Temple Debacle Highlights Hypocrisy

So far, 2014 doesn’t seem like it’s been a great year for BMOrg. They started the year pretty promisingly, with the announcement that after 2013’s heavy-handed police presence, they’d reached a settlement in their lawsuit with Pershing County. They caved and paid everything the county had initially asked for. The Judge declared the situation “absurd, illegal and mealy-mouthed“, and the local community do not seem to be satisfied.

Next came the big announcement that “Burning Man is now a non-profit”. They basked in the glory of that for a while, until we pointed out that there’s still plenty of profit being made, and in fact a new for-profit organization called “Decommodification LLC” was created to take control of the lucrative trademarks and royalty streams away from their tax-free entity. They had to back pedal and say “the transition will happen soon”, as they have been saying for the last three years. When? In another three years, or so.

The theme announcement was delayed. Ticket information was delayed. STEP was delayed. Burner Express tickets were delayed. The announcement of Art Grant winners was delayed.  Larry Harvey blamed the slow-down on quitting smoking.

trees temple 2014

Monterey Cypress artist: Paul Kozal

More recently, they announced the final design for the Temple: “Temple of Descendants”. Then they back-tracked, and said that wasn’t going to happen; now it was going to be David Best again, with “The Temple of Grace”.

What in tarnation is going on over at BMOrg’s fancy new HQ in the Mission? Well, they had 385 art pieces to hang, donated to them by Burners. That’s a bit more important to focus on than our little party. Will Roger hosted a panel discussion in Reno, Danger Ranger hosted one in San Mateo. They hosted another discussion in their offices about living in communes. Larry Harvey went to London and on Charlie Rose. These things take time and resources, and they only have a $9 million/year payroll and contractor budget for the organization (plus another $1.7m for food and travel) . Donate now, they really need your help – their goal for the year is $1 million, which is 6667 scarves. Cold, hard, ca$h, completely independent of their over-the-table and under-the-table tens of millions of party revenues. How many more panel discussions does that buy? We’ll find out…”soon”.

the tribal Long House was the inspiration for the Temple of Descendants

the tribal Long House was the inspiration for the Temple of Descendants. We wondered if this Viking/Polynesian symbolic base was more suited to “Cargo Cult” than “Caravansary”


Temple of Descendants organizer Ross Asselstine has written a lengthy post on his site describing what happened (re-posted below with emphasis for discussion). We asked him for further comments; unfortunately, it seems he is still offended by our prior querying of his artistic statement. I tried. What more do you want from me?”, he says.

The saga is eerily reminiscent of the problems with 2013’s Man Base design. In summary, it seems like the issues were:

– Burning Man demands the artists get their own insurance. This is despite the disclaimers on the tickets and in the survival guide, and also despite the BLM and Pershing County requirements that the promoters have adequate insurance for the event.

– BMOrg insists on owning ALL rights to the art, even though it is temporary and is burned at the end of the event. To be an artist at Burning Man, is to hand your art over for them to profit from it forever. The artist takes the risk and funds it, for BMOrg to profit from.

– BMOrg insists the artists fund everything themselves, and not use the words Burning Man or photos of their previous works at the event in their fundraisers. It appears from Ross’s comments that they would pose additional financial penalties if the art couldn’t be built to their specification in time.

BMOrg’s annual insurance bill is $551,068 (2012). The total amount of money they give to artists is $850,000 (2013), or about $13 out of your $380 ticket. This works out to about $13,000 on average per piece. Last year there were 326 applications for funding, only 63 were awarded fractional grants from BMOrg. There were more than 300 registered art installations on the Playa, as well as hundreds of art cars and sound stages. There were more than 1000 registered theme camps. All of this was funded by Burners, not BMOrg.

larry worldLarry Harvey likes to say “at Burning Man, no artists ever sign their art” – presumably because he likes that BMOrg owns the rights to the work, not the artists. In truth, artists like Marco Cochrane, Peter Hudson and David Best promote themselves from the work they do at Burning Man. Their names are very much associated with their Burning Man art. BMOrg seems to turn a blind eye to these more established artists, who hang out with the founders, using the words Burning Man; while the legal team makes life hell for the little guys.

