We’ve been duped, Burners. For 4 years now, we’ve been sold on a “pie in the sky” vision. Burning Man would no longer be about exploiting volunteer labor and the financial and artistic contributions of Burners, to create profits for a small group operating in near-secrecy without oversight. Instead, it would now be a charity, with our tax-free deductions supporting an altruistic vision to bring Burning Man’s Principles to the world. The Founders would step down, but leave the infrastructure in place to maintain the integrity of Burner values into the next century.
A noble vision, but here’s what really happened:
the Founders set up a private company and transferred the main assets of the business to it; this company earns royalties for the use of the Burning Man name, logo and trademarks
the Founders each got a $1 million+ tax break for passing their share of future profits from the LLC over to the new tax-exempt non-profit
transparency was removed, except for public IRS Forms which were filed late.
people who had given substantial amounts of their lives volunteering for Burning Man, were arbitrarily shunted out the door to make room for new, paid employees.
ticket prices went up, revenues doubled
it got harder for veteran Burners to attend, while remaining relatively easy for Virgins
Rather than the transparency we’ve been promised for so many years, and a new BMOrg focused on charitable works, we get higher ticket prices, more revenue streams, and more secrecy. I’m not so sure that Burning Man has jumped the corporate shark – it seems more like it’s been eaten by it.
The new Afterburn report is buried deep in the new web site. If you read “Voices of Burning Man”, the section of the new site that seems to actually update, you’d have no clue about it. If you go to burningman.org, there’s nothing on the main page. If you navigate their menu system – The Culture, The Event, The Network, Stuff & Things – you will have to really dig to find anything about it (the correct sequence is Menu, The Culture, Historical Archives, Black Rock City History, Afterburn Reports, 2014 Afterburn Report). Basically, to read the Afterburn, you need to subscribe to the Jackrabbit Speaks or click this link.
This year’s report begins with the type of statement we’re used to seeing from this crew:
Our AfterBurn reports will continue as they have since 2001, except they’ll now be consolidated, and focus exclusively on the production of the event in Black Rock City.
“Continue as they have since 2001” in OrgSpeak means “be completely different from how they have been since 2001”.
The word “consolidated” in this context means “much smaller”. Significantly, BMOrg are no longer publishing Burning Man’s financial chart. This was always an incomplete document, since for some reason they didn’t share their revenues; we had to make assumptions based on ticket and ice sales. At least it highlighted things like BMOrg spending more on travel and costumes for themselves than they did on donations and art for the community. Read our analysis for 2013 and 2012, as well as the IRS returns for Burning Man Project 2013 and Black Rock Arts Foundation 2013.
BMOrg continue to insist that transparency is still “coming soon”:
Separately, Burning Man will begin producing an annual report, in addition to the yearly IRS Form 990 financial reporting. That report will focus on Burning Man’s nonprofit activities and year-round global programming, as well as updates about Burning Man’s organizational infrastructure and support departments (such as Communications, Technology, Legal, Accounting, Human Resources, etc.).
Given that we just got the 2013 information in February 2015, it seems unlikely that we will be able to have any meaningful discussion about Burning Man 2014 for a year and a half after the event. What’s the point of that? It seems like it would be fairly straightforward to ask the various department heads to write a brief report on the event by December 1, then post these to burningman.org. What do we gain by waiting a year and a half? This is all for charity, right – so why not have openness, sharing, participation, communal effort, civic responsibility, radical self expression, radical inclusion? Why run it like a typical profit-driven corporation, where any disclosure of information must be signed off by the Board and PR team? The event is sold out, so it’s not like their revenues are at risk. At this point, the global culture will grow from participation and authenticity, not exclusion, hypocrisy and secrecy.
BMOrg have just had professional auditors going through the books for 2013 and 2014: will these accounts be published? It seems very, very unlikely.
It is now well more than a year since Larry Harvey said
It has been asked if we intend to reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC. The answer is yes; that too will happen at about the same time as the Burning Man Project reveals its information—these two entities will then become a clean well-lighted suite of rooms thrown open for inspection.
So will there be an event in the future when “the Burning Man Project reveals its information”? Or did he just mean the IRS Form 990 filings? I’m not holding my breath. Right now, it seems that there is no intention to EVER reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC.
