We copped some flak for expressing our opinion that Burn Wall Street was the worst piece of art on the Playa this year. It’s a case where “radical self-expression” butts up against “radical inclusion” and “decommodification” – and there is no answer, no guidance. Hell, there are no rules – well, it used to be like that. Should I be allowed to radically self-express my dislike for something, or does freedom of speech get magically suspended at Burning Man? If we have to include anyone’s art, does that mean we have to include anyone’s corporate logos? If the logo is slightly different, does that make it OK? Is it fine to have McSatan painted on a sign at someone’s camp, but not fine to have Bank of UnAmerica lit up in the middle of the Playa, higher and brighter and bigger than the Burning Man? Yes on both – the former is fine, and the latter is not. Isn’t that the whole point of decommodification?
In our case the criticism was more about the Wall Street logos clearly visible from most of the Playa and the over-hyping and under-delivering of the project, than it was a direct dis on the art. Fuck the art – they burn it anyway, who cares if it’s just a monstrous waste of timber. That shit grows on trees.
In the case of others commenting, it was the architecture (drab boxes), the massive and angry political statement or the “too close” resonance to 9/11 that were problems with the piece. And we agree with those positions also, but personally I could live with all of that if I didn’t have to see a freaking BofA logo. If you’re going to put one there, at least put some kind of cool ATM under it.
The hype continued with the press coverage after Burning Man, claiming that #BWS had elements that didn’t actually cross the finish line. Another similarity to the Occupy movement? Or, perhaps, an “Emperor’s New Clothes” or John Cage 4’33 artistic statement: virtual art – you just think of it, and the media will write about it, and it gets burned so no-one can verify that it never really existed like that in the first place. I guess you could claim that’s like Wall Street too – an ironic tip of the hat to Boiler Room and the Facebook IPO. “Whatever, man” – you want to make art that I don’t like, fine. But don’t put giant neon signs that look just like the brands that you are aping with lame irony – firstly, because that’s against the law in the United States. Which makes me wonder how they got permission to do this for Burn Wall Street. Which makes me wonder if the whole thing doesn’t just achieve Wall Street’s ends, rather than actually convey the message officially described.
Ah, Wall Street…
We also copped some (perhaps more understandable) flak for “shallowness” for rating our #1 best time at Burning Man this year as being on the dance floor with DJ Kramer and the beautiful people and free bar at Distrikt. Again, whatever man.
And then we copped some more flak for the “featheriness” of our support for Ka’s amazing costume.
So let’s see what kind of controversy, if any, we create with this call. The best piece of art on the Playa this year, the one that inspired and touched me and still does, was the one our camp called “The Zip Tie Thing”. It’s actually called The Third Space, brought to Burning Man by swissnex. Thanks to Toburn for doing the Burners.Me investigative journalism for this. It took 52 people 16,870 hours to create this from 250,000 zip ties. They had 14 people on the Playa for 15 days, and it took 6 days of 12-hour days to get the installation finished.
The Third Space (or Der Dritte Raum in German) is a triangular spider web of 250,000 zip ties clutched over a wooden skeleton. Enter and discover a lounge including lit seating balls and hanging cocoons that invite visitors to lie down and relax and take in the futuristic environment around them. The wind blowing through the zip ties is the only sound and carries all cares away. The material offers an astoundingly sensuous quality and great flexibility, so that the visitor is dipped into an abstract landscape. The Third Space is a place to relax and to come home to surroundings that are otherworldly and shaped by its own lighted beauty.
The idea for The Third Space came out of a course in Interior Architecture taught by Swiss designers Carmen and Urs Greutmann-Bolzern at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. The project explores mesh and pattern and deals with sociological issues such as profiling, community, and privacy as translated into different spatial situations. It was further developed by Greutmann-Bolzern student and current assistant, Alexander Rehn, and built by 52 other students working for 16,870 hours with their own hands.
swissnex San Francisco showed the Greutman-Bolzern exhibition Bubble Ballet in December 2011 and shortly thereafter began discussions to bring The Third Space to Burning Man. After showcases in Munich Paninotheka, Germany, Designer Saturday in Langenthal, Switzerland, and Luminaire Lab Design at Design Miami, The Third Space travels to Burning Man. With the help of swissnex, Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, and the designers in Germany and Switzerland, an application was submitted to Burning Man in early 2012 and the project selected and supported as an official 2012 Honorarium Art Installation.
Carmen Greutmann–Bolzern and Urs Greutmann opened their practice, Design Studio Greutmann Bolzern, in 1984 in Zurich, Switzerland. Since 2003, Carmen and Urs have taught at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich, Germany. During a course they were teaching, student Alexander Rehn built a hanging zip tie cocoon and The Third Space was born. After working for Greutmann-Bolzern from 2010 to 2012 in Zurich, Alexander is now their assistant at the Academy of Arts in Munich and runs his own design studio. He travels to Burning Man with fellow designers Bianca Keck und Alexander Deubl.
swissnex San Francisco staff Sophie Lamparter and Liliane Ackle are coordinating the project from the Bay Area.