JL on Burning Man at Nevada Museum of Art.

Somehow, somewhere, somebody made a mistake and invited me to speak and present at the Nevada Museum of Arts City of Dust exhibition. As far as I know, this is the first attempt by a serious institution at an art, culture and historical review of the Burning Man ™ event.

Desert Site Works II Trego Springs Black Rock Desert. This event which took place over three years at various hot springs ringing the Black Rock Desert was where much of the BM philosophy, fashion and culture was formed

Desert Site Works II Trego Springs Black Rock Desert. This event which took place over three years at various hot springs ringing the Black Rock Desert was where much of the BM philosophy, fashion and culture was formed. photo William Binzen

I intend to do my absolute best to showcase dozens of crucial individual collaborators, “fellow traveller” organizations, scenes, and happenstance occurrences that were integral to the genesis and the early spirit of this now gargantuan pop culture phenomenon. This is the first exclusively “Burning Man” event that I have participated in since 1997 at CB’s 313 Gallery in NYC. The show is NOT paid for or curated by the BMorg. There is a gallery show with materials donated by the usual suspects and by a few rogue elements including Harrod Blank, Philo Northrup and me…

JL on The Black Rock 1991. photo by Sebastian Hyde

The show and wall/display art & artifacts are curated by the Nevada Museum of Art staff including art curators Ann Wolfe and Bill Fox (real not “playa” names: Wolf & Fox), assisted by Sara Frantz and Megan Bellister.

The speakers roster was compiled and curated by Marisa Cooper. A special thanks to JoAnne Northrup for making the initial introduction and convincing her colleagues that I did not bite, and convincing me that the museum was serious about presenting accurate (as much as this is ever possible in a subjective world) information; under these circumstances I agreed to present at a Burning Man retrospective.


While never having performed on the Black Rock, Kevin Binkert's fire tornado was the prototype for many such art devices to be debuted at BM.

While never having performed on the Black Rock, Kevin Binkert’s fire tornado was the prototype for many such art devices to be debuted at BM. Kevin debuted this piece with seminal SF machine art combine Survival Research Labs. SRL while never visiting the Black Rock, was indisputably the primary influence on all machine and much of the fire art to come at BM.

Cacophony was the main influence on the culture of pranking to take hold in early BM. Here is Cacophonist Phil Bewley at the Clown Alley event in SF’s North Beach in 1988. photo by Peter. Field

At this point in time, it is a fact that BM has a definable and coherent structure, culture and for better and for worse, some real influence on a large demographic of liberal anglo culture in America & Europe with some inroads into influencing the liberal elites of other cultures.
As anyone that knows me is aware, since about 1995 I have had mixed feelings about the event and it’s growing popularity.

As one of the three owners of the Burning Man Festival (until January 1997) and a long time facilitator of non-commercial, transgressive, underground culture, I am uniquely positioned to comment on this event.
L. Harvey, M. Mikel and I formalized the ownership of Burning Man in 1994, and the “Burning Man” ownership entity(ies) ever since have been corporate in structure despite the often touted “gift economy” of BM.

There were three major influences on the genesis of BM as an event and as a culture: The Cacophony Society/Suicide Club subculture growing out of the fertile SF underground, including the Zone Trip concept pioneered in Cacophony, the TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone) philosophy outlined in the philosophy of Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson), and the Desert Site Works philosophy created by William Binzen.

Guru Road is a mile long, decades in the making art installation by longtime Black Rock Desert character Duane "Doobie" Williams. This marvelous installation made a huge impression on all in the early BM crew. One of the 3 or 4 times I have smoked pot since I was 17 years old was with Doobie on Guru Rd. in 1990. It was an honor.

Guru Road is a mile long, decades in the making art installation by longtime Black Rock Desert character Duane “Doobie” Williams. This marvelous installation made a huge impression on all in the early BM crew. One of the 3 or 4 times I have smoked pot since I was 17 years old was with Doobie on Guru Rd. in 1990. It was an honor.

The overall arch of the history of this singular desert event is bookended by women, and the event has been primarily directed by a woman since the close of the last millennium. This, despite the “Man” centric iconography, symbolism, mythology and press profile.

Some other things I will cover include the primary influences on fire, neon and machine art at BM, principal creators and organizers, artists, criminals and the like, that I believe were integral to the pioneering spirit of the early desert event. I will also touch lightly on some of the odd and creative people, groups and art that preceded us on the great playa of the Black Rock.

As anyone familiar with BM knows, there are thousands of stories covering many years. My intent is to show some of those people and incidents that I saw as being integral to the original spirit of the event as well as those who built the culture and set the stage for the influence, for better and worse, that BM has undeniably had. . .



Friday, November 11, 2016, Doors 7:00 p.m. , 8:00 p.m., etc.


(note: go to Friday Nov 11th in the above City Lights Bookstore event calendar for details on our event. We are one event – albeit a darn involved and ambitious one – among dozens of events sponsored by City Lights in this 13 day long DADA World’s Fair.)


Location: Undisclosed. Admission $25 per person. Ticket availability, method of acquisition, and admission can be found on the City Lights website, – scroll down to Nov 11th listing: http://www.dadaworldfair.net/devil-in-the-details/

This event is participatory, immersive and, depending upon your limitations, physically and emotionally, VERY INTENSE AND DEMANDING.

