A New Online Art Grant System Is Live

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image: Jim Bauer/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A new online system for Art Grants has quietly gone live. It’s buried deep in the blackrockarts site. The deadline is December 1 and you have to pay a fee to submit your Letter of Intent. It’s a little confusing – although it is called “Burning Man Grants for Art”, it’s only for art projects that aren’t going to Burning Man.

For Playa art, they provide a link to Burning Man’s web site, which says the deadline is Feb 15. This information conflicts with the last JRS, which said:

Burning Man Arts — the new department combining the Black Rock City Art Department with the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) — will launch a new online system in mid-November designed to make it easier for artists to apply for honoraria grants for art destined for Black Rock City.

This year, applicants will be required to first submit a Letter of Intent (LOI), which will allow the Grant Committee to select which projects will be invited to participate in the full grant application process, saving everybody time and effort.

The system will go live in mid-November, and LOI submissions will be accepted for four weeks. The Grant Committee aims to inform artists if they are invited to participate in the full grant application process by the beginning of 2015.

All artists hoping to receive a Black Rock City honorarium will need to participate in this new LOI process.

More information will be made available via the Jackrabbit Speaks and on the Burning Man Arts web pages as the rollout approaches.

Reading between the lines, I figure that both the blackrockarts.org and burningman.com sites have incorrect information, and artists who want an Honorarium Art Grant for a project at Burning Man 2015 should treat the Jackrabbit’s information as the most current – and wait for an announcement of the new system.

The other new online system that Black Rock Arts announced in their October newsletter, is for non-Playa art:

Burning Man Grants for Art (formerly the BRAF Grants to Artists program) 2015 grant cycle is underway!  The online form for submitting a Letter of Intent (LOI) is now live. Tell us about your fantastic idea for a community-driven, interactive art project!

We fund projects that incorporate community involvement and exist for public benefit. If you’re hatching an idea for a project that brings people together, prompts interaction, and reaches beyond traditional experiences of public art, we’d love to hear about it!

The deadline for “Burning Man Grants for Art” – which, to be clear, is actually for art that is NOT for Burning Man – is December 1 2014, so artists who want to be considered for that need to pay the fees and get their submissions in, in the next 11 days. They fund 10 to 15 projects a year, between $500 and $10,000, with grants typically being in the range of $2000 – $6000.

From blackrockarts.org:

We have begun accepting Letters of Inquiry (LOI’s) for our 2014-2015 grant cycle. Read on to find a link to the LOI submission form. The deadline to submit an LOI is December 1, 2014. Late LOI’s will not be accepted, with no exceptions.

Full proposals will be accepted by invitation only, with LOI applicants either invited to submit a proposal or rejected by early January 2015 (exact date TBD).

We prioritize funding highly interactive, community-driven, collaborative works of art that are accessible to the public and civic in scope.

What is ‘interactive’ art?

  • Art that requires human interaction to complete the piece.
  • Art that involves the community and the audience in its creation, presentation and display.
  • Art that prompts the viewer to act.
  • Art that can be experienced in more ways than visually. We are fans of art that is can be approached, touched, heard or experienced, as well as viewed.
  • Art that prompts people to interact with one another.
  • Art that responds to participants and to its environment.
  • Art that causes people to reflect on the larger community.
  • Art that challenges the viewers’ traditional perspective on art.
  • Art that belongs to the public and exists for the benefit of all.

What kind of work does this program not fund?

Although we are open to all proposed forms of media, there are some common projects that typically fall outside the scope of our criteria. The exception to all of the examples listed below would be if the project had a highly interactive element that moves the project outside the definitions of its genre.

We typically do not fund:

  • Static work, such as sculpture with no interactive component
  • Gallery work, such as paintings in a gallery
  • Publications – poetry books, photo books, fiction, etc
  • Photography
  • Screenplays or films
  • Musical, theater or dance productions
  • Social aid/relief efforts
  • Entrepreneurial endeavors
  • Art destined for the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City. There is a separate grant process to fund playa-bound artwork. Please visit the Burning Man website to learn more about the BRC Honorarium application process. (This program does, however, sometimes fund works headed to regional Burning Man events)

Our grants range between $500 and $10,000, but we most commonly award between $2000 and $6000. We typically fund approximately from 10 to 15 projects a year and receive as many as 300 proposals.

