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.
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…
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.
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.
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. . .
Chuck Palahniuk’s pivotal novel Fight Club was partially inspired by Cacophony, which served as a model for the novels dangerous prankster cabal Project Mayhem. Ask Chuck what the heck he was thinking!
Heavy hitting and darn serious NYC journalist and editor Brad Wieners covered early period Cacophony (and BM) hi-jinx before he got serious! He knows the best tales and where the bodies are buried. Come and pick his brain….
Yes, the grown-ups are finally paying attention. Commonwealth couldn’t get George Shultz or Hillary Clinton again, so they invited us. We intend to make the best of it and get one of our books in each of their homes where their kids will find and use it.
Sisters Dana Van Iquity, Kitty Catalyst and Reyna Terror of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have graciously agreed to bless our event.
Stuart (Blank DeCoverly) Mangrum BLF (ret.) will read from his Cacophony 12 Step program to close the stage presentation.
A book signing is the finale with Law and Galbraith and Palahniuk signing copies of Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society.
Machine artist and Cacophonist Kal Spellitech will be in the house as will RoboGames and Cacophony 2.0 organizers Simone Davalos and David Calkins.
The Bay Area Art Car community will be represented by Emily Duffy and friends.
Please join us at the Castro Theater this coming Monday evening the 23rd night of September. We can only guarantee that you will leave knowing stuff you probably cannot find out anywhere else! Whether you need this type of input or not and what you might do with it is entirely up to you.
The authors, presenters, attending artists, The Castro Theater and The Commonwealth Club accept no responsibility for your future actions.
cheers, JL, CG and the remaining members of the Cacophony Society.