2018 Theme Announced

irobot

In 2013 we had aliens. In 2014 it was camels. In 2015, clowns. 2016 was Medici. In 2017 we had temples.

I guess Larry and Stuart were trying to figure out how more people could have a transformational experience, and they came up with…

transformers.

Robots burning The Man. Or do we burn the robots?

From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Burning Man announced its 2018 theme on Wednesday, “I, Robot,” a theme inspired by the 1950 collection of short stories published by author Isaac Asimov. The stories tell the fictional history of robots…

“This year’s art theme will focus on the many forms of artificial intelligence that permeate our lives; from the humble algorithm and its subroutines that sift us, sort us and surveil us, to automated forms of labor that supplant us. Are we entering a Golden Age that frees us all from mindless labor? Everything, it seems, depends on HMI, the Human-Machine Interface. In a world increasingly controlled by smart machines, who will be master and who will be the slave?” …

The theme seems appropriate given the increasing reliance Burners have on technology at the week-long event

Read the full story here.

The robots surveil us.

If you wonder what that means, especially in the context of Burning Man, start here.

You can read more of the philosophy of I, Robot at the BJ.

The allure of immortality and god-like powers is as old as god. The Greeks, who more or less invented humanism, had a word for this ― they called it hubris, making it the basis of all tragedy. This enduring fantasy is lately clothed in cyber-togs. It is said that computational power is increasing exponentially, much like the singularity that created the universe, and charts and numbers are employed to predict the point in time at which this supra-intelligence will take over.

This is a millenarian idea, sometimes called the Rapture of the Techies, and like all such schemes, it is essentially a religious concept now dressed in the trappings of science. In this scenario, the future rule of one vast integrated Robot will exceed all human comprehension. This notion also contains an ingenious escape clause, a sort of intellectual insurance policy. When pressed to pinpoint exactly when this event will occur, its acolytes reply that it may have already happened — its advent will elude the grasp of slimy brains. This is a contest between wet intelligence, something that we barely understand that has evolved on earth over a span of billions of years, and dry intelligence, which in its digital form was invented in 1936

[Source: burningman.org]

Burning Man is a contest? I guess they started the themes with Good vs Evil, and now it’s humans vs robots.

burning man fallen robot

Image: Tyler FuQua

I agree with them that the Singularity has already happened, and Google and the NSA are already inside our heads. We live in a Sentient World Simulation, operated by the Deep State. The Defense Department, defending The Man against the humans that might question him with armies of always on, always faithful robots.

will-smith-i-robot-wide-56186200

will smith segway burning man.jpg

Will Smith loved Burning Man so much they named their theme after him?

will smith burning man mask

As I pointed out in Shadow History Part 3, robots are a specific vision of the Church of Satan (as is the “allure of immortality and god-like powers” that are also part of this theme).

Screenshot 2017-10-19 15.11.19

Will Google and Tesla be debuting new walking robots at Burning Man 2018?

In 2004, the DARPA Grand Challenge was launched: for a car able to navigate through an obstacle course by itself. It was a complete failure. By 2007, half a dozen cars successfully completed the course. In 2014, Tesla announced Auto-Pilot – and self-driving cars hit the mainstream. Tesla expects to have completely self-driving cars by the end of this year.

In 2013, the DARPA Robotics Challenge was for humanoid robots to walk, climb over rubble and stairs, open doors and use tools.

They’ve come a long way since then.

As if all that wasn’t trippy enough, check out this little guy:

So what’s it going to take to bring Androids into everyday life? Burning Man?

People have been fucking machines [NSFW] for quite some time. Now there are robot brothels springing up, and by all accounts doing a cracking trade. So to speak. In Barcelona one all-robot brothel was run out of town by angry human prostitutes.

Will there be sex bots at Robot Heart?

robot heart

People who think there should be less technology at Burning Man should probably just give up at this point. DARPA has to test somewhere!

The Truth About Da Vinci [Update]

Given how precious some members of BMOrg are about people sharing on social media, the choice of “Da Vinci’s Workshop” as next year’s theme is somewhat ironic. Why? Because Leonardo Da Vinci was probably the greatest plagiarist of all time.

The popular theory of history is that Da Vinci was an amazing genius. A painter most famous for the “is she smiling or not” Mona Lisa, he also created 3d perspective. He invented the helicopter; locks in canals; the siege tower; tanks; machine guns; and a broad range of other mechanical devices.

flash devilHow could one man, a bastard sodomite pauper whose only formal education was in painting, single-handedly come up with all of this innovation? Was he the greatest genius who ever lived? Or did he get some help? From his Demons, perhaps?

One theory seems the most plausible, certainly more believable than the official tale.

Gavin Menzies is a former British nuclear submarine commander. He grew up in China, and spent his life sailing the ocean’s currents, on and below the water. His breakthrough book 1421: The Year China Discovered The World, offers a meticulously detailed alternative to mainstream history. Cutting a long story short, maps existed of America, Australia and even Antarctica long before their discovery by the West.

Chinese Map of the World, 1418. Image: The Economist

 

https://i1.wp.com/www.gavinmenzies.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/jean_rotz.jpg?resize=500%2C356

The 1542 Jean Rotz map depicts the coastlines of Africa, Asia, India and China with great accuracy, and shows the east, west and northernmost parts of Australia, some two centuries before Captain Cook. Image via gavinmenzies.net

 

 

Gavin Menzies’ next book was 1434: The Year A Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance.

Ignited.

