Why We Burn: Heavy Meta

(Returning to my Why We Burn series, I wanted to cast the spotlight on Heavy Meta, a majority woman-built/non-American Art Car that will be hitting Hyperborea (a new Ontario Regional Burn) and the playa this summer. When we last spoke with Kevin Bracken, we spoke about Brooklyn, Toronto and Opulent Temple. This time, I’m so pleased to have spoken to his colleagues, a group of kick-ass ladies who are turning this car into a legit metal dragon. Enjoy this discussion about Burning Man in Canada, dystopian, welding & being awesome. And don’t forget to smash the play button on their favorite tunes from Art Cars over the years!)

Interview by Terry Gotham

After hearing from the team that’s behind this Leviathan, I began to grasp just how different the perspectives of non-American Burners can be. While I’ve spoken to non-American Burners before, there’s a lot of good stuff in this chat, not just including the fact that in Canada, you can get high school credit by working on an art car! Who knew\ “the low Canadian dollar” could be used as a reason when you’re completing your Low-Income Ticket application, so all you Canadian Burners who need a little bit of help, take note!

Kevin: We actually have two teenagers who come to the shop regularly, Jackie and Alex. Jackie is indeed completing a high school credit by working on the dragon, and we met her teacher yesterday! The first time Jackie came in, and Alex too, the American in me was definitely anxious, thinking, “If they get hurt, their parents will totally sue me!” However, Canadians are considerably less litigious than Americans, and each of them came vouched for by a different maker space, which put me at ease. On top of that, Jackie has completed a welding course and a workplace safety course, plus she can lay down a nicer weave than I can on the welder! Obviously we don’t let under 19s drink in the shop (the drinking age here is 19.) Finally, considering I went to my first rave in Jamaica, Queens at 15, I thought it would be hypocritical to keep them out just because they’re young.

Continue reading

Radical Inclusion Party Foul

A guest post by Mayor of the Techno Ghetto Terbo Ted TerboLizard, the founder of doof at Burning Man. Ever wonder why there are thousands of massively popular raves in the world, and yet the Cacophony Society didn’t really grow beyond a few groups of a couple of hundred weirdos? In 2017 They are still promoting the idea that we should glorify the Cock’o’phonies while demonizing the ravers, which shows how out of touch the Burning Man Organization has become from the community that creates the $40 million cash cow/ party arts festival for them for free every year. It’s tax-free for them, but Burners still pay a 9% tax on their tickets. And bring the food, the bars, the music, the DJs, the art cars, and so on.

How many people at Burning Man like the music coming from the art cars and big camps? Half? More than half? Personally I would say 95%+, YMMV. If you didn’t like that sort of music, Burning Man would be an oddly uncomfortable place to spend a week’s vacation time.

Count the crowds, and look where they are. A lot of crowds, all over the Playa, almost always around music, they always make sure to use the best speakers, you can get more Info about them on soundmoz.com. It is clear that electronic music is what made Burning Man so popular, and if the Ten Principles mean anything at all, it means we should welcome people who come to enjoy that aspect of Burner culture at least as much as we welcome anyone else. Not try to shun and shame those who made Burning Man what it is, out of some weird ideal of “what a Burner should be” – presumably some sort of submissive, compliant, social justice virtue signalling volunteer freak. Burning Man was HUGE before the Ten Principles were thought up.

BURNERBITCH

Image: Leila Moussaoui, The Bold Italic

 


Burning Man: Radical Inclusion Party Foul

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Anyone who follows Burningman culture year-round probably stumbled across a recent article titled “Burning Man’s Culture Is In Danger – Tales from the Global Leadership Conference.” The wildly popular article at burn.life prominently featured a picture of ne’er do well young party bros in unfortunate festival attire, with the caption “Ultimately, the worst case scenario is that we end up with an event dominated by idiots like this (not sure where this was taken or who took it, but it’s not at BM….yet.)”
Before I get into any more details, I am going to both embarrass myself and brag a little bit… here is a picture of me, as a young man in my early twenties, out on the playa in 1992, right after I played THE first DJ set EVER at Burning Man.

