Stewart Brand And The New Communalists

The Conversation has an interesting piece by Simon Willmetts, a professor of American Studies at the University of Hull. He traces Burning Man’s origins to Stewart Brand, who thought up the idea of the Whole Earth Catalog on an acid trip. The catalog inspired many hippies to “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out”, dodging the Vietnam war draft and the violent protests of the Free Speech Movement, to instead do drugs, get naked, and express free love in intentional communities far from civilization.


 

re-blogged from The Conversation:

Why Burning Man is Silicon Valley

by Simon Willmetts
September 1, 2015 12.10pm EDT
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“Burning Man is Silicon Valley”, tech magnate Elon Musk declared last year. But the annual festival in the middle of the Nevadan Black Rock desert may seem an unlikely place to encounter the dotcom aristocracy. Its lunar-barren landscape is a world away from the plush campus greens of the Googleplex. Thousands gather together in tribes every year to stage musical and theatrical performances, exhibit art, run workshops, “gift” free booze and food (money is outlawed) and construct fantastical welded artworks mounted by dancers and DJs who blare out whomping dubstep into the cacophonous night.

The spectacle is all the more awe-inspiring given how inhospitable the terrain it inhabits is. The cracked dry earth is so alkaline that it can cause chemical burns on the soles of naïve barefooted burners – “playa foot” as it is known. Temperatures range dramatically from searing desert heat in the day to almost freezing at night. And dust storms are common enough to make facemasks and goggles an essential accessory.

But the festival has long been a magnet for the West Coast’s digerati. The first ever Google doodle, in 1998, doubled up as both a tribute to Burning Man and an out-of-office reply for founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as they made their way out to the desert.

Technocratic heaven? donotlick/flickr, CC BY

The list of other tech luminaries who have attended is long. It includes Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and Dropbox’s Drew Houston. Up until recently they have blended in harmoniously. But lately reports of VIP-enclaves charging upwards of $25,000-per-head for five-star catered service have jarred uncomfortably with the festival’s core values of decommodification, radical self-reliance and radical inclusion. Focusing on these extravagances of a select few, however, overlooks the broader affinity between the festival and the West Coast’s technocracy.

Building utopia

The key to this relationship is their shared lineage in the counterculture of the 1960s, and more specifically, the New Communalist movement, that saw thousands of young Californians go back to the land to build utopian communities. In 1968 Stewart Brand created the Whole Earth Catalogue, a book in which he knitted together these disparate communities into a single forum. In doing so, it is widely recognised that he laid the ideological blueprint for the internet and, as it happens, Burning Man too.

Growing up in Cold War America, Brand feared both the rigid bureaucracy of the Soviet Union abroad and the creeping corporatisation of American life at home. For Brand the key to both individual and social salvation from these twin evils was to do away with rigid hierarchies, whether governmental or corporate, and replace them with distributed networks of technologically empowered individuals who would voluntarily come together in common cause.

Likewise, Burning Man is best understood not as one community or centrally-directed event (such as more traditional music festivals) but as a network of lots of little communities that hive together once a year to build their utopia in the desert.

The effigy they burn on the penultimate night of the festivities provides a focus, but each group also brings their own contribution: a music venue, a bar, a food tent, a workshop, a theatrical performance, an art car welded into an enormous motorised fire-breathing dragon.

Everything is voluntarily produced, funded via altruism and offered as a “gift”, free of charge, to “the playa” (as the festival site is termed). Distributed and alone these groups can only hope to produce one small piece of the puzzle, but networked together they create a spectacle in the desert far greater than the sum of its parts. It is a form of socio-economic organisation that is analogous to the internet – we all produce the content free of charge, which when linked together creates the socially transformative online community of the world wide web.

California dreaming

The problem with utopias, however, is that they can only ever be imagined. The New Communalists never quite eradicated hierarchy and inequality. They reproduced traditional gender roles and they tended to be sustained by the wealth of their mostly white, mostly college-educated membership. The same demographic trends in Silicon Valley are widely reported.

An installation in 2006. dberry/flickr, CC BY

As for Burning Man, last year 87% of attendees were white, 58% male, 95.4% had some form of higher education and the majority of participants spent in excess of $1,000 to attend. The gifting economy may be noble in its intent, and Burners would say that the economic value of a gift is not the point, but a system based on altruism tends to appeal to the self-satisfying generosity of those with the deepest pockets.

In 2013 Google CEO Larry Page responded to a question about how the tech giant could help make the world a better place: “There are many exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation.” What was needed, he proscribed, were safe spaces (like Burning Man) of free experimentation.

