The people next to you have an RV. Does that make it OK to steal their shit?
Obviously not, unless you’re an asshole. Which David Kiss clearly is. Not only to commit the acts he describes below, but then to go on to pen an article about it. And not only to write the article, but to post it all over Facebook.
Since when did the Tin Principles give Burners an excuse to ignore the basic moral conduct of goodness towards your fellow Burners?
written by David Kiss:
It’s been difficult to ignore the articles and discussions regarding the “plug and play” or “turnkey” billionaire camps in the weeks leading up to Burning Man this year. It was especially difficult to ignore them for me, as I’d camped at around 8:20 and L, right down the street from them.
As the week wore on and I got comfortable in my neighborhood, I couldn’t help but notice the billionaire camps, not just because of their million-dollar RVs and rows of tractor trailers parked so closely together, in a clear message for outsiders to stay out, but also because of the vibe I got as I rode down K street. It had a very different vibe than the rest of Black Rock City. There was no friendly interaction on the street. There was none of that community feeling.
There were plenty of impressive and elaborate “front yards” and art installations just beckoning to the curious burner to check out, yet all were empty. I didn’t feel welcome. I kinda got the feeling that these were just there to look good, for lip service, maybe even as a subtle competition amongst these wealthy elite, come to the desert to get their taste of Burning Man.
My own opinion on these camps is this: if you can afford to hire coordinators, “sherpas”, and chefs, rent movie trailer portapotties, live in a million-dollar RV, etc., then do it, by all means! If you’re giving someone a job, enabling them to pay their rent and feed their families, that’s amazing. If I were a billionaire, I’d probably do the same.
But be involved in the community. Don’t just write a check supporting an art project. Get your hands dirty. Engage. Get off your Segway and ride a bike, struggle in the soft playa sand, walk into other camps, and talk to people. Certainly don’t build a camp that is meant to keep people out.
One morning, after a particularly insane night of dancing and exploring, I wearily rode my bike down L street towards my camp with my friend. And then I noticed it. A sign that said “Service Entrance”, decorated in a burner-y motif. Service Entrance? Are they for real? I suddenly felt like I was backstage at a “real” music festival.
In a sudden fit of anger, I decided to steal the sign. Fuck it, I thought, if these guys are gonna have a fucking service entrance, they should expect their sign to be vandalized.
I yanked it off the trailer it was loosely attached to, and strode off, dragging it behind me like some sort of cross.
I got a few feet down the block before I heard someone yelling. Huffing towards me was a fat, rich-looking guy who was clearly not used to being defied. Spittle flying, he yelled at me that he was going to get me arrested, and that I’d better put that sign back immediately.
Now, I have a real problem with authority, so I laughed in his face and said, “Really?! You really can’t understand why someone might want to take this sign?! What do YOU care anyway!” He continued to yell, and talk to me as if he was king and I his servant.
At this point I changed my tone and tactic, and attempted to have a normal conversation with him. Here was my chance to engage with someone so different than me, and perhaps we’d both get something good out of this encounter. Maybe I could get him to see the ridiculousness of this, maybe he could get me to understand something here. Boy was I wrong. Dude proceeds to grab my bike, and proclaim that I could keep the sign and he’d keep the bike. This actually seemed like a good deal to me, and I laughed at the absurdity of the situation as we both started walking off.
At this point we’re interrupted by a young burner-looking dude wearing a radio. He manages to get rich guy to walk away, and then explains that this sign is here for safety reasons, and asks me politely to leave the sign. I do that, grab my bike and we walk away.
I couldn’t believe that these people couldn’t see the humor in what had happened, couldn’t understand that if you’re going to build a camp with a fucking service entrance at Burning Man, someone might be tempted to steal your precious sign which kinda symbolizes everything that is wrong with what you’re doing. So I walked back and grabbed the sign again. I was intent on taking that sign, putting it in my camp front yard, and burning it at some point.
I get about a block away, when a white pickup truck tears up, and the young burner-looking guy gets out, followed by a mean-looking security-type dude with a murderous glint in his eye. I look at both of them and can actually visualize my face getting clocked by this dude as he drags me through the dust.
“Do you understand why I’m taking this sign? Don’t you realize how you guys come off?”, I say.
This dude looks at me and says that he understands and that he’s a long-time burner. He then goes off on a nearly ten-minute rant listing all the reasons why this camp “isn’t like the other plug and play camps.” He talks about how much money the people in his camp donate to art cars and art projects. He mentions that him and his wife make “artisanal” something or other in the hills above San Francisco. He tells me that they’ve sponsored an art piece in the deep playa that has allowed an artist to have her first piece of an art at Burning Man. “Her first!” He explains that there are people like the angry rich guy in this camp that haven’t been to Burning Man before and don’t fully get it yet.
I tuned him out very quickly as he went on and on, because I realized that he was really talking to himself to make himself feel better about working for these people, perverting the very ideas of Burning Man. I let him rattle on until he exhausted the topic, thanked him for explaining himself to me, that yes, I now understood why their camp was sooo important to Burning Man, and rode off. I knew he was a lost cause and I wasn’t interested in getting a beating over a damn sign.