At the time of Da Vinci, the Chinese were at least 3000 years into their civilization. The Ming Dynasty had produced a kind of Encylopedia called the YongLe Dadian. Its books were essentially the sum total of all of their knowledge and inventions.

Emperor Yongle (born with the name of Zhu Di 朱棣) was the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty and he reigned from 1402 to 1424. He was a key figure of the development of the Chinese empire: he transferred the capital of the empire from Nanjing to Beijing and ordered the building of the Forbidden City. Under his reign Admiral Zheng He travelled to the Middle East and East Africa strengthening the trade and diplomatic links with foreign countries…

Emperor Yongle commissioned the Yongle Dadian in July 1403 and the project involved 2169 scholars and compilers from the Hanlin Academy and the National University. Completed in 1408, it was the world’s largest literary compilation, comprising 22,877 chapters bound in 11,095 volumes…The content of the encyclopaedia covers all aspects of traditional “Confucian” knowledge and contains the most representative literature available at that time, ranging from history and drama to farming techniques

[Source: British Library]

It added substantially to the body of knowledge that the Chinese had recorded in 1313 in the Nung Shu, created using movable type a couple of centuries before Gutenberg.

Zheng He was a 7-foot tall eunuch, and perhaps China’s greatest ever admiral and explorer.

The Xuande Emperor would have briefed Zheng He on the background and customs of all the countries the fleet would visit. They had the ideal tool with which to do so – the Yong Le Dadian. This massive encyclopaedia was completed in 1421 and housed in the newly built Forbidden City. 3000 scholars had worked for years compiling all knowledge known to China for the previous 2000 years. The discoveries made on the voyages of Zheng He’s fleet were also incorporated into the Yong Le Dadian. One can go further and say one of Zhu Di’s leading objectives was to acquire knowledge gained from the Barbarians. The best way to acquire knowledge is to share it – to show the Barbarians how immensely deep, wide and old was Chinese knowledge and Chinese civilisation. For this of course they needed to have copies of the Yong Le Dadian aboard their junks and they needed also to brief interpreters about the contents so the message could be propagated.

This vast encyclopaedia was a massive collective endeavour to bring together Chinese knowledge gained in every field over thousands of years under one roof. Zheng He had the immense good fortune to set sail with priceless intellectual knowledge in every sphere of human activity. He commanded a magnificent fleet – magnificent not only in military and naval capabilities but containing intellectual goods of great value and sophistication, a fleet which was the repository of half the world’s knowledge.

Of equal importance were the calendars carried by the fleets. Having been ordered to inform distant lands of the commencement of the new reign of Xuan De, an era when “everything should begin anew,” a calendar was essential to Zheng He’s mission.

Issuing calendars was the prerogative of the emperor alone. Accuracy was necessary to enable astronomers to predict eclipses and comets — a sign that the emperor enjoyed heaven’s mandate. The Shou Shi calendar produced by Guo Shou Jing was officially adopted by the Ming Bureau of Astronomy in 1384. This is the calendar that both Zhu Di and the Xuan De emperor would have ordered Zheng He to present to foreign heads of state. The calendar contained a mass of astronomical data running to thousands of observations. It enabled comets and eclipses to be predicted for years ahead as well as times of sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset. The positions of the sun and moon relative to the stars and to each other were included, as were the positions of the planets relative to the stars, sun and moon. Adjustments enabled sunrise and sunset, and moonrise and moonset, to be calculated for different places on earth for every day of the year.

[Source]

Could Leonardo da Vinci have drawn inspiration for his inventions from the drawings in the Chinese encyclopedia? Or is it just hundreds of coincidences that his inventions already existed in China, and he was living in a place bustling with Chinese trade?

Menzies is a fan of Da Vinci. He writes:

In my youth, Leonardo da Vinci seemed the greatest genius of all time: an extraordinary inventor of every sort of machine, a magnificent sculptor, one of the world’s greatest painters and the finest illustrator and draughtsman who ever lived. Then, as my knowledge of Chinese inventions slowly expanded, more and more of Leonardo’s inventions appear to have been invented previously by the Chinese. I began to question whether there might be a connection – did Leonardo learn from the Chinese?

Leonardo drew all the essential components of machines with extraordinary clarity – showing how toothed wheels, gear wheels and pinions were used in mills, lifting machines and machine tools. All these devices had been used in China for a very long time. In the Tso Chuan are illustrations of bronze ratchets and gear wheels from as early as 200 BC which have been discovered in China.

Leonardo is renowned for his drawings of different forms of manned flight, notably his helicopter and parachutes and his attempts at wings. The earliest Chinese description of the possibility of manned flight occurred in the accounts of the short-lived and obscure Northern Ch’I dynasty (ninth century BC). The Chinese had made use of the essential principle of the helicopter rotor from the fourth century AD and by then, helicopter toys were popular in China, a common name being “bamboo dragonfly”. Parachutes were in use in China fifteen hundred years before Leonardo, hot air balloons were known in the second century AD in China and by Leonardo’s day, the kite had been in use for hundreds of years.

Leonardo drew an array of gunpowder weapons, including three variations of the machine gun, which can be seen in the fire lances used in China since 950 AD. Leonardo also drew different types of cannon, mortar and bombard. The Chinese use of bombard is well catalogued throughout the ages.

