Some say I shouldn’t wear this art, the most profound work of art I have created, to Burning Man. It is funny, how in a place with not many rules, where the artist is supposed to be free.. that by dressing in my sacred form, I get shamed for being the “offensive” and “disrespectful” rule breaker. This feels completely contradictory to the many stories I hear from people who have witnessed this art on the playa, and how it transformed their experience into something healing and beautiful. Many have said to me that seeing this feathered angel was one of their favorite and most profound moments at Burning Man. Photos of this work have also been featured as the Burning Man photo on a European festival website, Paris Vogue in their Burning Man article last year, and now the Rolling Stone. For some reason, it sticks out to people enough to feature in prominent magazines, yet ultimately it is against the rules.

Ka, our advice to you is just ignore the criticism – like, er, water off a duck’s back. Burners will always complain about everything, you just have to learn to tune out the fools. They’re just doing their own form of radical self-expression, they think they’re being helpful and good when really if anyone listened to them, they’d wreck the party.

What I find even more interesting, and quite confusing, is that I received my Burning Man ticket from dancing in that feathered embodiment at the Burning Man Artumnal fundraiser with Seraphim, and we were asked to perform that very show at center camp. I am sorry that some people have chosen to experience so much offense from this offering of love, that I was asked to share on the playa.

Don’t be confused. Some people are just dicks. The real people love what you do, and very much want you to stay.

The bay area visionary art burning man community who are highly respected burning man artists, introduced me into this community. When I would ask about the no feather rule, I was told unanimously, “they’re really just talking about boas and cheaply made things that will fall apart… Your work is different…

Ka’s paintings are as amazing as her costumes

Yours are glued down extremely well… Its so amazing.. You should definitely bring it.. Etc.”. I entered into the Burning man community surrounded by people who supported this art, encouraged me to bring it to the playa, and so I believed it was okay. After attending burning man several times, it became harder to take the rule seriously when every person I knew and half the people i saw wore feathers.. Lots of them. Most of these people were veteran burners for many years. Yes, true, I am a naughty rule breaker,and so are the many long time burners who came before me, and apparently I shouldn’t have listened to them or followed their example. Through the six years of attending BM, it became even more difficult to take the environmental issue of feathers, which turn to dust so quickly, seriously, when I found myself surrounded in toxic pollution on the playa.

I saw so many feathers at Burning Man this year. Like, I saw more feathers, than I saw people taking or smoking drugs (including coffee and cigarettes – but maybe not alcohol). There have always been a ton of feathers at Burning Man. This is a rule like “you may only drive at 65 on the I-80” or “don’t play Freebird at the Temple Burn”. It’s Burning Man, a giant Moopy festival in the middle of a wasteland…not the Presidential Inauguration or the Louvre.

True Burners would love to see your art. Look, we’ll ask them. I say come back next year with twice as many feathers! What, like a bird has never flown over the Playa in 130 million years?

43 comments on “Topsy turvy world: Neon bank logos, OK; Angel suit, NO ?

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    • THS ISSUE HERE IS ANIMAL CRUELTY!!! All those feathers which she is wearing have been plucked off live birds who have after that been slaughtered. Its just vanity and stealing beauty from birds. Its disgusting and true beauty has no cruelty in it!! Its not beautiful, its vanity and it promotes more animal cruelty because of it. I kindly would ask you to Ka, not to wear this and create something beautiful without harming other beings , perhaps that can make an effect on our planet.

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  7. Both sides of this argument are very,very silly. I’ve never seen so much emotion over feathers. Let alone dress up time.there are people fucking dieing all over the world,starving,being destroyed by war,and here in the good ol’ U S of A everyone’s arguing about fucking feathers. THESE ARE FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS FUCKERS!!

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  11. Many of you just sound like an angry cynics full of jealousy. Seriously, aren’t you people supposed to be a little more lenient of the “rules” especially when she’s not breaking the rule because she did not create moop and that is what the “rule” is for?! Her outfit was not covered in feathered boas and spewing feathers everywhere! Get off you high horses and listen to what she’s actually saying about her efforts not to create moop and stop being such judgmental, rule-driven freaks that are just plain out right being rude! Get over it already!

    • Uh, no.. no.. and no.

      You’re doing it wrong. Rules are rules and respect is respect.. both of which you seem to know nothing about.