And now I propose an art piece for next year: Camp Douchebag; a camp located on the open playa near 10:00 and L; a towering, wooden facade of RVs, trucks, giant generators, and abstract art, complete with wooden Segways and a bar staffed by people that studiously ignore you. If you can manage to get inside the piece, by climbing up and into it or maybe by getting in via the “service entrance”, you’ll find rows of pre-curated costumes, “Sherpa’s”, a chef preparing artisanal food, and perhaps a group of models that have been paid to come to Burning Man.
There seems to be real dilemma for the Burning Man organization regarding what to do about these plug and play camps. Well this is my solution. Bring it out front and center, stick it in everyone’s faces, and then…BURN it.
Radical judgement, radical narcissism, radical entitlement.
He had to look at a sign? Someone call this guy a Waambulance:
In an entire city built on Gifting, what sort of person feels the need to steal? And what, did he think they would just go down to Home Depot and get a new sign?
I’m still trying to get my head around how someone can justify something like this to themselves, let alone go and boast about it to others. The other Burners even tried to explain things to him, but in his arrogance their words were beneath his high and mighty ears. Listen to him – “I was like Jesus with my cross”. No you weren’t…”bro”.
The difference between this city and Beverly Hills, is it is made up of tens of thousands of RVs. Located in the stinking hot, dry and dusty desert, Black Rock is one of the largest RV cities in the world. RVs that are in remote locations for weeks at a time need to be serviced. Otherwise biohazards and outbreaks can occur. Service trucks need a road to get inside the camps, so that their hoses can reach the tanks. There needs to be a way to indicate to Burners not to pitch tents or dump their bikes on that road. Radical self reliance: make a sign. A clever way to make things easier for everyone.
Basically this dickhead is saying “it’s a city, and people steal shit in cities, so there. I’m a poor loser, so they deserved it”.
How the fuck does he know if people in a camp down the road from him “engaged” or “got their hands dirty”?
Here’s what Star Star actually did:
I got the scoop this year on what [Star Star] are about and it did somewhat ease my concerns about this particular slice of richie-richness at burning man. First and foremost this camp does contribute. All week they host live circus, music, and dance performances from some top notch Bay area talent on some of the most amazing mobile circus rigging you are likely to see anywhere, let alone at Burning Man. These are come-one come-all events. I’ve never seen a plug and play offer anything even close to that level of gift. Then I found out about the structure of the Camp. No one pays to camp there. One person pays for everything. It is a complete gift.
And here’s the description of their Theme Camp, which was there in the guide for any Burner who wanted to read, rather than vandalize:
Star Star – Live Music – Movement, Dance, Yoga classes daily. Lively shows and aerial performance throughout burn week on our gorgeous rustic stage with full daytime shade. Kick one back and come shake your business at the Star Star Roadhouse!
Hometown: All Over
Although some Burners seemed to support the actions, I’m not going to promote those trolls by sharing. It was on the snark group, so perhaps they weren’t being serious. But some serious Burners were:
“Service Entrance” signs are pretty normal at most large theme camps and villages. As someone who seems to take pleasure in stealing other people’s shit, you seem pretty qualified to be a member of “camp douchebag.” I hope they press charges now that you’ve admitted that you stole something and only left it behind when you got chased down by the owners.
Death Guild Thunderdome has a “Service Entrance” that we gate off with an iron fence and only open for pump trucks and our art cars. It’s there because we scrape together enough dough to have our own potties which people break into our camp to try and use, and because people don’t seem to understand that we run a performance art installation and our camp is where we, you know, camp. Running a camp on the Esplanade is a pain in the ass, because we get a fuck ton of drugged out hippies who think that walking into someone’s camp (we don’t have anything in our camp except our personal shit – if you want to interact hang out at our bar or come to dome fights) is the “burning man” thing to do. I personally hate the idea of walled off plug and play camps, but they’re out in the boonies and in general, if you want to hang out in the boonies with your paid staff and your professional chef, go for it. The idea that anybody’s camp (or their stuff) should be open for your use just because it’s there is ridiculous. Don’t steal shit. Stealing shit makes you a douchebag...I feel that people think rich people are going to edge out less-rich people. I’m unemployed and the only reason I was able to go is because I scraped together my budget for te burn when I was still employed – including my ticket, my 14 days there (7 days working, 7 days playing/working – DGTD is a working vacation for sure) my budget was $700. But stealing their shit is lame. It’s the lowest form of “pranking” – if you’re going to prank someone, make it funny. Hang out outside their camp and offer “star maps” or something. Take a megaphone and offer “advice” to people leaving (“Turn back now! It’s not safe out here!”). If you’re going to be an asshole, be a FUNNY asshole.
1st off, the guy stole a sign to something that had nothing to do with him and wasn’t effecting anything about his burn other then what he let it effect. 2nd, most every large camp on the Playa and a lot of the mid and smaller size ones have a service entrance. If you brought an RV, did you not create a lane or a way for the RV pump trucks to reach your grey and dark tank outlets ? Service entrance. Most of the large Esplanade camps made roads that go deep in their sea of RV’s…. Service entrance. The only difference I see is this camp made a sign that said it. So what. It didn’t say Private Property, Keep out.
