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Posts tagged: Burning Man

Mindful Cyborgs: Who Are the Netocrats?

Klint Finley

This week Chris Dancy and talked with Alexander Bard, co-author of The Futurica Trilogy:

AB: Why do you think I’m writing my next book on Burning Man? Nobody has done a proper social theorem on Burning Man, the biggest social phenomenon at the moment. Burning Man is now having spinoffs all around the world. There are local burns everywhere and they’re magnets for the Netocrats. That’s where Netocrats go because Burning Man is the internet as a physical version. It’s the physical version of the internet. That’s exactly what it is. But nobody has done the proper social theory.

I was there three years ago and I met this really beautiful naked Canadian actress. She was like taking tons of cocaine and she was really funny and she was taking me around for a night and we were just sweeping the place. Suddenly she says, “You know what, this is our hutch. Burning Man is our mecca.” And I just realize this is a practiced religion. Why hasn’t anybody written a book on what the Burning Man really is? It’s not a holiday for people. It’s a damn mecca. It has to be constructed as if it is your religion because I think what it is. That’s where Syntheism comes in that he was born a burning man. It’s the idea of the burning man is already a practiced religion. Now let’s find out what the religion is, we already practice it, let’s find out what it is.

KF: I think there have been some books on spirituality of Burning Man but one thing that I think hasn’t been discussed as much is its connection to the new elites in terms of people like Jack Dorsey. Actually I don’t know if Jack Dorsey went to Burning Man but he’s part of that. He certainly was part of those types of networks in San Francisco in the late nineties and now he’s one of the biggest shots in the tech industry. He name drops a Hakim Bey, he talks about temporary autonomous zones and all of the concepts that were popular during that time and probably still are at Burning Man. I don’t know if anyone has really looked into the connections between that type of network culture thinking and that old Burning Man rave scene from that period.

AB: Yeah, I can see from the outside, Klint. I can see the best for being a Scandinavian and not an American because for the Americans probably Burning Man is like a big rave party for old grumpy people. I know for a fact you don’t get a top job at Google unless you’ve been to Burning Man. That’s a requirement. That is what I call Netocratic manifestation, if anything. That’s where I would look right now for the future.

Download, notes and full transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Attentionalism, Netocracy, and the All-Consuming Flame of To(day)morrow

I do wish we’d gotten more of a chance to talk about how attentionalism actually differs from capitalism. It still sounds to me like more of the process by which one becomes and remains bourgeoisie, not a new form of economy. For example, successful netocrats from Michael Arrington to Peter Thiel to Eric Schmidt tend to become venture capitalists and/or angel investors once they achieve success.

Burning Man Invades Afghanistan

Klint Finley

Burning Man in Afghanistan

In the 1970s, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon proposed the First Earth Battalion, an attempt to apply counter cultural currents of the time to the U.S. military. Now there’s the Synergy Strike Force:

Warner held the lease on the Taj, and he ran it with the help of an Afghan man, a former shepherd turned beekeeper turned tobacconist turned pool cleaner turned guesthouse manager named Mehrab. By design, the Taj sat “outside the wire,” beyond the security perimeter of the nearby coalition airfield. It was not only a place to drink and flop but also a kind of grand social experiment—an outpost of the Burning Man ethos in the Afghan desert.

What Warner meant when he called the Taj a “Burner bar” was that it operated, in part, according to a barter system. One of the standing rules at the guesthouse was that any expat could exchange information for booze. In a war zone where so many different agencies, companies, and contractors passed like wary ships in the night, one of the biggest problems was that no one could coordinate knowledge. No one, that is, except maybe a bartender. Under the banner of “Beer for Data,” Warner had turned the Taj into a major clearinghouse for information in Jalalabad. It accumulated by the terabyte on his hard drives: construction plans, hydrology surveys, health-clinic locations, election polling sites, names of farmers, number of trees on their farms, number of acres. What Warner collected he then passed on to the United Nations, the Pentagon, and anyone else who asked for it.