Burning Man is Silicon Valley because it is premised upon the same libertarian idea that social progress can be achieved through the free collaboration of a network of empowered individuals. It is a microcosm of what Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron famously defined as the “Californian Ideology” – that unlikely amalgamation of “the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies” that has catapulted Google, Facebook, Apple and others to global dominance.

It remains to be seen whether the common good they have created is to the good of all.


Burners.Me:

It does remain to be seen. “Coming soon…”

In 2014, Larry Harvey gave a talk on Burning Man at Stewart Brand’s Long Now Foundation.

Brand, a Stanford graduate who worked for the Pentagon before organizing the CIA’s MKULTRA Acid Tests, once said of Burning Man:

brand_905Burning Man, they have surpassed in every way the various things we were attempting with the Acid Tests and the Trips Festival, Burning Man has realized with such depth and thoroughness and ongoing originality and ability to scale and minimalist rules, but enough rules that you can function, and all the things we were farting around with, Larry Harvey has really pulled off. I don’t think that would have come to pass without going through whatever that spectrum of the ’60s was, the prism of the ’60s, the spectrum of bright colors that we espoused for a while. It all got exacerbated by the Internet and sequence of computer-related booms, but I think it flavored a whole lot of the basic nature of Burning Man.

[Source: SF Gate]

He is credited with inventing the term “personal computer”, although he graciously ascribes it to Alan Kay. He also created the WELL with the Grateful Dead‘s doctor, which evolved into the World Wide Web.

The essay mentioned above, The Californian Ideology by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron of the University of Westminster, is very interesting. It was written in 1995, just as Burning Man was shifting its propaganda-based marketing away from a Cacophony freak show to being the physical manifestation of cyberspace.

At this crucial juncture, a loose alliance of writers, hackers, capitalists and artists from the West Coast of the USA have succeeded in defining a heterogeneous orthodoxy for the coming information age: the Californian Ideology.
wired 1996This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley. Promoted in magazines, books, tv programmes, Web sites, newsgroups and Net conferences, the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. This amalgamation of opposites has been achieved through a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies. In the digital utopia, everybody will be both hip and rich. Not surprisingly, this optimistic vision of the future has been enthusiastically embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, innovative capitalists, social activists, trendy academics, futurist bureaucrats and opportunistic politicians across the USA. As usual, Europeans have not been slow in copying the latest fad from America. While a recent EU Commission report recommends following the Californian ‘free market’ model for building the ‘information superhighway’, cutting-edge artists and academics eagerly imitate the ‘post-human’ philosophers of the West Coast’s Extropian cult. With no obvious rivals, the triumph of the Californian Ideology appears to be complete.

…As pioneers of the new, the hi-tech artisans need to reconnect themselves with the theory and practice of productive art. They are not just employees of others – or even would-be cybernetic entrepreneurs. They are also artist-engineers – designers of the next stage of modernity. Drawing on the experience of the Saint-Simonists and Constructivists, the hi-tech artisans can create a new machine aesthetic for the information age

Read the full article here.

The California Ideology makes me think of Tupac and Dre’s take on California,  which came out around the same time. Dr Dre, of course, is part of Apple now – a hi-tech artisan indeed.

 

Cradle of MIR Artist Arrested; Do You Have a Picture of Sasha Mironov?

by Whatsblem the Pro

Alexander 'Sasha' Mironov with a model of the MIR space station

Alexander ‘Sasha’ Mironov with a model of the MIR space station


Alexander ‘Sasha’ Mironov, artist behind The Cradle of MIR, is in jail in Los Angeles and needs any photos you may have of him at Burning Man.

The 38-year-old from Moscow, Russia was arrested by the California Highway Patrol at 10:20 PM on October 15th, 2013 on undisclosed felony charges. He was booked at the LAPD Pacific Division station near Los Angeles International Airport, and is currently being held in the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic, California, which is part of the Pitchess Detention Center, aka ‘Wayside.’ Mironov has not been granted bail; as a foreign national he may be considered a flight risk, and U.S. Immigration has a hold pending on him.

Mironov’s friends on The Cradle of MIR project are calling for any photographs you may have of him, as they may help provide evidence of the artist’s innocence in the case.

Dim Borisov writes:

WE NEED PHOTOS. Your photos!

If you have a photo that was taken on Friday, August 30, the day of “Cradle of Mir” burn, that has Alex on it PLEASE send it to us as soon as you can! This will serve as evidence for where he was at that moment. We need the originals, with the date the file was created, so it is clear when the photo was taken. The photos should be dated August 30, 2013.