Comparisons of the machines of Leonard with earlier machines from China reveal close similarities in toothed wheels and gear wheels, ratchets, pins and axles, cams and cam-shaped rocking levers, flywheels, crankshaft systems, balls and chains, spoke wheels, well pulleys, chain devices, suspension bridges, segmented arch bridges, contour maps, parachutes, hot air balloons, “helicopters,” multi-barrelled machine guns, demountable cannons, armoured cars, catapults, barrage cannon and bombards, paddle wheel boats, swing bridges, printing presses, odometers, compasses and dividers, canals and locks.

Even the most devoted supporter of Leonardo (like my family and I!) must surely wonder whether his work’s amazing similarity to Chinese engineering could be the product of coincidence.

The parallels between Da Vinci’s creations and the drawings in the Chinese encyclopedia are striking.

Screenshot 2015-10-28 11.32.48

A blast furnace depicted in the Nong Shu, 1313

A blast furnace depicted in the Nung Shu, 1313

 

Chinese Clock Tower, 1092. Image: Wikiwand

1434 coverYou’ll need to buy the book to see more.
Menzies draws a multi-generational link between Leonardo and the Chinese:

My research revealed that Leonardo had owned a copy of di Giorgio’s treatise on civil and military machines. In the treatise, di Giorgio had illustrated and described a range of astonishing machines, many of which Leonardo subsequently reproduced in three-dimensional drawings. The illustrations were not limited to canals, locks and pumps; they included parachutes, submersibles tanks and machine guns as well as hundreds of other machines with civil and military applications.

This was quite a shock. It seemed Leonardo was more illustrator than inventor and that the greater genius may have resided in di Giorgio. Was di Giorgio the original inventor of these fantastic machines? Or did he, in turn, copy them from another?

I learned that di Giorgio had inherited notebooks and treatises from another Italian, Mario di Jacopo ditto Taccola (called Taccola “the jackdaw”). Taccola was a clerk of public works living in Siena. Having never seen the sea or fought a battle, he nevertheless managed to draw a wide variety of nautical machines – paddle wheeled boats, frogmen and machines for lifting wrecks together with a range of gunpowder weapons, even an advanced method of making gunpowder. It seems Taccola was responsible for nearly every technical illustration that di Giorgio and Leonardo had later improved upon…

How did a clerk in a remote Italian hill town, a man who had never travelled abroad nor obtained a university education, come to produce technical illustrations of such amazing machines?

[Source]

The answer, explained with a great deal more depth and evidence in the book, lies to the East:

Well it’s certainly plagiarism…Everything which Leonardo drew were improvements on an earlier Italian, called Francesco Di Giorgio, whose notebooks Leonardo possessed and copied and improved on. And Di Giorgio was not original either. He copied everything from an earlier Italian called [Mariano] Taccola…The source of Taccola and di Giorgio’s inventions was, of course, the Nung Shu passed on by Zheng He’s fleets in 1434.

In the book, the first drawing was of two horses pulling a mill to grind corn, just as Taccola and Di Giorgio had done. Every variation of shafts, wheels and cranks ‘invented’ and drawn by Taccola and di Giorgio are illustrated in the drawings of the Nung Shu. This is epitomised in the horizontal water powered turbine used in the blast furnace. Every type of powered transmission described by Taccola and di Giorgio is shown in the Nung Shu. By comparing Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings with the Nung Shu, each element of a machine superbly illustrated by Leonardo had previously been illustrated by the Chinese in a much simpler manual.

In summary, Leonardo’s body of work rested on a vast foundation of work previously done by others. His mechanical drawings of flour and roller mills, water and saw mills, pile drivers, weight transporting machines, all kinds of winders and cranes, mechanised cars, all manner of pumps, water lifting devices and dredgers were developments and improvements upon di Giorgio’s Trattato di Architettura Civil e militare and his rules for perspective for painting and sculpture were derived from Alberti’s De Pictura and De Statua. His parachute was based on di Giorgio’s and his helicopter modelled on a Chinese toy imported to Italy circa 1440. Leonardo’s work on canals, locks, aqueducts and fountains originated from his meeting in Pavia with di Giorgio in 1490. His military machines were copies of Taccola and di Giorgio’s – but brilliantly drawn.

Leonardo’s three-dimensional illustrations of the components of man and machines are a unique and brilliant contribution to civilization — as are his sublime sculpture and paintings…it is time to recognise the Chinese contributions to his work. Without these contributions, the history of the Renaissance would have been very different.

[Source]

Like most Shadow History that tells a more nuanced story than the mainstream interpretation, Menzies has his detractors – both for his 1421 and 1434 theories. Most do not directly address the massive amount of evidence he presents, choosing instead to pick apart minor details such as “a canal could not have been dug for boats that wide and heavy”. Aside from the fact that if you can dig a ditch, you can dig a bigger ditch, we are talking about books and scrolls. By ship, camel, horse, or even on foot, in the 15th century it was possible to get books from China to the richest part of the world – which at the time was Venice, and had been for almost 1000 years. Cosimo de Medici was hiding out there in exile from Florence at the time Menzies says the Chinese arrived.

Florence was about the size of Burning Man, before the Black Death plague hit in 1348. The Medici banksters used patronage of the arts as a way to control the city from behind the scenes. Like the Borgias, they were famous for poison, torture, and incest. They funded Machiavelli to re-write history for them, then tortured and exiled him when he started to hint at the truth of what they were really up to.