Bliss Dance, Treasure Island. Artist: Marco Cochrane

Bliss Dance, Treasure Island. Artist: Marco Cochrane

The situation with Burning Man art is different from the rest of the art world. In The Louvre,  Leonardo Da Vinci who painted the Mona Lisa gets credited for that. Sure, if I commission Jeff Koons to make a sculpture for me, I own that sculpture and can re-sell it for a profit. But this is throwing a few bucks at the sculptor, telling him he has to buy all the materials himself and raise funds from other patrons…yet I still own 100% of the finished work. He has to bring it to the remote desert gallery and assemble it, also at his own expense. He can’t put his name on it, I will take all the credit for it going forward. And if he doesn’t deliver it in time, he owes me. Plus, he has to buy the insurance for it, my art gallery’s policy doesn’t include any of the art works in the gallery.

It seems like Ross Asselstine is making an effort to do the right thing by his backers, even if BMOrg weren’t trying to do the right thing by him. Why is BMOrg trying to shift the financial burden and insurance risk onto artists? They are the ones with the money and lawyers (and massive insurance cover), not the poor artists. Ross calls them “the benefactor” but they are acting more like “the exploiter”.

From Temple2014.net (emphasis ours):

As noted in the benefactor’s newsletter, I will be returning the funds donated. I have something like ninety emails to send out over the next week.

You all deserve an explanation and my apologies. I’ve not had four months of my life like this before; art is so hard, and I now know that many artists on the playa are more amazing than I ever thought possible. To me: the playa is about the art, artists, the crews and participants that love the art. This is my narrow perspective and will likely always be so even though there is so much more out there.

It comes down to separate messages about different things. I guess I’m up on a little playa dune to speak here. It’s a mixed bag and messy; maybe because these specific pieces each year mean so much to me. They are almost all I’ve ever worked on out there.
A Message to Playa Artists Everywhere:

You’ve heard it before, I will add my voice to the chorus of artists that know how this works best: hold onto the rights to your art. A license of your art to anyone can become anything and everything. I believe that if your art is a gift to the community; then no one should be able to own a long and extensive license to that gift. Limit licenses by time and scope. I don’t know how to protect the unique aspects of the event and eliminate licences to your copyright, but there must be a way.

If you have a car, you have insurance because society requires it; things you don’t want to happen, or can’t image happening, can happen and insurance is for you and people you don’t know. Make sure that insurance is in place for your art to go 60 mph for this reason. It’s out there.

A Message to Benefactors Everywhere:

I will add my voice to a very quiet chorus from benefactors that I admire. You have money and you’ve elected to support artists. Please don’t demand from them a free license to their art in perpetuity or even for a week. You probably already have money, a house, a nice car, a livelihood. Please don’t support the arts by demanding a part of livelihood or position them to take great risks they might not fully understand. Art is a hard enough master, help them. After the work is produced and taken down, maybe the artist will offer you a license. Also: Artists are being turned into merchandisers by “crowd funding” websites: t-shirts, beer holders, necklaces…..we all need them to be artists, not ask them to be the vending machines of recognition.

Definition: Benefactor: a person whose actions benefit another.

A Message to the Community of the Playa:

I think most of you don’t know how the pieces at 12 o’clock get to your event.

There are incredible burdens to deliver the piece: six months of nearly full time effort, artists and their crews have to raise 60-75% of the cost, take that financial risk, thousands of hours of volunteer labor, design a high occupancy building, a fleet of trucks, serious dining facilities, two weeks of hard, hard work before you even arrive, they then assume the risks related to use by the entire event’s population and have to consider whatever insurance  is adequate for the community. What a list hmmm? Many think these happen because they just always happen and will always be there because they bought a ticket. Maybe so.

A few years ago I thought I would try to design a place that was appropriate to support, celebrate and honor your needs for your moment on the playa. Over time, a longhouse developed in models. Many have said the design is beautiful. The piece was selected. I was not selected. A dedicated team solved innumerable problems in a hectic month after a late grant notice date. I’ve never seen so many difficult problems solved and crazy issues come together so quickly. We started to joke: “this thing wants to be built”. I was great to move a little model forward to a big mock-up, a place to pre-build, a refined budget, social media, interviews, fundraising started etc etc.

The contract appears to seek to purchase the display and use of the piece the same as any piece of radically expressive art, not what many consider it is: a community service and a gift. This could change very, very simply. People need to ask for it for it to happen.