Full Story: Pacific Standard: The Merry Pranksters Who Hacked the Afghan War

(via Paul Graham Raven)

Here’s an ABC News interview with Warner:

Finding Jesus At Burning Man

Pastor Phil Wyman writes about his Christian missionary work at Burning Man:

I see Burning Man as a developing festival culture in American society. Like the children of Israel, who gathered for holy days like Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles, millions of people throng to festivals such as Burning Man, the Rainbow Gatherings, and Mind Body Spirit. Such events are imbued with a hedonistic party culture, but they often foster a search for deeper spirituality. That spirituality is typically not Christian—it’s not specifically or predominantly anything. Rather, it’s at root the search for meaning. Like the Jews running out to the desert to see John the Baptist, these spiritual seekers run to festivals and find new crazed prophets. […]

Like others at the festival, we devoted ourselves to building a large art installation—one of more than 300 built on the playa that week. Ours would be something of a sociological experiment. We were looking for people who were hoping to hear something—a still, small voice, perhaps.

I found some friends to help me—Hope Deifell, Dennis Huxley, Scott Veatch, and Matt Bender—and we built something we called Pillars of the Saints. It was an interactive meditation project based on the life of Simeon Stylites, the 5th-century Christian desert father and ascetic mystic. Simeon lived on a pillar for 39 years, seeking God and sharing wisdom with the multitudes who sought him out. Even popes asked for his advice, and Simeon’s work started a small movement of “pillar saints.”

It took us four days to build the installation: three pillars 10 to 12 feet tall and three blank walls with a flame altar in front of each. Each of the elements—the pillars, the walls, and the flame altars—had its own purpose.

Christianity Today: Finding Jesus At Burning Man

(via Al Billings)

Burning Man Art Installed at San Francisco’s City Hall

burning man art at city hall

Michael Christian’s “Flock,” one of the best-known Burning Man art pieces of all time, was installed in front of San Francisco’s City Hall on Nov. 17, 2005. It’s the latest in a series of temporary art projects around the city.

CNET: Flock in front of city hall

Daniel Pinchbeck interview

I’d never heard of this guy before, but I like this quote about Burning Man:

Burning Man is the post-modern continuation of those ancient festivals-it is a miraculous manifestation of the “Archaic Revival” described by Terence McKenna. On an occult level, I almost suspect that Burning Man is creating a model, on the astral plane, for how all human communities will exist in the future. One amazing aspect of Burning Man is how the event penetrates into one’s dream life-after going there, I dreamt about some version of it almost every night for many months afterwards. I know that many people have the same reaction. How could the egalitarian, freedom-oriented, cashless, utopian form of Burning Man be implemented in a more permanent way, or on a larger scale? I have no clue.

Brainmachines: Interview with Daniel Pinchbeck

(via New World Disorder)

Phoenix Festival: Rave Never Died

The future is going to be much more like the extremely distant past. It’s not that technology is going to disappear. It’s that technology is going to be much less obtrusive. I can imagine a future where the entire culture has been shrunk down and downloaded onto a pair of black contact lenses that you implant behind your eyelids. And you’re naked, tattooed, scarified, and wearing your penis sheath and so on. But when you close your eyes, there are menus dangling in mental space. You go into that and have the complete database of the Western Mind.
-Terrence McKenna, Mondo 2000 vol. 1, issue 10, 1993

Whether open only to a few friends, like a dinner party, or to thousands of celebrants, like a Be-In, the party is always ‘open’ because it is not ‘ordered’; it may be planned, but unless it ‘happens’ it’s a failure. The element of spontaneity is crucial.

The essence of the party: face-to-face, a group of humans synergize their efforts to realize mutual desires, whether for good food and cheer, dance, conversation, the arts of life; perhaps even for erotic pleasure, or to create a communal artwork, or to attain the very transport of bliss- in short, a ‘union of egoists’ (as Stirner put it) in its simplest form-or else, in Kropotkin’s terms, a basic biological drive to ‘mutual aid.’
-Hakim Bey, The Temporary Autonomous Zone, 1990.