Full proposals will be accepted by invitation only in early 2015. To be invited, you must submit a Letter of Inquiry by December 1st.

Timeline

  • Our online LOI application for our 2015 grant cycle is live!
  • LOI’s are due December 1, 2014, 5:00 pm, Pacific Standard Time.
  • Selected applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal by early January, 2015 (exact date TBA).
  • Proposals are accepted by invitation only, and will be due in February, 2015 (exact date TBA)
  • Selected grantees are usually announced March 15 of the year of the award.
  • Funds are usually released to new grantees April 1 of the year of the award.

Late Letters of Inquiry and proposals will not be accepted. No exceptions. Please read our application instructions below for more details on how to apply.

Letter of Inquiry Instructions

Our online Letter of Inquiry will give you the opportunity to provide us with the following:

  • Name of contact person, contact person’s phone number, email address and mailing address
  • Name of the lead artist or program manager if different from the contact person
  • Name of project or program
  • An invitation code, which is “GrantsForArt-LOI-2015
  • Brief description of the physical manifestation of project or program (1500 characters, about 250 words or 1 double-spaced page)
  • Brief description of how the project or program fits the program’s grant criteria and definition of interactivity. (1500 characters, about 250 words or 1 double-spaced page)
  • One to three images or other media files
There is a $5.00 fee to submit your LOI. The entirety of this fee is payment to Slideroom.com, the online application service we use. You will be asked to pay with a credit card upon completion of the LOI. You will need an invitation code to submit the online LOI, which is posted on this page, above. [Code is: “GrantsForArt-LOI-2015″]
 
  

Proposal Instructions

Invitations for proposals will be extended to selected projects in late December 2014 or early January 2015. If selected, you will be invited to fill out our full application online. Uninvited proposals will not be considered.

In our online application, you will have the opportunity to tell us about your project, its goals, audience and interactive potential.

A complete proposal includes:

  1. The completion of the online proposal. We do not accept printed and mailed proposals.
  2. A timeline. Our online application has a form where you may describe your timeline, or you may upload your own format. We prefer you use our online form.
  3. A budget. Our online application will have a link to a template you may use, or you may upload your own format. We prefer you use our template.
  4. Supplemental images and materials. You will have the opportunity to upload images or other media files. We highly recommend you submit visual representations of your proposed project.
There is a $5.00 fee to submit a full proposal. The entirety of this fee is payment to Slideroom.com, the online application service we use. You will be asked to pay with a credit card upon completion of the proposal.
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image: Carrie Cizauskas/flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Carrie Cizauskas/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Once again, the burden is shifted to the artists, who have to pay to submit a Letter of Intent, and pay again to submit a full proposal. $1500 doesn’t seem like too much for BMOrg to spend on software licensing, to let the 300 artists submitting proposals send them in for free. It’s less than 3 Donation tickets. Sure, it’s only five bucks (twice, if the artist makes it through the first round) – but it’s only five bucks to the corporation raking in $30 million a year, too, and to the non-profit entity with more than $1 million of undistributed assets. It seems a little cheap, for a charity whose sole purpose is supporting the Arts.

We’re still waiting on the announcement of 2015’s theme, which would be helpful to know for artists submitting their ideas for grants.

The 2014 theme was announced on January 8, the 2013 theme was announced on November 30, 2012, and the 2012 theme was announced on this day, November 19, three years ago at the Artumnal Gathering fundraising gala. The 2014 Artumnal will be held this Saturday, perhaps the announcement will come then.

The Poor Man’s Burning Man 3: ELECTRIC BAMBOOGALOO

by Whatsblem the Pro

Architect Ken Rose and IAM volunteers hard at work

Architect Ken Rose and IAM volunteers hard at work

[Whatsblem the Pro is embedded in the International Arts Megacrew for the building of THE CONTROL TOWER, a sixty-foot “cargo cult” version of an FAA control tower, equipped with lasers and flame effects and other interactive features. This series of articles begins with The Poor Man’s Burning Man: Part One, and shows you how you can attend Burning Man even if you don’t sleep on a giant pile of money at night.]

Work on the Control Tower continues to go smoothly as the necessary materials and tools show up. This last couple of weeks has seen the real work beginning with the arrival of the actual bamboo members that will make up the load-bearing part of the Tower.