Terbo Ted at Burning Man, 1992, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
That’s what I wore for my set. Note the visual similarities in how myself and the four young men are dressed; literally, I could stand next to these fellas being portrayed as ‘bad guys’ 25 years into the future and fit right in.
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But let’s look at the history of Burningman. When the collectives I associated with brought rave culture out there- electronic dance music- whatever you want to call it, many of the early burners treated us like pariahs. ‘Ravers’ were blamed for just about anything that went wrong in early 90s burns, and some of it was deserved, and some of it wasn’t. But there were three key BM organizers in the early years on the playa who were the glue that made Burningman stick. Larry Harvey, Michael Mikel (aka Danger Ranger) and John Law were all very supportive of our efforts to bring a new facet of culture into the Burningman experience. Those three understood the concept of radical inclusion well before that was even a stated principle of the event. The written ten principles came to the playa much later than the DJ sound systems. Today there are all kinds of arguments going back and forth regarding the virtues or failures of the music culture at Burningman, that’s another discussion for another time.
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Let’s look at the attire everyone is so scared of. When I was in my early 20s I was living on something like $500 a month or less in San Francisco. That is impossible now but it wasn’t really possible then either. I had no money for fancy clothes. The neon hat I had was a free giveaway from the liquor store, it had a cigarette brand sponsor. I used to smoke cigarettes back then. I used to go over to Larry’s house for coffee and talk about plans for the upcoming MAN year-round. At times I would take two packs of cigarettes (buy-one-get-one free quality you understand) and give one of the packs to Larry, who also was living on next to nothing as far as money goes. The shirt I had on in this picture was something you’d get out of a free pile somewhere outside of a thrift store, or for a dollar at a garage sale (they used to have those in the Mission, believe it or not). That was how we lived. If you had told me back then that people would be expected to wear elaborately hand made outfits that cost thousands of dollars to the burn I would not have believed you. If I had any costume at all for Burningman back then, it was because I got it for free somehow.
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Let’s apply that to the ‘party goons’ in this picture. I was able to easily find those garments they’re wearing online. The neon green RAGE hats are $10, you can buy them online here. The shirts with garish slogans are also in the $10-$20 range. The point I’m getting to is that young people don’t have lots of excess money, and you’re going to see these sorts of fun and low-cost things being worn. The young kids don’t have $800 for a handmade steampunk top hat with hand distressed goggles sewn in, and the entire outfit that goes with it, do you understand?
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And let’s decode the messaging in their attire:
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RAGE. Hey, it’s kinda close to BURN. Party on.
ALL I DO IS FUCK & PARTY. I think many people at least fantasize that’s what their burn is going to be about, if not in fact acting it out for real. I know that I do those things out there (when not busy MOOPing of course). I’m hoping you get to do those things out there as well, if you choose to.
SHOW ME YOUR TITS. This is absolutely perfect male attire on Thursday afternoon for Critical Tits Bike Ride. I am going to order one for myself this year. Easy to find online in multiple colors and fonts and at low cost!
PARTY WITH SLUTS & ME GUSTA WHORES Burningman does take place in Nevada. Not Berkeley. Prostitution is legal in Nevada.
LET’S GET FUCKING WEIRD. Heck, this could be an official theme for one of the coming Burns for all I care. I approve.
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After twenty-five years of watching Burningman grow from less than 1000 people to selling out tens of thousands of tickets in half an hour, I’ve seen it go through many growing pains and phases, some of which were gut wrenchingly awful, some of which were transformative in a beautiful way.
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When we were first going out there, I remember Larry explaining to me that when you put yourself into that void out there on the playa, whatever it is that is you- your inner self- is going to emerge because there’s nothing else there as a reference point. Everything you do out there is your inner self projecting itself into the world. The experience there is real. Something like that. The concept of Radical Self Expression undoubtably rose out of these beliefs.
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Today, I can’t help but cringe at all of the Burner fashion conformity that happens. You can find websites in China selling ‘Burner’ style goggles now. And you know the look I’m talking about, the ‘Mad Max Muppet Pirate Clown on Acid’ get-up or whatever it is you see tens of thousands of times out there. We didn’t have a dress code at early Burningmans (although that’s not true, there were cocktail parties and theme parties with dress codes out there as early as I can remember). It’s great that the culture has developed some sort of visual ontology- maybe- but that we’ve seen that culture start to move toward exclusion of chosen costumes is a step in the wrong direction, a step away from inclusion, away from expression, it’s a push toward conformity and rule following. Early Burningmans were populated and created by pranksters, they pushed the boundaries of what was socially acceptable, comfortable, or- in many instances- lawful. They weren’t conforming to anything. Unlike today’s Burner culture. Shame on you people.
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After the burn.life article was getting heavily forwarded around social media I had started making light hearted and favorable comments about the photo with the party bros on the Facebook group called ‘Official Unofficial Burning Man Page’ or whatever it is. I posted links where you could buy RAGE hats or some of the shirts in the comment threads, jokingly (and not for profit or anything like that, not as a commodity) as a commentary. And one of the admins banned me from the Facebook group. Shame on you people.
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And let’s pretend those four party bros are out there this year in their chosen attire everyone wants to make fun of. Neon RAGE party hats and all. Having them time of their lives. Maybe they’ll even have some Whip-Its™ to share at sunrise, and you could do some with them and teach them about MOOP in the process. Remember, virgins are very welcome at Burningman. And once virgins get exposed to the culture, they can’t be unexposed to it. Who knows what great new and heretofore unthunk inspirations from the playa might transform those young bros’ lives. Hopefully they wouldn’t instead get forced down a path of derisive hierarchical conformity from the experience of going out there. The default world does that well enough, thank you.
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About the storyteller:
Terbo Ted first visited the Black Rock Desert in 1992 when there was no gate, no perimeter, no road, no trash fence and you could drive your car as fast as you wanted in any direction. Terbo was the first DJ to play in Black Rock City, with no one there to hear his set on a dusty Friday afternoon. Later, in the early years he was the only one ever to be called “Mayor of the Techno Ghetto.” His playa self and default world self can be remarkably similar these days.

