. . .Are Condemned to Repeat It

by Whatsblem the Pro

A nice civilized chat -- IMAGE: Mount & Blade

A nice civilized chat — IMAGE: Mount & Blade

Ah, the sugary cloy of kool-aid.

We tend to get a lot of comments when we criticize the corporation that runs Burning Man, and our recent article calling for the Board of Directors to make good on their promise to transition the corporation to a non-profit and step down to make way for new leadership has certainly been no exception.

One commenter who calls himself “Buck Down” was quite verbose about it; I’ve chosen to answer some of his questions and comments here, in a new article, as I think the discussion is important enough to draw the attention of our readers. This isn’t the conversation as it occurred; I’m quoting Buck and giving expanded answers in greater detail.

Buck Down wrote:
I think it’s pretty funny that anyone who dares contribute anything to this conversation other than overblown indignation is instantly an “Org shill.”

The bottom line is that Burning Man has every right to allow coverage of its event as well as disallow it in some cases (see: Girls Gone Wild) – and the media has every right to ask for access. I’d like to think we’re all smart enough here to understand the nuanced difference between allowing coverage of the event vs. profiteering. Should the event have to micromanage the media even farther than they already do? What’s an acceptable overall profit margin for a news entity to be allowed to report on the event?

Whatsblem the Pro:
You think it’s funny that Org people come to Burners.me and slam us and try to discredit us in the comments? It happens all the time. Given the gigantic straw man arguments you’ve just constructed — the “overblown indignation” is exactly what we get from people leaping to the defense of the Org, not the opposite, and this isn’t about the Org allowing media coverage — I have to wonder if it’s happening again. The Org has a vested interest in countering our criticisms; on top of that, we have thousands of starry-eyed kool-aid drinkers to contend with who have drunk deeply of the propaganda the Org itself creates and spreads.

If you had actually read the article (and assuming you didn’t come here to be disingenuous about it), you wouldn’t have to be told that it has nothing to do with the Org allowing coverage or not allowing it. . . the issue is that they make large amounts of money by allowing it, yet deny burners any commercial use of their own photographs of their own art, just because it’s on the playa. This clearly puts the lie to both the decommodification principle they push on us, and to their protestations to the effect that they only want to protect us from entities like Girls Gone Wild.

You asked the question “what’s an acceptable overall profit margin for a news entity to be allowed to report on the event?” The answer is that any overall profit margin is acceptable, provided that the transaction is transparent, and that burners themselves aren’t being excluded from making similar profits.

Buck Down:
This is in fact a public event on public land, and a culturally significant, globally newsworthy event, to boot. What I think some of you may not realize is that the numerous agencies the event has to pay to allow the event to continue (ie: the BLM, as well as local and state agencies) have constantly (and in some ways arbitrarily) jacked up the price of holding the event in the Black Rock desert, while simultaneously regulating the amount of tickets that can be sold. The cost curve of these increased fees, as well as the amount of money it takes to cover the staggering cost of the infrastructure needed to stage, throw, and then completely erase this event all but insures forever that this event will barely limp into the black from year to year. rest assured – the only people stacking paper off of this event are the BLM and local law enforcement agencies.

Whatsblem the Pro:
You have definitely made some very bold assertions. If you know so much about how much they take in and how much everything costs, then perhaps you’d like to reveal all that to the rest of us, and explain why there is such a lack of transparency in Burning Man’s financials.  You seem so certain that they aren’t hiding anything, yet you claim to be nothing more than a concerned burner speaking truth to media.

Only a fool would believe that the Afterburn Reports are any kind of comprehensive, transparent accounting, and you simply asserting that we’re wrong because we don’t know to the penny how much it costs to produce the event is just obfuscatory hand-waving that seems intended to cloud the issue. We do know that ticketing revenue alone has increased by more than 600% since the year they managed to scrape up enough extra cash from ticket sales to buy 200 acres of land and build a working ranch on it. We also know that the Board has revenue streams that are far less transparent to us, like charging giant media conglomerates — excuse me, “boutique cable channels” — large undisclosed sums as site fees. They have many such hidden revenue streams; for instance: did you know that when an approved vendor rents an RV trailer to the Org so that they can house DPW personnel in it, the vendor is required to pay part of the fee back to the Org?

If the Board wants to complain that we are misjudging them when we say they pocket an unreasonable amount of money from the event for their personal gain, then all they have to do is stop pretending that the Afterburn Reports are any kind of comprehensive accounting, and start providing full transparency. The only reason not to do so is that they have money to hide.

Buck Down:
I think a lot of the noise here about the LLC “taking credit” for anyone’s work is a pretty subjective opinion that does not square with the media narrative they push. There are A LOT of artists that have seen the value of their work escalate as a result of having made big splashes at Burning Man – and many who have parlayed that fame into dollars by taking that self same work to massive commercial events such as Coachella and Insomniac throw.