Bamboo is incredibly strong, and can stand in for steel in many applications. It can splinter and break, though, especially at the ends of these long poles the crew is working with. They’ve been busy embedding steel joints into each piece to allow them to be joined together, and cementing them in place with an expanding foam poured into small holes in the shafts. The tendency to splinter is being dealt with by capping the ends of the thirty-foot segments with fiberglass.

Expert help with all of this has arrived in the person of Gerard Minakawa, an artist/designer from Southern California whose company, Bamboo DNA, specializes in sculpture and architecture built from bamboo. I asked Gerard to tell me about building with bamboo.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: So Gerard. . . what’s so great about bamboo?

GERARD MINAKAWA: Where do I start? There are so many amazing things. It’s so versatile, it’s had so many different uses since humans first started working with building materials. People in Asia and South America are pretty familiar with how useful it is.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: I was in China for five years and noticed that even on huge skyscrapers, when there’s a building project, they’re using bamboo scaffolding.

GERARD MINAKAWA: Yeah! It’s just so friendly and easy to work with. There’s so much you can do with it. It’s both very strong, and very flexible, which I’ve always regarded as its two most redeeming characteristics. That combination of strength and flexibility is hard to match.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: And it’s so light!

GERARD MINAKAWA: Yes, it can be very light, too. It’s a good thing these cylinders are hollow, though, because if they were solid they’d be extremely heavy.

The variety we’re using for the Control Tower is called Guadua angustifolia, commonly known as just ‘guadua.’ It’s native to South America, to the Amazon. Most people think that all bamboos of any significance come from Asia, but actually the one I’ve found to be the most useful, the best to work with in construction, art, and design is this species. Brazilians and Colombians work with it a lot; it’s my number-one choice.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: How does it compare with steel, structurally?

GERARD MINAKAWA: The five-inch poles we’re using here are comparable to two and three-eighths inch diameter tube steel, in terms of compression strength, with a lot smaller carbon footprint.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: You’re actually sequestering carbon by using bamboo, rather than releasing a ton of it into the atmosphere by manufacturing steel.

GERARD MINAKAWA: Right. . . and none of these poles are older than six years, from the time that they’re harvested, so from the time they start shooting to the time you turn it into something like a Control Tower, you’re looking at six years.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: These will shoot later?

GERARD MINAKAWA: It grows from a network of roots, called rhizomes, so cutting down a bamboo pole in the forest doesn’t mean you have to reseed it.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: I’ve heard that some species grow so fast you can hear them.

GERARD MINAKAWA: I’ve never heard it, but some species grow as much as a meter per day, so you can definitely watch it grow.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: But only if you’ve got plenty of Whip-Its handy, to get into that jaw-dropped state.

GERARD MINAKAWA: It would take quite a bit of patience. If you filmed a time-lapse, though, it would be really amazing.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: How long have you been doing this?

GERARD MINAKAWA: I’ve been building with bamboo for about twelve years now. It’s a lot of fun to build with. . . never a dull moment!

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: So, today you’re filling it with polyurethane foam to anchor the steel joints inside each piece?

GERARD MINAKAWA: Yes. This is the trickiest part; we need to splice poles together to make sixty-foot members. You can’t import sixty-foot long poles; you just can’t ship them at that length. . . so to get the length we need, we’re putting in a steel ‘bone’ that’s held in place inside each pole with structural foam. The two halves of each resulting sixty-foot pole will come apart, to be locked together again later, so there’s a little bit of modularity in the structure. . . pre-fabrication, for ease of reassembly later on, when the Tower gets to the playa. After Burning Man they want to be able to dissassemble and reassemble this for other events, so we’re making a fairly large compromise by using steel and foam instead of just bamboo alone.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: I guess there must be some challenges whenever you start getting into any kind of composite construction.

GERARD MINAKAWA: Sure. The materials industry has a way to go. On the bright side, when we do the reinforcement lashings for this, we’ll be using a bio-resin that’s linseed based as a replacement for the typical polyester resin. That cures in the sun; it’s a biological resin and non-toxic. The finish will also be an atypically non-toxic finish, so I’m happy about all of that.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: Tell me about Bamboo DNA.

