Freedom’s Just Another Word for Being Really Hard to Find

by Whatsblem the Pro

No less a light than R. Buckminster Fuller once said that “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Art sometimes requires access to tools and substances that are well beyond the pale of normal day-to-day existence; procurement of this matériel can be vital. It can also be difficult, even if you live in a place where what you need is technically legal. Try sourcing a large supply of tannerite sometime, and you may get your phone tapped or your e-mail gone through even if nobody knocks on your door to see what you’re up to. Maybe all you need for your shenanigans are some industrial-strength fireworks, but you live in an area where fireworks are tightly controlled.

Fireworks - screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

Fireworks – screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

Silk Road has rendered the existing model obsolete. The site is an online marketplace that preserves anonymity, provides escrow service and a reputation system, and allows the sale of just about anything at all.

You can’t just point your browser at Silk Road, though. The site’s servers can’t be pinpointed, and can’t even be communicated with if you’re not set up for it. Silk Road is the major player on the Deep Web, sometimes called Darknet, or Undernet. Unless you’re already anonymized, you can’t get there from here.

Tor (aka “The Onion Router”) is the big workhorse of the Deep Web. How does Tor work? From the Wikipedia entry:

How Tor works

How Tor works

“Tor aims to conceal its users’ identities and their network activity from surveillance and traffic analysis by separating identification and routing. It is an implementation of onion routing, which encrypts and then randomly bounces communications through a network of relays run by volunteers around the globe. These onion routers employ encryption in a multi-layered manner (hence the onion metaphor) to ensure perfect forward secrecy between relays, thereby providing users with anonymity in network location. That anonymity extends to the hosting of censorship-resistant content via Tor’s anonymous hidden service feature. Furthermore, by keeping some of the entry relays (bridge relays) secret, users can evade Internet censorship that relies upon blocking public Tor relays.

Because the Internet address of the sender and the recipient are not both in cleartext at any hop along the way, anyone eavesdropping at any point along the communication channel cannot directly identify both ends. Furthermore, to the recipient it appears that the last Tor node (the exit node) is the originator of the communication rather than the sender.”

Once you’ve got Tor installed and running, you’ll have a special Tor-hardened browser open that keeps you anonymous on the Internet. . . or does it? Not entirely, as it turns out. You still have to avoid doing things that might reveal your identity, which means your Tor-enabled browser should be the only browser open, and you must resist the temptation to do everyday things like log in to Facebook, or check your e-mail. Doing so while using Tor is actually much less secure than doing it without Tor running, because hey: people are watching. Tor does not, and by design cannot, encrypt your traffic between exit nodes and target servers. In other words, you can send and receive data all you like and nobody will know where or who you are just by looking at the flow of data, but if you yourself send information that tells where and who you are, you may be exposing your most sensitive data to hackers or law enforcement. You can expose where and who you are indirectly, as well; as an example: in September 2007, Swedish security consultant Dan Egerstad reported the interception of a large number of email account usernames and passwords by running and monitoring Tor exit nodes. Once someone has information like that, finding out who you are, where you live, and all kinds of other things about you becomes trivial.

Posting photographs without taking the necessary precautions can also compromise your identity while running Tor. Digital photos normally have what’s known as EXIF data attached to them, and the EXIF may include things like the precise GPS coordinates of where you took the picture. Scrubbing or spoofing the EXIF data is easy, but it’s also essential that you don’t skip that step if you want to upload photos and remain anonymous.

You can log in to Silk Road and lots of other Deep Web sites safely because they avoid those exit nodes that make your data sniffable and therefore vulnerable; since Silk Road also wants to remain anonymized, your requests to the site and the site’s replies to you meet and negotiate with each other at some random point in the middle of the Tor-enabled network. Again: don’t open a second browser, don’t check your e-mail, don’t sign into Facebook or other sites that know your real identity, and don’t browse web sites casually. The Deep Web is for getting in, getting what you need, and getting out.