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  14. What I see going on here is a discussion of privilege. Some people are special, and their feather costumes or outfits are special, so they get to have their special feather costumes at Burning Man because they are making extra efforts to ensure they don’t moop and to gather any moop that occurs from them.

    Point – Ka states that she received her Burning Man ticket because she danced in this feathered outfit at the Burning Man Artumnal fundraiser and was asked to preform the same piece in center camp. She does not mention if the person that made this offer or request is a part of the Burning Man Org, however regardless I say shame on that person, who should have known better than to request a performance piece that involves a feathered costume without asking that performer if they have an alternate, non-feathered costume to wear.

    Point – Ka also states that she has brought this costume piece before to Burning Man, and although she has not always worn it, clearly she feels privileged that her feathers are more special, that it is part of her spirituality and thus the rules that apply to others do not apply to her.

    Point – Ka talks about how Scott London asked to take a photo of her and she complied but did not expect it to become so well publicized. If she knows who Scott London is it seems like she should know how well publicized his work is. Granted, she had no reason to expect to be in Rolling Stone, but the picture certainly was going to be all over the internet. Knowing that the Survival Guide and Burning Man website clearly states do not bring or wear feathers I think she should not be surprised that people reacted negatively to her outfit. People in this community have very strong opinions and they voice them, often quite loudly.

    Point – Ka also notes that she realizes how she can be setting a bad example for other burners, and that other people may not make their costumes to her standards. She states she will not do this in the future, so lay off her. She certainly does not deserve hate mail. And she clearly has learned something, although to me it sounds like the hate mail has made her sensitive in that since she can not freely make her artistic, spiritual statement she will likely not attend Burning Man in the future. However, that last statement is my opinion based off the few words I see written from her on this website. I would be more than happy to see a more informative and unbiased reason from her on why she doubts she will attend in the future.

    I would also like to say that just because someone’s feathers are very well glued down, or sewn on, something I have noticed about feathers is that part way down the shaft they have a tendency to break. So half your well glued down feather may stay on your outfit, but that doesn’t stop the other half from breaking off and flying away to become moop. The point I am trying to make is that feathers are fragile. They break in many ways. Even if you don’t lose many, you are likely to lose a few. Ka actually makes that point herself, that she picked up two of her own feathers and actively recruited friends to help moop feathers for her. Sure, she is being responsible, but she is also showing that even very well made feather costumes moop. And we can’t count on everyone in this community being responsible. I already made the point about being a bad example, but yeaah.

    I saw some people in beautiful feather costumes, but especially when I saw them riding art cars, and consequently sitting on their feather skirts, all I could think is that they were likely unintentionally breaking their feathers. And how they must think they are so much more special, and their feather outfits so special that they matter more than anyone else, or the example they were setting. And I decided not to say anything, because of how I felt they would treat me for speaking out against their privileged view of themselves.

    This article speaks about gay marriage, but I am going to share it because it explains what I am talking about regarding privilege, and hopefully why I feel like that is the place that Ka and others wearing feathers are coming from.

    • I also left out that Ka featured this outfit at the Burning Man Artumnal fundraiser, which just goes to show that is one of many opportunities to showcase and display the beautiful feather costumes that people make. With so many other chances to show off this work, why is it that you must bring it to the playa? Can’t people be satisfied with wearing these creations at fundraisers, decompressions, and other such events? Can’t people engage their creativity to create feather free costumes and outfits for the playa? What about evoking the idea of or feeling of feathers? Isn’t that potentially a bigger challenge and can lead to even more awe inspiring and provoking costumes? And then think of the impact an outfit like that can have on the people around you or that see you.

  15. I think the feather costume is beautiful, well done KA on an inspired piece that prompted a lot of debate (isn’t that the best kind of art?) As to the person pointing fingers that BWS was paid for by wall st and wondering where the extra money went, I ask you, “What extra money?” Our project finished ~$10,000 in the hole due to rising lumber prices, paint prices, broken tools that needed repair, last minute structural changes demanded by the BoRG on playa and the cost of feeding ~50 people 3 meals a day for over 3 months.

  16. I spoke to someone high up in the organization…
    They specified that the no feathers rule was because of feather boas, and they really didn’t mind feather art that had well secured feathers.

    I hope they clarify this for next year so KA can continue her beautiful art.