You must be able to crawl 100’ in the dark.

You must not be claustrophobic.

You must be 21 years of age.

You must not have any outstanding warrants.

This event is produced by artists and organizations that are present in the San Francisco Dada underground. Some of these artists and organizations are (and will remain) secret. The unifying factor might be some connection past present or future with the philosophy of Cacophony. Or it might not….. Some former members are reputedly involved in this impending affront to bourgeoise sensibilities.

Here is a partial list of collaborators:

Albert Kong designs art, performs rituals, plays with systems, and lingers in public spaces. More on his work and community can be found at www.kong.cat.

Akshay Sawhnay uses light to capture the lives of humans, often as they enjoy time together at fun underground events.  Years from now, you will visit akshaysawhney.com and Akshay’s work will bring back memories for you and your loved ones.

Ariana Campellone is engaged in the pursuit of mischief. She creates socially challenging live vignettes and is a scrappy crafter.

BISHOP JOEY (aka’d by them that nose too much).. ED HOLMES… gave birth to the world’s oldest religion, the FIRST CHVRCH of the LAST LAVGH in 1979. He/it instigates the annual ST STUPID’S: DAY PARADE every April 1th in SF.

Devin “Devo” Lozano is a rigger and technologist. He lives in San Francisco.

Doc Pop makes popular culture for the masses and regularly publishes charming surrealist(ish) booklets and online gif art. He is an excellent yo-yo artist.

Dominic Santiago has his steady hand in a number of Bay Area underground cabals.

Hal Robins, also known as Dr. Hal, is a stage and radio performer also recognized for his voice work in films and computer games. A graphic artist and cartoonist, he is a founding member of the Church of the SubGenius.

Eddie Codel is the founder of The Flying Robot Film Festival. He has been connected for so long that he is eddie@eddie.com.

Eugene Ashton-Gonzalez is an actor and poet. He created The Signal Room, a rogue museum and cabaret in an abandoned naval signal tower on Yerba Buena Island.

Frog: Long walks on the beach and poking dead things with a stick. International collection of fake poo. Fluent in snark. Princess Leia Big Wheel karaoke guniea pig roundup. Also, vegan nachos.

Gio Marcus is a San Francisco writer and artist. She sees things.

Irene Zhou is an artist and technologist in San Francisco

Jarico Reese founded SF’s oldest surviving punk rock bike troupe, Cyclecide in 1998. Jarico is a builder/clown – clown builder.

Jason Sylvester: Wallbreaker

Jason Wilson

joshu a. story deLeon: joshu has no interest in conjuring art that will outlive him, rather he delights to decant the elusive fog of creativity by night, only to watch it evaporate in the morning sun. Often the destruction of his spaces is as much a part of the pieces as their creation. You won’t find his work online. Bring him your local honey.  All of it.

John Law has been involved in underground culture in SF since arriving in 1976 after skipping juvenile probation & running away from home.

Katy Bell has been a fundamental part of the Bay Area underground art community for more than 20 years, and is best known for getting shit done. She’s a lover and a fighter with a deep and abiding commitment to DADA.

KrOB is a filmmaker, sound artist and Church of the Subgenius Factotum.

Laura M. S. deLeon

loid mongoloid makes and does interesting stuff

Paige Saez is level 10 lady wizard.

Phoenix Firestarter

Rena Tom

Robert Pierce

Rose Harden is a dancer/performer, choreographer and costumer. She and her husband Mark Perez operate and tour the world with the Life Size Game of Mousetrap.

Tim “BigDaddy” Anderson: You might have heard reports about a ‘Dog Man’ creature creeping around middle America, well it’s him. He does bark and growl, not sure about the bite….”

Whitney Deatherage is an arts and sciences facilitator in San Francisco.

Participants attending this event must not be claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. Must be in relatively good physical shape and should wear comfortable shoes. Respondents should not have any outstanding warrants for their arrest.

Cacophony is more of a philosophy now-a-days than a coherent organization. There are various groups around that carry on one or more “traditions” that have been attributed to “Cacophony.” Our involvement in such matters only pertains to the original spirit of the group, a spirit shared with other transgressive and non-traditional creative cabals. It is a spirit shared with the Diggers, some of the Beats & Hippies, Fluxus and some of the NYC art happenings of the 50’s, Kesey and his bus, the machine art underground of the 90’s, a tiny bit of Situationist pixie dust, a heavy infusion of surrealism, lots of DADA….

DADA was the most important art movement of the 20th Century.

DADA melded so completely into Western culture that, by mid century it was hard to even notice. Conceived as anti-art, the movement was an angry response to the evils of mechanized warfare and a cry against the ongoing commodification of everything.

“It’s not Dada that is nonsense—but the essence of our age that is nonsense.”—DADA

Back then it was the world that was insane. Things are equally batshit 100 years later. DADA made San Francisco. Some in the Beat and Hippie scenes were tuned in to the absurd embrace of DADA as were the later punks and artists of the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. DADA grandaddy Alfred Jarry was a deranged saint for CACAphony influencing Burning Man, Fight Club, SantaCon, urban exploration and street art here is a vibrant arts underground in the Bay Area despite the damaging tsunami of money erasing so much. Inspired by the DADAists, and later CACAphonists, these trouble-makers bring you a DADAist evening this November 11th .
Goodbye to the century of DADA – hello to the century of the robots.