Vogue Profiles Robot Heart

Hey, they don’t publish their DJ lineups. So this is fine.


re-blogged from Vogue.com:

Image: @rosiehw

Burners Candice Swanepoel and Rosie Huntington-Whitely. Image: @rosiehw

Robot Heart, the Ultra-Exclusive East Coast Answer to Burning Man, Is Happening This Weekend

Didn’t get your beat-dropping bacchanal fix at Burning Man this year? Well, you’re in luck: Robot Heart, the cold-weather answer to the pumped-up festival, has arrived. Known for hosting the most hotly anticipated gatherings during the weeklong festival in Black Rock City (performers this year included Major Lazer and Diplo), the traveling spinoff collective “of doers and dreamers, artists and entrepreneurs” is bringing those same let-loose, beat-first vibes to New York City this Halloween, and the entirely non-advertised Robot Heart is proving to be a lot more exclusive than its predecessor. Sure, there’s still that tech-infused, barely there–raver-meets–Mad Max vibe, but for one, you’d better think asphalt, rather than sand, and for another, you’ll need to buy a ticket via a person in the know (and a secret invite-only code) to access the hidden venue rather than a camper van and a big checkbook. (Not in the know, or in-the-know adjacent? We’d advise you to wait for the Instagram geotags.) One thing is for sure: the most awaited party of the year promises to put any previous Halloween bash you had planned to shame. Meaning only one thing: You’d better dress to impress.

So what do you wear once you get past whatever the uber-hip-raver version of velvet ropes is? “You have to dress up in something crazy,” says Vogue.com Market Editor Chelsea Zalopany, “so go insane.” Time to put all that Burner FOMO to good use: curve-skimming body suits with eye-catching thigh-high boots in whatever hue you please, or a tiny feathered bra and cheeky stay-ups can do the trick nicely. (Ravers don’t get cold.) As for the best part? Unlike Burning Man, there’s no chance of catching the desert affliction of “playa foot,” at the stomping grounds of Robot Heart, plus, the evening promises to afford steady access to both plumbing and running water. (At least within walking distance. . . . We think.

]Read the rest and see the fashion tips at Vogue]

Vegas Halloween Parade Cancelled by Burning Man Attache

For the last 5 years, tens of thousands of residents of Las Vegas have enjoyed the annual Halloween Parade. This has featured Burner art cars like Dancetronauts Strip Ship, and has been linked to a Burner-fuelled gentrification revival of Downtown Las Vegas. It is organized by Cory Mervis, who three years ago was hired by the Burning Man Project as their cultural attache for Las Vegas.

Cory Mervis and Toni Wallace driven their school bus painted like an American Bald Eagle to Black Rock Desert as part of a 10,000-mile venture to spell the word "Vote" on a continent-wide scale.

Cory Mervis and Toni Wallace drove their school bus painted like an American Bald Eagle to Black Rock City as part of a 10,000-mile journey to spell the word “Vote” on a continent-wide scale.

From Fox5 Las Vegas:

Organizers of the Las Vegas Halloween Parade, which has marched for the past five years, decided to cancel the 2015 event, citing increased costs.

“We’d been negotiating for months with a potential partner who could help offset our expected increase in infrastructure and security costs,” said event founder Cory Mervis. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t agree on a plan that met everyone’s needs and time ran out.”

In 2014, the parade took place along East Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. Organizers said about 70,000 people attended the event, which took place on a Saturday. A turnout of 100,000 was expected.

The parade’s focus will be placed on the 2016 event, with organizers hoping to bring in additional sponsors and support.

Cory was appointed by BMOrg with great fanfare ago 3 years ago. The Burning Man Project had ambitions to transform an entire city by working with the real estate developer, Billionaire Burner Tony Hsieh (he sold Zappos to fellow Billionaire Burner Jeff Bezos, who names Amazon’s products “fire”, “kindle”, “burn”, etc). The Downtown Project bought Burning Man art like the Praying Mantis to be the front piece of their shipping container shopping mall, and transported the BMOrg-funded YES Spaceship art car to their office lobby.  Across his business empire, Hsieh embraced the same Hippy Operating System self management system called “holocracy” that empowers BMOrg’s force of 70 full-time staff to make themselves look busy year-round while achieving little in the way of measurable output.