    • thanks very much Josh. This provides a classic example of how the “rules” get rabidly enforced by do-gooder Burners, thinking that they are representing the “real” Burning Man…meanwhile at the top of the tree amongst the creators and operators of Burning Man, everyone wants beautiful artwork that doesn’t leave MOOPS. That’s the whole freaking point! Then DPW says “yeah but DPW have to pick up all the feathers”, which, while true, does not actually negate the point in any way.

      As SamsaBee has pointed out, this is in Rolling Stone now, which is only further promoting the feather confusion. Much as I hate bureaucracy, the answer might just have to be some sort of “approved art” permit – KA’s creation is beautiful and it would be Burning Man’s loss if we don’t see her serpent feathers out there again – but there are also many other truly amazing creations featuring feathers, which were completely OK up until 2008.

      • Burnersxxx very much agree…
        Do you remember when the actual rule used to be “no feather boas” before they just put “no feathers” in the guide?

        I’m betting they found a few “feather boa-like” things that also shed feather, and just thought it was easier than saying “leave all your crappy made feather objects at home, and leave the feather wearing to the people who know how to make the f-ing things that won’t shed…”

        I applaud KA for beautiful artwork, and not being so ruled by didactic rules when a little thought (that she has *clearly* done from her comments) can comply with the rules intent, and she puts a lot of work into not mooping.

      • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Josh, I bet that’s exactly what happened…this is the creeping insidiousness of bureaucracy. No-one is doing “bad” at any stage, but the “majority rules” type decisions ultimately end up stifling individual creativity and self-expression. We need to find ways to have less rules, less “no’s”

  17. If some pretentious egomaniacal self-absorbed narcissist wants to break the rules so she can get her, obviously frail, ego stroked by admirers than go ahead and let her. It’s all theater anyway, why not end the pretense that there is some kind of social significance from the event. Let all the egomaniacs shine! The rules are there for a purpose, they shouldn’t be changed for a self righteous self absorbed whiner with her pseudo spirituality.

  18. passing judgment my ass the rules are simple and few.Is it so much to ask to just follow the few rules there are ….No firearms…no moop….no feathers…didn’t your greeter ask you those questions,or did you lie to your greeter? I just think it is blatant dis-respect to the event,and to the people who build this City.Don’t get me wrong,I think it’s beautiful,and may very well be spiritual,it just DOES NOT BELONG AT BURNING MAN! Because it’s against the (few) rules.Piss clear)'(

  19. The only issue I see here is that it was in Rolling Stone and will send the message that feathers at BM are OK. Why wear feathers if it is blatantly a rule in the guide to not? What it really says is “Fuck the guide” or “I never even read the guide”. Burners like to fret to keep the city in order I think to allow for the future of the event to stay out of jeopardy. If many people wore feathers then it would probably be very overwhelming to the playa restorers. They have to make sure the playa is spic and span or the BLM will be on their nuts.

  20. I don’t understand why this is even in question! The few rules that are in place are there for very good reasons. If I bring a firearm to the playa and discharge it in the name of art, does that make it ok? Of course not. It doesn’t matter how beautiful you think her outfit is, its a violation of a very simple rule and a blatantly HUGE one. It’s not like one or two feathers, it’s a giant cluster fuck of feathers that screams “I don’t follow your rules”.

    And your comparison of the BWS logos is ridiculous. Those weren’t logos, they were anti-logos in a statement against the financial institutions that the artist was making a point about. There was no hidden agenda to get people to use those financial institutions, whereas it seems pretty obvious that Ka is interested in selling her art and not only has her pic been all over the internet but the author of this article has even linked her site here in some sort of misguided defense of her disregard for for the simple basic rules of the playa.

    • There was certainly nothing hidden about Burn Wall Street. It was a giant promotion for Wall Street and their banks. Burning it didn’t change it. Next year, I’m going to bring a 100-ft high GOP Elephant. It will be satire because I will call it LOP, the Lame Old Party- ha ha, it’s lame, not grand, that’s so ironic. Everyone behold my elephant! It’s not a logo, it’s an anti-logo! It’s art, because we’re going to burn it!

      You don’t think Otto sold his art? What do you think happened to the $170,000 he raised?

      The Bank of America logo looked exactly the same, unless you were right in front of it. The size of the installation meant it was in your face just about everywhere you went. Contrast this to the thousands of people wearing feathers, that weren’t art like Ka’s.