“It is definitely incomplete information,” said Megan Miller, communications director for Burning Man Project.
While all of the information required from the Internal Revenue Service is in the documents, Miller said, Burning Man cannot yet disclose revenue information from this past year’s festival, nor the one prior since the organization currently is undergoing an outside audit for 2013 and 2014.
All of this missing information that Burners have been seeking should be available before this year’s end, Miller said
The audit has been signed off, so what are they waiting for? Still counting the money? Or perhaps, so busy counting the $30.5 million from 2015’s ticket sales that what happened in the past doesn’t occupy much attention any more.
The increase in ticket prices and population cap over the last few years has led to a massive windfall for BMOrg, but only a slight increase in the number of art projects sponsored by Burning Man. Artists still have to raise funds themselves, half to two-thirds of project cost.
For 2014, $800,000 was spent on art, across 61 projects – an average of $13,115 per project. There were another 200 art installations placed on the Playa without any financial support from BMOrg.
And what of the giving back to the community? It’s now more than halfway through the 2014-2015 Burn year, and more than a year since BMOrg “fully completed their transition to a non-profit”. So we should be able to point to lots of great outreach activity, right? Maybe I just can’t find that section of their website. There’ve been a few TED talks and panel discussions.
They’ve gone from “the only things we sell are ice and coffee, and all proceeds from that go to local charities” to “the Arctica volunteers donate their tips to charity” – which was about $13,000 last year.
Perhaps when we finally get to see the 2014 financial information for the Burning Man Project, it will describe some wonderful things that the self-appointed custodians of Burner culture have done to promote it, and we can all feel like we’re saving the world together. Maybe we’ll see a new, fair contract for the artists, when the art grant recipients for 2015 are publicly announced.
Remember 6 months ago, when the community was outraged about the Burning Man Project Director running an expensive Commodification camp with dozens of paid employees? The Minister of Propaganda told us:
(shhhh, just between you and us …) we’re working on a really really BIG project that will serve to tell the Burning Man story as it is today and into the future, and it’s gonna be RAD. You’ll know it when you see it.
Could we get the rad thing now, please? Pretty please?
Buried within the latest Jackrabbit was the news that Jim Tananbaum has stepped down from the board of the Burning Man Project. This could’ve been a positive, if it had happened in response to the crisis, showing that BMOrg listened to the community. Instead they published his statement blaming all his paid employees for his camp’s problems, and lecturing us on what a great example of the Ten Principles it all was. The resignation now comes as too little, too late to have any meaning. We’ve seen what BMOrg’s real response to the AirBnB-ing of Burning Man has been: “camps that get placement have to have an interactive element”. Or, in OrgSpeak: “all systems go, plug-n-players! Charge as much as you like, employ as many sherpas as you like, just buy the $800 VIP tickets. Get your Citibank Gold festival packages now!”
My camp, called Maslowtopia and organized by famed hotelier Chip Conley (author of Peak), gathered a motley crew of around 100 all-stars from around the world, including incredible artists, organic chefs, and wise Fortune-100 co-founders…
One of those all-stars was an A-list entrepreneur and former top-tier investment banker. Trained at Harvard as a lawyer and forged into the consummate dealmaker, she had literally built economies from scratch
Hexayurt creator (and legendary Burner) Vinay Gupta tweeted a photo of the camp from the air:
“self reliance is the greatest art” – my teabag message as I’m finishing off this post.
Earlier this year, Burning Man CEO and Founder Marian Goodell gave a talk at TEDx Tokyo, while social alchemist Bear Kittay, part of the “Burning Man 2.0” team, debuted his new song celebrating transhumanism and the Singularity (you know, that great idea where we’re all going to become one with robots and Google).
Marian released a couple of factoids in the speech that raised our eyebrows. One was that group revenues are now $30 million. The other was that the Burning Man Project board has 19 directors.
To me, that seems extraordinarily high, and Bain Capital agrees:
According to the BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index 2010, the average board size is 19 and the median is 17. BoardSource reports that nonprofits with budgets of $10 million or more have an average of 18 members and those with less than $1 million typically have 14 members.
A 2011 study by Bain Capital reported in The Nonprofit Times asserts that the optimal board size for effective decision making is seven people. According to Bain, “every person added after that decreases decision-making ability by 10 percent.” So for boards with the median of 17 people, Bain would put their decision-making ability at zero.