Florence, 1493. Image: Wikipedia

Florence, 1493. Image: Wikipedia

Of a population estimated at 80,000 before the Black Death of 1348, about 25,000 are estimated to have been engaged in the city’s wool industry: in 1345 Florence was the scene of an attempted strike by wool carders (ciompi), who in 1378 rose up in a brief revolt against oligarchic rule in the Revolt of the Ciompi. After their suppression, the city came under the sway (1382–1434) of the Albizzi family, bitter rivals of the Medici. Cosimo de’ Medici was the first Medici family member to essentially control the city from behind the scenes. Although the city was technically a democracy of sorts, his power came from a vast patronage network along with his alliance to the new immigrants, the gente nuova. The fact that the Medici were bankers to the pope also contributed to their rise. Cosimo was succeeded by his son Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici, who was shortly thereafter succeeded by Cosimo’s grandson, Lorenzo in 1469. Lorenzo was a great patron of the arts, commissioning works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli.

A second individual of highly unusual insight was Niccolò Machiavelli, whose prescriptions for Florence’s regeneration under strong leadership have often been seen as a legitimization of political expediency and even malpractice. Commissioned by the Medici, Machiavelli wrote the Florentine Histories, the history of the city. However, Machiavelli was actually tortured and exiled from Florence by the Medici family and the Pope under the pretense of sedition due to his ties to the previous democratic government of Florence and the fact that his work threatened to expose the true nature of their power base and they wished to discredit him. The Florentines drove out the Medici for a second time and re-established a republic on May 16, 1527.

[Source: Wikipedia]

Menzies now has several books as well as globally crowd-sourced research adding to his proof pile on a daily basis.

He has this to say about Florence, where a revolution was going on not just in the arts, but also in math, science and engineering:

Between the acquisition of the port of Pisa in 1406 and that of Livorno in 1421, Florence had enjoyed a continuous economic boom. Florence’s access to Venice enabled her to reap some of the benefits of Venice’s trade with the East. It also exposed the city to an influx of Chinese and other Asians, as we can see from period paintings and sculpture. Ambrogio Lorenzetti, who never left Tuscany, painted The Martyrdom of Francescan Friars in the church of San Francesco Siena, depicting Chinese merchants with conical hats. Previously, oriental eyes had appeared in faces painted by Giotto and Duccio. There was a very substantial Chinese and Mongolian population in Florence in the decades after 1434.

For the next hundred and fifty years, Medici power and money fired the Renaissance.
The Renaissance produced an enormous appetite for talent — engineers, astronomers, mathematicians and artists whose individual works were so widely acclaimed that others were inspired to follow with confidence. The Chinese delegation, with their new ideas, fabulous inventions and depth of culture would have made a very forceful impression on Florentine intellectuals, including Paolo del Pozzo Toscanelli. Florence was the ideal loam for Chinese intellectual seeds.

Cosimo de Medici took a dramatic turn after 1434, embarking on an orgy of patronage. He financed exotic palaces and chapels – San Lorenzo, San Marco and the Medici Palace. Cosimo and his brother Lorenzo’s embellishment of the sacristy at San Lorenzo was a notable insertion of science into the very heart of the church: in the little dome above the altar, an astronomical fresco depicted the position of the sun, moon and stars for 6 July 1439, the official day of union between the Eastern and Western Churches signed at the Council of Florence. This scientifically accurate depiction of a particular day’s sky was unfamiliar. The position of the sun, moon and stars for 6 July 1439 were all remarkably accurate. The puzzling question is how did Cosimo’s artist — without the benefit of computer based astronomical tables — know the position of the sun, moon and stars for 6 July 1439?

Someone knew the precise positions of the stars relative to each other, as well as the positions of the sun and moon relative to each other and to the stars. Whoever painted that fresco understood the solar system. This complex painting required years to execute, during which the position of the stars relative to the earth would have changed according to the 1,461-day cycle. It could not have resulted from piecemeal observations over the course of the job – my conclusion is that the artist had access to accurate astronomical tables.

Author James Beck, in Leon Battista Alberti and the Night Sky at San Lorenzo, has shown that the painter was Leon Battista Alberti, perhaps assisted by his friend Paolo Toscanelli. These two were Florence’s leading astronomers and mathematicians in 1439. Alberti in 1434 had accompanied Eugenius IV to Florence, where he met Toscanelli. The most likely explanation of the fresco mystery is that Alberti, who served as the Pope’s notary, met the Chinese delegates and obtained a copy of the astronomical calendar presented by the Chinese to Eugenius IV. The calendar provided the necessary information of right ascensions and declinations of stars to draw the night sky for a particular day and hour.

[Source]

Suddenly, in the space of decades, the Italians invented all the things the Chinese had over thousands of years! And it was Da Vinci who did it all. Sounds like spin to me.

Naturally, there’s a Snopes on it. It fails to explain why Native Americans look like Chinese Mongolians, ride horses like them and share their DNA. It doesn’t explain multiple maps that have been found pre-dating Columbus’ voyage. Snopes also does nothing yet to address a newly emerging theory that the first Americans were Australians.

Like always, do your own research. The book 1434 is a great place to start. The truth is out there, and thanks to the (still mostly uncensored) Internet it’s not even that hard to find. Think for yourself and question convention.

I’m hoping for lots of Chinese food being handed out at Burning Man 2016.


 

[Update 11/3/15 12:14pm]

An art historian has found many problems with BMOrg’s version of history.