Whatsblem the Pro:
As a writer, I have to say: that sounds a whole lot like offers that many artists – writers among them – get all the time: “the gig doesn’t pay, but think of the exposure you’ll get!” It’s a bullshit offer that no seasoned artist even contemplates accepting unless it’s for a friend or something. . . and you want to point to artists making money at other events as compensation for that, in the same screed in which you call for other events to start following the Burning Man model, really? What happens when every event out there is telling artists to expend their own money and labor unpaid, so the event organizers can rake in ticket money charging people to see their art? The whole thing is simply not germane to the point that the corporation that runs Burning Man is profiting mightily in both cash and reputation from the work of unpaid artists. You think the exposure is pay enough? What about the burner artists who don’t need the exposure?

As for “taking credit,” all you have to do is go to burningman.com and read what the Org themselves write about the event and their roles in it to see what I’m talking about. The language they use is very consistent in portraying the art at the event, and the culture in general, as something THEY created and continue to create and maintain. They don’t do that; burners do that, usually on their own dime and with their own labor. . . not the Org, and certainly not the Board. Tossing a tiny pittance (~3% of ticket revenue) to largely their buddies and sycophants in the form of arts grants does not give them cause to assert ownership or any creative role in providing that art, and sure the hell doesn’t give them cause to assert same about arts projects that get no funding from them, which is most of them. Grading some roads, arranging for porta-potties, and dealing with the various government agencies involved is nothing compared with the blood, sweat, and tears that go into the vast number of art pieces we get to enjoy on the playa that they have nothing to do with.

Buck Down:
While I certainly understand some people’s wish to have their very own private little club that’s their little secret – i think it’s pretty obvious that Burning Man stopped being that by the mid to late 90′s. I cannot imagine any other 60,000 person event in the world being expected by its participants to shroud itself in some sort of self imposed media blackout to all but a few blogs (or whatever the expectation is here).

Whatsblem the Pro:
Please stop with the straw man arguments. Yes, Burning Man began as what Hakim Bey called a “Temporary Autonomous Zone,” but nobody is calling for a return to that; as you’ve noted, the event is too large for that to be at all practical.

We’re also not calling for any kind of media blackout; where did you get that idea? What we’re calling for is simple: we want the Board to make good on their promises to step down, and to transition the LLC to a non-profit organization with new leadership that adequately represents contributing burners. As a partial rationale for that demand, we have cited the hypocrisy inherent in the Org brainwashing people with the principle of oh-so-sacred Decommodification while simultaneously failing to adhere to that principle themselves. Again: allowing the media in isn’t the issue there; forbidding burner artists to make money from their own work – including photographs of their own work – while raking in cash from giant media outlets in exchange for the right to do just that – is the issue, or one of the issues.

Buck Down:
If you don’t like how big Burning Man has become, and all that goes with it – PLEASE STOP GOING AND START YOUR OWN EVENT. There’s lots of folks that would love to recapture that starry eyed idealism from the days of yore – just be ready to loose an ocean of money in the process – and know everyone is still going to probably hate you in the end for “selling out.”

Whatsblem the Pro:
You can blither and bluster all day about starting our own event if we don’t like the way this one is run, but I have little patience for such talk, for several reasons. The whole idea smacks loudly of those bumper stickers you used to see on vehicles belonging to ignorant jingoist pro-war rednecks in the ’60s and ’70s, the ones that read AMERICA: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT. It’s wrong thinking, at its very foundation, and diametrically opposed to the ideas of civic pride, personal responsibility, and “do-ocracy” that are part and parcel of burner culture.

You clearly have no idea how strenuously the Org discourages such attempts (or do you?); maybe you should talk to Corey Rosen about his trials and travails with getting his event, the DIgital Renaissance Faire, off the ground. In fact, I’d like to invite Mr. Rosen to give us an interview specifically about the ways in which the Org has actively countered his efforts in that direction.

Fuck “start your own event.” This one is perfectly good, aside from the corporate predators running it. All it needs is some representation for all the people who actually make it what it is, and some financial transparency. If you don’t like people trying to make Burning Man better, maybe you’re the one who should go find (or start) another event.

Buck Down:
Could you please site me this epidemic of artists not able to use of photographs – because a simple Google search produces millions of pictures, and every artist I know from burning man has a Facebook page jammed full of photos of their shit, and I know that virtually NONE of them had to be run through the org for approval. . .

Whatsblem the Pro:
The Org’s rules state clearly that they have an ownership stake in all those millions of pictures you mention. We haven’t been talking about people simply posting pictures taken at Burning Man, though, as you imply; we’re talking about artists being harassed and intimidated by the Org for using the pictures they’ve taken – of their own art, even – in any sort of commercial fashion whatsoever, including the use of pictures taken at Burning Man on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other crowdfunding sites.