So it’s big, and likely to be ineffective, but that’s kind of the way it goes in the non-profit world.
How many directors are there? When Marian gave her talk, and as recently as August 6, there were still 17. Could she really have been out by 2 directors? We speculated about who the other 2 might be. In a talk at Columbia University last year, John Perry Barlow and Peter Hirshberg were presented as “Founders”. Barlow’s links to the psychedelic and tech worlds go deep, and it has since come out that Hirshberg is writing yet another book about Burning Man. However, neither have been formally announced as a director yet.
Right before the burn, they added Jim Tananbaum of $650 million fund Foresite Capital, and Matt Goldberg of QVC. Chris Weitz stepped down, but his wife Mercedes Martinez remains there. We now have 18 official BMP directors.
It seems unusual for a $30 million organization – that’s ostensibly all about our community – to have three Director changes on their Board without making an announcement. The reason may well have something to do with who these guys are, and what at least one of them is up to at our event.
Jim Tananbaum is founder and CEO of Foresite Capital, a leading healthcare investment fund. For the last 20 years, Jim has been a change agent in healthcare. He started Geltex (acquired by Genzyme/Sanofi) and Theravance/Theravance Bio, which produce leading drugs for renal failure, asthma and emphysema. Over the last 15 years he has also lead financing for numerous transformative healthcare companies which range from Amerigroup (HMO for the poor) to Jazz Pharmaceuticals (drugs for central nervous system) to Intarcia (drugs for type II diabetes). Jim is currently passionate about accelerating revolutionary treatment, diagnostics and delivery systems in healthcare.
Jim has been a 6 year burner, lover of music and art. Jim graduated from Yale University with a BS/BSEE in 1985 and a Harvard MD in 1989 and MBA in 1991. During this time he also received an MA from MIT in 1989
How BMOrg Directors Camp photo: Facebook, Jim Tananbaum
Yale, double Harvard, and MIT. He’s not the only graduate of fancy colleges on the Project’s Board; also represented are Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Virginia, Columbia, NYU, Goucher, and Humboldt.
Any connection between the world of Drugs and Burning Man is up to the reader to interpret. It’s difficult to see what relevance diabetes and renal failure have to spreading Burner culture around the world. Perhaps BMOrg really want to “go viral”.
Conspiracy theorists might wonder about the coincidence that right after a healthcare VC secretly joins the board, we get post-event hype about the possibility of a virus outbreak. There was word that the CDC showed up at Burning Man this year, on the Monday. I thought it was just another Playa rumor, until the West Nile news came out. In the world of software, it is widely believed that anti-virus companies create viruses. In biotech, official stories about viruses and vaccination are usually not the whole story. There is no conspiracy theory in saying that viruses can be artificially designed, that’s medical science.
Dr Tananbaum’s companies may have nothing to do with mosquitos in Gerlach, but monetizing the Playa does appear to be part of his plan. He has spent much of his career in medical science, with a particular penchant for financing pharmaceutical pioneers.
What about Burner culture? Can that be artificially designed like a virus? Is it something spontaneous, that flourishes in Black Rock City from 70,000 individual contributions of Burners – all adding up to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts? Or is it something socially engineered to be spoon-fed to us, distributed worldwide on the Home Shopping Channel?
With the “Plug-n-Play” turnkey Burning Man experience, it seems that our culture is being treated as something that can be packaged and sold to the highest bidder. Pay your $25k per couple and show up in your private plane. A sherpa helps you dress in your costume and escorts you to your camp’s wristband-only art car. Gifting is taken care of with a small contribution on your camp’s behalf to Burning Man Arts. Everyone gets a scarf.
How are all of these VIPs and their workforce of sherpas getting tickets, when it is becoming increasingly hard for regular Burners to attend? Well, we already answered that for you in Burnileaks: The New Scalpers. There’s no problem getting tickets, if you can pay $650 and you’re in a VIP camp. This is the direction that BMOrg is taking Black Rock City in. More vendors, more LLCs, more PnP, more gentrification, more class war douchebags, higher ticket prices.
Why have an RV, when you can have a Mobile Fortress?