Art Cars: Now Chosen by Curators

M&R Photography

Image: M & R Photography, Flickr (Creative Commons)

Over at eplaya, Trilobyte has posted the new rules for Mutant Vehicles.

Have a cool art car? That’s no longer enough. In order to bring it, the Art Czar will have to decide that it fits the aesthetic they desire for the year’s theme – and if you are in good enough standing in your sucking up to BMOrg.

Burning Man 2.0 is about pedestrians and bicycles, not Art Cars and DJs.

2016 MUTANT VEHICLE PROCESS CHANGES

The Department of Mutant Vehicles is moving to a new system for processing Mutant Vehicle applications in 2016.

THE SHORT VERSION
The increased volume of Mutant Vehicle applications (nearly 1000 in 2015) is requiring the DMV to be more selective than ever. Having a vehicle on the playa in the past is no guarantee of
being invited in the future! Put your best foot forward in your application and give us a reason to invite your vehicle to Black Rock City. The Mutant Vehicle application form will be closing earlier than ever this year: Noon (PST) on April 13.

THE WHOLE STORY
In past years, the DMV has invited every vehicle to the playa that met the published Mutant Vehicle requirements. We strove to have an objective process to evaluate each application, focusing on level of mutation – not on quality of the art. It’s important to know that if you think it’s a good idea to art up a Car Leasing from ICL that you catch on the way, think again.

Each Mutant Vehicle application is reviewed by a committee of DMV Hotties, and we strive to reach a consensus agreement on whether the vehicle has met the criteria. Historically the DMV team has reviewed each application shortly after it was received, and responded to the vehicle creator as quickly as possible. Over the years, the Mutant Vehicle Community has steadily “ratcheted up” the bar a vehicle must pass, and we’re now at a point where we require vehicles to be completely mutated – showing little or none of the original base vehicle.

In spite of the stricter requirements, the number of applications has steadily grown, and the number of thoroughly mutated vehicles now exceeds what we can accommodate on the playa. Burning Man is primarily a pedestrian and bicycle city, and only a fraction of burners can bring a vehicle before the playa becomes too crowded with them. Our goal is to enable our creative community of artists making mutated vehicles to show off their creations, while balancing the needs of playa preservation, visual stimulation, and safety.

In response, the DMV is revising how we evaluate applications to bring a Mutant Vehicle to the playa. Rather than considering each vehicle on its own merits, we’re moving to a “curation” model, wherein we will consider each vehicle within the context of all the qualified applications we receive. A vehicle will still be required to meet the published Mutant Vehicle criteria, but that alone won’t guarantee an invitation to bring it to the playa. We will also be looking to invite a balance of different types of vehicles on the playa: large scale sound vehicles, flame effects focused vehicles, small artistic vehicles, large transport vehicles, highly participatory vehicles, etc. We are dedicated to licensing vehicles from projects of all budget levels, not just the most expensively built ones.