Y.E.S. Spaceship in Zappos Lobby. Image: Glass Door

BMOrg CEO Marian Goodell came out to Las Vegas to give a speech (at Electric Dasiy Carnival’s attached business networking conference). She said:

“Las Vegas provides a rich landscape ripe with opportunities for civic participation and public gathering, and we look forward to engaging in this collaborative effort.”

She then described the partnership with Cory Mervis, the Downtown Project and the Burner-inspired company behind First Friday, noting that Art Cars were a key part of the vision:

The partnership will enhance First Friday in Las Vegas by providing more opportunities for participation and interaction, strengthening the event’s civic-minded emphasis, and developing ways to keep attendees connected. The partnership would also like to provide storage, or a museum space, for art cars in Las Vegas so that they can participate in the First Friday and other public art events. In order to facilitate this process, the Burning Man Project is hiring a liaison, or “cultural attaché” that will be based in Las Vegas to work closely with Downtown Project.

“Hiring” means BMOrg is paying for this – which means we, the community, are paying for this. To my knowledge, this is the first time Burning Man has hired a full-time cultural attache to represent them in another city.

The Las Vegas Sun published a lengthy article in 2012 about all the links between Las Vegas and Burning Man, promoting it as an example of how the official Regional events can be used to accommodate the culture’s growth beyond available tickets to the Gerlach burn:

The main spark…came when Vanas, an event planner, was invited by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to invest in First Friday and handed a ticket to Burning Man. It was there that Vanas had his epiphany and chose to commit to First Friday LLC, a decision he says was based on the creativity and community experience he saw at Burning Man. Vanas and other locals in the Burning Man community want to see some of the event’s large-scale, interactive sculptures planted downtown.

This month’s First Friday festival, held on the “Burnal Equinox” (halfway between annual Burning Man events), might be the gateway to more Burning Man-inspired activities, motivated by the community-building principals of Black Rock City, which pops up in Northern Nevada for a week each year with theme camps, the burning of The Man and 50,000 attendees.

“It’s just the beginning,” says Bocskor, who, along with Mervis, runs the Society for Experimental Arts and Learning, a creative group inspired by Burning Man. “That’s why the name Flames of Change is so wonderful. What’s happening here in Vegas is setting new examples of what we can do. … With the first build of Lucky Lady Lucy, we had stagehands, accountants, bartenders, chefs, kids — all working together.

“It’s important for regional activities to go on that have the sense of Burning Man culture because the attendance is capped. There are more people who want to go than there are tickets.”

[Source: Las Vegas Sun]

The Washington Post (also bought by Bezos) wrote breathlessly about Larry Harvey’s genius for urban renewal:

These days, Harvey — now in his mid-60s, dressed in a gray cowboy hat, silver western shirt, and aviator sunglasses — is just as likely to reference Richard Florida as the beatniks he once met on Haight Street. Most recently, he’s been talking with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, who shares his vision of revitalizing Las Vegas, one of the cities hardest hit by the recent housing bust. “Urban renewal? We’re qualified. We’ve built up and torn down cities for 20 years,” says Harvey. “Cities everywhere are calling for artists, and it’s a blank slate there, blocks and blocks. … We want to extend the civil experiment — to see if business and art can coincide and not maim one another.”

Harvey points out that there’s been long-standing ties between Burning Man artists and to some of the private sector’s most successful executives. Its arts foundation, which distributes grants for festival projects, has received backing from everyone from real-estate magnate Christopher Bently to Mark Pincus, head of online gaming giant Zynga, as the Wall Street Journal points out. “There are a fair number of billionaires” who come to the festival every year, says Harvey, adding that some of the art is privately funded as well. In this way, Burning Man is a microcosm of San Francisco itself, stripping the bohemian artists and the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of their usual tribal markers on the blank slate of the Nevada desert. At Burning Man, “when someone asks, ‘what do you do?’ — they meant, what did you just do” that day, he explains.

