Bear’s Tribute to Larry

Burning Man’s former Social Alchemist Bear Kittay shares his memories of Larry Harvey, as well as some insight into how Larry’s crowning achievement of a permanent, year-round Philosophy Center came together.


Guest Post by Bear Kittay

“Burning Man’s a self-service cult, you wash your own brain.” -Larry Harvey
Larry Harvey. Visionary, poet, iconoclast, beat, muse, my friend. We had our glorious ups, and some terrific and intense downs together. Spirited debate and philosophical sparring. As Global Ambassador, I had the privilege of accompanying Larry to the likes of Turkey, Ibiza, London, Paris and beyond. Our connection was potent, originating with transgenerational juxtaposition of the significance of Burning Man as a cultural phenomenon through the lens of ancient history, culture, commerce and technology.
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Larry’s enigmatic approach definitively set the trajectory for Burning Man as a movement, with genius foresight, protecting the “anti-brand” at all costs, both stewarding this as the gold standard of what I like to call “post-capitalistic social physics” in it’s ephemeral event, and, much to my millennial chagrin at moments, arguably diminishing its capacity to collectively evolve into a true movement beyond himself as the “anti-cult” leader. This is not to say that he didn’t possibly have the most genius plan for scale of all: to restrict the organizational capacity and thus force function the diaspora to scale independently, powered by the remarkably relevant Ten Principles, as it most certainly has. But possibly nowhere on earth is there a community with more capacity and demand to govern itself with decentralized ageny in earnest than Burning Man.
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Larry didn’t have a formal succession plan. To his, and the other “founders” credit, they sacrificed financial gain for the protection of decommodification in earnest by giving up their ownership in the LLC to the nonprofit. But, from my personal experience, true evolutionary governance for Burning Man during his reign was not something that interested him. In a lesser known act, he and the “founders” retained control of the Intellectual Property of Burning Man in an entity most ironically named “Decommodification LLC”, and kept this governed independently of the Burning Man Project non-profit and it’s wider Board of Directors.
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I haven’t spoken or written publicly about my experience co-leading the acquisition of Fly Ranch. It really should be a book. Thrilling emotional saga to say the least. So much complexity – a true miracle that we were able to pull it off despite so many obstacles (notwithstanding ourselves). It was Larry‘s last unrealized prophecy for Burning Man. Three attempts, over 15+ years, had been made to acquire the property but none successful. It was this challenge that turned me on and my beloved Katiyana and I, along with a devoted team (Daniel Claussen, James Milner & countless others), dedicated two years of our lives to fulfilling this dream. It was with a great deal of hubris, naïveté and unbridled passion that we gave this our all, leveraging introductions to weave directly to the very titans of industry within the community who had the capacity to write the extremely unconventional types of checks necessary to both fund the enormity of the project and the patience and care to tolerate the unwillingness to plan what would happen there or commit to how it would be governed, not to mention the eccentric personalities and bizarre bureaucracy.
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And how we did the “sales”… was a legend of its on accord. During Burning Man in 2014, and 2015, Katiyana led the “top-secret operation” where we organized discrete “tours” of Fly Ranch during the event. Some of these were more structured via first camp, while others were nothing short of rouge playful kidnapping raids on billionaires through the back gate of Black Rock City (known as Point One) and back for dinner. Naked, singing, visionary, shamanic, philosophical, sexy… many forms of magic occurred. But these relationships and moments together transcended time and space, and laid the foundation for the leap of faith required to close the transaction at long last, as well as an “unofficial” ecosystem beyond.
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And it was in the 11th hour as the funding and acquisition became a reality that I had my moment with Larry, pleading with him to, for the sake of his legacy, commit to more inclusive process and governance design that would demonstrate Fly Ranch as a V2 for Burning Man. A laboratory to prototype the future of human civilization and bring the processes, best practices and of course, magic of Burning Man to the world at large. We didn’t see eye to eye, but continued to have respect for each other even going through the predictable (to most but not me at the time) break up that followed. When we finally closed the transaction on my 31st birthday, June 6 2016, it was clear my 4 year stint of time serving in the Burning Man Global Government-Aristocracy-Church-Nonprofit was up. Bittersweet breakup. Ego death. Life lessons that money could never buy.
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My last conversation with Larry, I bumped into him outside of his apartment on Alamo Square in San Francisco. We spent two hours in a passionate conversation (with the typical plumes of Larry smoke) where I explained to him all that I had been learning about the Blockchain and its capacity to provide a grand template for evolutionary governance. He was skeptically intrigued. I left feeling a deep sense of reverent satisfaction and walked across the park…
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And now Larry’s gone. A transition in a time of transition. What will the future hold for Burning Man? Has the movement evolved beyond the event? Are the many connotations of Burning Man now amassed in a lexicon of terms and verbs more broadly such that the burden of post-capitalist / decentralized leadership is no longer on the organization to steward?
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The longer that has gone by since we parted ways, the more wisdom I realize was gleamed from him. In a world of binary, quantifiable, branded paradigms, Larry was an artist of the coyote: diagonal, sarcastic, socratic. He wouldn’t give you direct answers, he would ask vexing and whimsical questions. He wouldn’t tell you what it was, he would only ruminate upon it’s reflections. Thank you Larry Harvey. Your irreverent genius will always accompany me somewhere deep in my conscience. Although you claimed to be an atheist, I do wonder if you are consciously prancing somewhere in another realm far beyond… I hope to see you there.
🐻❤🙏🙏🙏
-Bear

Flickering In The Dust

Thanks to Michael Tosner for sharing this new documentary.