We will be looking for vehicles that have good execution of their design concept. We will also be evaluating the originality of a vehicle. There are already quite a number of bar-cars, furniture cars and boats, for example – and that might not be the best design choice for a new vehicle you’re considering. When it comes to larger vehicles, we will be favoring vehicles that have a sterling record for inclusivity when it comes to offering rides to the public.

So…what can you do to maximize the chance of being able to bring your vehicle to the playa this year?

  • Fill out your application thoroughly. Including more detail is better than less.
  • Make sure your application gives us a very clear vision of your vehicle.
  • The application should clearly describe the concept for your vehicle and what you have done or will do to realize that concept.
  • Good photos of both the day and nighttime appearance are necessary – If you’re building a new vehicle that isn’t complete yet, then detailed design sketches are a good alternative to photos.
  • Vehicles desiring a night license need to be detailed about the lighting plan for the vehicle.
  • Mutant Vehicles which align with or comment on Burning Man’s annual theme will be given greater consideration.

Please recognize not every vehicle will be invited. Having brought your vehicle to the playa in a prior year is no guarantee that you’ll get invited again. Your application will be considered in comparison to the other applications we receive. Make sure your application conveys what excited you about building the vehicle in the first place!

In past years, we’ve allowed vehicle creators who were not selected to appeal our decision, and offer up additional details about their vehicle, or change some part of their design. Our new process eliminates appeals, so it’s more important than ever your application be filled out clearly and completely!

Lastly, the deadline for submitting an application will be noon PST on April 13. In past years, we’ve been able to accommodate vehicles that missed the deadline. Because of our new evaluation system, we can no longer do that. So get your vehicle application in early!

Thanks for your time, and we look forward to seeing all of your amazing creative vehicle designs this year. If you have questions, please get in touch with the Burning Man Department of Mutant Vehicles at dmv@burningman.org.

RESOURCES

  • The main DMV webpage is available here
  • The DMV Mutant Vehicle criteria are available here
  • DMV Information on Vehicles for People with Disabilities is here

[Source: ePlaya]

In 2014, the last year we have an AfterBurn report for, there were 600 Mutant Vehicles in Burning Man. So 1000 applications means if you made an Art Car, you have a 60/40 chance of getting it to Burning Man. Basically, flip a coin.

Another Org decision that is just going to make it harder for Burners to plan and get excited about the Burn. They don’t know if their whole camp can go, and now they don’t know if their art car can go either.

It calls into question the entire idea of raising money to invest in an art car, if there is no guarantee it is even going to be permitted at Burning Man – or if it can be turned away on the whim of some faceless groupthink influencer at BMHQ. No appeal, no oversight. That’s it, done – and if you ever want anything approved by them again, placement or an art car or an art project or early access passes or even (gulp!) tickets – you better just shut up and take it.

The series of ticket crises and systems has ended the idea of a camp of friends who would all get together every year at Burning Man; or people arranging to meet each other at a future Burn. Now, it’s pot luck. A lottery. Planning goes out the window, when it all becomes so arbitrary. Unless you have some juice inside the Org, of course. You know people who know people – and they’re the right people.

BMOrg are still trying to figure it out. Hate to break it to ’em, but 10 tickets are really not enough to organize a camp. 5 couples is a pretty small camp – 2 RVs or ShiftPods. I have people contacting me chasing 300 tickets:

Screenshot 2016-01-29 17.48.38

Prepare to get your participation forms in, folks. In about a month, you’ll be able to fill out online questionnaires and applications, so that your process of bring art to Burning Man may finally (possibly) begin…

Heads-up, folks! The various participation forms for the 2016 event will go live on February 24th at noon PST. At that point, you’ll be able to start filling out the questionnaires and applications for your projects. The deadlines vary by project, and are listed below. You don’t have to scramble to get them in the minute the forms open, but you DO need to make sure you fill it out and hit the final submit button BEFORE that deadline.

  • Camp Placement Questionnaire – February 24, 2016 – April 28, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time
  • Mutant Vehicle Application – February 24, 2015 – April 13, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time
  • Disabled Persons Vehicle Application – February 24, 2016 – August 2, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time
  • Art Installation Questionnaire – February 24, 2016 – June 14, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time
  • BRC Media Application – February 24, 2015 – July 21, 2016 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time

[Source: ePlaya]

Burners Ascending to Prominence in the Art World

Art Basel in Miami is coming up in a couple of weeks (Dec 3-6). Many Burners love to attend this event, and more and more Burner artists are exhibiting their work there. In 2015, there will be 267 galleries from 32 countries in the official show.