GERARD MINAKAWA: Bamboo DNA is a company I started as an import and wholesale company; I guess I was trying to take the safe route and do what everyone else was doing, but I ended up getting mostly commissions, and asked to do festivals and design stuff. I was trained as a designer; I just wasn’t really seeing how it would be possible to create a business centered solely around bamboo design and building. . . but that’s how it’s ended up! Now that’s what Bamboo DNA does year-round, all the time: design and build bamboo structures. I tried to do something more generic, and a niche customer base found my niche business and turned it into something unique. I couldn’t be happier, and it gives me many chances to help awareness of bamboo and other ecologically-friendly materials grow.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: Thanks, I’ll let you get back to it.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying not to fall apart while fulfilling all my own commitments, getting some artwork done of my own, and suffering head colds in the recent heatwave. I’ve had a good bit of luck with getting all kinds of donations coming in from supportive local businesses, from a forklift to a fleet of bicycles to lumber to the gourmet beer the crew sold at one of their fundraisers. I feel a little like James Garner in THE GREAT ESCAPE: the Scrounger, pulling necessaries out of thin air so that we can all leave the Nazis and their shitty POW camp behind for a better life on our own. Hopefully the tunnel won’t collapse on us before we all get through!

Morale remains high, especially after hours when the overhead lights go down and the bold shirt-bearers of the IAM rise to meet it.

The Poor Man’s Burning Man: Part One

by Whatsblem the Pro

People have some pretty crazy ideas regarding what Burning Man is all about. Even hardcore burners have a difficult time agreeing just what it is we’re all doing out there, unless they are wise enough to define it as something very open-ended that is many different things to many people.

One of the more common misapprehensions that so many people have about Burning Man is that it’s a hippie peace ‘n’ love (and sex and drugs) festival. While it’s true that every variety of hippie – from crafty, hard-working old ’60s-vintage radicals with tons of skills, to ragged young drainbows in tie-dyed Grateful Dead Army uniforms begging “the universe” for tickets and water – can be found in Black Rock City, that’s because it is a city, with many diverse streams of culture. Among the teeming masses of Nevada’s third-largest urban center, there’s plenty of room for quite a large number of every species of hippie without it being all about them. “Burners are hippies” as a meme is just plain mistaken.

Burners are people who tend to have certain things in common, but the commonalities are striped across a staggeringly broad spectrum of other cultures. . . so broad, that I would go so far as to say that burner culture is probably the most eclectic human culture yet devised, taking the worthiest bits and pieces from many sources and melding them into a tasty gumbo of mutual understanding and acceptance. Sometimes respect goes hand-in-hand with that acceptance, and sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s fine; we’re not a fundamentally hippie-based culture, and it’s fairly well-understood that we don’t have to love or even like each other to make room for each other and do what we do. The oft-heard playa sentiment “fuck yer day” does not generally mean “GTFO.”

Good. Very, very good. -- Image: abbiehoffman.tumblr.com

Good. Very, very good. — Image: abbiehoffman.tumblr.com

Bad. Very, very, very, very, bad. -- Photo: Shutterstock

Bad. Very, very, very, very, bad. — Photo: Shutterstock

Another very popular myth is that you have to be rich to go to Burning Man; there’s a persistent tall tale among non-burners to the effect that Black Rock City is populated entirely by elitist multimillionaires, which seems rather at odds with the notion that we’re all hippie beggars who eat out of dumpsters and hit up working people for spare change so we can buy weed.

I know a lot of financially challenged people who go to Burning Man. Not a few of them live well below the poverty line all year ’round, often because they are artists and because they donate a lot of their time and effort. I know a lot of non-artists who go to Burning Man and are financially challenged, too. . . and I don’t mean that their stock portfolio took a bruising when the housing bubble burst; I mean they have trouble paying the rent on time and feeding themselves decently, and sometimes have to spend weeks or months living in their vehicles.

There is, of course, an eternal and vital intersection that brings the rich into contact with the creative poor, transforms entire swathes of decayed cityscape in flurries of urban renewal, and foments patronage of the arts. . . and if Burning Man is representative of that intersection, it is the crossroads of an Art superhighway with Big Money Boulevard. The usual result of that kind of interaction is that some crumbling, dangerous neighborhood with cheap real estate fills up with artists looking to live cheaply, and the money follows them and eventually injects some hoidy-toidy into the area, driving the average rent up and driving the struggling artists out, to seek shoestring budget living elsewhere and start the process over again.