Caravansary was an attempt to avoid “walled off RV fortress compounds”, and instead have “oases of the desert, where weary travellers could drop by and exchange gifts”. Did that work? From the stories and comments of Burners this year, it appears that message went over the heads of these dreaded nouveau riche Burners. They just wanted to ride their Segways and party.
It seems those directors, though, may have different ideas.
Love money? Got a million dollar plug-n-play camp? Want to rip off Burners? Then it’s straight to the top of the pyramid for you!
Welcome to the world of Caravancicle on K Street. Theme:
$$$, I ♥ $
See this pic? Zoom in. It says “I heart $”
Thanks to Anonymous Burner for doing some sleuthing into this.
15-time Burner, first year was 1996. So I’ve seen the ebbs and flows, and feel a bit… conflicted by the recent evolutions, that’s all.
my only real “connection” to this story is the fact that Stefano Novelli is a friend of mine and he (along with at least 3 other artists) discovered today their names and professional reputations were exploited on Caravancicle’s site for their uber expensive plug and play camp, without their prior consent, authorization or approval:
They have nothing at all to do with this camp and they’re angry for the representation that they’re associated with it. I’m sincerely curious to know the chain of events that led to such falsehoods being advertised on this for-profit enterprise’s website.
That prompted me to dig around and when I discovered the person behind Caravansicle happens to be a rich dude who’s also on a board member on The Burning Man Project (ie: an insider) and it all started to feel like a bigger story to me. Especially after hearing so many stories of douchey behavior from this crew. Feels like an insider like James Tananbaum should be setting a better example instead of indulging in such smarmy commodification and radical dependency.
Anonymous Burner points out that he has not yet uncovered any direct evidence linking BMOrg itself to this camp; just the new BMOrg director, who appears to have underwritten the million dollar camp as well as the prototype hotel room cube technology they used.
The controversy (and conflict-of-interest) surrounding these camps isn’t necessarily a new story. What seems provocative to me was this:
1) at least 4 established artists/burners — Stefano Novelli, Adam Mostow, Erica Halpern, MsesyDoesit — were shamelessly exploited (without their knowledge or permission) by Caravancicle’s “sales brochure.” It stands to reason that their professional and personal reputations could be harmed by this false association. And a $1 million+ camp that charges at least $13k per customer has profited off their good names.
2) That this business venture is led by (at least) one member on the board of The Burning Man Project
3) The free placement of this (and other) camps, and their location (which negatively impacts campers around them) certainly implies cooperation and acknowledgement from BMorg.
It’s important though to note that I don’t see any concrete evidence (even in Caravancicle’s participant agreement: ) that proves BMorg is behind this enterprise. Contained therein in the list of people to whom ire should be directed:
“…the organizers of the Caravancicle Camp and/or the Burning Man Event, including, but not limited to, Back to Earth Inc., dba ‘dovetail events’, Ari Derfel, Jim Tananbaum, Space Cubes LLC, Brad Peik/Peik Construction Inc./Peik Invstments LLC, Black Rock City, LLC and any and all owners, officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, volunteers, contractors or affiliates of these individuals and entities…”
It’s kinda gross that behind the veiled curtain, deep inside The Burning Man Project itself, on the board — is at least one opportunist making a for-profit Plug and Play camp (and financially associated with The Lost Hotel too) and LYING about what artists are affiliated with them, in order to ride on their good reputations and exploit them.
Now I need a shower…
The Plug and Play camps associated with Caravancicle, which gave out bicycles equipped with popsicles for its elite residents to gift, were the Lost Hotel and Sinbads Oasis.
“Sinbad’s Oasis is partnering with The Lost Hotel to host a unique and compelling experience. Our experienced event production team will augment the superb infrastructure developed by the designers and builders of the 2013 Temple.”
Ethics of commodification aside, folks got pissed when they realized that Caravancicle is lying on their site, exploiting the names of established Burners/artists… who ACTUALLY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEIR CAMP.
I found this part most Infuriating and intriguing (to some degree) – and so I put on my investigative hat. Out of respect for the good name of my friend Stefano, and the integrity of our community.
That said, what I have discovered so far is some freaky, interesting shit. Strap in tight:
Caravancicle.com is 1 month old . The site doesn’t have big presence on the social networks. With around 0 facebook likes, it is most successful on facebook, while doing equally well on other social networking sites, for example it has 0 tweets, and 0 google plus ones The website was registered by () and has its servers in United States
Burning Man’s theme this year was miraculously well-suited to promoting the opulent aesthetic of this luxury oasis.