There’s a link in the article to a direct account of the Org interfering with someone using a picture of their own art car for a fundraiser campaign if you’d care to look. . . and I personally have experienced intimidation attempts from the Org’s legal people for daring to use the phrase “Burning Man” for a purpose that serves burners and makes no money. . . so instead of getting mired in your disingenuous comments about photos taken at Burning Man, maybe we should talk more about the transition to a non-profit, the police presence on the playa, the lack of rape kits, the tiny slice of the pie that actually funds art, financial transparency/secretive profit-taking, and the Org’s habit of co-opting the unpaid work of others for their own profit and glory.

Buck Down:
What is absolutely true is that the sort of financial purity that people on this thread demand would be the end of the event as you know it. I will concede that the organizers of the event probably brought this upon themselves by espousing all this new age anti-corporate hoo ha, but at the end of the day, the demand to keep the event going and keep pace with the amount of people who want tickets, while still finding ways to cover the costs of this expanded demand, while getting pinched by the government is what it is. Any other event and the world can just sell vendor space or get corporate partners. Burning man is not perfect, but if you compare it to every single other counter culture event – you are getting about as pure as it can be done at this scale.

Like I said, I think people need to start other, much smaller events so that they can return to this sort of purity a certain segment of our community so lustily desires.

Whatsblem the Pro:
“Financial purity,” my ass. All we’re asking for is financial transparency; that and a transition to non-profit status with an accompanying change in leadership is no more than what the Board themselves promised us. Since then, they’ve back-pedaled on stepping down. Since there are many ways for the Directors of a non-profit corporation to line their own pockets while complying with the rules regarding non-profit status, it doesn’t seem unreasonable at all to ask for transparency and representation.

Again, if you really know so much about the costs of the event and the revenue taken in, then you must be pretty high up in the Org yourself, and are probably on the Board. . . how else would you know so much about it? Since you very plainly discounted the idea that Org people come to Burners.me to slam us and try to discredit us in the comments, this makes you either a liar who does actually have that inside information, or a person who is making completely unfounded and unjustified claims regarding your knowledge of the event’s financials. Which is it?

In so very many ways that we have documented here at Burners.me over the last year, the Board has proven their incompetence, their greed, and their lack of concern for the problems that rank-and-file burners face. Your counter-arguments are weak, and derived from talking points put forth by the Org at burningman.com. Your dog won’t hunt, sir. . . and given that the transition to a non-profit is our best (and perhaps only) shot at a regime change, it is URGENT that burners start talking realistically about how to effectively demand that the Board stick to the original plan and STEP DOWN, rather than blowing smoke up our collective nethers about how much we need their supposed expertise.

[Burners.me welcomes relevant comments to this article.]

30 comments on “. . .Are Condemned to Repeat It

  1. Pingback: Balance | Queer Burners

  2. let’s cut to the chase and turn it into a tech accelerator. one week in the dust breathing the world changing helium. one week following at the new fly hot spring retreat center working out the details of your meaning-a-gogo app.

    otherwise, i wish we all had something more interesting to argue about. the salad from our days has wilted. but where is the new garden?

    gardens like bman don’t show up every day/year/decade. nor are they reinvigorated by cranky 40 somethings complaining about it (me included).


    • jim mason is completely right. increasingly to me – the most important thing about burning man is that it has become a trade show for outsider technological, logistic and counter-cultural thinking. getting serious about capitolizing and integrating it into the default world (or bend the default world to us) may be the most important thing left for this event to do

  3. wow. that’s a lot of words. this must be VERY important to you, and i appreciate that.

    i sometimes forget the religious fundamentalism that surrounds this event and it’s culture for some people.

    you see – i’ve been in the professional music business for 20 plus years – so i may have a fundamentally different gag reflex when it comes to institutional delivery systems for art than you do. i’ve never labored under the delusion (or expected) that the experiment of burning man could be administrated in ANY pure way. regardless of what anyone says or thinks.

    i’ve been going to burning man non-stop now for 16 straight years, and i’ve done just about everything you can do out there, large and small scale – inside and outside the loop. in fact – i’ll jump out on a limb and bet you twenty american dollars that my playa resume is about five times longer than yours. i don’t say this in any sort of bragging or competitive way – i just want to qualify what i’m saying is based on a pretty decent level of experience. (ask around – a lot of folks in this community know me)

    after all this time though – the one thing i’ve never completely wrapped my head around is the CONSTANT hand wringing and endless bitching and inside baseball that has surrounded this event since at least 1996.