      Did you even read anything she said? She disregarded nothing. This is a professional artwork designed to prevent MOOP

      • Yes, I read everything she said and I’m not trying to defend BWS. It was one of the most hideous pieces I’ve seen in my 12+ years on the playa. You can criticize that monstrosity all you want without any complaint from me. However your assumption that it was an advertizement for BofA or Wall Street is a little far fetched to say the least. But that is not the point. The point is that there is a reason why they don’t want feathers on the playa, or guns, or pets or any of the other easy to follow rules. You can walk around naked or with dildo strapped to your forehead all day long and that is not an issue because that doesn’t cause problems. Feathers do. Her art is beautiful and it’s comforting to know that she attempts to make it as moop-less as possible. But it doesn’t excuse the fact that they specifically ask us NOT to bring feathers to the playa. And you calling it a giant moopy festival doesn’t excuse it. If it’s a giant moopy festival then is it ok to throw one’s trash in the porta potties? Other people do it? Must be ok, right? Obviously not. That is intentionally breaking an important rule that does have an impact on the ability to continue having a Burn. So is bringing a giant feather costume to the playa. And in 2008 she didn’t wear her wings to the Temple burn. What does that tell you? That she knew it was breaking a rule. If the Bmorg wants to support an installation that looks like an advertisement for some coporation, that’s their decision to make. If we all take the rules and make our own decisions about them, then there will likely be no adherence to the one’s we think don’t matter, when in fact they do. You can defend it all you want, it doesn’t make it right. And if the amount of grief she got outways all the publicity she got (which I doubt very much), then good! It should. Don’t bring feathers to the playa. It isn’t that fucking hard to understand! All the other feathers that you (supposedly) saw I’m sure got their ration of crap too. Just because other people do it doesn’t make it ok and your defending it is reprehensible. Try supporting the rules that keep our festival going rather than rebuking them.

  21. I deeply appreciate the support shared on this blog. Thank you for appreciating and understanding what I do. However, I have already stated that I will not bring my work to the playa again. While donning this feathered embodiment is saved only for a couple hours of prayer, at the most on the playa, I understand how the publicity it received this year can be confusing to other burners, and can lead to me being a bad example.
    This morning at the temple was intended to be an intimate moment of prayer and honoring the Temple of Juno, which so beautifully bridged heaven on Earth. Since the bridging of Heaven and Earth is the primary purpose for my artwork, I felt drawn.. or obligated to show up in this way to offer my love to the Temple and the few handfuls of people praying there. On the way out, Scott London politely asked if he could photograph me. I accepted and kept dancing.
    The next thing I know, it is in the Rolling Stone, and I am all of a sudden receiving hate mail… Granted, a couple of the letters I received politely stated their opposition, but many of them were belligerent. It was never my intention for this to be made public, and I would have declined if I had been asked permission for it to be made so.
    It was odd and interesting to feel like public enemy #1 for expressing beauty and sincere prayer, and I was bewildered at how this could be the most controversial piece of art at Burning Man, supposedly the most artistically “progressive” place on the planet, where if I had spent my time making an art car that blasted “F*$% your fACE” in flame throwers, it would have received applause. It’s all really, truly funny.
    In 2008, I brought my wings, and I decided not to wear them on Sunday at the temple sunrise. This decision took me on an interesting journey, as my soul ached at the knowing that I failed to offer my full self. I learned more clearly, that the playa was not an ordinary place, but one full of the deepest magic. I swore to never ignore this calling again… and of course, when I listened, the tables turned.
    I may or may not ever return to the playa. This experience has been a beautiful reflection and illumination of environmental issues and what is really impacting and what is aggressively enforced. The fanaticism I have experienced about the feather issue is akin to the kind of religious fanaticism I experienced as a child. It would be wonderful if Burning Man were as severe on keeping the fires burning clean as they are about feathers and glitter. A dear friend of mine was traumatized the whole weekend last year when he could not escape the toxic fumes. He unfortunately witnessed members of the DPW throwing PVC coated wires into the burn piles. This is toxic, and poisonous, and inescapable. This is not in alignment with a ‘leave no trace’ policy, and can cause CANCER.
    This year, Saturday night seemed all and well, even considering the tons of fuel, fire and explosives in burning the Man and Wall Street. (BTW, I thought the Wall Street installation was incredibly powerful and was brought to tears upon approaching it for the first time. May we leave scarcity mentality in the dust, and embrace our abundant way of living!) Yet, Sunday night, the toxic air was inescapable. I saw a full bike in the temple fire. Can we please, make rules about burning plastics and other harmful debris, so that it does not go into the lungs of 50,000 people? That would be sweet, and definitely more harmonious with the environmental “leave no trace” banner that is flown over BRC.
    I hear that so many feathers get dropped every year, I pick up lots of them, and yes, that sucks. I apologize for any contribution I have played in that. I honestly do everything I can to prevent mooping, from steaming for a half hour before wearing them (to prevent brittleness) , only wearing them for a very short time, then packing them in their sealed carriers for the rest of the event ( I certainly do not party in them.), making sure the feathers are glued and secure, and keeping a sharp eye, and asking the eyes of others to help watch for any dropped feathers. I pick up lots of trash during the week, and moop the crap out of my camp before I go. I know that most people would not undergo these precautions and that this is the main concern.
    I am grateful that so many lives have been touched by bringing this to the playa, as well as the many personal gifts, challenges and growth I have received there. I know that it is all perfect, and my heart is at ease.
    I was meditating the day after I returned from BRC, thinking about fertility… How does a garden become fertile? Well… “Shit.” You need shit. So, now I have gotten lots of shit, and can turn this hate mail into beautiful love letters to God. Out of shit, our most beautiful flowers grow. Fertility 2.0