Some popular Silk Road offerings - screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

Some popular Silk Road offerings – screenshot by Whatsblem the Pro

The best way to get to the anonymized dark side of the Internet is to boot to a CD, a USB thumb drive, or an external hard drive that contains a special Tor-enabled security-hardened operating system. This will enable you not only to completely, securely anonymize yourself, it will also give you the ability to take your show on the road and safely access the underworld from just about any computer with an Internet connection, even the ones in the library. There are several options to choose from in such an operating system; two very good choices are Tails, and Liberté Linux.

If you boot to one of these specialized operating systems, Tor will already be enabled, and you’ll be ready to go. Point the specially-modified browser at the Silk Road and you’re there (please note that if you don’t have Tor installed and running correctly, though, you’ll get “404 Not Found” or your DNS provider’s equivalent instead).

OK, so you’ve created a Silk Road account and logged into that. What now? You can feast your eyes to your heart’s content, but how do you buy anything, and what is the weird pricing system all about?

That’s the other part of the Deep Web equation: anonymized money. Silk Road’s transactions (totaling over 1.2 million US dollars per month in 2012) are conducted using Bitcoin, an electronic currency introduced in 2009 that was designed with your privacy in mind. So, before you can buy anything on Silk Road, you’ll need to acquire some bitcoins. There are several ways to do this, and more all the time; just in the last few weeks, a Bitcoin ATM was announced for use in public spaces. The most common way of obtaining bitcoins is to go through a site like Mt. Gox; this method involves a trip to a local bank to finalize the transaction, which places bitcoins in your encrypted ‘wallet’ to be spent online. As Bitcoin achieves greater recognition and acceptance, even easier methods of trading non-virtual currencies for bitcoins should quickly become trivial and routine.

BitCoin

Just buying bitcoins isn’t enough; you’ll also need to use a mixing service or three if you want your transactions to remain truly anonymous. You’ll need to pick your mixing services judiciously; they also operate anonymously, and a fly-by-night operation could simply disappear with your bitcoins. Do your due diligence! As a general rule, anyone you do business with anonymously should have a reputation that is worth much more to them than your transaction.

Now you can buy, but who can you trust? If everyone’s anonymous, what’s to stop vendors on Silk Road from simply keeping your money and sending you nothing at all?

Fortunately, Silk Road provides both an escrow service and a reputation system. Do your due diligence and shy away from the early funds release option, and your transaction is assured. Your bitcoins won’t be handed over to the seller until you both agree that the deal was completed fairly.

Safely communicating with vendors is also an issue. You’re going to have to give them a name and address to ship to at some point, so take steps to keep anyone in between you from sniffing that information out of the packets of data you transmit as they travel through the cloud from server to server. Make sure you use a dedicated e-mail account, and encrypt your messages in both directions with PGP or the free alternative GPG. . . or take the easy way out, and get yourself a Hushmail or Tor Mail account.

How PGP works

How PGP works

Finally, you’ve got to receive the product. It might be advisable to limit your purchases to vendors in your own country; Silk Road allows you to declare a country for your account (or not), and provides a handy “domestic only” checkbox at the top of every search page. You’ll need a name and address; PO boxes are commonly used and if you’re in America the USPS is highly recommended over other carriers like UPS or FedEx, simply because the Post Office handles such an immensely larger volume of mail and packages than the alternatives.

Volumes have been written about secure shipping, and indeed, there’s a great deal more to say about all of this. This article should be considered the tip of the iceberg; it will give you enough information to get started, but by “get started” I mean “do a lot more reading.” It’s no small or simple thing to free yourself of the burden of an obsolete old paradigm, especially when the corpse is still violently thrashing around and hurting people who try without first preparing themselves adequately. All the information and resources you need are available to you, but it’s up to you to put in the study time necessary to master the tools you’ll need.

Proceed with caution!

Burners, Burners, Everywhere…

global_regionals_mapThanks to Burning Man’s social alchemist Bear Kittay for posting this one. Click the link below to see a map of Regional Events around the planet. Burner culture is starting to spread, a disorganized organization with a great deal of human potential. Party on, world!

http://regionalburnmap.herokuapp.com/

burning_man in laThe global population of Burners is estimated by these guys at 64,319. That means Burners.Me, after one year in existence, is being followed by about 25% of all Burners. I’m not so sure about these stats though – maybe they mean “Population of Regional Burners”. A more accurate comparison might be towards the official Burning Man community page on Facebook, which has 417,974 Likes. Which puts us at a mere 4%. Last estimate I heard about JRS (the Jacked Rabbit Speaks) was above 100,000 email addresses, if anyone has more accurate data please let us know.