    what’s fascinating to me personally is that you think i have “drunk the kool-aid” – it couldn’t be farther from the truth – in fact – i don’t actually give a shit. it’s why the event has always been a blast for me.

    my personal needs from burning man have never gone unmet – because i have modulated them to not need to be any greater than going out to the desert with my friends and having a great time. that great time has been defined differently almost every year – depending on what i was doing. sure – there have been cases where bureaucracy has made things more difficult than they should have been – but i’ve never been stopped from having a a completely satisfying and enriching experience. in fact – some of the art i made at burning man gave me and about 20 – 30 of my friends a really swell career for a decade or so.

    truth is – burning man has brought all of this kvetching on itself really. like all utopian societies – it started at a pretty pure place where no one was in charge and you could pretty much do whatever the fuck you wanted. a small magic moment among a small group of people where the world was suddenly DIFFERENT, and they all breathlessly wonder – what can’t always be this way? and so they set out to make it that way – and a little at a time, more and more people joined in.

    the problem is – the idea was so awesome that LOTS of people wanted to join in, and now the group is so big that it can’t be this lawless, decentralized, shared consensus anymore – if for no other reason than safety. someone has to make some rules, and someone has to enforce them, and someone has to talk to the cops, etc. etc. when burning man hit this moment in the mid 90’s was the beginning of the long slow slide into becoming essentially just like every other event of it’s size in the world – at least in a logistical, bureaucratic, and financial sense. maybe it didn’t have to be that way – but all the bitching and tersely worded posts on 3playa in the world didn’t seem to stop it.

    while i have certainly met almost everyone in the LLC at one point or the other over the years – i don’t profess to know any of them all that well – so i couldn’t tell you if they were fundamentally evil people with some super secret cabal to fleece everybody for bazillions of dollars under the guise of “the burning man project”. (as some of you seem to believe) – my guess is that they are a group of folks that got lucky and caught lightning in a bottle and have spent the last 25 years or so trying to figure out how to manage it. some of their decisions have been good ones, some of them have been bad ones. most of the time their wounds seem self inflicted to me – mainly because they have chosen to believe their own myths, but on the whole, they seem to have steered out of the skid more often than not. otherwise – this event would have fallen apart years ago.

    the problem is that a lot of people, especially those at the top of the org – for a whole host of reasons wanted to elevate this party into some utopian art society proto-cuture – (which i guess was an easier sell to the cops than a rave). ultimately this culminates in “the ten principles” – which i personally find to be just as sustainable as any other fundamentalist orthodoxy. while i honestly believe that the notion of these concepts comes from a very good place – some of them inevitably butt up against reality when you start getting to a certain scale. some more so than others

    the biggest one is this notion of “decommodification” – which is the one that seems to cause all the trouble for everyone.

    i will grant you – that on the personal and micro out on the playa – the gifting economy/decomodifiaction of exchange is pretty fun. i like that the drinks are free, and people share in labor with strangers etc. etc. it’s really one of the biggest reasons the average day in black rock city is so fucking awesome. but let’s not kid ourselves – it really stops at the cities’ edge.

    burning man is one of the biggest potlatches of cash you will ever see. just on an individual level – each participant is on the line for an average of about two to three thousand dollars apiece just to run around the desert for a week and pretend that money doesn’t exist. it’s like when you go on a cruise ship, and you hand them your credit card at the beginning – but while your on board – you don’t buy your drinks or whatever one at a time – they just keep a tab and charge it all to your card at the end. it FEELS free, but it aint. in fact – it’s incredibly expensive.

    all in burning man for all of its talk of decommodification has in fact become an enormous commodity. one that brings in something around 30 million dollars in business just to northern nevada alone, and the event itself manages a pretty substantial amount of cash flow that streams out into an eye-popping latticework of expenses. could that money be managed better? probably. but the point is this:

    you don’t just go from a cacophony society zone trip to 68,000 people overnight. it’s a slow mission creep. over the years – i have watched the management of burning man paint itself into one corner after another – usually due to trying to please a lot of very conflicting agendas at once. but at the end of the day – the event is still going.

    a lot of deals have been made with a lot of devils to make that true. and a lot of people have gotten their beaks wet. the org, the cops, the BLM – and more artists than you’d think. i think you’d be pretty surprised at the amount of art (and even art cars) that the org threw grant money art that have ended up at places like coachella and electric daisy etc. for some pretty good paychecks back to the artists. to my knowledge – burning man has never asked for a cut of that action. so long as you are not throwing the word “burning man” on your piece – you can pretty capably take anything you did on the playa and make cash with it somewhere – and lots of people do.