Burning Man is different. There’s no real estate market to sway, just ticket prices. . . so there’s no way for the money to gentrify us and drive out the funky low-budget players in favor of “white cube” art gallery snobs.

It does take a significant investment to render yourself playa-ready, obtain a ticket, and transport your ass and your gear to the Black Rock desert. . . and the cost can get much steeper if you happen to live someplace on the other side of an ocean. Your investment, however – and it is an investment, not just money blown on an expensive vacation – doesn’t necessarily have to involve much in the way of actual cash.

How, though, do the burning poor manage it, exactly? How can you do it too?

In a nutshell, the answer is simple: Find some burners who have more going on than you do, and make yourself useful. If you can manage to identify and fill a necessary function for an art project or theme camp or other conclave of burners, then you’re GOING, and that’s all there is to it. Take up the slack for your crew, make yourself invaluable, and your crew will take up the slack for you. This could mean a month or two of unpaid labor on some massive art gewgaw; it could mean signing up for some crucial role in an established theme camp, like cook, or art car driver; it could mean joining DPW and earning your patches (although you won’t typically get a free ticket your first year). For some, it might mean being pretty and sucking cock on demand in some venture capitalist’s swanky RV; if that’s an acceptable billet in your view of the world, more power to you; nobody can tell you you’re wrong but you, and I would like to respectfully request your phone number, please.

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This article is the first in what will be a regular series that will show you one avenue to getting to Black Rock City in a very practical and detailed way: I am embedding myself with the International Arts Megacrew to work on their 2013 project, known as “The Control Tower.” Initially, I’ll be making swag and soliciting donations of essential equipment and materials for the project, and my role will change and expand as the project progresses and evolves.

I’ve already written about the Control Tower project, but I’ll begin by giving you some background.

The International Arts Megacrew is the group that built architect Ken Rose’s Temple of Transition in 2011. Their 2013 project, the Control Tower, will be built at the Generator, a brand-new community industrial arts space in Sparks, just outside Reno, Nevada. The Generator is managed by the Pier Crew’s Matt Schultz, and generously funded by an anonymous donor who has underwritten quite a bit of playa art over the years.

I wasn’t a member of the IAM’s Temple crew in 2011, but I did show up for the last few weeks of their build, and assisted the welders, mostly by grinding metal for hours on end in oven-like heat at the Hobson’s Corner site in Reno. I first became acquainted with the Pier Crew people while working on Burn Wall Street (sorry about that), as the two projects shared space at the Salvagery. When I saw how incredibly cool the Pier’s project was, I donated some old fencing swords I had for the skeletal crew of the ship they built, and served as humble shop bitch providing elbow grease and other assistance to the gentleman who designed and built the ship’s anchor.

The Pier Crew amazed us all in 2012 -- Photo: Jason Silverio

The Pier Crew amazed us all in 2012 — Photo: Jason Silverio

When I first visited the Generator, it was to interview Jerry Snyder about his Ichthyosaur Puppet project. Matt Schultz was there as well, and we got reacquainted with each other and spent some time touring the space as Matt gave me the lowdown on his vision.

“The Generator,” he told me, “is not just a place for Burning Man projects. This will be a space for the entire community, where anyone who is willing to pitch in and contribute a bit is welcome – without paying any fees whatsoever – to come and make art, learn new skills, and teach new skills to others. We’re going to have some serious tools here for people to use. They’ll have to bring their own materials, unless someone here who doesn’t mind sharing happens to have what they need.

“It’s an arts incubator,” he sums up. “A hive of creative people who share their talents, resources and ideas to make amazing new art.”

Schultz points to the freshly-painted walls of the gigantic open space, which is still brand-new and mostly devoid of any hint of tools or activity. “We put out the word, and a whole crew of volunteers came in here and did all that painting. That’s what I’m talking about when I say we need people to be willing to contribute. It’s a tribal thing; if you behave like a member of the tribe and don’t mind spending a little bit of your time doing things that help everyone, then there should be no problem with you being here and getting all kinds of benefits from the space and the resources in it.”

