From: [email protected]
Subject: [regionals-list] Art at BMAN, a second look
Date: November 17, 2004 9:47:13 PM HST
To: [email protected]
Let's take a closer look at this petition, I think they are wrong or misguided on almost everything. I am going to take it point by point.
SUMMARY: We are the artists. We feel that this event which we made great has gotten away from us and we would like it back. We want the art to be spectacular again and we are willing to step forward to do the work to make it so. But for this to happen, we think the "art curation" should be put in the hands of rotating "Guest Curators" and all funding decisions should be made by "Direct Vote" of the full community. The art should also be well funded (10% of the gate) and not subject to creativity squashing litmus tests for "theme compliance" and "mandatory interactivity". The petitioners at http://tinyurl.com/6l5lh
request attention to these very reasonable demands or we commit to STOP CONTRIBUTING our art to Burning Man. Repeated discussions over many years have failed to result in meaningful change, so now we are resorting to more extreme measures.
This is the first I have ever heard of such an open discussion and I am very up on events in the community. Such a large discussion would be hard to miss, especially by ALL of us Regional contacts. I have never heard these grievances aired before (or anything like it) in any worldwide public forum I am aware of.
A small (compared to the worldwide burner population) group decides amongst themselves to take radical action feeling sidelined by a powerful and faceless bureaucratic power. They shun cooperation and communication after failed attempts to work it out, the only course of action is revolution. Freedom fighter is a very romantic idea, but in the end you are still just a terrorist. I do not believe they exhausted all attempts to address this issue/suite of issues. Their petition is only destructive no matter how this all turns out, they are introducing radical division into our family, our community. We should be able to work out any differences we have by talking or we shouldn't exist at all.
Their proposal is a rambling rant filled with taunts, demands, and threats. They do talk about how art has in general over the past couple of year seemed to have not been up to par with past years, which is true in my mind. But they seem to think that the Project (or the "borg" as they refer to them) is fully to blame ignoring their own complicity.
I think the problem stems from this whole bigger is better thing, in playa terms everyone competes to have the loudest music, biggest camp, best party on the playa. This philosophy completely ignores the small to mid-size camps and art that comprise a much larger portion of the art on the playa than the few key large installations. Why compete? Just go off and join one of these huge camps, they have a core group that does everything and you can be free to take in the Take Economy. If everyone has done all the big stuff, why bother doing my own thing? Just go and Take.
A. "Direct Voting":
For wanting to bring power back to the people, these guys make it sound a LOT more like they want to hold a hip and happening party in SF for them and all their friends who live not too far away where they decide how to divvy up the cash. They have a piss poor understanding of the rest of the burner world and how this type of art selection process would surely favor those in, near, or able to be in SF regularly. This voting process is an insult to all of us more than a couple hundred miles from SF, and that is a LOT of us.
The day we start voting on what art should be paid for is the day I might just have to say goodbye. I trust the Project, they have done an incredible job over the many years, and their effort does not define 100% of my playa experience (there are a lot of other artists there too, they just look like normal people). I don't see why we should derail a great event thus disappointing many just to make a small group "feel good".
I thought we were all supposed to be self-reliant. What is with the demand for a handout? Why do you think someone owes you cash so you can build your flaming toilet or whatever? The percent of spectators has been growing in recent years, perhaps it is because of this exact attitude, "the Man owes me because I am here". Our camp mate calls this the "Take Economy", where spectators who look like Participants (all the glitter, glowies, neon, drugged up, etc.) but all they do is going around demanding things. This has been growing significantly over the past couple of years and I don't think you can pin it on population growth alone.
B. "Guest Curators":
As a Regional Contact with 2+ years and 7 big and many more small events under my belt I can see a little more clearly what it takes to produce successful events that significantly grow the community. It is actually pretty simple, you come up with a date, time, place, name, and theme and Participants fill in the rest. The theme is not a commandment but an inspiration, something optional but it can spark the creative flow for Participants to grow and expand on. A theme is like a logo, something which helps to define you, but also something you should not spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over, it can always be changed in due time.
This guest curator idea seems overblown to me, if it is more and better art than why not build it themselves, or better yet agitate others to Participate. Who cares about the theme, the money, and the power, BM is supposed to be about giving something to the community and not about your personal prosperity or prestige. And this mechanism they come up with to vote and constantly switch leaders, sounds more like 20th century college activism than a 21st century movement and network.
Where do we want to go with all this? Do we want to turn inward and shun the world or do we grow outward and expand our community? Guest curators would weaken the organizational structure of the Project which would would only be detrimental to the event and network. The only way to grow and evolve is through organization, like it or not.
2. TEN PERCENT FOR ART.
This group obviously doesn't take a look at the Afterburn reports or know very much about what BM is and does outside of the event. Do they realize the increasing amount (small but significant enough to strain) of the Project's budget is going to support the Regional Network? Do they realize the enormous production BM is and the need to have year-round staff? Everyone loves to fantasize about the "lost millions" that Larry and pals are hoarding, I don't believe it is possible for them to make very much money directly off BM. Taking extra money from the gate would impact many other critical areas of the event and the Network. And why should the Project pay for people to Participate? I understand it if they put forth a small part of their budget to commission "theme art", it is only a portion of the overall art and it helps to form the core to inspire others.
3. NO THEMEATIC FUNDAMENTALISM.
More ranting, see "guest curators above".
4. BURNING MAN ART IS "RADICALLY COLLABORATIVE"
They spend the whole time bashing interactivity and don't really explain what they mean by "Radically Collaborative". They have the idea that the Project are "interactivity nazis" or something and they have a very narrow idea of interactivity. More griping with precious little substance.
Chaos will provide . . .
That is if you get up off your fat ass and do it yourself. I don't know what hippie anarchist world this guy comes from, although I have been to and lived in plenty, but the ONLY way anything ever happens is by someone actually doing it. And the only thing better than one person standing up and doing something is a group finding unity and working together to achieve a goal. In order to set your sights on higher and higher goals (with the ultimate goal being changing the whole world) you are going to have to include more and more people, and the ONLY way to do that effectively is through organization, period. It is exceedingly rare to change the world without going beyond even a small level of organization. The Project staff does a great job, I would hate to see what a "citizen burner art committee" would make of our city.