The Caravancicle camp was designed by Ari Derfel, a restaurateur, and Zak Brazen. Zak is a Creative Director at George P Johnson, “the #1 ranked experience marketing agency creating live experiences globally that motivate audiences and activate brands”. Camp Architect was Scott Mahoney, and “the architecture of Burning Man” was promoted to the Caravancicleers.
To create the Caravancicle experience, the team created Pinterest groups with fashion suggestions for their theme nights.
Rather than being Playa-appropriate, it’s cultural appropriation: every one features feathers and war bonnets.
Suggested Playawear for Neon Night
Caravancicle’s page lists a number of established Burning Man artists who are presented as being part of the camp. The problem? No-one told the artists.
Today I contacted the artists listed, and so far have received a response from three of them. None of the artists who got back to me had been consulted about being listed in the camp’s marketing materials, and none of them camped there. Two don’t mind the association because they are friends with the organizers, but Stefano Novelli was emphatically against his good name being associated with plug-n-play camps.
i dont want to be affiliated with anything that has to do with a plug and play camp period.
i had no involvement and would never have any involvement with a plug and play camp. the fact that they used my name to promote their camp is very disappointing to me. i am in the process of talking to my lawyer about this matter.
It’s ok… I think this may be Scott Mahoney‘s promotional site for the high-end Lost Hotel that they created before the burn..
But they have an led tree next to my face that is not my art. And the description isn’t anything that I heard of.. It’s says I will showcase my unique VJ Skills!! Ha ha.. I think they were just trying to throw together a site quickly for promotional uses… But in that case, I should have gotten a CUBE!!
Well I can see how lots of people think there is controversy with this website. The Lost Hotel Cubes project is run by Scott Mahoney, using Gregg Fleishman’s patented nodes. I’m very close to Scott and know Gregg as well. I started working on this project with them as the Industrial Designer to the cubes. I then was diagnosed with cancer and had to drop out of the project and focus on my health. Adam Mostow and Stefano who were also featured on the website are also close friends with Scott and others that were part of the design build team for this project including Toby Smith and Elliot Shuffle who worked on the Cubes, design, fabrication, prototyping, and build. I can’t remember specifically if they ran the website by me, but honestly i am flattered that they would post me on the website. Any publicity is good publicity… Even tho They used the incorrect photo of my art and the description about me was incorrect as well. But they were just using the website as a promotional hype to rent out the cubes. They could say almost anything about me on there and I wouldn’t care, because they are like brothers to me. And they helped me unconditionally with many things in the past. I don’t think Adam or Stefano care as well but I guess that is not my job to say. Someone did some research and found that The website is registered to a James Tananbaum which I believe is one of the investors to the Cubes project. They also found that he is part of the Burning Man Project on the Board of Directors. This has angered people it seems. Scott, Toby and Elliot’s dream was to build Stackable Collapsable Module Camping Cubes, which they succeeded well at I believe, and they rented them out for BM 2014 to help with the funding for this project. This project was horribly expensive and they needed investors to fund the design, fabrication, prototyping and production and build. I don’t think they are walking away with loads of profit. I believe that any money made, went back into the project. They used the “plug and play” camp as a way to promote the cubes, which they want to eventually sell. They haven’t had a chance to respond to any of the criticism because I believe they have barely left the playa, breaking down the hotel and cubes. I am very sorry to those that feel that they have been hurt or affected negatively by this project, but I honestly can’t see how this hurts anybody. Everything changes, including Burning Man.
We wish Erica all the best for a speedy recovery of her health. These Cubes seem like an interesting technology, and there is no rule against Plug-N-Play camps. They are part of Burning Man, and I doubt they’re going anywhere. Erica is right about change, get used to it, Burners. Change is a constant.
Tini Courtney had nothing to do with the camp this year either. At first she didn’t mind being mentioned, and was happy to answer our questions. Later in the day after giving some further details, she asked to be “excluded from further mentions – this is not correct”. Make of that what you will, I am respecting her request.
The Lost Hotel’s services agreement shows them charging $13,000 per person to camp there. A number of individuals and companies are named in their indemnity, including Jim Tananbaum and Black Rock City, LLC – aka BMOrg.