    • Good lord. I get it you’re a very spiritual person and you seem to have a need to parade and flaunt your spirituality. Reminds me of Jesus reprimanding the Pharisees for praying outside where everybody could see how righteous they were.

      The age we’re in lends itself to too much egotism masquerading as spirituality.

    • What exactly does wearing the feathers of a dead animal have to do with expressing your spirituality? Do you realize that that is just as bad as the “religious fanaticism” that you experienced as a child? The gibberish that you are speaking is what a lot of us would consider to be “spiritual fanaticism”. Let’s call a spade a spade here, you are doing this for attention, plain and simple. Get off of your high horse.

    • Had I been in the Temple the morning you showed up in feathers from head to toe, I would have been aghast at the level of disrespect you brought into a place that to many is sacred space. While your costume was beautiful, it had no place on the Playa…and your “call” to “perform” in the Temple a slap in the face to many.

  22. Hah, and the poll results illustrate the point – the real people could never have created anything as beautiful as BRC. But they won’t be satisfied til they’ve ruined it for everyone.

  23. No feathers on the playa seems like a pretty straight forward easy rule to follow. The rule is about respecting the environment that we are transforming. When burners learn this simple rule then there may be hope that we can respect the rest of the planet. Sorry but it was selfish of this performer to foist her rule violation on the city. And publicity just makes it worse for next year.

    The playa is not for the entertainment of spectators, it’s to learn to build a society, temporarily, where we choose to think differently than the wasteful, destructive and selfish way our society lives for the other 51 weeks. This dancer chose feathers to get noticed and possibly to get publicity for default world activities. She did not contribute to the building of our city. She spit in the face of the principles. It is not unusual behaviour – it is human behaviour and points to the selfishness of the human race and hastens the day when BRC will be denied its permit.

  24. I hope none of it chokes a small animal. The rules are there for a reason. Ok for one to break=ok for all to break–>fucked up environment & no more burning man. There are many other places to display this beautiful art. Many.

  25. I have to say that while I didn’t see it on the Playa I did have a tiny little “no feathers” cringe when I first saw the photo. That said…I know that rule comes from a very well meaning place but I don’t think it applies here. Obviously this is meticulously crafted and extremely beautiful. I applaud the extra effort that the artist has invested to care for her Playa footprint as well. You always have to look at the piece in context. I would still submit the no feathers rule should stand. Its unfortunate that the uninitiated will see feathers and think that they are ok without realizing how diligent they must be if they decide to use them as a medium. They were and are one of the top moop contributors. Still. This is an amazing piece of artwork and we should be thankful for it.

  26. I spent at least 15 mins watching two girls dancing dressed in similar outfits during the sunrise at the Temple on Friday morning, it was one of the most beautiful things I saw on the playa. I also did not see them shed a single feather, these outfits are made to last. People, please try to understand and respect all form of self-expression before passing judgment. <3 )'(

    • Blatant disregard for the rules of the community can hardly be considered self-expression. Beautiful – absolutely…but so are dogs, and they’re not allowed, either.

      • I saw a big parade of fire engines and other equipment this year. There was a little yappy chiahuahua type dog riding on one of the trucks.

        I still survived, and lived to tell the tale…

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