There is a glaring hole in Burning Man’s global dominance: South America. As I write this I’m in Cartagena, Colombia – which I think would be a great place for a Burn. I’ve met random people down here who asked “have you ever been to Burning Man?”…so the demand is there. And a rich history of beautiful people with beautiful costumes, such as at Carnaval. They would probably have to accept feathers though…

Another glaring omission is the Moon, but the always pioneering Robot Heart seem to have that one covered!

robot heart on the moon

Burnal Equinox 2013 is Coming!

by Whatsblem the Pro

The Machine - Photo by Douglas Hope Hooper

The Machine – Photo by Douglas Hope Hooper

 

Burnal Equinox is coming up once again on Saturday, March 2nd, halfway between Burning Man 2012 and Burning Man 2013. There will be multiple celebrations of the Equinox in various parts of the world, under various names; Portland, Oregon, for instance, has their annual Halfway Home party.

There’s even a virtual Burnal Equinox held online as part of Burn2 in Second Life. . . which is a bit of a full-circle proposition, as Linden Labs founder Phillip Rosedale was originally inspired by his experiences at Burning Man, which he first attended in 1999.

As far as events go, the main hoopla seems to be in San Francisco, which has been holding Burnal Equinox events since 2006, and at the Nevada City, California event, now in its third year.

The San Francisco event, billed this year as an “art salon and mixer,” is themed. The 2013 theme for SF’s Burnal Equinox is “Technology as Savior,” which is explained in more depth here:

Through a multitude of technological devices we have expanded our sense of what is real, what is possible, how we relate and what we find gratifying. We can text one another instantaneously across oceans, meet online and converse with groups of strangers at any given moment about the trajectory of asteroids, express our opinions to political leaders via on-line petitions, and expand our social network of “friends” seemingly without limit! We watch reality shows about other people’s lives and create virtual versions of ourselves as we fly through the Interwebs in enhanced real-time. Miraculous devices have become so ingrained in who we are, how we work, think and relate that we could not imagine life without them or the immediacy and satisfaction they offer. And why would we?! Technology is SAVING our economy and way of life, even as it reinvents everything! That is its magic! That is the miracle! It reinvents itself and our relationship with it in mysterious and accelerating ways! There is no problem Technology cannot help with. Nothing Technology cannot and will not do to enhance our lives and save us from any number of impending destructions! Technology WILL SAVE US, even as it helps us relate to one another in better and more convenient ways!

The San Francisco event will be held from 7PM to 3AM at Public Works, 161 Erie Street, SF, CA 94103 (between Division & 14th St. in the Mission). Please note that this is a 21 and over venue. Tickets are $20 at the door, or $15 with donation of art supplies for Hospitality House’s art program, which puts art supplies in the hands of the homeless and indigent. Supplies especially needed are watercolor brushes and paints, watercolor 140’ paper, quality marker sets, canvases, working sewing machines with all necessary parts included, and craft and jewelry supplies.

For more information about the San Francisco Burnal Equinox event, please visit the Flambé Lounge 2013 special events page.

According to Marketing and Community Outreach Committee member Coryon Redd, the Nevada City event, which is not themed, began in 2011 as a concert by the band Albino. At the urging of local burners, it was expanded into a full-blown burner event with the help of Gretchen Bond, director of the Miners’ Foundry Cultural Center in Nevada City, California.

Redd will be running an event at Burnal Equinox called “Jedi Training School.”

I also spoke with the Nevada City event’s archivist, Kathleen Hoffmann, who gave me this snippet of history: “Our event started in 2011 and has grown larger every year. In 2012 the event doubled in participation. This year we joined with Sacramento Valley Spark, a non-profit organization of and for the burner community.”

I asked Kathleen what she has in store for us. “This year,” she says, “the event is busting at the seams with bands, fire effects and performances, theme camps, art cars, gifting, performance artists and SHENANIGANS!”