BREAKING: Theme Announced: TURNING MAN [Updates]

Da Vinci Man! Image: The Shifty Fox, Facebook

Da Vinci Man! Image: The Shifty Fox, Facebook

Image: The Shifty Fox, Facebook

Image: The Shifty Fox, Facebook

Image: Nico Sotomayor, Facebook

Image: Nico Sotomayor, Facebook

Hot off the presses from VOBM. The big news is The Man is going to rotate on its base. The theme taps into the Maker Movement, and will surely inspire more creativity than scary clowns or camels.

Burning Man 2016: Da Vinci’s Workshop

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”  – Leonardo

Burning Man’s 2016 art theme is inspired by the Italian Renaissance of the middle fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, when an historic convergence of inspired artistry, technical innovation and enlightened patronage launched Europe out of the dark ages and into modernity. Our story will focus on the republic of Florence, for it was here, in a city-state of about the same size and population as Black Rock City, that humanist ideals, a rediscovery of science, and funding from a newly moneyed class of entrepreneurs fueled a revolutionary cultural movement that redefined Western civilization. Five centuries later, we will attempt to recreate this potent social alchemy by combining Burning Man art, maker culture and creative philanthropy to make Black Rock City the epicenter of a new renaissance.

Turning Man illustration by Andrew Johnstone
Theme and text by Larry Harvey and Stuart Mangrum. Illustration by Andrew Johnstone.

…Florentine artist Leonardo da Vinci sketched what is perhaps the definitive icon of this era. Inspired by his study of the Roman architect Vitruvius, he mapped the ratios of the human body to produce the image of a man, his limbs outstretched to span a universal circle. This year’s Man will emulate the symbol of Vitruvian Man. As nearby bell towers toll the hours, we will invite participants to operate an elaborate system of human-powered gears and pulleys that will slowly rotate Burning Man a full 360 degrees on the vertical plane, as if it formed the axle and spokes of an enormous spinning wheel.

The creation of a giant Turning Man is especially appropriate, since many famous Florentine artists were also civil engineers. Filippo Brunelleschi, originally enrolled in a guild and trained as a goldsmith, went on to design and construct the city’s chief cathedral – an unprecedented structure; it became a wonder of the world. Tasked with raising and assembling four million bricks in order to complete its egg-shaped dome, he invented dozens of diverse machines. Likewise, the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci are replete with engineering sketches – including the prototype of a helicopter. This fusion of art, science and technology also characterizes Black Rock City. In 2016, the Burning Man will be surrounded by a public square, a piazza lined with workshops, each representing a guild. Our guilds, unlike the traditional guilds of Florence, will be self-invented and devoted to the interactive manufacture of whatever participating artists and inventors can imagine. We will again invite our regional communities to join in this effort, and will reach out to members of the maker movement to help create this interactive environment.
Florentine guild ensignia
The Medici Lion flanked by insignia of the Merchant, Wool, Silk and Stonemason guilds

Read the full announcement at burningman.com

I love this theme, well done BMOrg! “Spin”, huh? Hmmm…


 

[Update 10/27/15 2:41pm]

How will the Burners spin The Man? I’m imagining something a little like this:

 


 

 

[Update 10/30/15 8:07am]

“Over many years, private donors, with a remarkable lack of fanfare, have quietly funded some of the most beloved artworks that have honored our city. We believe that what has long been private should be made more public.

In 2016 we will conduct a social experiment, inviting artists and patrons to settle around and activate a public plaza in the city. We will call on them to join together, pooling their resources to create a welcoming environment at the plaza’s center – a sheltered place where all our citizens may take their ease amid the amenities of high civilization. Thus we will establish common ground where participants can be united by their shared experience.”

A common ground where participants can be united by their shared experience? That used to be called Burning Man.

Many Burners have observed that this theme seems tailor made to encourage wealthy patrons to donate to the Burning Man Project before the annual Artumnal fundraiser on November 21.

I note that for the third year in a row, they are continuing with the “shopping mall at the Man base” idea, rather than the Regionals making effigies to burn. The emphasis is becoming much more on the highly controlled experiences of burning The Man and the Temple, than individual Burners getting to burn stuff themselves. The Temple is now  being promoted by Oprah as a new kind of religious experience.

At first I thought “they called it Da Vinci not Leonardo, must be something to do with Da Vinci’s Demons” – knowing how much these Satanists love demons. This morning it occurred to me that there’s another connection to Helco, on its 20th anniversary. Larry’s mate, Burning Man co-founder Flash (aka “Papa Satan”) hosts a show on the Discovery Channel called Doing Da Vinci. A nice little promotional bump for him, who once boasted of early Burning Man “I’m the only one who made money every time” (he sold tacos, beer, hamburgers, and t-shirts).

flash devil


[Update 10/30/15 8:36am]

I like this comment from VOBM:

I am confused. Is this theme snark? If so, it is spot-on! All hail the billionaire parasite class; our tech-bro overlords. Let us bow down in supplication to their magnanimous trickling of wealth and patronage. Praise be to the noblesse oblige of Camp Zuckerberg and their ilk, as we pray at the shrine of Sarandon. Let us hold humility in our hearts as we create a playground for THEIR amusement.

If this is not snark, it’s just sad.

I’ve run a placed camp for five years now, we make art, gift booze, shade, games, and community, and none of it was thanks to the parasite billionaire class. All they do is show up and take what we create.

I have decided to assume this theme is a joke – that we are not being expected to worship the entitled plug and players as they ride their segways past what we have created. I have mostly stayed out of the increasing discussion about the entitled and the creators, but goddamn Burning Man, you’re asking for it this time.