After a while it was all simply too much. I asked for help from those best able to do so. I was told: “we want to support you in any way we can” but they still required an unlimited license to the art, me to buy all insurance and take every risk related to 60,000 people using and experiencing the piece. Of the entire community, only about 700 people donated two years ago, maybe 1700 people donated last year with a good portion of the funds raised post-event.

After considerable efforts, struggles and loss of sleep, I confirmed I was unable to risk and gift to the extent of the grant contract language.

I think the community is not aware of the back story and does not expect this of any temple builder nor want them to risk so much. If you share this sentiment, I ask for your voice. This could be improved and be equitable in very, very simple ways.

A Message to Playa Benefactors:

I can guess all the playa art started out from a very different perspective from where it is now. You were the only artists at one time. You built a piece in a backyard with friends; I have a big mockup in my backyard right now that I built with friends. Those experiences were decades apart, but probably had the same incredible energy to create something new. No one really knows exactly how we all got from that first backyard to mine, but money, and contracts came into being and a “grant” language was generated where artists surrendered licenses to copyrights. It’s not clear why. Was it promotion?  Was it for recognition of the benefactor? Was it just what every benefactor asks for and you just asked for it too? Was this about posters or “derivative works” or coffee table books and writers or photographers with those tools of preservation? Is it really about promotion materials anymore? Or did it just gradually, over time, end up as this thing where it’s something someone can rationalize but don’t recognize the core of its effect? If someone walked into that backyard years ago and said they would give you a small amount of money for a license in perpetuity to your art, what would you have said?

You now own unlimited licenses to decades of art and can give third party licenses of art away without consulting the artist that owns the copyright. You could not buy  licenses to a crowd dancing, yelps at the moon, five am conversations about life, tears, laughter, groups hugs, a ride on an art car, dust storms, free smoothies, the roller skating, on and on….why own a license to the art?

Much of the art is gone forever because it was burned, but you own a license to that art. Are the artists able to significantly benefit from that agreement you tabled after their art is gone? Is the relationship disproportional?

It’s possible to “gift” all licenses of art that you have back to all artists. Many artists would probably gift them back to you or a non-profit, some might not….but if so, that would be part of the story wouldn’t it? Can you please consider a “gift” of all art licenses back to the artists or simply declare publicly that you surrender all licenses and third party licenses to all art that you hold rights to? 

There is a very good chance that I don’t understand something here because this is too clear and simple an issue for me.

To the Photographers and Videographers of the Playa:

Recognize artists and art crews for what they do. Attribution is participation, support and respect. I love art and photography. I hate the justification of theft or lack of attribution of someone’s work. I’ve made these errors and am trying to improve, it’s simple actually once you start doing it.

My experiences with artists over more than ten years on the playa have primarily been about supporting artists. They do amazing things I can’t do. The process of helping an artist gives me more than I can ever imagine. I get to know an artist by name, the name of the piece, the emotion and passion behind it, live the process, and help give it to the community. There is truly no other experience like it. Please seek this out if you haven’t already; let the art pull you in.

When you see art on the playa you really like, take a picture, but then ask who is the artist, who was the crew, what is the name of piece, how was it built, why was it built, and ask how can you thank them for their work. I guarantee you, that experience will be more fulfilling than just taking a picture and moving on. Artists that do work you like….…are amazing people, they made the piece to get your reaction and recognition. Recognize artists. Their name is not in a photo “caption” it’s “artist:” and maybe after that it’s “photo by:”.

Be careful and respectful: a photograph of someone’s art is not your art to copyright. I know you desperately might want it to be so….but it’s not. Our society defines and recognizes the rights of artists. If you waited for the right light, that perfect moment, and you think you own some copyright to the art, please swing your camera away from the art piece and see what the perfect light can capture and what you can copyright to the right of left. I think that if you approach the artist and ask if you can gift a fantastic image of the piece to them, they may gift something to you.

To Members of The Crew

I apologize. I thought I could do two things at once: 1) get the design, fundraising and pre-build process going and 2) negotiate in a heartfelt and equitable manner with a benefactor that inherently represents the community of the playa as they have the money and the location. I gave it everything. Close friends gave everything. We succeeded on the first item and it turned out the second did not happen in the short time allowed. I had to stop trying because the community needs a place this year.