From the Nevada City Burnal Equinox press release:

Gold Country Burnal Equinox will be a celebration of self-expression and creativity inspired by the Burning Man event, complete with art, fire performers, fashion shows, costumes, and theme camps. It all takes place at The Miners Foundry, located at 325 Spring Street in Nevada City.

Three stages of entertainment will feature live music, DJs, and performance art. Bring yourself and be yourself. Playa wear is welcome and encouraged. This all-day event begins at 2:00 p.m. and continues until 1:00 a.m. Tickets are $20 in Advance and $25 at the door.

Uchronia - Photo by Douglas Hope Hooper

Uchronia – Photo by Douglas Hope Hooper

Advance tickets are available online from Vendini and Nevada City Box Office. You can also call Nevada City Box Office for tickets at (530) 265-5462, or buy them in person at the Briar Patch Co-Op, 290 Sierra College Drive, Suite A, in Grass Valley.

If you are interested in contributing, volunteering, performing or have questions, please email burnale2013@gmail.com

For more information please visit: http://sacvalleyspark.org/?page_id=686

 

Is your community having a Burnal Equinox event? Tell us about it in the comments!

Burners in Brooklyn: Artists Bringing Art Cars to the Wider World

The Brooklyn Paper has published a story on veteran Burner and visionary artist, Yarrow Mazzetti. I first met Yarrow in 2010 when I camped with the Overkill crew, he’s a great guy and builds some of the raddest art cars out there – the Fish Tank, the Lady Bugs, and many more.

Fish Tank at Fertility 2.0

Fish Tank at Fertility 2.0

A metalwork artist is creating high-octane art by driving a bit of Burning Man into Brooklyn.

Artist Yarrow Mazzetti is turning the “art car” phenomenon of the funky desert art festival into big business here — and the outlandish Burning Man-style sculpted vehicles that he creates in his Williamsburg garage are turning heads around the city.

“These are ridiculous sculpture concept cars,” said Mazzetti, who builds anywhere from two to 15 fanciful vehicles in any given year.

Mazzetti’s own personal transportation is one of these cars, a tricked-out Sacramento limousine service dubbed the “Batlimo” by his Tribeca neighbors.

Some Lady Bugs with their Mother Ship, Freeform Festival NJ 2012

Some Lady Bugs with their Mother Ship, Freeform Festival NJ 2012

Each Lady Bug has its own generator and sound system, and 3000 LED lights in its shell. Yarrow transports them around the country in a custom designed Lady Bug-mover semi trailer – every time I see him there’s more Lady Bugs, the last count I heard was 15. Everybody LOVES the Lady Bugs.

The Fish Tank’s design shows the experience of its creators in building the “right” kind of Art Car. It is surely one of the most interactive art cars on the Playa. Anyone can jump on it and have a good time – as long as you can run fast enough to catch it! It’s not a bus, after all…

Significantly, Yarrow is bringing his art cars to other events beyond Burning Man. One of the Fish Tanks was in the Houston Art Car parade last year, and another one in the Reno

Lady Bugs at Double-Seven at the Gansevoort Hotel, NY, October 2012

Lady Bugs at Double-Seven NY, Oct 2012

Art Car show; some of the Lady Bugs were at the Freeform Festival in New Jersey and Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. And these art cars just love to tear up the streets of South Beach during Art Basel in Miami – the Fish Tanks have been painted by Red Bull challenge champion street artist and Burner Hans Haveron.

Both the Lady Bugs and the Batlimo had major roles to play in lighting up the darkness of Lower Manhattan, during Hurricane Sandy.

Yarrow, who on occasion can seem like a caricature of himself, builds his vehicles as caricatures of their owners. Who obviously have a good sense of humor, healthy egos, and booming bank accounts: expect to pay this artist $100,000+ for one of his creations:

Yarrow Mazzetti driving one of his Lady Bugs

Yarrow Mazzetti driving one of his Lady Bugs

Mazzetti says that what for many people is a part-time hobby to indulge in the months leading up to the annual desert festival at the end of August, has become a full-time trade for him in New York, where people pay him big bucks to create art cars to keep the whimsical Burning Man spirit alive year-round.

“People have gotten so much life force out of the experience that those who have the means want to give back to the spirit so that other people can receive what they found at Burning Man for themselves,” he said. “So they fund art cars.”