A Carnival of Smoke and Mirrors

The new theme has been announced. As per the rumor we leaked on November 16, it’s circus-related:

This year’s theme is about mirrors and masks, mazes and merger. It will be a kind of magic show that takes the form of an old-fashioned carnival. This Carnival of Mirrors asks three essential questions: within our media-saturated world, where products and people, consumption and communion morph into an endlessly diverting spectacle, who is the trickster, who is being tricked, and how might we discover who we really are?

Classic carnivals, as theaters of illusion, upheld a very strict dividing line that separated carnies, cast as showmen, from members of a naïve public who were labeled chumps and suckers, marks and rubes. Our carnival, however, will perform an even more subversive trick — its motto is Include the Rube. The wall dividing the observer from observed will disappear, as by an act of magic; through the alchemy of interaction, everyone at once can be the carny and the fool…

Old-fashioned carnivals were dominated by an all-pervading hucksterism; midways featured barkers, shills, rigged games of chance and skill, and not infrequently defrauded customers — “short change” is a carny term. They also featured titillating freak shows, geek acts and museums of the outré and forbidden. Our midway, on the other hand, will satirize deception while inviting all participants to summon up their inner geek, that secret freak who hides behind the mask of what is called normality. We will turn grifting into gifting; otherness becomes creative self-expression.

Read the whole thing here.

Merger? What does that have to do with carnivals? The whole thing is about deception, defrauded customers, tricksters, and the naïve fools who buy into the illusions being spun by the carnival hucksters.

I think the irony of this theme is what the Commodification Camps are really doing is turning our Gifting into Grifting – by the ring-masters who pursue the “alchemy” of monetization of our beloved Playa. The occult continues to be a core element: “the occulting mask will melt away”, “magic show”, “an act of magic”.

The Fool - a throwback to the very first Baker Beach burn, where they burned a Dog effigy too?

The Fool – a throwback to the very first Baker Beach burn, where they burned a dog effigy too?

They are creating a clear division between the “showmen” (presumably, themselves, since they believe it’s BMOrg who create Burning Man, not Burners), and the “chumps and suckers” who buy their product (ie, us). The subversive magic trick of “you’re all showmen and you’re all chumps at the same time” seems to facilitate their attempts to define Commodification Camps as “turnkey camps, on a spectrum like any other camp”. Are you a safari tourist in a wristband-only camp? No problem, everyone is the carny and the fool at once.

We’ve now had three car- themes in three years: CARgo cult, CARavansary, and CARnival. Is Larry just going through the dictionary?

The design of the Man seems to be the same big humanoid stick figure as this year. At the base, instead of the Souk, will be a bunch of funhouse mirrors, ironic fortune tellers, vendors, and whatever else the Regionals can come up with.

Man base design by Larry Harvey and Andrew Johnstone. Illustration by Andrew Johnstone with Hugh D’Andrade

Man base design by Larry Harvey and Andrew Johnstone. Illustration by Andrew Johnstone with Hugh D’Andrade

At the same time as announcing the theme, BMOrg launched their magical new web site, and a new tag line:

Welcome Home. A city in the desert. A culture of possibility. A network of dreamers and doers.

Burningman.com now automagically redirects to burningman.org.

They’ve gone for aesthetics over user-friendliness. It looks visually eclectic, certainly more appealing than it used to be; but it’s become more like a maze to find your way through it all. Some pages like the “Tech Innovation” still look like the old site, with its much cleaner navigation at the top.  ePlaya has not changed. You can find it under Menu (top right), The Network, Get Involved, Connect with Burners, then scroll down the page.

The “Burning Blog” is now called “Voices of Burning Man”, and has been integrated into the site. The many comments from Burners are there intact – however, you’ll have to navigate through a bizarre two-tone color scheme and the grouping of posts by category only, and comments 50 at a time. This makes it much harder to read through the comments, a further indication that they’re more interested in what they want to tell us, than listening to what we Burners have to say.

The oldest post readily available is Halcyon’s Let Them Eat Cake “Burning Cake: A Cautionary Tale”; you’ll have to hunt to find earlier posts such as “Virgins And Turnkey Camps Are Ruining Burning Man” and “Turnkey Camps (Moving Towards Effective Solutions)“, which are filed under “The Ten Principles” and “News” respectively. You are no longer able to use “Previous” and “Next” to scroll through all the blog posts. This appears to be a deliberate design feature, rather than a bug; the same with breaking the comments up onto multiple pages so you can’t just scroll through them all. If they publish a blog post that gets the community up in arms, all they have to do is have their friendly “shills” come in at the end once the people have vented with some peace, love, and unicorns stuff and the negativity can be tucked away in the “Older Comments”. They seem to have been trialling this strategy in the comments on their blog over the last week. For example, the “Turnkey Camps (Moving Towards Effective Solutions)” post has 255 comments; but only the most recent 5 are shown with it.

Earlier in the week we mentioned the Burning Man Arts Grants online system, which is for Arts Grants for non-Burning Man projects. The deadline for submissions there is December 1, 2015.

The new Arts Honorarium Grant system is now live too. The deadline to submit your Letter of Intent is December 19, 2015. The link on the Front Page to Honoraria Grants – New Process for 2015 won’t take you there, though.  You can find it under “Important Dates” on the main screen.

As we predicted, the “system” turns out to be just an online form. The form is broken out into a few different screens. You’ll need to sign up with Slideroom and create yet another profile. The Honoraria grants applications appear to be free. Perhaps they listened to our griping, or perhaps their plan from the start was that only the artists applying for smaller grants to bring Burner art to the world have to pay $5 to submit their Letter.

