BMOrg Tips Hat to Caravancicle Camp Director

Voices of Burning Man has a story from Communications Director Megan Miller, the latest BMOrg employee jetting around the world to attend a festival: Envision, in Uvite, Costa Rica. Her report is very favorable – as it should be, Envision is a great event as we said in 2012:

This week, Burners.Me is lucky enough to be coming to you live (well, sort of!) from the Envision festival in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

There are some immediately obvious differences from Burning Man. We arrived and were welcomed by Stephen Brooks, one of the world’s leading experts in permaculture, singing on stage songs about the potential within all of us to make the future better than the past our parents handed us. Later singers acknowledged the presence of different tribes, and asked us all to unite as one to protect the earth. The message was that tanks, bombs, machine guns and torpedos could not stop the love that all humans have for one another. We found it very inspiring, and great to dance to.

From the musical side, the score was Hippies 1 Ravers 1 – a lovely balance, and nice to be able to move between the two. The music was great on both counts. All the people were happy and everyone’s attitude was great. If you were thirsty, a mere $2 got you a giant refreshing coconut.

[Read the full story: Envision 2012 Costa Rica – Burners By The Beach]

Megan seems to think the same:

I was deeply impressed with the way people at Envision took responsibility for the environment around them, and for the experience had by themselves and others. I didn’t see a single piece of out of place trash on the ground (also called ‘MOOP’ by Envision-ers). I saw people jumping in, helping out, and bringing what they had to offer the collective experience.

While there were goods available for purchase in the tasteful marketplace and food stalls (no huge corporate banners, here), everywhere I turned I witnessed people genuinely enjoying acts of gifting. At times I found myself searching for price listings only to realize the activities didn’t cost any money – these included a face painting booth, a place to immerse yourself in blue clay, and a treehouse slide made of bamboo straight out of Tom Sawyer’s jungle paradise.

The connections between Envision and Burning Man run deep. One of Envision’s 6 Co-founders, Stephen Brooks, has been attending Burning Man for the past 14 years (his father has been ten times!), and you could see and feel the connection between the two communities everywhere.

Village Stage schedule (Photo by Zac Cirivello)
Village Stage schedule (Photo by Zac Cirivello)

There’s a strong theme camp presence – leadership from Fractal Nation, Sacred Spaces, Abraxas, and others are interwoven into the fabric of Envision. Members of various on-playa departments work as Envision staff and volunteers – DPW, Gate, Rangers, Café, Media Mecca, ESD – they’re all there, putting to use the skills they’ve mastered on the playa. In the Costa Rican jungle.

It’s not a tough sell, really. “Sort of like Burning Man? But on the beach?” Say no more.

It is interesting that Megan chose to highlight Stephen, who is one of Envision’s founders, as the example of how tight Burning Man is with Envision.

Stephen was the manager of Burning Man Project Director Jim Tananbaum’s now infamous Caravancicle camp. He insists that the camp was a great example of giving, and he worked hard to teach the Ten Principles to all their guests:

Screenshot 2015-03-18 18.52.32

Image: Facebook (Public)

Remember when Danger Ranger blamed all the camp’s woes on a rave promoter, who was now banned for life?

I have also conducted my own personal investigation into this matter and have come up with answers that may be more specific than some of those presented thus far.

My conclusion is that Burning Man broke Caravansicle. I might add that the individual who profited from Caravansicle will not be allowed back into Burning Man.

When I was finally able to confront Mr Tananbaum face-to-face, my first words to him were; “You really stepped in some shit.” I believe that he truly regrets the wreckage in the wake of his camp. Mr Tananbaum started out with the best of intentions. Caravansicle was not intended to be commercial in nature. His goal was to fund and produce a large camp for friends and associates, much like the camps that he had done in the two previous years. But this year it was going to be grander and larger. His first mistake was to hire a professional camp producer from the commercial EDM world with no Burning Man experience. This is what brought in the sherpas and wristbands. His second mistake was having a bar so big and so public that it ran out of liquor. Nothing is worse than a half-drunk lynch mob. And I’m sure that the professional camp producer was surprised to discover no trash dumpsters at Burning Man. None-the-less, the camp producer took the money and ran.

Tananbaum’s account was almost the complete opposite of Danger Ranger’s, singing the praises of his camp manager. In his own statement on the Burning Man web site he said:

I am writing to respond to a number of posts regarding Caravancicle, a camp of which I was a member in 2014 – I also helped envision and fund the camp.

The hero of this unfortunate situation was our camp’s manager who worked tirelessly for 2 days along with other camp members to help provide basic infrastructure for all of us. While the crisis was going on, all of us were greatly distracted and weren’t able to properly respond to the many people coming through our camp. Our supplies were also dwindling. Since the camp was so large, we used wristbands to help manage the food, water, and booze supply during non-public hours. It was really sad for me to read the accounts of people who visited our camp and were turned down for drinks during the day (including a number of my friends). Ughh….  If we had simply posted a sign providing details on camp gift times, it would have made a big difference.