These risks include, but are not limited to, those caused by: (a) the actions, inactions or negligence of the organizers of the Caravancicle Camp and/or the Burning Man Event, including, but not limited to, Back to Earth Inc., dba “dovetail events”, Ari Derfel, Jim Tananbaum, Space Cubes LLC, Brad Peik/Peik Construction Inc./Peik Invstments LLC, Black Rock City, LLC and any and all owners, officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, volunteers, contractors or affiliates of these individuals and entities, (collectively, “Event Related Companies and Individuals”),
If you’re interested, it’s one hell of a waiver. Check out the indemnification clause. I definitely wouldn’t sign it.
The Caravancicleers were encouraged to arrive via private plane. $1400 per person, return from San Carlos.
Charles Mui, CEO of Megas – $13,000 per head. The lady on the far left says: “I’m in this picture but had absolutely no idea who that douche was! No plug and play for me… I was at Beats Boutique where you actually work for your stay and absolutely no RVs. Completely agree with this article”
The Megas team is led by Charles Mui (CEO of Megas, Inc.), Adam Businger (VP Field Logistics) and consists of expert branders, internet marketers, project management teams, event producers and entrepreneurs. A dedicated project manager will be assigned to the Camp Sponsors and is always available to ensure that you are informed and satisfied with the work performed. It is the goal of the Megas team to expertly serve the Camp Members with the services and resources listed in this agreement.
As a full-service event production and entertainment company, Megas will support the Camp and Camp Members with the infrastructure needed to have an unforgettable experience at the Event. Leading up to the Event there is a tremendous amount of planning and organizing that must take place to insure a fun week. The expert logistic team at Megas will handle the registrations and communications with the Camp Members. Client agrees that the Megas team will engage in the tasks needed to gather and purchase the supplies needs for the adventure as the necessary funds become available, Travel arrangements to the event are the responsibility of the Camp Member. A direct line of communication will be available for all Camp Members, 7 days a week leading up to the Event. Megas will be available to answer questions and give direction to the Camp Members. Megas looks forward to providing an unparalleled experience to our camp members.
According to an SEC filing, the company, Megas Inc, has burned through $17.5 million of investor money, without yet booking any revenues. They spent almost $6 million in an all stock transaction to acquire 2 modelling agencies, “Sexy Population” and “XS Modelling”:
On February 5, 2013 the Company entered into an acquisition agreement with Sexy Population, LLC and XS Modeling, LLC. The Company acquired an 80% interest in Sexy Population, LLC and XS Modeling, LLC. The Company issued 5,600,000 shares of Series A preferred stock with a value of $1.00 per share.
They also bought afterpartylive.com for $300,000 – a domain that has not even been activated. Charles Mui, the CEO, has a Multi-Level Marketing background. It seems this crew has a strong focus on branding and creating live experiences.
It looks to me that this camp were name dropping artists they’re friends with, rather than listing the art that was actually created for the camp and shared with the rest of the city in the spirit of Burning Man. There doesn’t seem to be any real effort on the part of Caravancicle to direct fundraising towards these artists. Showing up to a basket of gifts ready for you to distribute, is pretty far down the other end of the spectrum from Radical Self Reliance.
Other Burners shared their feelings:
starstar was open to everyone, NOT a plug n play, caravancical, on the other hand was taking fruit away from people, closed bar, no principles displayed AT ALL
I stopped by Caravanicle – – a friend from the East Bay was on ‘staff’ there. Aesthetically, the place was beautiful (so were the people – – they looked as if they sauntered off of a high-gloss magazine spread). Everyone was super nice to us, I spoke with one guy who invited me back to jam with him. I don’t have issues with people with funds to come to BM. Once exposed to the love and positive ethos herein, I can only expect that it will ripple out for the greater good.
Carvanicle on 9:00 & L was pretty ridiculous. Every camper had their own private “cube” tent with a hammock and mattress. Absolutely everything was white and pristine. Their camp dome/bar was stuffed to the gills with top shelf liquor and they had staff and a private music ensemble serving them nightly. They let us hang out there but did not share alcohol. (No bigs, I always carry my own.) They also had 20+ each of segways and fat tire bikes lined up inside. The campers looked like a mix of boorish white collar stiffs and models flown in from a catwalk. It was quite the people watching spot.