The fully customized cars start at around $100,000 — and the price goes up from there.

Mazzetti says he tries to get to know the owners first before creating what he hopes will be an authentic automotive reflection of them.

All the cars are designed in a way to be a caricature of the owner,” said Mazzetti. “We usually hang out or take a trip, go somewhere or go skiing, and during that time we’d talk about what they’re trying to do. Do you want it for your friends, to pick up girls, a party car, a light car, transportation car? I try to find out what makes them tick. A lot of times I’ll ask what their spirit animal is.”

nautilusAlthough the price might seem high, it’s not out of the ballpark: last year’s Playa Force One spaceship was rumored to cost $450,000; the entrance door alone on Christopher Bently’s library-equipped Nautilus cost upwards of $20,000.

If you’ve got the money to burn, trust me, you’re going to have way more fun with an art car than a Ferrari.

Congratulations to Yarrow and his team for getting much-deserved publicity for their ingenious creations.

Look out for this “Bat Limo” on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan

Some of the other art cars mentioned in this story, not built by Yarrow. Here’s the door from the Nautilus:

Here’s Playa Force One – the “engines” on the wings are speakers, the wings fold down and the party begins.

Playa Force One - photo by Tomas Loewy

Playa Force One – photo by Tomas Loewy

The Rise of the Creative Class: NadaDada Motel Does it Again

by Whatsblem the Pro

Art by Killbuck

Art by Killbuck

There are a lot of ways to burn, and when you start talking about what makes someone a burner or not a burner, chances are good that you’re about to say something foolish. One thing that does tend to hold true, though, is that part of being a burner is being comfortable with ad-hocracy, and being motivated to make things.

As our culture penetrates the mainstream, outbursts of grassroots art that bring our values from the Man to Main Street are inevitable.

This weekend in Reno, the loose and unled affiliation of artists known as NadaDada Motel got together for their seventh year, to unleash a weird and wonderful fireball of creativity on midtown. They usually do their thing in June, but NadaDada is growing! This year the group mustered a second February event, dubbed “Nada Gras.”

The premise is simple: “Get a room, make a show.”

The artists, led by nobody, find an arts-friendly local motel, rent a bunch of rooms for the weekend, and turn their individual rooms into art galleries, happenings, life-slice exhibits. . . even a shoe store for fetishists. Bands show up. Poi spinners dance in the parking lot. It offers artists a low bar for entry into the typically snooty high-dollar world of gallery showings, and sets it all like a jewel in that most American of Americana environments: the cheap motel.

Art by John Molezzo

Art by John Molezzo

Nobody’s in charge, although NadaDada does have a mayor (former Reno mayoral candidate Erik Holland). The artists all promote the show, and some more than others take it upon themselves to do things like scout out motels and talk to the press. There’s no NadaDada LLC, no actual organization, and no real heirarchy, but there’s a casual recognition of who has been showing up and doing things – a sort of friendly, ever-shifting pecking order – and the group seems comfortable with being represented by whomever among those people feels qualified.

Neon artist and Jub Jub veteran Jeff Johnson started the NadaDada Motel shows, and cannily abdicated his position as the group’s leader long before it had a chance to gel into anything official. As an unled ad-hocracy, the event has survived as a yearly show, now expanding to twice-yearly with the addition of Nada Gras in 2013.

Obviously, the setting and amenities are very shoestring and humble; these are artists on the DIY, promoting themselves without the help of the big money arts scene that so often lamentably passes over the local talent in favor of dang furriners from out of town. You wouldn’t think that anyone in New York would take notice of a small grassroots art show way out West in tiny Reno, but no less a light than the New York Times gave NadaDada a shot in the arm in 2009 with this glowing report:

“Venice has its Bienale. Basel, Switzerland, has its Art Basel. And Reno has the NadaDada Motel, a jubilantly unpretentious art event. . .”

I spoke with Chad Sorg and Ad Stein, two of the artists and disorganizers of NadaDada Motel. Chad is a Reno painter and writer who appeared in the documentary film Event Horizon – Burning Man, Burning Reno. Ad (pronounced ‘Ade’ as in ‘lemonade’) is a local writer and teacher.