    which is fine. really. all this effort is worth whatever the market says its worth – and i don’t blame anyone on any side for making whatever living they can

    in the process -like it or not – the LLC folks built the burning man BUSINESS, and it’s brand. the easiest way to think of it is like a record label. record labels don’t make music – but they make music HAPPEN at a certain level. there are an amazing amount of parallels between the two, and not necessarily flattering ones.

    now you can make the argument that content is king and all of us who have built the art and the camps et al. have at least a philosophical share of the pie – but when the rubber hits the road – we don’t have a legal one. not until we’re the ones printing the tickets and writing up the deals with the BLM – and that ain’t gonna happen. period.

    if you and 5 of your friends were the one that had the goose that laid the golden egg – i doubt you be in a big hurry to give it up either.

    welcome to american business. if you thought it would turn out any other way once millions of dollars were changing hands – you have a delightful naiveté i actually envy. the LLC isn’t under any real legal obligation to change their model if they don’t want to – BUT you are certainly free to NOT participate in something that you define as exploitative.

    this idea of some sort of representative democracy and elected curatorial board is by no means a new one – in fact – for those of you who can remember all the way back to 2005 – we tried this once (sort of). Chicken John and Jim Mason made a bunch of racket – and ultimately were given a chance to set up and administer what was called BORG2 (i’m a little surprised he didn’t mention it in his comments on this thread) you can read about it at http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/002007.html (mind you – some of the links are dead – but it’s a pretty good chunk of background). at the end of the day – by pretty much most metrics it was a failure. it certainly did in fact make a board, etc. – but it fell way short of it’s fundraising goals and only got a small amount of art funded, and the way i remember it – there wasn’t any significant diminishment of angst, strum and drang around it. it still ended up being a goddamn popularity contest and there was still plenty of griping to go around.

    so all of this to say what?

    i stick by my original premise: TAKE ALL OF THIS ENERGY AND START YOUR OWN FUCKING EVENT. your likelihood of success will be a lot higher than any real chance you have of overturning burning man’s paradigm, and you’ll die a happier person. just trust me on this one. we need more small, fun events where we can recapture some of that good old time religion.

    but by all means – bitch if you wanna bitch. i’m sure you’ll have no trouble attracting other people to bitch with you. who knows – maybe you’ll win and get all your wishes. but even if you do – it won’t take 6 months for some new crowd to come gather around and bitch about the new order you make.

    i’ll be over here making art and having fun with my friends.

  4. I’m happy to see that everyone is getting a look behind the curtain. The last event was my first one, so I’m still catching up on a lot of this, but after 20 years in local rural politics, this is all so familiar. So everyone that is concerned needs to step up, and find out just how difficult it is to try to manage the boundary between the physical world and the human condition. Don’t call me, I have my hands full with a board membership at my local water district.

  5. WOOHOO!!! Digital Renaissance Faire makes the interwebs! Thank you Whatsblem the Pro. The Digital Renaissance Faire community wanted it to be an official Burning Man event. We were told that since we are a co-op festival paying the profits of our event to all the participants who built it, we could not be an official BM event. We held a very successful first year one week event over Memorial Weekend. Now, with the growing community our event is bringing in, we would really like to be an official place for Burning Man theme camps and art projects to setup before the event and test out all their necessary components. This way, medium scale art installations won’t have to pay huge amounts for a storage warehouse, they will have a regular influx of volunteer crew, and they will have a setting in nature where they can test their project in the elements. Instead, we are unable to work with the BMorg and must figure out new ways to get the word out to art projects and theme camps without saying we are a staging area for them. The location we are working on securing is 4 hours from the playa. The event dates we are working on are July 5th-Aug 17th 2014, ending one week before Burning Man starts. I think it would be a huge opportunity for these two communities, one that grew out of the other, to work together. Thank you for opening up this discussion. Anyone looking to setup an art project or theme camp at the Digital Renaissance Faire, LIKE us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/digitalrenfaire.

    • I’m not happy with BMOrg, but I definitely would not want them promoting “a co-op festival paying the profits of our event to all the participants who built it”. It’s great if co-op festivals exist, especially as a way for theme camps to earn money, but..

      Afaik, all the festivals promoted as “regional burns” function as all volunteer festivals, so even the main organizers volunteer. There are numerous reasons for preferring all volunteer festivals, like avoiding drama over relative contributions, wider division of top level positions, avoiding drama over one participant’s contribution detracting from another’s contribution, etc. Are all volunteer festivals necessarily caped in size, art investment, etc.? I donno, but if so, that’s okay.

      It’s great that different festivals experiment all along the spectrum of financial roles, commercialness, etc. I just want some grounding at the pure all volunteer end, so burning man enforcing that distinction pleases me.

      For myself, I’ve decided to restrict my financial contributions to art projects at all volunteer festivals, which excludes contributing to burning man projects as well.