Our camp breakdown was also compromised because the group responsible for providing the infrastructure was also responsible for part of the breakdown. In the end, our camp manager and some other members of the camp, plus breakdown staff, cleaned up our camp by Saturday after the event.

Let’s hope this story means the lifetime ban’s been lifted – if it ever existed in the first place. Stephen is a good guy and a good Burner – don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, if the source is not credible.

Definitely go check out Envision, and the beautiful country of Costa Rica which has 300,000 different kinds of bugs.

envision 2015

Burning Man Spawns New Age Festivals

The New York Times has a story by Julia Allison on The Progeny of Burning Man. There are other ways to get a transformational experience than going to Black Rock City, and not every EDM festival is like Coachella.

Re-blogged from the New York Times:

It was 3 a.m. in Bradley, Calif., in the middle of a dusty dry lake bed, and Carl Weiseth, 33, was shoeless, shirtless and regaling a gathering crowd about last night’s escapade. “I didn’t make it back from the dance floor until the sun was starting to rise,” he told his audience, adding that he “passed out to the gentle vibrations of thumping electronic music for three to four hours.”

A 1960s Volkswagen van was painted with the words “Give Peace a Chance,” surrounded by fresh-faced bohemians sporting flower crowns, acid-washed jean shorts, seapunk teal-dyed hair and psychedelic leggings. “It’s the feather-and-leather crew,” one festivalgoer said.

To the casual observer, this post-New Age convergence of monumental art, all-night dancing and “Kumbaya” spirituality could be mistaken for Burning Man, the weeklong arts festival in the Nevada desert. But unlike Burning Man, which marked its 28th year last month, this festival called Lightning in a Bottle offers paid lecturers, headlining music acts like Moby, and V.I.P. packages with deluxe tents and fresh linens for $2,500.

“L.I.B. is one of the pinnacle festivals of West Coast conscious culture,” said Mr. Weiseth, using shorthand for Lightning in a Bottle, among a new type of gathering called “transformational festivals.” They could be described as the slightly smaller, psychedelic-art-and-electronic-dance-music-centered, commercialized progeny of Burning Man.

“It is the ultimate convergence of visionary art, electronic music, yoga, spirituality, nutrition, fashion and dance-culture, where people gather who appreciate both nature and spiritual consciousness, and who want to co-create an unpretentious dance party in celebration of sacred art and community,”…Held over four days in May and billed as a “heart and mind expanding oasis,” Lightning in a Bottle, in its ninth year, drew 15,000 participants, one of the largest and more influential of these festivals.

Such festivals have spread beyond their West Coast stronghold and now take place year-round throughout the United States, as well as Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America. They are an amalgamation of several cultural forces: the rise of electronic dance music, the maturing of the rave culture, the popularity of TED-like talks, the mainstreaming of yoga, and the YOLO spirit of festivalgoers who spread the word on social media.

Unlike more mainstream music gatherings like Coachella and Lollapalooza(with their focus on pop music, celebrities, alcohol and fashion brands), transformational festivals embrace feel-good values like ecological sustainability, organic food, community building and wisdom sharing. With names like Beloved and Wanderlust, Envision and Lucidity, these festivals seem like bastions of the nouveau hippie, grandchildren-of-the-Woodstock generation. And, to a certain extent, they are.

…“This is a safe space — a space free of judgment, criticism, punishment,” said the effervescent Dream Rockwell, a festival founder, who was standing backstage while a man played a didgeridoo, an ancient Australian instrument. “Creativity is accepted in all forms. ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’ obviously does not apply here.”

…Maura Malini Hoffman, 49, a former Procter & Gamble executive who now gives spiritual talks at festivals, put it this way: “Transformation is about realizing there’s more to life than making money, having a good job, fame and fortune. People go to these and they’re never the same. 

…This year, organizers offered a luxury EZ Camping option. The $2,500 packages, which included a prefab tent, plush bed, cooler, private restrooms, power outlets and a “skinny mirror,” were sold out.

One of the luxury tents went to Misty Meeler, 29, an interior design assistant from Houston, who came with her 37-year-old sister. Ms. Meeler wore a gold headdress, rainbow bikini, a leather utility belt and purple leg warmers. Speaking through a heart-shaped dust mask, she explained that Coachella was too “Hollywood see-and-be-seen” for her taste. This festival, she said, “has a hippie scene that makes the whole experience better, whether you’re looking to eat healthy, live clean, meditate, yoga or want to party the whole four days with no sleep.”