Chad Sorg and Ad Stein - Photos by Vincent Cascio

Chad Sorg and Ad Stein – Photos by Vincent Cascio

Whatsblem the Pro
So are you two in charge of this thing, or what?

Ad Stein
No! This is a different kind of art show. There’s no organization, for one thing. Nada. No heirarchy, I should say, and that makes it more affordable to non-yuppies!

Whatsblem the Pro
Ha! The price you pay may not be money!

Chad Sorg
Exactly.

Whatsblem the Pro
How did this thing get started? Was it inspired by Burning Man?

Chad Sorg
Well, our event was founded by Jeff Johnson. It was just six people at first, most or all of us were burners or at least familiar with Burning Man. Some of the philosophy from Burning Man has definitely filtered into our event. . . that anarchic spirit.

Whatsblem the Pro
Is there a set of principles you operate on, like Burning Man?

Chad Sorg
Just one: “Get a room, Make a Show.”
Otherwise, no. . . although I do have to give honorable mention to “Leave No Trace.” That’s a biggie that doesn’t always get followed, and I wish it would.

Whatsblem the Pro
And obviously nothing about NadaDada is trademarked or copyrighted as a brand.

Chad Sorg
Nope.

Ad Stein
I went to Burning Man once upon a time, when it was free during it’s last few days when people could get in and not get caught in a herd of buffalo cars. In other words, I went before the wealthy yuppies took over, and it was a nice experience. I learned strangers can be completely great, coordinated together, and make something beautiful.
Then CAPITALism happened. Capital. Caps lock, I like to call it. Tickets got snatched up and resold like real estate. Fortunately, this cannot happen to Nada Dada. We have kept it open and free to the public.

Chad Sorg
From the very start, we–

Ad Stein
We, meaning participants.

Chad Sorg
Yes.
We’ve been conscious of no hierachy. It’s been a huge benefit, as ownership has been spread around and people have understood that it’s theirs.

Whatsblem the Pro
So there’s nobody to shove up against the wall when the praetorians show up?

Chad Sorg
Ha ha. . . I think I told you about the tax man. They came around and were trying to sweat me to collect everyone’s tax ID numbers for them. I said “I’m not in charge. Why me?”
They were trying to get us to do their jobs for them, so we told them to go and do it themselves. They left us alone after that. I’ve worked to promote NadaDada pretty hard over the years, but I’m not the only one. It doesn’t make me the guy in charge.

Ad Stein
“I am not in charge!” It works so well when people use authority as a scapegoat. So basically when anyone has tried to appoint me or hold me to something, I say the same thing! There is no hierarchy. I am not in charge. Go ask the next guy! This forces responsibility from everyone in a way.

Whatsblem the Pro
Beautiful.

Killbuck's Alice in Nadaland installation

Killbuck’s Alice in Nadaland installation

Chad Sorg
Our first year was 2007. That was just six of us, and from there it became over 350 artists and performers, so far.

Ad Stein
The burners I knew loved all the New Age astral-bright colors in my painting. One night during our first NadaDada show, at midnight, Sorg and I were about to go to bed when a crowd of Burners showed up, all dressed up! One of them was made up like the Devil, it was great. . . and man, the party got lit on fire! Remember the guy in the rainbow suspenders? He fit right in with my room’s color scheme.

Chad Sorg
Ad and a couple others started the spinoff event this year, Nada Gras. Seven rooms filled so far for that event.

Ad Stein
Yes, we started Nada Gras, but I keep saying that I swear to god I did not start Nada Gras! I just started the idea thread on Facebook. It ended up with a hundred comments and a full event! Then people tried to pick holes and find flaws, asking me things like “Who is responsible?!? Whose event is this?” and I would say, NOT ME! NOT IT! NOT IT! But OK, some people think I started Nada Gras. If so, it flowed through me, not from me. Like how grass grows.

Chad Sorg
Nada Grass!

Ad Stein
Nada Gras is everone’s event and we all started it.

Chad Sorg
I was against the idea, personally.

Ad Stein
It was the universe’s event before I started the Nada Gras thread in the NadaDada group last year!