      • I agree with your sentiments. I believe the problem is that BM collects money and makes profit off the backs of thousands of volunteers who believe in the ethos BM puts out. When we build something from the ethos we learned from BM and work to make it more transparent, we thought it would be highly accepted by the BM community. I see no reason, and actually, I see it as unfair, to collect millions of dollars from ticket sales for an event and not give back to the people who helped make that event possible. Our decision was to create an event where ALL PROFITS are paid to the participants who built the event. If that is anti-Burning Man, than I welcome that. So many people give to this community. I want to give back to them.

  6. I’m not a bmorg shill. If the whole board was replaced in an election, who would the likely replacements be and how would the be different then the current board? The can promise anything but what will force them to deliver?

    • Before someone can be elected to anything, they have to both be nominated, and accept their nomination. . . so there’s no way to provide you with a list of likely replacements.

      As to how it would be different. . . there are all kinds of options, but of course total financial transparency would be an excellent starting point that would make a world of difference. Term limits might be a good idea; webcasting Board meetings for even more openness is another possibility. I’m sure the community can come up with any number of excellent suggestions, and I look forward to seeing the community that engaged with the problem.

      The real question right now isn’t “what will force the new Board to deliver on their promises?” It’s “what will force the old Board to deliver on their promises to transition to a non-profit and step down?” The answer to that one is community involvement with and commitment to the idea that this is what should happen. If necessary, leverage can be applied by various means; the most obvious, perhaps, would be the threat of a coordinated boycott on the event on the part of people like major theme camps, major artists, Rangers, DPW workers/volunteers, etc.

      • The real question right now isn’t “what will force the new Board to deliver on their promises?” It’s “what will force the old Board to deliver on their promises to transition to a non-profit and step down?” – Could you please source the promise to ‘step-down’ part of this statement. I know about the transition to a non-profit, and that is on-going, but don’t recall a ‘promise’ to step down. Just want to make sure when statements are presented as ‘facts’ that they can be validated as such. Thanks

      • The links you gave provide information about the transition to the non-profit which I indicated knew about. The also have Larry saying this; “I want to remain a useful contributor. ” which counters the claim of a ‘promise to step down’. This is my issue with the ‘reporting’ done here, statements are made as if they are ‘fact’ when they are not.

  7. Anyone too goddammed lazy and addicted to raving to be taken to a REAL hospital for a valid rape kit wasn’t bothered enough by rape to see her rapist convicted.
    Also, exactly how many people have lost a suit from burning man over photos/video, OTHER then girls gone wild and other nude, soft and hard core porn producers? Why don’t you have the balls to sell your work, tell bmorg to fuck off and defend yourself in court?

    • While I find your comment regarding rape both highly distasteful to an offensive degree, and an example of painting with way too broad a brush, I do like your point about lawsuits very much. I used the words “Burning Man” in a way that got me several nasty e-mails and private messages from various people who work for the Org aggressively protecting their trademark. . . and I stood up to them, with no further problems, because when the litigious rubber hits the legal road, they’ve got nothing, in spite of their threats and bullying.

      I suspect a combination of fear and brand loyalty prompts most people to just apologize and toe the Org’s line instead.

    • The real question right now isn’t “what will force the new Board to deliver on their promises?” It’s “what will force the old Board to deliver on their promises to transition to a non-profit and step down?” – Could you please source the promise to ‘step-down’ part of this statement. I know about the transition to a non-profit, and that is on-going, but don’t recall a ‘promise’ to step down. Just want to make sure when statements are presented as ‘facts’ that they can be validated as such. Thanks

  8. This discussion is fascinating to watch play out. Each year my personal questioning of how the Burn is coping with the growing demand, increases. The only thing that is becoming clearer, with each ensuing year, is that who ever is running this thing, really doesn’t have their shit together. There is this huge need for Artists and concerned willing participants to safely express their sense of inclusion, and participation, without getting the feeling that the man behind the curtain is double dealing, or just simply knowing what they are doing. For all the grace given the current leadership, it has become glaringly clear that they and their organization is deeply compromised, whatever the cause might be.In the past 5 years the burn has had huge changes, and many a veteran has been confronted by the fact that it has become something more than the simple little free range county fair of olden days. In a word, CHANGE. That change can either be accepted by these veterans, and they can roll with it, and adapt, or, they can move on. Why should it be any different for the “leadership”, especially when it has become so questionable as to their ability to conform to the circumstances that arise each year. Transparency really is what is needed here, and the shit is way too deep, and the water way too murky at this transitional period to validate anything less than a complete reforming of how the Burn is organized, and operated.

  9. It is a very gray area but I try and look at the pluses of their actions.

    I also read the two major articles recently on the whole calling for the BMorg Board to step down and make way for new leadership. I was blown away by that piece on Only in America.