…The crowd included James Oroc, a writer from New Orleans, who was waxing philosophical. Best known for his psychedelic tome, “Tryptamine Palace,” he is an outspoken and sometimes cantankerous critic of festival culture…His verdict? The crowd was “very hip, very beautiful,” he said, though he was concerned that the festival had become too “fashion” and “very L.A.”

“You get a lot of Burners who haven’t actually been to Burning Man,” he said. “They just have the clothes.”

Read the full story here.

photo: Flickr

Random Rab at Envision Festival, Costa Rica 2014. photo: Flickr

Pura Vida! Envision Nails It Again

some great visuals at the Luna stage

some great visuals at the Luna stage

I’m down in Costa Rica for the Envision festival again. What a great festival! A combination of local, US and Canadian musicians and speakers, in a tropical beach paradise setting that is about as far environmentally from Burning Man as you can get…without going to Antarctica, anyway.

Envision is getting bigger every year, with an estimated crowd this time of 5000. Many camp at the 5-day festival, others stay in the very affordable villas or hostels nearby.

At the ticket checkpoint, you can get a coconut

At the ticket checkpoint, you can get a coconut

In many ways, Envision reminds me of the first Burning Man I went to. In 1998, there were 15,000 people at Burning Man, but it felt much smaller. Everyone was approachable, every camp was open, we were all in it together: this crazy bunch travelling all the way to the desert for a festival. It created a common bond of adventure amongst the participants, something that is not quite the same now that Burning Man is a city of more than 60,000 people, with Art Cars that require wristbands to ride on and theme camps that are closed off to all but the insiders ($7500 per “head” to stay in a swingers camp, anyone?)

Ed Zaydelman hosting a workshop in the Tea Lounge

Ed Zaydelman hosting a workshop in the Tea Lounge

This year I managed to take in quite a few of the workshops, mostly because friends were presenting. And they were excellent. Ashley de Regil helped us realize the importance of our dreams, Klaudia Oliver (organizer of TedX Black Rock City) helped us realize the importance of “free style magic”, calling for spiritual assistance any time we need it through simple, personal rituals; and Ed Zaydelman helped us realize the importance of being in the present moment, with conscious awareness of the choices we’re making and their consequences.

Envision was not without its problems. Heavy rain and lightning storms shut the festival down on Friday night, and turned it into a mud bath for the next day. Luckily it’s Costa Rica, and things dry out quickly. Unfortunately for many of the campers, I heard the rental tents were not particularly waterproof.

An outdoor urinal. Strangely unpopular in the day time

An outdoor urinal. Strangely unpopular in the day time

Another problem was more Burning Man-like – on the last day there was no toilet paper, anywhere in Envision, except for the emergency tent where someone was stroking the remaining roll like it was the evil mastermind’s cat in a James Bond movie. Fortunately I was able to use my Burner skills of making do with the tools at hand…I found some fliers promoting a meditation retreat near the entrance. Yes, people can sell things at Envision, and people can advertise things, and we all had a great time and lived to tell the tale.

The vibe amongst the people at this festival was amazing. As one of the DJs said “this is a transformational festival. I feel myself transforming right now, in front of you all”. What makes for a good vibe? No dicks, for a start. What about good looking people? Well, for those of us who care about such things, the girls were amazing. And there seemed to be more of them than guys – always a good thing.

Bear Kittay at work in a Community Dialog

Bear Kittay at work in a Community Dialog

Burners were well represented – it seemed like the majority of people I spoke to, or who responded to “show of hands” in workshops, had been to Burning Man. I met Chris Breedlove, new president of Burners Without Borders (and cousin of the record-breaking rocket car playa jockey). I also got to see Burning Man’s Social Alchemist Bear Kittay doing his thing – which, I have to say, he seems pretty good at. He describes his mission as “seeing what we can do to promote the values of Burning Man out into the broader global culture, and build links between other communities of Burners“. He goes to festivals like Envision and Kiwi Burn, listens more than speaks, and asks “what can we do to help you”. Then he goes back to the Burning Man founders and reports his findings. The jury’s still out on whether this can even be done, whether it can be done in the new non-profit organization that’s being created (seemingly with fresh meat a new team) or whether Burner culture has now become its own beast. We’re all for promoting the values of Burning Man…just less so the values and modus operandi of BMOrg. I didn’t hear anyone getting told off at Envision because of “rules” or “principles”, even though the principles were obvious to all participants. “Respect the environment, but you paid $250 a ticket so we’ll clean up the trash”…rather than “Leave No Trace” (which incidentally, is only ranking 5th in our poll about the most important Principles. Most surprisingly of all, given how rabidly anti-commercial some voices in the Burner community are, is that the LEAST popular principle is Gifting).