Please email your photo to: mironov.ram@gmail.com

Help us, PLEASE, this is VERY IMPORTANT!!

I can’t speak about any details publicly, as any extra information could lead to complications while the case is ongoing. At time we’re just asking for photos, the rest will be disclosed and put to rest hopefully sooner than later.

We don’t know what Sasha Mironov is accused of, or how guilty or innocent he might be, but with evidence the truth will surely out. . . so if Mironov looks familiar to you, please check your photographs and videos from Burning Man.

Mironov in San Francisco

Mironov in San Francisco

Mironov (left) at the Cradle of MIR build site; Burning Man 2013

Mironov (left) at the Cradle of MIR build site; Burning Man 2013

Mironov4

The Cradle of MIR, Burning Man 2013

The Cradle of MIR, Burning Man 2013

Late-Breaking Update: SF Decom 2013

$teven Ra$pa -- PHOTO: Chronicle / Mike Kepka

$teven Ra$pa — PHOTO: Chronicle / Mike Kepka

The Org’s own Steven Raspa has just released detailed information about this year’s Decompression in San Francisco!

Burning Man Presents, for the benefit of the Burning Man Project. . .

San Francisco DECOMPRESSION Heat the Street FaIRE! 2013

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Starts at Noon!

Outdoor sound ends 10pm, except Mariposa which ends 11pm

Indiana St between Mariposa and 22nd St in San Francisco, California

Public Entrance: 19th St. & Minnesota; 2nd entrance at 20th St. & Minnesota from 2:00 – 7:00pm

$15 donation before 4:00pm; $20 after; free schwag while it lasts

All ages (under 12 free); 21+ inside Cocomo

Food and beverages available with sales benefitting public art and culture programs. Eat for Art!

See full schedules and map at:
http://www.burningman.com/blackrockcity_yearround/special_events/decompression/decom2013.html

For the quickest updates and info visit
http://on.fb.me/1fFMSYJ (Facebook event)

PLEASE TAKE MASS TRANSIT, BIKE and CARPOOL: (Muni bus #22, #48 and BART connects with the 3rd Street T-line), ride your bike and avoid driving on Minnesota St completely! Inexpensive parking available at UCSF lot (3rd St at 16th St). Or park on Terry Francois Blvd.

Welcome to the 14th Annual Decompression Heat the Street Fair!   
This year is explosive with creativity! Come at Noon SHARP to enjoy all the installations, performances, fire, dance, theme camps, circus arts, live music, DJs, Burning Man 2013 imagery, and MORE!!! All six blocks, the park, and stages will showcase a stunning variety of creative expression! Bring your imagination to share and BE the art you wish to see in the world!!! Full Schedule and partial list of pARTicipants here.

THEME CAMPS & BURNING MAN GROUPS:

  • 50 Dancing Dragons
  • 9 Energies
  • Airpusher
  • Black Rock Scouts
  • Burners Without Borders
  • Black Rock Arts Foundation
  • Black Rock Solar
  • Burning Man Regional Network
  • BMIR
  • BRCPO
  • Bubble City
  • Cuddlefish Productions
  • Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet
  • Disco Knights
  • Desert Pearl Chill Zone
  • DMV
  • Everywhere
  • Flirt Camp
  • Friends of DPW
  • Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus
  • Gender Blender Camp
  • Hiney Hygiene Station Tattoos
  • Hooptopia
  • Interactive Photo Booth
  • Jerk Church
  • The Kazbah
  • Kidsville
  • Mission Country Club
  • Party Jitsu
  • PlayaTerps
  • Rangers
  • Shipwreck Tiki Lounge
  • Skinny Kitty Tea House
  • SunShrine
  • Tactile Meditation Dome
  • The Black Rock Beacon
  • The Klownge
  • The Painted Pygmy
  • Twilight Spaghetti Theatre
  • World Hoop Day
  • WOW! AND MORE!!!

ART CARS & MUTANT VEHICLES:

  • Angler Fish Disco
  • Apis Inlusio
  • Beezus Christ, Super Car
  • CDC (Cat of a Different Color)
  • Co-Exist
  • DFT Whale
  • H2O-pache
  • Janky Barge
  • Landau the Dragon
  • Nautilus X
  • The “Electro Bounce Chariot”
  • The Dusty Rhino
  • Rub a Dub Dub 3 in a Tub
  • Second Frumming
  • Psychic Taxi
  • Area 351
  • Wet Dream
  • AND MANY MORE!!