    With all this I still feel loyalty to the organization on some level and started wondering how many people like me are Munchhausen Syndrome sufferers who are now paying that 600% increase in ticket sales (generally speaking).

    I do have to say there are some people at the board who have been doing this a long time. Granted, the hypocrisy is a little daunting and the legalize is suffocating but the event is still a masterful expression. Albeit the Afterburn reports chafe the shit out of me.

    In the end I wonder if these articles are helpful or productive in the future of burning man itself as an event.

    Now, the creation of The Burning Man Project was really created to build a legal entity that kept THEM in control of the event and I can’t imagine Larry and his crew letting go. When Danger Ranger wanted to retire, then had a serious accident a couple years ago, as a co owner his part of Burning Man could have been lost in a legal battle. The framework of the non-profit was really a shell to give them stronger control of the company and their substantial revenue stream.

    So I wonder if this is a moot issue. I have seen bad behavior by people on the inside first hand and been bulldozed by their legal department. Andie Grace herself has been an astounding defender of BMorgs right to be stupid on some issues primarily rape kits and personal safety at TTITD.

    ….omg there is a lot could be said about a lot of things. I – personally – have given up hope that SOME Burning Man leaders will ever be able to understand the community they created. Not just Queer Burners issues (omg you would be amazed). But artists (I brought pieces in 2010, 11, 12 for the playa), camp leaders (theme camp 2013) and a particular itch of mine these days are people who need affordable tickets who are engaged in the community,.

    Sigh…. anyway…. I imagine you are a writer or contributor to the site (Burners.Me) and this is a awesome. Sigh… again thanks for the posts and it will be interesting to see where this all goes… maybe get as much play as the original issues posted in the “This who cannot remeber post….

    • “Andie Grace herself has been an astounding defender of BMorgs right to be stupid on some issues primarily rape kits and personal safety at TTITD.”

      Oh I have, have I? When was that, exactly?

  10. I can add a few things here….

    #1: It says on your ticket that any photograph you take at BM they have rights to. This is patently absurd. It’s never been tried in court. It can never be tried in court. It will never be tried in court. Period. End of discussion. it’s saber rattling. They say it. They hope you will beleive it. And it’s true, as long as your beleive. Protecting us from “Girls Gone Wild” videos? Hmmmm… isn’t film making an art form? Now we are art critics? What % of the girls that walk around naked at BM WANT to be filmed? Are we not taking something away from them by asking people not to film? There are arguments you can make back and forth all day long. But the simple fact is logic bats last. Period. BM owns all those photos as much as I do. BM isn’t protecting us from pornographers, they are micro-managing the press so they can eliminate someone telling the truth and putting it on TV. The truth is as much as the LLC touts that BM is a tight community, it’s fractured by the simple fact that there is zero leadership, zero vision and the owners of the LLC are vapid beaurocrats with no plan.

    #2 who cares about the money? We don’t. Any of us. Certainly not the LLC, who’s wasteful spending and rampant bad decisions, poor investments and bloated office staff certainly do not. The people who go to the event feel the ticket price is an excellent value. No one begrudges the LLC making money. In fact, if they were motivated by money and I thought we could buy the event from them, that would have happened a long long time ago. BM needs to be held in a trust. If you knew the members of the LLC like I do, you wouldn’t trust them either. Nor would I trust myself, for that matter. BM is a public trust. That is how it is regarded, that is how it is seen and that is how it will continue. The soon the poison of larry and marion fuck off the sooner we can start doing what this community is going to do. Right now, all this community does is build this community. It’s fucking stupid.

    #3 The LLC has been inflating their importance from day one. All those people do is arrange toilets and fill out some forms. It’s actually a good job for them, none of them have an ounce of creativity. None of them are artists. Well, I think crimson used to be a stripper and will used to teach photography, but I’ve never seen him with a camera and I’ve spend a few thousand hours (unfortunatly) with will… you would think from reading the website that this event was their idea. It’s not. You would think that they curate the art. They do not. You would think that larry used to build the man. He certainly did not ever put one nail in a man ever. Nor did he ever help load the truck or anything else. Just one of those useless guys who just stands around smoking and talking preventing anyone else from working. Saying BM is larry’s event is ludicris. larry learned to drive in 2004. They inflate their importance and de-flate everyone elses’. They run the organization in a climate of fear. The turn over is high. Anyone who is well liked lasts like a year or less. Lest they get any power. The LLC hate each other. This is our only strength. They are just waiting for their payday, But they got greedy. Now they want the money, and they don’t want to give up any of the power. It’s the grossest thing I’ve ever seen.

    #4 Go start another event? Oh no. I did start an event. I started this one. This is my event. I contributed my time and considerable efforts to this one. This is the one I have selected. I have EQUITY.