As we talk, I reflect on the welcoming nature of our community. It’s true that I’ve got a little bit of an inside track, but there’s no favoritism in play here; had I shown up cold, knowing nobody at the Generator and having no history with them, we would be having the same conversation, and I’d be given the same opportunity to participate.

“Is there anything I can do to help out today?” I ask.

Schultz shows me to a room where painting supplies are stored, and gives me instructions for painting the spacious bathroom, a job which someone has begun but not yet finished. He leaves the building as I get to work with the roller. . . to an extent, the trust here is given freely, to be rescinded if necessary, rather than earned. I spend the rest of the afternoon painting happily.

It's a lot less empty this week -- Photo: Whatsblem the Pro

It’s a lot less empty this week — Photo: Whatsblem the Pro

The next day I show up early for a meeting with the IAM’s leader, James Diarmaid Horken, aka ‘Irish.’ The space reserved for the Control Tower build, empty the day before, has erupted into a fully-equipped meeting and planning zone overnight, with pallets screwed together to support a large L-shaped expanse of whiteboard, a big desk at which Irish sits working, a model of the Control Tower in bamboo and wire, and a complete living room set, with artificial houseplants and decorative sculpture making the semicircle of couches and coffee tables seem warm and homey in the cold sterility of the giant warehouse.

As I’m waiting for the rest of the group to assemble and come to order, I stroll around surveying the other changes that have taken place while I was sleeping. There are more tools, more tables, more spaces marked off on the floors in chalk. Someone is setting up welding equipment and a really expensive professional-grade drill press in a large side room. The Generator is still mostly just a big empty industrial space, but signs of life are unmistakable, and it is booming and blooming with a palpable vitality.

Old friends and new ones drift in, gathering to find out what the Control Tower project is all about. I chat with Ken Rose, the IAM’s architect, about the computational architecture behind the construction techniques that will give the structure great strength using a minimum of materials. “Russian mathematicians came up with this stuff about a hundred years ago,” he tells me. “Open-lattice hyperboloids like the one we’re going to build offer very good structural strength using only about 25% of the materials we’d need to build a rectangular frame structure.”

Soon the meeting is underway, and Irish is giving us a run-down of the road ahead. He has made lists of equipment, supplies, and materials we’re going to need, and written it all on the whiteboards behind him, with other lists and notes that give us an idea of what skill sets are going to be required. The prospective crew members listen intently, their eyes focused on the whiteboards, or the scale model, or on Irish and Ken as they explain their vision and the rough timetable they’ve devised. They tell us about the vast array of programmable LEDs, and the flamethrowers, and the lasers. They talk about everything from the meaning behind the ideas, to hard logistical challenges that we’ll be facing.

When the meeting is over, we unwind a bit, eating watermelon and bouncing ideas and Nerf darts off each other’s heads. Other people on other projects are knocking off for the day as well. A small but spirited war erupts in one of the still-open areas; Nerf guns are more abundant here than is probably typical of industrial work spaces. As I’m minding my own business and looking over a coffee table book of art by Leonardo da Vinci, a Nerf dart strikes me directly in the forehead and sticks there.

The next few days are a flurry of activity. My mornings are spent doing research and making phone calls, trying to drum up support in the form of donations from local business people. In the afternoons I get my personal working space at the Generator set up, so I can work on carving and tooling leather to make swag for people who donate to our project. More artists and more tools are showing up, almost hourly. The first ribs of the ichthyosaur skeleton that Jerry Snyder is building hang on a huge rack. Someone seems to be constructing a dance floor in one corner; judging by the work, whoever it is must be a master carpenter.

Irish calls me on the phone one morning soon after the Control Tower meeting. “Will you be here this evening around ten o’clock?” he asks me. “We’re having a laser test.”

“Lasers?” I say, ears perking up. “Of course I’ll be there.”

When I arrive, two people are unloading some serious laser gear from the back of a truck inside the Generator. The fellow in charge of the lasers is Skippy, an Opulent Temple member who provides OT and other organizations and events with laser light shows, using an array of equipment mostly salvaged, rebuilt, and repurposed from discarded medical equipment. When he’s ready and his smoke generator is puffing away, we turn the lights out, and he activates his multicolored little wonders of science in a dazzling automated sequence that lasts over an hour.