Item 1)

Crew members old and new put a tremendous amount of work into this over four lightning-quick weeks. I believe we did two months of work in just thirty days. Three very dear friends worked closely with me almost every single day of that month to organize and pull together and pushed a huge range of issues. Others chipped in wherever they could. Everyone was amazing and I believe we were months ahead on many fronts in spite of a late grant notice. By my math, we started five weeks behind because of a late art grant submission date and extended review period. By the end of April we were ready to go like never before. Seriously, we were ready.

Item 2)

I received the grant notice in late March and was reminded that “the temple is not about you”. I responded that I had been on Temple Crew for more than ten years and I understood this completely. A little less than a week later, I received the contract that was all about me

1)      They had asked for this in the submission in February:

“It’s really important that the concept for the (………..) spiritually resonates, and that it’s a shared community art piece. Many see it as our emotional nexus for (……………….) We look for designs that are both intimate and immense – with many small areas (often called altars) for participants to leave tributes, as well as one or more large gathering spaces, holding hundreds (possibly a thousand) at a time.”

I believe they asked for a civic building and not a radical form of self-expression; the design was not about me or one message. I assume that the design met this requirement. I aimed for a design that could hold every emotion and use yet convey the quietest artistic message possible. A beautiful, neutral mental canvas.

2) The opening statement in the contract language was about integrity of each party.

3) I had to raise six figures in donations or risk huge sums coming out of my pocket. The total amount was about equal to a cup of coffee from every ticket holder. Asking for and getting the money from the community for money was on me.

4) If I wanted to make the design fit the budget, the benefactor had the ability to adjust the contract contribution to a lower number: grant money could be taken away from me.

5) Any conceivable risk during the entire period from concept to clean up was on me. If any of 60,000 participants was hurt during the event, it was on me.

Did I know this? . I guarantee you this undertaking requires an incredible optimist. I kept moving. We all have friends well outside the playa community and we strive to explain how much the playa means to us.  Slowly, people that cared enough to question me, asked about the hard reality of what the contract required vs my emotional purpose. “Ross…..really?!” 

I went back to the benefactor that had asked for the “community art piece”. I said I understood the contract was probably initially drafted for all the wildest art we all enjoy out there: the artist’s intent, scope, scale and risk were defined by the artist and these issues were documented as such. This piece could not be a card table with a little shade under it or ninety foot tall flaming bowl of Tater-Tots. I asked for their understanding as I thought it was a different type of project whose parameters were roughly defined by a recognized civic purpose and the increasing scale of the community. It’s been a big building for years, we need shade and scale. I asked questions:

1) I cannot find adequate insurance, can you put this piece and my name on your insurance policy?

2) Can I just get insurance for the volunteers until we gift the building to the community and then you can insure the risk related to the community use?

3) Can you consider that I may be temporarily out of pocket tens of thousands of dollars until the community donates adequate funds?

4) I’m having a hard time understanding what amount of insurance will be adequate to address the risk related to 60,000 people using the building. What would you do?

5) If I can’t be on your insurance policy can you be on mine? I feel the need to have someone stand with me. Is that fair?

6) Can you change the contract to suit what is a civic gift rather than radical self-expression?

These types of questions were generally met by deflecting or clinical comments like: we are very firm on our grant language, contact this insurance agent, the temple is not for the faint of heart, we will do everything we can to help you. They were somewhat understanding but did not move. In the end it was about me, the contract, and a benefactor that I think has a very different concept of what this community art piece is, and ultimately, what is a reasonable burden on that artist.

There are sneaky ways around or within many things in contracts. It’s been said that “any contract is only as good as the person that wants to live by it”. Maybe I could have done innumerable things by disingenuous meathods to go forward. I looked at the mock-up in the backyard, the video we made, my dearest friends that had carried the ball with me and done all of the work over a crazy month, the opening paragraph of the contract and then……..across the table.

“Spiritually resonates, a shared community art piece, our emotional nexus, and integrity”. I agree.

There are times when you have nothing to risk and everything to gain. Much of the amazing art on the playa is based on new artists that have little to lose and lot to gain from the amazing audience on the playa. I’ve seen lives change in a wonderful way. You could read all this and guess it was all about insurance and my family losing something in a lawsuit. Yes, I could not risk and gift that much. A large part of this was about gain though…… I am similar in a different way, I had nothing to lose by not doing art, and this was linked to gain for others. In my mind, I saw what the community and future “community art piece” artists could gain by asking for something from a place of heartfelt community interest and sense of fairness. Maybe it was just my turn to step up and ask again after every other artist struggled with the obvious and painful choices.