…Just because I visit Paris, order a crepe, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and say “Bonjour” to a French guy doesn’t mean I can call myself a Parisienne.
Similarly one can’t go to Burning Man, ride a pre-fab art car, get some dust on their clothes and call it burning.
It’s tourism versus being a local. Neither are really bad or wrong, per se, but they are also not the same or equal.
Similarly, Parisiennes couldn’t give two whole fucks among themselves about tourists. They know why and how Paris is awesome and aren’t going to bother sharing that with guys taking photos wearing fanny packs who try desperately to play at being “French” so they can feel like they belong somewhere. So it is in Black Rock City. The locals know what’s up.
The PnPers are white noise on the playa. Forgettable and easy to ignore. Ten minutes gawking at Caravancicle and I got a nosebleed from all the fun I was having.
Fortunately, PnPers all have the ability and the means to change, should they so desire. No one has to be a tourist forever. All one has to do is immigrate, learn the language and make new friends.
And every year someone does and they come back the next year different, more willing to engage. The rest move on to the next spot. That’s why this crazy town keeps getting bigger – immigration!
The super rich own politicians, the government, corporations, our fiscal system, the Fed. Reserve, and our vote to change any of it. Sorry for being an exclusionary person on this, but they don’t get to have Burning Man. Fuck them…I think that it should be considered whether the financial contribution you bring to an art project justifies the social degradation of the burning man experience.
We thought Caravancicle was the fucking Scientologists. Wide Awake (Insomniac’s camp) on the other hand was cool as hell and very friendly.
A couple of us stopped in the one with the mirrored entry tunnel and Michael Christian’s piece, “Home”, in the courtyard. Did they lease or buy that piece? Anyway, the notable thing for us was that in the crowded bar of dustless beauties, no one would talk or make eye contact with us “outsiders”. That’s when I thought, “It’s like we’ve stepped OFF the playa.”
I was denied an alcoholic beverage at Caravancicle because I was not a member. I was served down the street however at the stacked cubes at the place that was on 9:00. They served raw juice with Vodka. Internally, Caravancicle was a mess and they had a lot of their paid employees quit.
Stefano had nothing to do with this camp- he runs the space wench art car (which is pictured on their site and his bio) but he had a small camp with only 12-14 people….. And Scott Mahoney organized the lost hotel and raw bar- Adam Mostow brings the jabba barge and also was camped in his own small camp near the hotel- additionally Ericka Halpren who is listed brought her art but is not part of a large high priced camp- I don’t know what this faux site is talking about but these are my friends and are listed falsely on this site!! …These are all hard working artists who wouldn’t ever be part of a big money grubbing camp like mentioned above- so this website listing them is only the true organizers hiding behind GOOD people-…the “about us” is who I am referring to- almost all the people listed are my friends and my campmates and I do not camp at this horrible place spoken about!! The people listed on the about us: have given to the community at large for years and years…this community sticks together and I KNEW none of my amazing friends who work blood, sweat, tears, and time to bring amazing things for you all to enjoy would had anything to do with this and to be listed as such on a fake website- without permission is absolutely disgusting….. Let it be known our community is tight and this is not sitting right by any of our good people- we will not support this type of slander in the name of big plug and play camps getting rich-
we are now discussing the legal actions and possible outcomes: I knew whole heartily that my people wouldn’t sell out like this- no way- Erica, stef, Scott, Adam- none of them believe this is what the burn is about-
One friend worked at Caravancicle and another at one of those “fortress RV camps.” The RV camp was friends and big contributers to the BMorg art programs. Caravancicle was super douchey.
The Sinbad Oasis URL is linked to Adam Krim who co-founded the Confluence Group. They are a company that specializes in commoditizing and marketing to the festival community.http://theconfluencegroup.com/
Confluence’s clients include GE and Intel. Intel built a “Burning Man-like” figure, not The Man but SiMan, for a recent conference.