They’ve finally put the dates for the 2015 Nevada burn on their main web site – good news for those who were curious if it was even going to happen. The dates are August 31 – September 7.

The main page of the site lists Upcoming Global Events in a scroll-box at the bottom – all 21 of them. The dates of each are “TBA” – if you want to know when the event is, or where it is, you’ll need to go to their Regional Events page which lists 41 events, including Decompressions.

The “Where Does Your Ticket Money Go” page that falsely claimed they pay $4.5 million a year to the BLM (which we proved to be really $3,485,000, with a missing $1 million+ unaccounted for), now re-directs to the Philosophical Center. It no longer shows up from their search box, but it is still visible in the Internet Archive.

I think BMOrg would be very happy for Burners to just move on and focus on 2015 now, where the fools and chumps will be merged together with the hucksters. Will the community leave them be, and take their silence and the new theme as the answer to our questions? What will this word “merger” come to mean to Burners by the time August 2015 rolls around?

Souk On This!

Burning Man have launched “souk.burningman.com”, written by Larry Harvey. If this is a glimpse of where they are going artistically with their new web site, then I like it. They’ve also started a Pinterest, to give you some costume and decoration ideas.

This year the Man is going to be surrounded by a market arcade, a bazaar of vendors. It sounds similar to Center Camp. There will be music, but no amplified sound. Instead of walking through the Man base like recent years, you will be walking through the market around The Man. Is this symbolic of a new, post-profit, marketplace-oriented Burning Man 2.0? 

For many years the Burning Man has stood atop an art pavilion. Since 2011, a Circle of Regional Effigies, known as CORE, has surrounded this interactive art environment. Originally arrayed in one great circle, these large-scale sculptures were meant to represent the many communities of Burning Man. Spearheaded by Regional Contacts, this project dramatized the continuing expansion of Burning Man’s culture; it formed a perfect metaphor. It is one thing to hear that there are colonies of burners vaguely floating like a vapor in the greater world, but it is quite another for thousands of people to witness this movement made manifest by the creative collaboration of living, breathing groups of people.

In 2012, Burning Man’s art department reconfigured this array by clustering these projects in smaller scaled circles. The nearly half-mile span of one large circle meant that most people could experience very few of these simultaneous burns, but now participants could witness several at one time. This also affected the experience of the regional groups themselves. Rather than labor in the relative isolation produced by one large circle, each group now inherited a neighborhood: a place in which resources could be shared and fellowship with nearby regionals could thrive.

2014’s art theme, Caravansary, will extend this logic one step further by merging CORE with the interactive art pavilion of the Burning Man. Our plan is to bring the Man back down to the ground, closely encircle it with a tented pavilion framing a courtyard, and invite our regional communities to co-create this space. ..

Getting together in the courtyard all seems nice enough. There’s more, though. Much more. Commerce: the Eleventh Principle.

Larry reminds us of the statement in the theme announcement:

 “This is not a tourist destination, but a home for travelers who come here bearing gifts. Amid the twisting and the turnings of its souk, participants will come upon an inexhaustible array of teeming goods and unexpected services. Anyone may pose as ‘merchant’ here, and anyone may play a ‘customer’, but nothing in this strange emporium shall have a purchase price — no quid, no pro, no quo — no trade at all will be allowed in this ambiguous arcade. According to a rule of desert hospitality, the only thing of value in this marketplace will be one’s interaction with a fellow human being.”

…We may conceive this as appropriating the culture and the manners of traditional marketplaces such as one might find in a bazaar, while simultaneously regarding every article of commerce as a gift, a sort of decommodity. This is premised on an essential idea: the value of a gift is unconditional. Gifts in this conception do not pass from hand to hand, they pass from heart to heart; it’s not that we possess a gift; it is that it possesses us, and therein lays its transformational power. Gifts may therefore be said to be bearers of being, and for purposes of play within our souk, this signal fact shall be regarded as a “trade secret.”

Translated into practice, this means that it is perfectly okay to employ all means of salesmanship involved in soliciting “business” or extoling a “product.” But it is emphatically not okay to entertain any form of exchange value. A gift may be given, and a gift may be received, but true gifts cannot be trammeled by a self-regarding expectation. For example, should someone offer a gift to a merchant, that merchant has the option to accept it — graciously receiving gifts is a part of the art of gifting. But should the giver then demand things in return, this is, while not a sin, most certainly a breach of etiquette. As this example suggests, our interactive premise has one foot planted in the culture of gifting, and another firmly fixed in the customs of commerce. Discovering that subtle and wavering line that distinguishes these two value systems will be a large part of the fun.

 

So there you have it. Burning Man is about commerce.

Now that BMOrg is dressed up as a non-profit, with the founders looking to cash out for big buck$, commerce is becoming integral to the Burning Man ethos and culture. We’ve gone from “all commerce is banned” to “we never said we were against commerce” to “commerce just has to co-exist with other principles like Gifting”.