Chad Sorg
I had been of the mindset that another event in Reno would only water down the June event. I really want to spread the movement to other cities. . . but it’s hard. We tried in Vegas, but they were not receptive there. It takes a budget. Maybe after our book comes out.

Ad Stein
He is focused, determined, wants to make it happen. It seems to happen and grow on its own, from what I saw of it in Reno, and when we tried to get it started in Vegas. . . well, sometimes I feel like it takes a certain formula, like an Einstein thing. Nada has a formula. I have observed and collected data. Something was missing.

Chad Sorg
It belongs to the community. . . so it would have belonged to Vegas, but they were not in need of it.

Unicorn therapy in Rebecca Fox's Psych Ward - Photo by Becki Anne Pearson

Unicorn therapy in Rebecca Fox’s Psych Ward – Photo by Becki Anne Pearson

Ad Stein
It requires a few things, in my personal opinion: a large group of local artists who feel under-represented, yet talented; a publicity specialist or “social brain” person; motel rooms; a local cultural preference for events; a city need for events and tourists, and people who don’t give up when the seed appears to not be blooming. Sometimes it only blooms at the last minute, when not watched. Oh, and a fireball in the middle.

Chad Sorg
Yeah, you need a fireball in the middle who calls it their own.
The art scene in Vegas is pretty strong, so they weren’t really paying attention to NadaDada. No hard feelings. We’re all about creating a way for artists to give gallery showings of their work on an artist’s budget, and they apparently don’t need that right now. I’m going to keep working on spreading it elsewhere, but for now it’s all about building a deeper foundation here in Reno.

Ad Stein
We need more cooperative local motels. . . maybe some of whom are connected to the social media gurus and events scenes.

Chad Sorg
I’d like to see NadaDada really take off, truly on its own. I’d like to see motels filled all over Reno. . .and with people REALLY taking the reins of their own little tribes all over.

Ad Stein
Right! Then one day when people start charging fifty dollars for tickets, we will know it’s the end. Other people will scalp those fifty dollar tickets for five hundred a pop, and NadaDada will be full of yuppies and expensive Aerostars.

Chad Sorg
Anyhoo.

Ad Stein

Let’s take Nada to the playa. At least we don’t have to rent rooms out there. Do it in teepees.

Whatsblem the Pro
The Playa Motel?

Chad Sorg
Someone DID actually suggest that we do a camp out there. This was a few years ago. It’s my belief that the Playa doesn’t need us, though. This is a thing for art communities in cities like ours. It wouldn’t work in San Francisco. It would never take off in New York City. I mean, why would it?

Ad Stein
Never say never. . . but yeah.

Chad Sorg
But in cities like Minneapolis and Denver, they need this, and you can pull it off.

Mr. Jellyfish's GEORGIE BOY was a NadaDada installation before it hit the playa

Mr. Jellyfish’s GEORGIE BOY was a NadaDada installation before it hit the playa

Whatsblem the Pro
Tell me about the first NadaDada Motel.

Chad Sorg
Back then it was at Hotel El Cortez. We had like 30 rooms or so. It was more intimate, but there were also events all over town that year. Many artists were involved outside the hotel. The rooms. . . let’s see. There was one for Planned Parenthood, giving out rubbers. Another was putting on a play. They had a barn built INSIDE a hotel room. Ducks watching TV. . . so nice, that one. I fishbowled in mine. I was behind glass. It was my VERY FIRST fishbowl stunt. I lived behind glass, drew, smoked cigarettes, drank beer.
What else? There was a room dealing with guns. Trelaine, whose come into her own, showed in the bathroom of another artist’s room. She does dead things, bones, skulls and weirdness. . . her attention to detail is pretty on! I’m so proud of her. She hadn’t ever called herself an ‘artist’ until we inspired her to come ‘out’.
It was called Dada Motel that first year. Jeff named it. The thing is, we’ve always had traditional art and never did intend to dictate a particular artistic style, so ‘Dada’ wasn’t such a good fit.
Erik Holland was there that first year. I asked him to be our DadaMayor, as he had actually run for mayor of Reno and had gotten 25% of the vote. I worked with him to understand that this event is his to use. Since then he has used it as a venue to talk about his political agenda, which is stopping sprawl.