Jason shared some deeper wisdom within these divides:
For me it boils down to what is said in one of my favorite TED talks of all time:
Bigger income gaps lead to deteriorations in Social Relations: Child Conflict Homicide Imprisonment Social Capital Trust Health: Drug abuse Infant mortality Mental Illness Obesity Human Capital: Child Well-being High School dropouts Math & Literacy scores Social Mobility Teenage Births
More Inequality = More superiority or inferiority More status competition and consumerism More status insecurity More worry about how we are seen and judged More “social evaluation anxiety” (threats to self-esteem & social status, fear of negative judgements)
So, Burners…what does all this mean? Let me break it down for you in a sentence:
Burning Man’s latest director is behind a $1 million+ plug-n-play camp that promotes wearing feathers and native headdresses, and associates itself with artists who camp elsewhere and have no desire to have their reputations linked to commercialization of our culture.
Jim Tananbaum is by no means the only big money BMOrg Director associated with turnkey camping. First Camp, of course, has meals served and trash cleared. Leo Villareal is the founder of Disorient, who certainly share a great deal with Burners. They also have one of the most impressive turnkey operations I’ve seen on the Playa. They are turnkey in the sense that there are meals and regular RV services available, and members pay camp dues. It’s harder to argue that they are the ghastly “plug and play”, where sparkle ponies show up but don’t participate adequately. Everyone who camps there has to do volunteer shifts, such as being a Greeter. It ain’t cheap, but it ain’t in the stratosphere either. From what I hear, their budget is pretty reasonable for such a large camp with so many amenities.
Chris Weitz was the concierge of Ashram Galactica, which at one point had joked about building a multi-room hotel on the Playa. Anonymous Burner says:
The whole “performance art” and gift of the Grand Hotel at Ashram Galactica is that it is “the only 4.5 star hotel on the playa” — there is lots of silly pomp and overwrought decoration in the Moroccan tent that is shared with everyone to enjoy — neatly decorated rooms are awarded nightly, to the public. Weddings are officiated there, it’s a lovely and inviting spot. The campers put on a show for the whole playa. The Gilded Lily bar is an open bar and everything is gifted with a smile.
Although the “joke” may have been amusing at first due to its irony, it is now no longer a joke: hotels at Burning Man have become a reality. There are multiple camps following in the footsteps of a “quirky luxe boutique on the Playa” – and charging five figures per head for rooms. Since August 6, Weitz has stepped down from the Board, and been replaced with Matt Goldberg – a Melbourne boy who is SVP of Global Market Development at $9 billion home shopping behemoth QVC. Once you jump the shark, it’s time for the infomercials.
Chip Conley is the founder of Joie de Vivre, an operator of boutique hotels all around the world. He is a director of AirBnB, who were selling spots at Burning Man camps this year – another example of something that gets presented initially as an ironic farce, but paves the way for less ironic imitators in the near future. Conley called his theme camp “Maslowtopia“, suggesting that all the needs of his residents are met so they can self-actualize. He also created Costanoa, the original plug-n-play “glampground” for hispter techies, located on the coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz…
For those who want to have a “camping experience” without actually getting their hands dirty – the folks at Costanoa will set up a fancy tent for you, start a nice campfire for you, cook your (non-camping) food for you, and presumably sing campfire songs and make s’mores for you! All for a price. Of course you can upgrade to fancier accommodations…
There is nothing illegal about any of this. However you choose to interpret the Ten Principles, Plug and Play is completely acceptable on the Playa according to the rules – as long as the BLM get their 3% cut. Headdresses are legal, sherpas are legal. Self-reliance can now be outsourced, for those who find it an inconvenient obstruction to their partying.
Hurray! Our clients want us back on the playa next year, and we have begun accepting bookings. We’re thrilled to be hosting our fine guests, and we have begun accepting applications for 2015 sherpas.
All applicants must have prior experience in waiting tables, pole dancing, or catering. Pay is generous, and Burning Man tickets will be provided. You won’t have to work the entire time, but you will be asked to work extended hours.
Serious applicants only
That’s one way to get a ticket. Maybe instead of “low income tickets”, BMOrg should issue “sherpa tickets”.
Radical sherpa reliance.
[Update 9/6/14 7:55pm]
Wanted…more sherpas. We have cash.
Nice way to bypass the cost and hassle of finding a ticket and camping space for each sherpa – recruit from the pool of talent already inside the Gate.
I met someone from Carvansicle a short while later at Playa Surfers party, and asked him about it.. he said that they were short staffed because some of the “hired help” had left, so the camp was looking to replace them with new paid workers….you know.. like it was a resort at Cabo short dishwashers