ART & FIRE ART:

  • A Vortex for Vultures
  • Psychic Taxi
  • The Chakraland Game!
  • The Critical E.E.A.R.Z. (Experience/Expectation Adjustment/Realignment Zone)
  • Art by Rez
  • The Ha Ha Box
  • Man Pavilion Zoetropes
  • The Light Orchestra
  • Bossy Dice
  • Fire Dance
  • Pimpsnaxx
  • The Story Portal
  • The Aspiration Wall: Collaborative Interactive Art Creation
  • Man Pavilion Murals
  • Helix
  • Zonotopia
  • You Are The Key
  • Line of Fire
  • Spawn of Dodgasourus
  • Into the Flame
  • The Union Mural Team
  • AND MORE!!

LIVE PERFORMERS, DJS & BANDS:

  • Beautiful Machines
  • Brass Band: Mission
  • Burning Band
  • Chance’s End
  • Gamelan X
  • Materialized
  • Megaflame
  • Papa Bear and the Easy Love
  • PiNeal’s Intergalactic Cultural Exchange Program
  • Pixel Memory
  • Priize
  • The Shape
  • CelloJoe
  • Fontain’s M.U.S.E.
  • International Human Color Wheel – A Dance 4 Positivity
  • Jade Foxes
  • Samba Stilt Circus
  • Slinkycat
  • Third Seven
  • TrashKan Marchink Band
  • Ziggy Dayz
  • Tamo
  • Dex Stakker
  • DJ Loomer
  • Anthony Mansfield
  • Be Calm Honcho
  • Dane Jouras
  • El Jefe Rojo
  • BASEHEAD
  • LT.D
  • Galen
  • Sesh
  • M3
  • Ed Mazur
  • DJ Dane
  • DJ Alvaro Bravo
  • MYSTR HATCHET
  • DJMK
  • DJ Clarkie
  • Nugz
  • Snarkle
  • Phleck
  • Matt Haze
  • MoPo
  • Shouts!
  • AIRsmith
  • Alex Kane
  • Borris
  • Conandrum
  • Dave Mak
  • DJ E10
  • DJ Feral
  • DJ ICON
  • DJ Valarien
  • DJ Loomer
  • Everett Wayne
  • Grumples Z Clown
  • Holly Rich
  • Kaweh
  • Michelangelo
  • MotorHome Music
  • naudible
  • Nerm
  • SAYER
  • SenedracHunter
  • Shissla
  • Kapt’n Kirk
  • ShOOey
  • Brad Robinson
  • Mancub
  • 8Ball
  • Chemical Ali
  • David Gregory
  • PapaLu
  • AND MANY, MANY MORE!!

VJ PROJECTIONS:

  • VJ CaroLuna
  • Diana Maxwell
  • Hugh Kimbrough
  • VJ Maliepono
  • Mark McGothigan
  • VJ Musashii
  • Ron Halbert
  • AND MORE!!

TO VOLUNTEER:
Email SEvolunteers(at)burningman(dot)com or complete this form.
We also need volunteers to come back 11am Monday, Oct 14th to Indiana and 19th for our annual neighborhood clean up so we can leave the neighborhood cleaner than we found it! We’ll have donuts, coffee, great thank you schwag, and new friends!
EVERYONE should read the Survival Guide before you come.

HELP US OUT BY DOING THESE THINGS:

  1. ARRIVE EARLY! Enjoy the full day & keep the line shorter
  2. Take mass transit or bike; bike parking at 19th & Minnesota; No driving on Minnesota between 19th and 22nd this year. PARK cars at UCSF lot at 16th and 3rd — discount rate till Midnight!
  3. Respect our neighbors, no loud noises entering or leaving, don’t block driveways, use OUR toilets.
  4. NO boom boxes, renegade sound systems or unapproved fire and keep noise down after 10pm!
  5. Pack out all trash you bring, properly separate any discards you get from the event by putting them in the right bin, and LEAVE NO TRACE! We have 70% waste diversion and want to do even better!
  6. Come back Monday at 11am to help with our neighborhood-wide clean-up and help leave things cleaner than they were!
  7. Read the DECOMmandments/Survival Guide below.

FYI: Smoking is now prohibited on any open air public property in the city of SF, including the park as per Article 191: Prohibiting smoking in city park and recreation areas.

THANK YOU for your part in bringing the spirit of Black Rock City to SF and for making this a year-round community! Special thanks to ALL the artists, performers, theme camps, volunteers, our neighbors in the Dogpatch, Dogpatch Neighborhood Network, SFFD, Bayview Police Dept, ISCOTT, Entertainment Commission, and others involved with this day. Thank you and HOORAY!!!