“The Fires Of Burning Man” (c) 2018
A music-driven documentary about the culture of Fire Performers and the wider Burning Man community. Primarily shot in 2015 and focused on the journey of a Vancouver BC based fire troupe “MythMaker”; it explores the ritual, cathartic, spiritual, and just plain fun nature of fire, and watching things burn. Additional footage used from 2014, 2016, & 2017. This footage may not be used for any commercial purpose.
Find out more about the artists who generously gifted their time and talents to this project:
burningman.org/culture/history/art-history/archive/
presentdayprod.com
mythmaker.ca/mythmaker_homepage.htm
laurenturkmusic.com/
kaialtair.com/
humanexperiencecreations.com/
suzkamusic.com/
reverbnation.com/musician/kevinpariso
kidsavant.bandcamp.com/
soundcloud.com/davidkiss

The New Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man

Philippe Glade has been a fan of Burning Man for 20+ years. He takes time every year to travel the entirety of Black Rock City looking for amazing examples of architecture. He has brought us the Golden Rebar awards, which we covered here:

2015 Golden Rebar Awards: Pods Pervade the Playa

2014 Golden Rebar Awards

2013 Golden Rebar Awards

This is Black Rock City

Philippe finally took his work and published it as a book, thinking that others in the community would be interested in what took years of his life. We get a shout-out in the book, Burners.Me is thanked for being the “counter-culture” of Burning Man.

The book was featured in Architectural Digest, WIRED, Curbed, and CNN.

Sadly, only 289 people were interested enough to buy one. Philippe, disillusioned, plans to quit Burning Man for good and burn the remaining copies of his book. He says “as far as I see participants are not really into the fabric of their city, this is a sour surprise for me.”

Philippe wrote a sad farewell on his blog This Is Black Rock City

After 21 burns and 10 years blogging it’s time to call it quits.

This blog was created to be more reactive than my old pages
going back to 1996 and with the hope to inspire and grow
a community of like-minded participants building a functioning city
in an inhospitable environment while having fun, mostly.

Within the years I posted thousands of images of camps, structures,
along with hundreds of reliable links, which was an exhausting labor of love,
my ethereal gift to the community.

The Golden Rebar Award was created to highlight the innovative
or most surprising shelters that I considered as important
as the various art installations all along the playa.

My secret fantasy was to have an informal and zany ceremony were I could give away the physical Golden Rebar Awards.

Instead of that, I made a book.

2 years were spent on  Research / Writing / Editing / Design and Layout (which paid off with a 2017 Graphic Design Award) / Production and Problem Solving /
The result was a burner worthy book with a tactile cloth cover and blind embossing, packed with info, data, tips and, most of all, a very large visual spectrum of our vernacular architecture.

One year was spent on a worldwide promotional campaign with stellar results: features on CNN, Wired, Wallpaper (of all!!), Architectural Digest and more (not too bad for a Frenchman working alone from a tiny San Francisco bedroom)

From around the world 289 buyers daringly purchased this self-reliant project.

This dismal performance resulted in several drastic personal changes.

As for the commodification debate, the goal was with the profit,
to publish limited edition books of two talented playa photographers.

Instead of working on this exciting project, I am looking, now,
for international movers to cheaply and sheepishly
regroup and recoup overseas.
Time to burn the page.

Unable to keep a sales structure and book cases in storage,
by respect for my daring 289 buyers, the remaining books (850)
will be terminated (Baker beach style) at the end of the year
without any Black Friday, French tickler Sunday or Tutu Tuesday.

The good news is: there will be one less photographer on the playa
and one less overwhelming blog to read.

Support Philippe and buy one of the limited edition books before they are gone forever. It’s really very good, the range of Burnitecture on display is truly mind-blowing. Big thanks and much kudos to Philippe for taking the photos, and all the imaginative Burners who created the structures.

The Global Leadership Conference for 2018 has been called off, perhaps to avoid answering awkward questions raised by our Shadow History of Burners investigation. Is this it for Burning Man now? Are people just over it? Is it really a lifestyle and ideology that can change the world, or is it just a fun party for one week a year?

Will other temporary cities emerge with this kind of ephemeral architecture? I sure hope so.


Re-blogged from This Is Black Rock City

Welcome to Black Rock City 2017 Golden Rebar Awards

Golden Rebar for keeping up 
with Buckminster Fuller
Black Lotus Society Camp with true geodesic sphere of 24′ diameter
Golden Rebar for Serene Scene
Serene is the least word you would associate Black Rock City with.
Weathered burners know this place, so I will not mention it in a vain attempt to keep it as is,
an oasis of silence
Octayurts in the Mindfield
Sometimes there is a fine line between an art installation and a camp
There goes the Neighborhood Golden Rebar
Suburbia Camp 2017 once again brought tongue-in-cheek and joie de vivre with its white picket fences, plywood mansions, mailboxes, astroturf and traffic lights
Caravan of Light Camp 2017 with portal
Caravan of Light Camp with many Bell tents
Mayan Warrior Camp with Alien Buffalo Tents
Tension tent with SHIFTPODs for Serendipitea Camp

 

Black Rock City Shelter

Cloud Extruded. Courtesy of Philippe Glade.

philippe glade
Black Rock City Shelter

The Chiton. Courtesy of Philippe Glade.

philippe glade
Black Rock City Shelter

Sacred Spaces Village. Courtesy of Philippe Glade.

philippe glade
Black Rock City Shelter

Hundertwasser House. Courtesy of Philippe Glade

Read more at This Is Black Rock City.