This year things are going to the next level for glowy- blinky- flamey- mobile- popup- UV- trippy- art (or whatever you want to call this genre…), with more than a dozen Burner artists teaming up to display their works in an air-conditioned warehouse filled with art cars.

Burner Stoke says:

Edge Art Fair is open to the public from 12:00 pm – 12:00 am each day. Its located in an air conditioned warehouse located at 1584 NW 29th St, Miami, 33142 just on the Edge of Wynwood.

Although this is our first year our artists have spent over 100 years combined at the Burning Man arts festival in Nevada and we are bringing that look and feel to Basel.

Yarrow Mazzetti (cofounder of the fair)  is the most prolific mutant vehicle builder in the world having transformed 26 cars into mutant vehicles. Our ladybuggies (type of mutant vehicle but consider it mobile street art) will be at the fair. Yarrow will also be unveiling two new pieces for the first time. The first are his series of Jellyfish which are 3 – 10 foot tall fiberglass shell jellyfish embedded with LEDs and Fiberoptics that change color to the music… He is also unveiling his “Nails” piece which are 8 foot long nails which will eventually form a major part of his street art.

JROC will be unveiling his 9 foot tall stainless steel dragon head.

Kenny Ferron – will be installing two LED music sensitive palm trees.

Samantha Scott – will be live painting models in blacklight paint. As she dresses all in black all you will be see from afar is a paintbrush glowing in blacklight paint – painting the model. Her photographs of models she has painted are for sale. If someone want to prebuy their piece they can participate in the painting of the model.

Richie Driscoll will be coming from LA to install his Chain Man piece. Chain man lives in an interactive chain land which the artist will build. Think adult version of a playground.

Peter Ruprecht and Tomas Loewy are two of the most successful photographers who amongs other areas have consistently shot Burning Man and so the entire walls of the warehouse will be covered in black material – with spot lights illuminating Tomas and Peter’s photographs.

Jeff Silver will be unveiling his light sandbox – which is an interactive sandbox built five feet of the ground. When you move your hand through the sand the lines you created illuminate by the LED lights which have been placed underneath.

When Hurricane Sandy took out power to Lower Manhattan, the Lady Buggies were one of the few things still glowing off

When Hurricane Sandy took out power to Lower Manhattan, the Lady Buggies were one of the few things still glowing off in the Meatpacking District

dragon miami

IMG_4008 IMG_4007 IMG_2531

 

I also hear that crowd favorite Rob Buchholz will be exhibiting some of his work in Miami this year.

rob buchholz staples center

We support Burner art getting out into the wider world. It seems this sort of thing is how we take Burner culture to millions of people – more so than going on Dr Phil and Oprah with the message “hey, are you grieving? Come to our Temple, and be sure to make a non-deductible $419 donation to our tax-exempt corporate structure on the way in” – like some sort of Discordian televangelist. Or going on The Simpsons with “hey you can drop acid blue-haired Mom like it’s the 60s all over again and rekindle the romance with your husband”. This is bringing a caricaturized view of our culture to people who really could care less about the art and participation, and just want to be spectators. They may or may not have a good time, but how is it changing the world? Meanwhile, art is changing the world, always has been, always will be.

Bringing Burner art into the mainstream and high end of the art world is ultimately going to impact many, many more people than the Burning Man Project’s plans of panel discussions and preaching to the converted. What’s it all about, the art? Or the preaching? We need to be kicking down the doors for these artists, helping elevate them to the highest levels possible, and supporting them when public controversy is stirred – as with Marco Cochrane’s recent installation of Truth Is Beauty which has been causing disquiet on a $200 million tech campus.

If Burning Man is the Special Olympics of art, Art Basel is the Olympics. The association with the Burner world may not be the same stamp of credibility in Miami as it is in San Francisco’s Mission District. Regardless, sold out shows send a strong message, so please help support these Burner artists. If you’re anywhere near Art Basel this year, check this out, tell your friends.

Here is their flyer:

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.27.08 PM

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Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.19.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.19.00 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.18.42 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.18.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.18.08 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.17.32 PM

Check out Kenny Ferron’s SubSqwad at the Alchemy Burn in Georgia:

 

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.

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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.

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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?