I asked many times. The benefactor said no. I could not sign the contract.

I think many mistakes were made. Many of them were my own and I’m in my second week of apologies on the phone, in person and, driving hours to have beers around a fire in a backyard until two in the morning trying work it all out with dear, dear friends. This has been very hard. I made mistakes, and have run through everything numerous times in my head. I will keep working through the apologies. 

Descendants: is that us or the people after us? I have no clue if Descendants will ever happen, it really doesn’t matter. Maybe it was meant to do this work and it’s done. Maybe it will stay in a cardboard box with the little light and four holes, and this page of text is it’s contribution to the community.

The shared community art piece each year is about many things including helping others work through difficult times by contributing to the effort make a place for them in that moment. A different piece will be built this year to do just that. The Crew will form the work again this year for the community and you, The Crew, will make a difference as you always have when you were asked to help. 

One Summary

I am working with others to draft what we believe is an equitable agreement for this community art piece in future years, and who knows, maybe this year. This will be posted here in about a week or so. Maybe in the future, all the work this last month or so will be one small part of the incredible efforts so many have made over the many, many years we’ve all been on the playa. 

Thank you for taking the time to read through this. I will step off the little dune now.

– Ross Asselstine

Commenter erratic expressed the insurance problem very well:

“Hello, Allstate? Hi, I’m looking for a little coverage for an art installation I’m doing and I’d like you to start running some numbers for me. Great!, thanks….Well, it’s a wood structure of unique and untested design around 5 or 6 thousand square feet in size and maybe three or four stories high, preferable made with discarded and donated materials, built by an all volunteer crew with no building permit or government oversight in an extreme environment with winds that can exceed 70 mph, it will generate some 200,000 visits over the week, a good many of them people enjoying some level of intoxication, will be surrounded by unregistered vehicles, many of which spout fire, with a volunteer security force and then we will intentionally burn it down…what? Yes I did say intentionally…in front of a tightly packed crowd of about 40,000 people some of which will stroll or bike through the flaming embers over the course of the night and then…hello?…hello?….

41 comments on “Temple Debacle Highlights Hypocrisy

  1. you call me an “established artist”. what exactly does that mean? i owe my awakening to Burning Man. if not for Burning Man, i would have never had the opportunity to explore my visions. i am still waiting to cash that “established” check.
    call me (415) 706-7138 let’s talk “establishment”

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  10. I have mixed feelings about this. I can see some good points about how the agreement between Temple Artists might need improvement but I’m also seeing a good bit of histrionics that I don’t see as very helpful. Why we can’t have a conversation about ownership rights to art without equating the BM organization to just shy of Darth Vader on the evil scale. I also have to question how someone could have volunteered to take on a project like this without having a good idea of what the parameters of the project were in regards to funds that needed to be raised, liability, etc. prior to signing off on doing it. There are lots of folks that have to raise or spend lots of their own money to bring lots of cool stuff to the Playa without ANY cut from ticket sales money. It’s not like fund raising for the temple being a responsibility of the temple organizers is something new or a surprise. I’m wondering why he took on the job if he wasn’t happy with this aspect of it. Rather he took on the job, hyped up his concept, with the mysterious “we aren’t going to show you what the temple will look like” gimmick THEN made a list of demands. Folks, he should have asked all these questions prior to accepting and if he wasn’t happy should have walked away months ago.

      • Yeah I think the insurance issue is one that will need to be sorted out and you make a good point that they should have had all this stuff worked through prior to announcing the artist. I think folks are quick to paint the BMOrg as evil when it is probably more a matter of lessons that need to be learned. It’s possible that they might have been flexible about helping with the insurance but that AND asking for more funding than had been given in the past (something the artist surely was aware of) was too big an ask at this point and simply not workable. One would hope that this entire experience will lead to some better procedures in the future and BOTH the BMOrg and artists not making the same sorts of mistakes that were made here.