So what did BMOrg just do?

It’s been three and a half years now since this BMOrg-sponsored PR campaign kicked off. The Art Car parade grew, from 1,000 in 2010,  12,000 at the time BMOrg announced the partnership, to 70,000 last year, and an expected 100,000 this year.

BMOrg made an announcement that they’d picked a city to support, and it was Las Vegas. They got some press to write about it, and sent Marian for a panel discussion. They hired a cultural attache.

And this is what it has all come to. Parade cancelled, Burners pissed, 100,000 people disappointed.

With all the skills and talent and resources in this community, with all the Medici style HNWI patrons, with hundreds of art cars on tap and easily summoned to action…we couldn’t even get a parade together?

It’s bad enough that the parade couldn’t be organized by its self-appointed organizers and their financial behemoth partners. What makes it worse is that the cancellation came just 3 weeks before the event. People had already been spending months working on costumes and art cars in preparation.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.30.29

So, what went wrong?

The estimated budget was $150,000. There are people in Vegas dropping that nightly. Ex-Kardashian Lamar Odom just spent $75,000 for a weekend drug binge with two hookers he didn’t even touch.

Lebron James Bar Tab. Image: Brobible

Lebron James Bar Tab. Image: Brobible

Surely the cultural attache of Burning Man can organize a street party, when they’ve been doing it for years, and it has the mayor’s blessing, the people’s support, sponsors, cops ready to go, and all the permits required. Right?

From the Las Vegas Review Journal:

“It really sucks,” she says. “This was heartbreaking to have to call it off. We did everything in our power to make this happen. In the end, it was the smart thing to do.”

Mervis says it came down to not having the financial backing to do the things they wanted to do.

For the past few months, they have been able to acquire some sponsorships. But wanting to make the event bigger than before – Halloween is on a Saturday and Mervis thought there would be a larger crowd – she knew it would take more money.

“We wanted more police officers, more barricades, more marketing and needed more insurance,” she says. “We were looking at about $150,000. I could have finagled the budget, but I really didn’t want to do things on the cheap.

Mervis says they do plan to return next year. She hopes to spend the next year acquiring more sponsors and up the ante on the parade.

“Ask me where I’m going for Halloween?” she says. “Disneyland. I want to get a few ideas. I want this to be like the Macy’s parade one day.”

It sounds like the money could have been raised, and perhaps even some fat in the budget could be trimmed (for example, save money on marketing, contact Burners.Me) but the standards of the organizers were too high. Couldn’t Burning Man’s full-time cultural attache go to the $34 million parent company and say “hey, we’re in danger of having no parade at all, please contribute”? What about starting a Kickstarter, and marketing that to BMOrg’s nearly 1 million strong Facebook audience? This sounds like exactly the kind of art in community situation that Burning Man Arts should be reaching out and supporting.

Here’s Cory Mervis giving a speech. Note the Beatles-style jacket, just like that usually worn by Burning Man’s Social Alchemist and Global Ambassador, Bear Kittay. Is this a uniform now?

She seems to have no problem riding the coat-tails of the Burning Man brand, network, and social movement. And BMOrg seem to have no problem endorsing her, employing her, and funding her. Indeed Zappos, the Downtown Project, and the City of Las Vegas seem to all have been enthusiastic partners of Burning Man. So a failure like this hurts the global spread of our culture.

Who takes responsibility? Who takes the blame? Who fixes the mess? Who looks at it to say “we fucked up, what can we do better next time?”. Nobody. For the sake of a few minutes launching a Kickstarter, or a couple of phone calls to Larry and Marian, everybody missed out.