Ad Stein
And I was not there. I became a Nada Dada group lurker in 2008 or 2009 but never did anything. I was a repressed artist who had not touched a brush since I was twenty.

Chad Sorg
Last year was Ad’s first year to be involved with a room.

Whatsblem the Pro
So it was called Dada Motel, but you weren’t restricted to Dadaism. . . hence the addition of ‘nada?’

Chad Sorg
Correct.
If Dada was a reaction to the absurdities of war, chaos, rootless struggle for power and Europe’s futile striving, then perhaps NadaDada should celebrate meaningful diversity, spontaneous organization, non-directed creation, unexpected emergence, sustainable action, endless regeneration, urban renewal, radical abundance, holistic optimism, gestalt, a negation of absurdity, Life.
The name the next year became Nada Motel. . . and then the next year, NadaDada Motel. We had been meeting and taking votes, back then, and it was all voted on over beers. I was not for the name NadaDada, like I was against Nada Gras happening. I’m happy to keep reiterating this story because it underlines the fact that NadaDada didn’t give a shit what I wanted. It was out of my hands. No one’s in charge, and dammit. . . I LOVE that!

Whatsblem the Pro
So how has the event evolved over the years, and what can we expect to see this year that will be new and exciting?

Chad Sorg
We’re a lot more literary these days, is a big one.
What else?
Each year the location changes a bit, usually expanding. This year, with NadaGras, I’m hoping we can establish relationships with Midtown’s motels, and possibly use that area of town for June’s event. Last year the majority of it was at Wildflower Village, a bit out of downtown. That was a very nice location and gave a mellow feel to the event, which some folks were not happy about.

Whatsblem the Pro
Do you think those people were more interested in some kind of guerrilla art operation? Like, they’d prefer to baffle the motel owners rather than present their shows in a venue that ‘gets’ them?

Ad Stein
De. Ja. VU.

Chad Sorg
Y’know. . . you state it pretty well, Whatsblem. Yes, that’s exactly it.
Let’s see, what else is new with us?
I’m working to see to it that more artists can work with each other within rooms. Money’s tight all around, and maybe we can help coordinate things so that more people can double up on rooms and do micro shows, of sorts.

Ad Stein
NadaGras seems to have accidentally obtained a performing arts theme. The Mental room, the TSA room.

Chad Sorg
As far as writing, it’d be nice to see people reading to crowds. . . like have some ridiculously hot chicks in skimpies reading.

Probings and pat-downs in the TSA Room. Photo by Vincent Cascio

Probings and pat-downs in the TSA Room. Photo by Vincent Cascio

Whatsblem the Pro
Can you give some advice, maybe some recommended steps, to people wanting to spread the NadaDada gospel in their own cities?

Chad Sorg
Yes. I advise people to buy me a plane ticket and let me come and tell them all about it in person.
No, but seriously: there will be a book out this year, and maybe I’ll include a list of steps to take and some advice on starting your own NadaDada. That’s a good idea. Workin’ on it right now.

Whatsblem the Pro
How can people here in Reno get involved, and what should a first-timer expect as a participant? Like, as an artist, what is my experience going to be like when I show up with my art, ready to get a room and make a show?

Ad Stein
You just said it. . . it’s as simple as that: get a room, make a show.
Some do really well by coordination, collaboration, communication. Get on Facebook and join the NadaDada group, where you can collaborate with the other artists there to be in on the shows, motels, dates, times, meetings, etc.
There’s also a NadaDada Motel fan page, so if you’re not an artist but you want to keep abreast of what we’re doing, you can go there.

Whatsblem the Pro
What do you think of what they’re doing over at that thrift store on 5th?

Ad Stein
I love it. I think it represents a movement toward a greater appreciation for art. Like, the plays they produce happen in the back of a thrift store; the rich are welcome, but it gives people a context where they don’t have to be rich to appreciate art. We’re like them! We don’t want art to be just for the rich or proper or posh anymore! Reno is the city for that.

Chad Sorg
It’s true. Artists are not on high, they’re low. They’re dirty. All that white cube gallery bullshit. . . it’s out. It’s fake theatre, entertainment for the rich. This is the rise of the Creative Class.