      • As one of the antagonists to the BMorg theater, let me add this general observation. When you are working with a true non-profit, you can be far more forgiving, understanding that the overhead is lean and no one is taking anything extra to the bank. A good example is a (typical non-profit) university, where you don’t expect for them to have deep overhead profits to get things right. But when you are dealing with a for-profit operation, be it The LLC House of Larry, or Donald Trump, you have to ask why the wasted time and all the screw ups. With the BOrg pulling over 50% of the ticket revenues for overhead and profit, you have to ask where the money is going and who is in charge of these fiascos.

        In this case, where the BOrg took over the Temple from others, what goes with it is a responsibility to manage it appropriately, That is not apparent here. As a thought experiment, suppose the Temple were no longer a BOrg project, but was given back to the volunteers. Would these issues still have surfaced?

  11. Blue Wing, Kumiva, Buena Vista, and that’s just in Pershing County. This country is full of big dry lakes. Time to move?

    • I suggested that a year or two back when the tickets sold out, but finally realized that would never happen. The House of Larry is cashing in on the Burn by buying up support property for the BRC location and renting it back to themselves every year for more cut of the gate. They will never move – without the Burn rentals their property is worthless (which is about what they paid for it).

      • Nomad, verification is needed on the owners of the properties, and the properties are not of much worth, should the DPW work ranch nor Fly Ranch.not be owned by their Gerlach Holdings LLC, or their other properties LLC.

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  13. I am gobsmacked. Ross Asselstine thought the images of the Temple of Descendants, and the other art, was to be licensed to the Black Rock City LLC, doing business as Burning Man, and, thusly, the owner of the BRC LLC, the 501(c)3 Burning Man Project.

    That is not a correct thought. The ticket conditions of 2014 state the licensing of imagery is to be controlled by the BRC LLC, and Decommodification LLC, owned by Larry, Marian, and the other four former owners of BRC LLC. The trademarks and logos owned by their Decommodification LLC are to be sold to the Burning Man Project at 2016 end for huge amounts of cash. No one ever stated the licensing of imagery also controlled, in other terms, also owned, by their Decommodification LLC is to be sold to the Burning Man Project. Thusly, Larry, and the other five owners of Decommodification LLC, dependent upon an agreement between the Burning Man Project and Decommodification LLC, might pocket cash from the licensing of all imagery, inclusive of 2014 art, at least to 2016 end, and perchance, forever. Or, the 100 per cent licensing of all imagery, including, imagery of the art, might be purchased by the Burning Man Project, from the Decommodification LLC, upon a date which is unknown. This might be stated within the conditions of the BRC LLC donation to the Project, of which, by California law, the Project is mandated to obey.

    2014 ticket conditions –
    “I acknowledge that the name “Burning Man” is a trademark owned by Decommodification LLC and licensed to BRC, and that BRC LLC has been given the sole right to license and enforce that trademark, and that all of Burning Man’s logos, trademarks or other intellectual property are owned by Decommodification LLC and licensed to BRC, and I understand that these two organizations control all rights regarding the licensing and reproduction of any imagery recorded at the Event. I agree that I will not use the mark “Burning Man,” the logos of Decommodification LLC or BRC LLC, or the likeness, drawings or representations of the Man or of the Black Rock City map, or any other trademark of Decommodification LLR or BRC”

    I penned the post of The Great BMOrg Cash Out of 2010 – 2016, $28 Million to $45 Million, Est, of which, no one has proved any number, or any statement, to be incorrect, despite numerous requests for any to prove any number, or statement to be incorrect. But, I was incorrect, I did not include this cash towards their pockets, my numbers are far too small.

    • I am further gobsmacked. The new Bylaws of the Burning Man Projectare more one sided than the artist contract. The bylaws are purposed, by appearances, towards Larry and Marian and crew to have 100 per cent control of the Burning Man Project, while permitting large, hidden, payments of cash towards their other for profit corporations. All knowledge upon conflict of interests is to be known solely within the Burning Man Project Board. Knowledge of their conflicts of interest, or, knowledge of payments of cash towards their other for profit corporations, are not to be revealed to donors of cash, labour, or art, except, hidden within tax levy paperwork, to be viewed solely many months after the payments of cash are made towards the pockets of Larry and crew. The awesome Burning Man community is not to get say towards any issue.