Burners were not impressed with the surprise last-minute cancellation. Some had planned international travel to attend the Parade.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.33.35 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.34.01 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.34.38 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.34.53 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.35.03 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.35.16 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.35.27

Is there, as one of the commenters suggested, more to this story that they’re not telling us? There usually is. Earlier this year the BLM moved against Further Future at the last minute, forcing them to change venue. Those guys are total professionals, and had a Plan B lined up. The Burning Man Project team seems less experienced with event planning.

Nevada politics is a murky scene, but still, a parade doesn’t seem that hard to put together. $150,000? Really?



Burner Love: Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb

me on bomb_0

A guest post from Joycebird. You can check out some of her other writing at The Art of Transgression

Burner Love: Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb

by Joycebird
Burning Man is great for couples; Burning Man is hard on couples.
My fiancé recently posted a picture of the drive home. Our close friend, prone to carsickness, rides shotgun beside him, while I peek out from amidst a ton of crap in the backseat, Waldo-esque. My ego throws its umpteenth tissy fit. I should be beside him. Not her. Me.

We’d gotten off to a strange, unsettling, but ultimately very cathartic start. On Monday night, he stayed by my side while I lost all touch with reality and ran through people’s camps in my fur-kini, celebrating the coming of the First Nirvana. While I had my own personal Mormon-turned-Taoist jubilation, shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna!”  and literally rolling on the ground with joy, he followed me, just as high, navigating the google dream network, picking up my belongings as I shed them, and crossing his fingers that no undercover cops would witness what was clearly a hallucinogenic trip, as he was far from sober himself and had more substances on him.

It was a struggle for him not to leave me behind the way he himself was left behind by his father at a very young age. But he didn’t leave me. For the next several days we were on a close and loving high, mine fueled by humility, gratitude, and a sense of security, his by the realization that I am helping him to become the man his father couldn’t be.

Our friend, away from her lover and feeling shy, spent much of the burn with us. Nights huddled against the cold of the desert, she opened up to us about her insecurities, about her troubled relationship with her partner (who was not at the burn), about how hard it was for her to feel desirable anymore. We kissed her and told her she was beautiful. We opened up our abundant love to her.
The morning after one such night of loving conversation and snuggles, I’d retired to my tent for a nap. I expected him to join me at any moment, and when I woke up to find him still missing, I felt a pang of sadness.

I asked another camp friend where he was and was informed somewhat cautiously that he was in her tent. My heart began to pound. I crouched under the tent fly. His face emerged wearing a goofy grin. “What’s up, baby?” I asked, failing to sound casual.

“I just ate her out.”

Everything inside of me constricted. “I don’t think her boyfriend is going to be very happy about this.”

There was a pause. “I didn’t think about that.”

“Yeah, well,” I muttered. I backed out and stumbled to my tent, observing the emotions rolling over me. The tears felt small and petty but I let them come.

I cried my fear that his tenderness towards her and their many commonalities of personality and interest would transform into a love stronger than our own. I cried an imaginary future of being the wife of that particular village hero who is good to everyone at the expense of his own family. I cried the loss of my uncomplicated bliss.

I’d said he could have a Burner girlfriend (a fairly common thing among Burner couples). We’d even talked about the possibility of helping this friend to feel sexy in a more hands-on way. But I was in no way prepared for something to happen without my presence or explicit consent.

She came in and put a hand on my back. She spoke my name gently. I didn’t respond or bother to hide from her the fact that I was crying. After a moment she let me be. Then he was beside me, calmly and gently fielding my hurt. Misunderstandings were unpacked. My lover’s concern was genuine. He hadn’t expected me to react this way. I began to calm down. This kind of thing is hard enough, I told him. It’s something I want to be open to in the right circumstances, and it’s also very hard. “Please don’t ever, ever make assumptions or jump to conclusions again. Please make sure to ask me first.”

“Your feelings are the most important thing to me. I would never do anything to jeopardize our relationship. You’re the most magical thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said.

“All of the stories that you hear about this kind of thing end in pain and separation.”

“They don’t have to.”

I took some deep breaths. Wiped away my tears. Emerged from the tent into the sun and walked over to our friend. I straddled her, wrapped my arms around her, and hugged her for a long time. She hugged me back. “I love you,” I told her. “I love you,” she said.