If you walk through Downtown San Francisco at lunch time, you will encounter all manner of vendors touting their scause, which they will happily inform you about for free without the expectation of you giving them anything in return. Just time and attention – and, if they’re lucky, conversion to their viewpoint. Was this the inspiration for the souk? Some people might love this. It’s a chance for hipsters to make new friends! Others might find it intrusive – “charity beggars” was a term for the touts I learned today from Facebook. Larry’s description of the bazaar suggests all of these touts would be welcome, indeed, encouraged. What will the merchants be hawking in the souk? 23 and Me? Bitcoins? Infowars.com? Burning Man Project scarves

Unlike the large-scale sculptural projects …participation in the Caravansary can be made widely accessible to many different kinds of people. There is really no logical end to the various roles and activities that can be contributed to this effort. For example, in any normal marketplace businesses must always train a very careful eye on their competitors. And for purposes of burlesque, these faux shops may satirize the manners of capitalism, sending out touts to befriend customers or using barkers to attract attention. It really wouldn’t be amiss to advertise a shop as “Going Out of Business.”

Yet this satirical facade will also mask a deep collaboration, a cooperative spirit that is the opposite of competition. The Burning Man Project will create an Internet discussion list that will allow regional groups to share ideas. We also anticipate that participants in this project will continue to improvise and elaborate around emergent practices innovated by fellow groups throughout the course of the event. By this method we can transform our Caravansary into a real community within our city’s greater community, an actual culture that evolves from day to day. 

 

Inside the tents, the shops will all be laid out the same way. Tenants can decorate them differently. If you’re from a Burning Man Regional, better bring enough local inventory with you to give away tchotchkes to 70,000 people! And enough staff to work the market 24/7 for a week. “It may take you hours to find out what the price of anything is going to be”, says Larry. “The merchant might want to invite you back to his home for dinner with his family”. Larry is going to have a shop there, he is very enthusiastic about this. I’d love to know how many hours he ends up actually putting into working the customers at the House of Larry souk vestibule.

dutch_cheese_marketThe architecture of the Caravansary will feature tents that form a circular arcade. These will be divided into two equal parts. Vestibules in the forepart of each tent will form cushioned public lounges that face the Caravansary’s central plaza. Behind these we will house our shops. Fronted by ornamental screens indented by counters and provided with side entrances, these capacious spaces may be subdivided and most certainly should be furnished and decorated by our shopkeepers. The things that might be offered by these shops may include services, both useful and strange, amenities, such as cooling beverages or tea, and performances. In the spirit of Radical Inclusion, drop-in contributions by the general public should be welcomed whenever appropriate. Furthermore, we encourage participants to preserve the spirit and history of the original CORE movement by creating gifts that represent the identity of their home communities.

 Performances conceived by local groups are also welcome (with the exception of DJ’s and bands that employ amplified sound — our arcade is a place for conversation). By these means the antic life created by our Caravansary can become a conduit of Regional culture.–by Larry Harvey

Larry Harvey goes into some detail about the thinking behind Caravansary in this speech from the Burning Man Global Leadership Forum 2014. “If everyone does this, it’s going to be the most meaningful and interactive thing, at the heart of the event, that’s ever happened”. Perhaps. Or, it could be like the Black Friday chaos, except everything’s free instead of being discounted, there’s no security, and none of the staff get paid.

BMOrg are offering grants of up to $1,000 to Souk participants. This works out to about 1 cent for each person in the city. I suspect some supply chain issues. We may need to airlift in some more challah.

Vendors need to submit their proposals by June 9:

Grants will be awarded to selected Souk proposals, to a maximum of $1,000. Awardees will also be eligible for a limited number of gift tickets, vehicle passes, and early arrival passes. Funds, tickets, and passes will be issued only to a Regional Contact or to a project lead that one of our Regional Contacts vouches for.

Your proposal should include:
. An overview of how you intend to use the Souk space
. An estimate of your peak operating hours – whether your space will be primarily daytime, nighttime, or around-the-clock
. An interactivity plan
. A Leave No Trace (LNT) plan
. Desired amount of Souk space (12×12, 12×24, 12×24, or 12×50)
. A rough sketch of how your space will be laid out 

Deadline for proposals is Monday, June 9th at 10 PM Pacific Time
Send your proposal and any questions to souk-applications@burningman.com.

I’m not sure if Larry Harvey, Marian Goodell, or any of the other bright sparks at Burning Man have ever worked in retail. I have, and this doesn’t seem very practical to me. It’s hard to provide an acceptable level of one-on-one interaction to even 3 customers at once, let alone 70,000. It’s not easy doing an 8-hour retail shift, and this will be in one of the busiest markets on the planet. Hot, cold, windy, dusty, no bathrooms, no air conditioning, no stock room, no boss to complain to, no sales commissions…BYO food and water.

2010-06-14-fortune-teller-internet-Zuckerberg-600The focus of the Souk is designed to be one-to-one or small-group interaction, playing on the themes of social commerce, experiential exchange, and gifting. In keeping with the spirit of the Ten Principles, no one should ever expect a gift, nor should the giver ever expect anything in return. While we intend to play with the notion of commerce, the real thing is, of course, completely unacceptable. And therein lies the fun of our “decommodity mart,” a place where things beyond value come to be not-bought and not-sold.

The Souk will be open around the clock from Monday at 12:01 AM through Friday at 5:00PM. Your design and interactivity plan should anticipate 24-hour operation. If your space is going to be unstaffed at any point, consider offering self-serve options for “do it yourself” interactivity while your team is away, for instance a “gift one, leave one box,” or a photo-op background.

We hope it’s great, rather than yet another art project envisioned around heavy street theater that fizzles due to inadequate organization (like Burn Wall Street, which was originally going to have bank tellers). I’ve been to some actual souks in the middle east and it is full on, those markets are crowded, noisy, aggressive, and smelly – full of pickpockets and shoplifters. Lock up yer bikes!