    • (sorry, hit post) EQUITY. So do you. That’s why BM needs to be democratic. We need a voting system. Not for everything, but to represent things. Certainly the art that gets funded, that’s a no brainer. One person who sits on the board should be an elected person. It’ll be messy, fun. This is all and experiment, right?

      #5 BM is an important event to all of us. Anyone who says that if you don’t like it you should start another event is being defensive. Which is funny that anyone is defending BM against people who are trying to improve it. This resistance to any change is just what happens. It’s lame, sure. But by pointing it out people can see that it’s just fear that is causing them to say these things. The only people in this conversation that are taking anything away from anyone are the LLC.

      #6 Founders’ syndrome is the condition that the LLC have.
      Go ahead. Read it. It will take you 40 seconds. It’s an article about BM.

      The LLC needed to leave in like 2002. That would have been a good exit for them. They could have done soemthing else. They were totally over it by then anyway. But they stayed on. Easy money, power… doing something else was hard. None of them have ever done anything else. They have no skills, they have no passions. This has been like thearapy for them. Floundering, trying to figure out what to do… trying to find themselves. We don’t care anymore. We need true visionary leadership. Lead us. Where? Anywhere. We are sick of going nowhere. With nothing. We are the most skilled, connected, resource rich group of people the world has ever known. And we languish. We rust. Bored. All we get are thumpy rave parties. With more promise of all this great shit we are going to do in the future. How we are creating a paradime shift… how we are creating opportunites… people get excited about the BM community then they wander away. Because there is no meat to the matter. It’s just all fluff surrounding the event. It all exists to serve the LLC’s egos. It’s gross. Get it off me.

    • Chicken, you’re so right about #1.

      Also ironically I’m starting to feel like the very things BM are proposing to protect are, in fact, being rendered into obscurity by the lack of coverage.

      another even greater irony is that some of the crazier sexual imagery would in fact discourage some of the things the org is indeed worried about like appealing to a fraternity mentality.

      Also @ Whatsblem It’s so interesting that you’re having this conversation with Buck Down.

      did you know Buck is/was one of the lead forces behind Mutaytor? (a little history, I was in Mutaytor as well before I went full time photography 2004-2008).

      The group was definitely involved in tons of the regional events in this period too…

  11. There are myriad reasons why power corrupts, not all correspond to the powerful becoming bad people. I donno if it’s reasonable to reform any organization without creating an institutional threat.

    Isn’t it maybe time to start convincing those who contribute the most to Burning Man to participate in another regional, like 4th of Juplaya perhaps. Imagine if we could convince an important handful of artists like the Flaming Lotus Girls to debut their Burning Man pieces at 4th of Juplaya. Imagine if we could convince some of the most important art cars crews like El Pulpo Mecanico’s creators to bring their cars along.

    Anyways, I personally won’t make financial contributions to projects that don’t participate in at least one event besides Burning Man, well except for camp fees, and maybe next year I’ll go with a camp that does other events too.

    • Jeff,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I think it’s definitely the case that we’re not going to get any traction without convincing high-profile contributing artists to do SOMETHING to show support for the idea, and show the Board that we mean business

      • It goes beyond merely that BMOrg would ignore protests otherwise. It’s that organizations cannot even see their own inefficiencies until someone else does more with less.

        I noticed that BMOrg spent $70k of their telephone bill, not internet, just phone. Who the fuck spends that much in this day and age? An organization 100x or more times BMOrg’s size perhaps? Is that phone bill line secretly lining Larry’s pocket? Not necessarily. It might simply be blowing cash on stupid outdated phone company conference services because they’ve got the cash and such a service was useful pre-internet.

        All that waste is systemic. You cannot really expect Larry, et al., who never needed to run a tight ship, to run one now. You can only show them how by doing it. And the most positive way to do that is to build up a competing event. And the easiest way to do that is to convince the existing artist to bring their work elsewhere.

      • It’s definitely true that without genuine financial transparency, it’s hard to tell the difference between corruption and incompetence, and I thank you for pointing that out.

        Watch Burners.me for a forthcoming article in which — hopefully — Corey Rosen will give us all some serious details on the challenges he has faced from the Org in creating a new event outside the reach and focus of Burning Man.

        Even if the solution is to go elsewhere and start anew, we need a regime change in order to remove the main obstacles to doing so.

      • Incompetence is imho too strong a word. Microsoft has legendary problems with competing managers, executives, etc. sabotaging one another’s software projects. Does that infighting make Bill Gates incompetent? It reflects poorly on his competence, yes, but he still built quite a successful company. Dethroning the current LLC will help, but a deeper organizational turn over is even better.

Leave a Reply to Corey (Endeavor) RosenCancel reply