Another challenge was put to me on the night of the temple burn, an event we were highly looking forward to. We’d missed it last year, and our experience there together this year had been very poignant. As sad as I was to see the city come down around us, I was feeling particularly close to both my lover and our mutual friend now that I’d mostly taken in stride their unexpected encounter. I was enjoying the afterglow of how rewarding openness and forgiveness can be.

There was another woman in our camp now, someone who’d identified my lover as a kind soul and gravitated toward him and shared her woes. Our friend had bristled at this addition (which I found amusing, considering) and I’d been magnanimous, giving my blessing again for a sexual encounter. He reassured me that his feelings were nurturing and nonsexual. We both celebrated this new development.

One thing led to another and we looked up from our camp to see the smoke of the temple rising. He swore and took off with the new camp mate, accidentally leaving us behind with one bike too few. We searched for him fruitlessly. When we finally made it back to camp, his pack was waiting at the tent, light on, and his headlamp was on the steps of our new friend’s RV. Once again, my heart sank.

We knocked on the door and called out his name. He answered. “Can we come in?”

“…Give me a second.”

Despite having technically given him permission, my feelings this time truly overwhelmed me. I threw my pack on the ground and sank down, shaking and crying. Our close friend told him to hurry; that I needed him.

Our society puts such a lot of weight on sexual indiscretions. We treat physicality as the holy grail of fidelity. Is the sex act ever really the problem? Or is it the violated trust, the lack of consideration? Is it the forced encounter with feelings we hate to experience, with realities of our partner’s otherness we’d prefer not to know?

I asked him repeatedly, shaking him, “How could you? How could you? I don’t understand how this could happen.” It took me a while to listen to his response, but I really did want to know. I didn’t just want to punish him. I didn’t want to wallow in my victimhood.

When he went down on our friend, I knew that it came from a place of wanting to help her heal. I knew it came from a place of affection. I knew he trusted my offer to let such a thing occur. This, it was clear, came from a very different place. He was angry he’d missed the burn, and then upset with himself for leaving us behind. He wondered why we didn’t catch up with him; imagined we had simply wandered off without a care. He felt anxious and self-loathing and maybe a little vengeful.

I could have demonized him for succumbing to these emotions. I could have distanced myself from his weakness. I could have turned away from his pain and focused exclusively on my experience.

But the more I listened to his excuses, the fudged details about who had actually initiated, the attempts to self-exonerate, the closer I felt to him. He sounded exactly like I did when I’d allowed a situation to make a decision for me in order to satisfy some urge or soothe some wound to my ego. As crazy as it may sound to you dedicated monogamists out there, his infidelity made us closer.

The next morning I apologized to the woman involved for letting my negativity affect her experience. I saw that she fully trusted my acceptance of the situation and had no thought of disrupting the sanctity of our relationship, and we became friends. Forging another story of how women interact in such circumstances–not as competitors, but as sisters and friends.

Back at home, I still have some anger to express, I still have fears and doubts, and he meets it all with love, honesty, and patience. I still find myself anxious over our mutual friend, and he reassures me. She and I are closer than ever.

This whole thing has rebooted our too-comfortable sex life. It has offered new perspective. He was surprised and grateful when his new friend asked his consent before giving a blowjob. It had never really occurred to me that men might need and deserve respect for their sexual agency in the same way women do (rather than having their desires taken for granted).

Burning Man offers unique opportunities for exploration, self-growth, and for destroying negative patterns and forging new ones. As scary as new territory can be, safety and comfort are not the same as happiness.

I look at the picture again. Our friend is glowing and transformed. My lover and life partner wears one of his trademark crazy grins. My ego and I sit in the backseat, tired and happy. Soon after the photo was taken he reached his hand over the back of the seat, grasping mine, holding it as he drove, and whispered to me his love and appreciation and admiration.

It’s not for everyone, I understand that. But I wouldn’t trade our Burner love for the status quo version–not in a million burns.