We’re all friends, or at least not enemies. We’re working hard, and we’re having a blast doing it. We’re not just building art, we’re building a new world. One day, if humanity doesn’t destroy itself somehow and civilization manages to endure, the day will come when automation makes us all redundant as workers; when that day comes, everyone will be like us: doing only the types of work that they find worth doing. Soon come, soon come.

You can read Part Two of The Poor Man’s Burning Man at:

 https://burners.me/2013/05/28/the-poor-mans-burning-man-2-the-glamorous-life-of-a-model/

Why I Love Zombie Movies

by Whatsblem the Pro

The Other White Meat -- Image: Whatsblem the Pro

The Other White Meat — Image: Whatsblem the Pro

Zombies. The shambling, hungry dead.

The initially-tiny cult phenomenon that was George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has been massively reprised and expanded over the years into a full-blown touchstone of mainstream culture. . . but it isn’t just the grotesque thrills of gore-horror that give the genre its legs. Beyond and below the surface of GRRAAARR BRAINS lies a durable contemporary allegory that has struck a resonance in the hearts and minds of a certain kind of person for over half a century.

FREE PUSSY RIOT!!!!!!!!!!!

FREE PUSSY RIOT!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m not talking about the multiple individual subtexts that some zombie movies – and all of Romero’s zombie movies – carry with them. There are a number of clear themes that emerge from these films; xenophobia and racism, feminism, consumerism and the emptiness of life lived solely in material pursuits. There are pointed questions posed about relational heirarchies, about the moral and ethical problems that pure science faces in the presence of military concerns that weaponize every discovery possible, about leadership and autonomy, about Communism and Capitalism, about the innate goodness (or badness) of people in general, and about the very warp and woof of the fabric of society as a whole.

All of these subtexts have the potential to be interesting and thought-provoking for any particular viewer, but none of them are the kind of thing that might make you want to go out and actually prepare for the Zompocalypse as though it could really happen. . . and yet there are people who do so, often with a glaring display of tongue-in-cheek, but sometimes in what seems to be total earnestness. A large part of that impulse is no doubt attributable to the not-very-subtle subtext of the end of civilization and the imminent crumbling of social order and the rule of law, but for me it’s deeper than that.

Aww, don't shoot, he looks so happy -- Image: Hammer FIlms

Aww, don’t shoot, he looks so happy — Image: Hammer FIlms

Other monster genre films leave me cold; I’m not wild about graphically violent horror in general although I can certainly take it. The point is that I don’t watch zombie movies to see rotting flesh being ripped apart by bullets, or to see the living torn limb-from-limb in the teeth of the dead. Even the goriest, ghastliest vampire movies make me yawn with all their brooding, overly-studied cool, although I certainly understand the wish-fulfilling empowerment fantasies they inspire in others. I find serial-killer slasher films dull and unrewarding, too, for the most part.

Why? Because here’s the thing about zombies: they’re not few and far-between, like vampires, or werewolves, or serial killers. When the Zompocalypse comes, the living are absolutely overwhelmed by the dead, and in no time, it is the survivors who are the rarity, not the monsters.

What does this make them?

For me it’s simple: the zombies, vastly outnumbering the living as they do, become the status quo. They, not the survivors, are the typical form of human life on Earth. The living, with their use of language and tools, their emotions and their emotional connections to each other, and their willingness to eat things no normal person would touch, are freakish, abnormal rarities.

And what is it that the zombies – i.e., the normal people – are constantly trying to do to these oddballs and outliers living on the fringes of their world?

Fine, go ahead and eat me -- Photo: Nate 'Igor' Smith

Fine, go ahead and eat me — Photo: Nate ‘Igor’ Smith

One of two things: infect them with normalcy, or turn them into a product, to be consumed.

If you’re an artist, and you earn your living by making art, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re beholden to nobody; you’re even free to some extent in a way that no corporate ladder-climber or blue-collar serf could ever be, but life can be peculiarly hard for you, and people often don’t understand you very well. Sometimes, especially if they’re family, they put pressure on you to give up your aspirations and leave the difficult, lonely path you’ve chosen, to join the herd and pursue cookie-cutter notions of worldly success that, to your way of thinking, resemble a kind of living death. Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure most of those people in your life are nice folks with nothing but good intentions, but in our allegory they are best represented by the zombies.