      The Burning Man Project, and its owned BRC LLC, may lease land and buildings from Larry and crew. Payments of cash to Larry and crew for licensing of trademarks, logos, or, of the final huge payment at 2016 end for the trademarks and logos, is not to be revealed to the awesome Burning Man community, except, hidden within tax levy paperwork. The Burning Man community is not to view the conditions of the BRC LLC donation to the Burning Man Project, of which, by California law, the Burning Man Project is mandated to obey. The contract of the licensing of images between BRC LLC, the Burning Man Project, and the for profit Decommodification LLC, owned by Larry and crew, is not to be revealed to the artists, nor to the Burning Man community, conflicts of interests, such as this, are not to be revealed to the donors or to the creators of the art. Their for profit Decommodification LLC, perchance, might be the recipient of the full cash payments for the licensing of any image of art at Burning Man, forever, for all that we are of the knowledge.

      I was further incorrect within my post upon the Great BMOrg Cash Out of 2010 – 2016, $28 Million to $45 Million, Est. I did not include cash towards their pockets for lease of land, nor of buildings, and, my numbers upon the other possible income towards the pockets of Larry and crew were too small. In addendum, I thought the minister of California 501(c)3 corporations, the California State Attorney Generals office, would not license a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, with conflicts of interest such as these. Nor, license it with the conflicts of interest, and large payments towards multiple for profit corporations owned by the officers and directors of the non profit, not to be revealed to donors of cash, labour, and art.

      I am not able to comprehend this document, these comments are solely upon a quick viewing, I am, most likely, incorrect in some of the comments. Might a person whom comprehends California law upon 501(c)3 non profit corporations view the bylaws and comment upon them?

      • It would be beneficial if someone other, perchance from the artist or legal community, labouring towards penning a new contract for the artists, might look at it, you have spent many hours on your blog.

        Larry and crew penned PR that their Decommodification LLC was within the ticket terms for protection of the community from exploitation of the licensing of the images by the Burning Man Project. But, they are the Burning Man Project. If their concern was such, they would have penned mandatory conditions onto their donation of the BRC LLC to the Burning Man Project to prevent such, it is more sensible to do so, than penning their for profit Decommodification LLC into the licensing of images.

    • “No one ever stated the licensing of imagery also controlled, in other terms, also owned, by their Decommodification LLC is to be sold to the Burning Man Project.”…you could well be correct about this. If this is how it plays out, then it is truly a whole ‘nother dimension on the “Bait and Switch” http://burners.me/2013/12/20/the-old-bait-n-switch/ Danger Ranger claimed that he forced the other founders to agree to a “Dead Man’s Trigger” clause under which ownership and control of Decommodification LLC would pass to the Burning Man Project after 3 years, no matter what. What we don’t know, is if there are any kinds of caveats to this clause, including unlimited forward royalty obligations from Decommodification LLC to its owners, loan repayments, or other forms of ongoing payout.

      For those saying “we can see no evil”, “Burners.Me is just being negative” etc…then how do you explain all these shenanigans, with new corporate structures, new tax-free entities, new royalty-earning companies? Why not say “we have been officially incorporated as a 501(c)3 non profit, and from now on will act as such”? How complicated does “we throw Burning Man for the Burners, and don’t make any profit from it” need to be?

  14. The way I thought of this, in my own naivety, was that the artists contributed to the BM movement by lending the visuals of the art to the cause in perpetuity. They did this because they believed in the ideals of BurningMan. I did not know that so much burden was placed on the artists for the benefit of the “House of Larry”. Perhaps their are the public consumption BM ideals and the shadow BM ideals (hmmm, sounds like real life). Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The “House of Larry” has all the power and artists who wish to participate in this have no choice but to bend over and take whatever Larry wants to give.

    • Conrad, can you post a link to the Afrika Burn artists’ agreement(s)? Does the House of Larry allow regional burns to deviate from the BOrg artist policies?

      I know that Figment severed their BOrg ties a few years back. No mention of the Tin Principles(TM) anymore. Wonder what the back-story is on that.

      • There’s that fine line between cultic thought and dissent…AfrikaBurn is no more able to avoid the sort of crap that’s (apparently) corroding Burning Man than all the people who made it happen in the first place. If they tell you who you are, what to think, how to be, what to say…they’re the enemy. Bring the chaos…

      • Meant to say earlier that there is no artists agreement – while AB is a regional Burn, it doesn’t belong to BOrg. I’d reckon that, if they tried to impose the same crap over here, we’d just move elsewhere and make it our own – thankfully that doesn’t seem to be an issue…yet.