I like the idea of the satirical art project, but you handled this lamely. It seems like you had written them off from the beginning and refused to listen to anything they said. I bet those art projects and cars sure appreciated the donations!
Peter Hirshberg, who has been promoted as one of the Founders of Burning Man, saw this as a clever political statement, a throwback to the good old Cacophony Society days:
You missed the entire point of his art and reaction. He saw this faux nonparticipatory behavior in the hermetically sealed camp and pranked them. Sounds like cacophony society/ clever art behavior to me. The point of his piece wasn’t that he took a sign, it was a contemplation on this new form of not quite getting it fortress community- making
You bet I missed the point of his “piece”. I certainly got the point of the theft, and being a public nuisance. Is bike stealing an acceptable form of protest too, Peter? “oh look at that bike, it’s decorated so much, they must be rich! I deserve to take that. Stealing is an art“.
If they had gone and stolen signs from First Camp, the protest might have meant something – because it was directed at the decision makers who have socially engineered our culture to be this way. A civilization is not built on the principle of “rob thy neighbor”. Making life harder for RV dumps for camps that put on free circus performances is not true to the Burner spirit in any way. If that kind of thing is acceptable at a Cacophony Society event, then take your theft and imitations of Christ to one of those.
I can’t believe I’m defending big money at burning man, but here’s a short list: Caliope, Mayan Warrior, Star-Star, Robot Heart…all huge money art or art cars. all amazing. And yes Embrace was also amazing and mayb e had more heart but nonetheless you can’t say millionaire brought nothing to burning man…
…Yes it is all inclusive. Yes it is plug and play, and yes it is free for those camping there. On top of that the staff are paid decently and given tickets to the burn and have to work minimal hours during the event though I’m sure set up and breakdown are hellish with that level of infrastructure I don’t know how I feel about the “Service entrance” sign, that’s just out of place, but I guarantee you there are smaller poorer theme camps phoning it in and offering far less to the Burning man community than Star-Star. Plug and play theme camps that offer nothing to the public really should be denied placement. Star-Star, as much as you may resent the divide between rich and poor deserves to be there. One man has put a mountain of resources into giving something amazing to burning man and that in my estimation balances the scales given that radical self reliance is utterly and totally dismissed by the 30 guests that camp there.
…Also, Our theme camp (which has a budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $6k, in other words theming on a shoestring), while not gated, is definitely set up to discourage randoms from walking around our back lot. We have a front of house and chill space that is welcome to all, but would really rather not have drugged out weirdos and undercover cops roaming and sniffing about our housing. Radical inclusion only goes so far. Where is the line? Am I expected to let strangers walk into my yurt open my cooler and drink my beer uninvited because radical inclusion?
There’s nothing stupid about security and privacy, in a party with tens of thousands of people roaming the city on illegal substances. Clearly, there are thieves and vagabonds about.
You’re not a real burner unless you’re sleeping in a rickety lean-to and subsisting on beef jerky and pickle juice. All of these “Shade structure” and “Sturdy tent” wannabes are ruining the burn
As in favor of class warfare as I am out in the everyday world I call this sort of thing bull shit!
If anything having the ultra-rich and politically conservative or libertarian attend and spending at least some time amongst the rest of us has a chance of bringing about just a little enlightenment. Inclusivity was one of the first things that drew me to burning man getting together working together with people you would never see let alone spend time with in the default world.
After the first year doesn’t the second year always bring out an even greater investment of time and money in preparations, or maybe joining a theme camp? Elaborate contraptions for making showers, water evaporator, and silt filters. Then there are those that get into food prep and elaborate meals, for a number of years the camp I was with put together a full thanks giving turkey feast for the camp members in the middle of the week. While we made living in the desert easier and more fun we also provided a better stocked full serves Bar for our neighbors and patrons theme nights a mutant vehicle, every year more. And yes the actual camping space was out of bounds to anyone who wasn’t invited. The more people can afford to spend the more they spend and the is the true burner way,…
Stealing is stealing, period. Just because he’s stealing from a plug-n-play asshat camp doesn’t make it right. Jeebus, people, I live my week in a tent and that doesn’t make me any holier or burnier than thou because I’m not in an RV. It’s not class warfare, it’s BS douchebaggery.
david kiss your a fucking douche bag!!!! Stealing and vandalism is just that… Regardless how much $ someone has, your actions bring you down to trailer trash. Im no billionaire but i would not associate with someone that wants to spray there negativity on the world. If you dont like what plug and plays, go spend your time with other amazing people on the playa. Black Rock is a city that is open to all, poor, rich, all nationalities, races and everyone in between. Fucking get over it!
I find it funny that people haven’t realized that there has always been a TON of money at burning. Theme camps aren’t cheap. Art cars, not cheap. The Man and Temple, not cheap and money spent literally for burning too. In the end, you make the burn what YOU want. If one is telling someone else how to burn, that person is in the wrong.
Welcome to the civilization of Burning Man: Millenial Edition. Where we protest against BMOrg’s policies by taking it out on each other.