What happens if you’re a successful artist, and the public gets to probing and clawing at you with their nerveless, idiot fingers? What happened to Michael Jackson? I’ll tell you what happened to Michael Jackson: starting with his own father when Michael was just an innocent tot, the normal people commodified him, wrapped him in plastic and bought and sold him as an item of consumption, like the neatly-packaged ground beef they sell at your local supermarket, isolated from its origins, sanitized for your protection, a natural thing made utterly, completely unnatural. They ate Michael Jackson.

DPW's Vaughn Solo is ready -- Photo: Jessica Reeder

DPW’s Vaughn Solo is ready — Photo: Jessica Reeder

Sure, Jocko is an extreme example, but the same is true of almost any famous artist whose name and face are in the public eye. Most of us dream of fame and fortune, but how would we really feel if we were unable to simply walk down the street like an ordinary person without being pursued and mobbed by random strangers?

The real beauty of zombie movies is that although the allegory that pits heavily outnumbered freaks against a status quo juggernaut is a sort of depressingly accurate commentary on what we, as real-life freaks, are up against, it all takes place in a consequence-free environment. This is where the subtext departs from reality and offers us our reward in the form of some satisfying wish-fulfillment: you can shoot the bastards in the head, and nobody will get mad at you. Hell, you’ll probably get a pat on the back and maybe even build some camaraderie with your co-freaks by pulling that trigger.

Note that you have to shoot a zombie in the head, in the brain, to make it stop. This is because our struggle in real life is a struggle of ideas. We can’t literally kill all the normal people in order to secure our own survival as artists and weirdos; we have to kill the normal ideas in their heads instead. We have to kill the way they think.

Destroy the Temple, Save the Village

by Whatsblem the Pro

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch NZ - Photo: David Wethey/NSPA/AP

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch NZ – Photo: David Wethey/NSPA/AP

A crew of volunteers in Christchurch, New Zealand, including five professional engineers and a draftsman from global engineering firm Aurecon, are coming together to build a temple for the earthquake-stricken city. . . and then burn that temple down a few weeks later.

The Temple for Christchurch project is inspired by Burning Man and the Temple built there each year, which attendees use for valuable catharsis by writing about their lost ones on the walls before the building is burnt to the ground. The people of Christchurch will be allowed to visit their Temple and write on the walls for several weeks before the structure is burned as a public event.

Photo: Kirk Hargreaves/Christchurch Press/Reuters

Photo: Kirk Hargreaves/Christchurch Press/Reuters

There’s some interesting architecture to the project, too; at 6.3 meters, the building’s height will reflect the magnitude of the biggest and most destructive earthquake in the recent spate, which devastated Christchurch on February 22nd, 2011. The lines of the building’s 40-meter length and 25-meter width will be designed to mirror the seismic waveform of the quake, as recorded at the monitoring station closest to the epicenter.

Hippathy Valentine, a leader of the project, said that the volunteers are driven by the city’s need for a little catharsis and emotional balm in the aftermath of the devastation.

“We plan to open to the public in June on the site of the old Convention Centre on Peterborough St. before [moving the Temple] outside of the city to be ceremonially burnt. We hope that people will share their earthquake experiences and use the Temple as a catalyst for reflection on how the earthquakes have affected them, their city, and their communities.”

Aurecon structural engineer Luis Castillo called the design of the Temple “right at the cutting edge of architecture for the new Christchurch.”

Some areas were badly flooded - Photo: Mark Mitchell/NZ Herald/AP

Some areas were badly flooded – Photo: Mark Mitchell/NZ Herald/AP

“The project gives us the chance to ‘think outside the box,’ to be creative while having a good grasp of the many technical issues that range from material properties to spatial vision,” said Castillo. “We created a balsa wood model to help crystalize our thinking.

“It was also a great opportunity for Aurecon staff to be proactive in bringing the city back to life and creating a means by which [local residents] can go out and enjoy it.”

The Black Rock Arts Foundation is lending some support to the project, and you can too. Get involved, or just show your support for the Temple for Christchurch with a donation of money, food, tools, or other resources, by visiting the project’s website, or by going directly to their Indiegogo campaign.

Good on ya for it, too. . . she’ll be right, mate, with time and hard work and a little good old-fashioned soul-cleansing fire.