      • I would consider an event affilliated with and listed on the BOrg web site as a “regional Burn.” http://regionals.burningman.com/ For example, AfrikaBurn is listed. Transformus is listed as part of the Asheville Burn Community. Play Del Fuego (PDF) is not listed but does claim to be affilliated, “We’re a Burning Man affiliated event for the mid-Atlantic region, promoting the ten principles of Burning Man.”

        Figment is no longer listed, and is no longer affilliated with the BOrg.

        “FIGMENT celebrates an abundance of creativity and passion, challenging artists and our communities to find new ways to create, share, think, and dream. Become a part of 2011 events in NYC, Boston, Jackson, MS, and Detroit, and interactive exhibits on NYC’s Governors Island from June through October. FIGMENT is a project of Action Arts League, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and is created and produced by a coalition of volunteers. FIGMENT is entirely funded by grants and individual donations, and accepts no corporate sponsorship of any kind. FIGMENT is supported by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. FIGMENT Boston is produced with support from the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, the designated stewards of the Rose Kennedy Greenway and site of Figment Boston.” …This suggests the sweet non-profit cash and support the BOrg would like to tap.

        Figment changed their description to now read, “Drawing inspiration from other community-based arts events, the development, production, and experience of FIGMENT are guided by these 11 principles.” I am betting the NYC lawyers would give guidance and be equal to challenges by the BOrg’s SF lawyers.

        I would volunteer for FigmentNYC, but this year are shceduled in direct conflict with a decades-old professional stone-soup event that has invited my participation, at my expense. I feel good about giving to this group, or Figment, but not to provide free fodder to aid the profit of the House of Larry, if only because they could ask but did not.

        As we say in Tennessee, “Dance with the one that brought you.” The BOrg does not want veteran Burners, as evidenced by those whom they quite selectively choose to sell tickets to. As we also say in Tennessee, “That dog don’t hunt.”

      • Let me share the Figment 11th Principle:

        We believe it is important to remind ourselves where we come from, and to appreciate what has been given to us to get us to where we are. We are not entitled to anything, and approach our relations to others from a place of gratitude for their efforts.

        Something missing from the BOrg. 😉

    • It’s been that way since 1997. Plans were in place before then to exploit the shit out of the counter-cultural aesthetic of the happy anarchist. Larry & Co saw a gold mine in packaging and selling it all as a week-long holiday where ‘normal people’ could pretend to be radical and then go back to their dreary lives and tell the story about how cool they were for a short time.

  15. “a photograph of someone’s art is not your art to copyright”

    As both an architect and photographer myself all of a sudden I have lost all sympathy for Ross who himself bemoans the Org making licensing claims over his own creative work but then seeks to deny that same privilege to others.

    Furthermore Ross’ claim is factually incorrect. Quick example, The Guggenheim museum in NYC has been photographed, copyrighted by photographers and sold and published in books hundreds if not thousands of times with the estate of Frank Lloyd Wright having zero claims.

    • yeah, he lost me completely at that point.

      why would an artist make a whole long post about how artists should hold their copyright when it applies to his work, then tell an entire field of art that their work in composition, light, and technique isn’t valid as a work of art?

      just because the art is 2 dimensional doesn’t mean it’s not valid as composition.

    • Obviously you are right. A photograph is a derivative work and perfectly legal to sell. However, Ross is specifically addressing photographers on the playa. “Burning man is different” is not just a cliche.

      Unlike the Guggenheim example, artists here do not get commissioned for their work. Sure, they do it for their own narcissistic, ego-driven need for recognition, they are artists after all, but generally at a cost of personal debt, a friendship or two and months their lives. And they have done it for the undefinable community, magic, whatever… that has driven us mad enough to come back year after year. Right or wrong, I’m sure you can imagine how it might chafe someone’s ass when a freshly showered photographer shows up with a hot model and doesn’t even acknowledge the artist’s name on the ‘net.

      Ultimately, the art is a gift and in the default world a photographer can profit from it and not share that with the artist. Ross is simply offering a different choice to consider.

    • it’s not an either/or…it actually makes perfect sense for Burners to do both. One is about liberty and fundamental human rights; one is about monopolistic capitalism. Tyranny, and seizing value created by others for personal profit, play a strong role in both.

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