I’m sitting in front of a sound stage in the middle of a horse pasture watching robotic kids shift and rotate to electronic music. A computer thumps out crunchy, mechanical melodies over the funky beats oozing from turntables. Neon drawings float under the black light from the plywood dance floor. Off to the side of the stage, a guy sits cross-legged and meditates. I’ve been up since 6:30 in the morning, it’s 2:30 at night now, I’m freezing, and have no plans of going to bed. Fatigue has given way to fascination. I feel great.

It’s the first night of Phoenix Festival 2002, one of many week long outdoor art and dance festivals to offshoot from Nevada’s Burning Man festival. Although the organizers didn’t have Burning Man in mind when they created the festival - some of them have never even been to Burning Man - the festival has become a refuge for people fed up with Burning Man’s commercialization. The theme of this year’s Phoenix Festival is rebirth, the final stage in the cycle of the phoenix myth. It’s the final Phoenix Festival and the first to acquire the required permits to hold the event. In previous years the festival’s location was announced the night before the event, like many other electronic music parties and festivals. But despite the festivals legit legal standing and increased promotion, the festival remains largely underground. Only about 2,000 people are attending. According to Chris “Fussik” West, who helped organize the festival, this year’s festival attracted a more diverse crowd but didn’t significantly increase the total number of people attending.

Phoenix Festival seems to be a perfect embodiment of Terrence McKenna’s “Archaic Revival” concept and Hakim Bey’s “Temporary Autonomous Zone” idea. McKenna believed we are striving to recover ancient social forms to escape the oppressive nature of modern living. He expected people to return to tribal forms of living, with an emphasis on ritual, organized activity, and ancestor consciousness. He sees everything from New Age-ism, UFOlogy, body modification, and of course raves as manifestations of this tendency.

Bey proposed a complex network of “pirate utopias” where people could be free to do as they pleased without state intervention. Once the state got wise to a temporary autonomous zone, its inhabitants would up and find a new location.

Phoenix Festival is isolated on private property in rural Washington and people are camped out in tents. Primarily they’ve brought their music equipment, and they’re powering it mostly with biodiesel. Oakes, a guy I picked up in Portland in exchange for a ticket, told me on the way down that the electronic music scene is a community. Oakes’ own plan is to “become so integrated into the scene that I can make a living on it.” He designs and makes clothes, and plans to launch a music journalism career as well. He’s certainly not the first to make a living in the community. There are vendors at the event selling home-made fashions, musical instruments, and food. There are large groups of production companies that throw parties and festivals on a regular basis. DJs and musicians who try to live off their music. Glass blowers. Drug dealers. Homeless drifters relying on the kindness of strangers.

Of course, the community isn’t entirely self-sustaining yet. Most of its members still have to work day jobs. My friend Brian, a long time electronic music community member who told me about Phoenix Festival, makes a living manufacturing circuit boards.

Fussik doesn’t believe that the model the Phoenix Festival is based on can work in the real world, but he does believe that Phoenix Festival is “A safe place for people express themselves in a free area with as few rules as possible.”

FXCannon, the group playing in the stage right now, is from Houston. They work day jobs and spent all their money getting here. They brought a bunch of burned CDs with them to give away, but now they’re selling them to try to make enough money to get home.

Jeff Montgomery, who does a live PA set from his laptop for the group, used to be in an industrial noise group that traded boxes of tapes with other musicians all over the world, and then sold the other musicians’ tapes to make money. When asked about how he feels about peer to peer music trading he said, “I don’t give a fuck. I just want people to hear my music.”

This is a pretty common attitude in the electronic music scene, where cutting and pasting sounds from other musicians’ work is a standard technique. For them intellectual property is a moot concept. The musicians mostly self-publish their albums and live a traveling minstrel lifestyle, depending on donations and day jobs live. The members of FXCannon have day jobs in addition to seeking extra money from gigs and throwing their own parties.

Between sets, conversations often turn to politics. Someone discusses how government officials threw Ralph Nader out of the 2000 presidential debates, essentially meaning the government was using tax payer money to subvert democracy. Others criticize Bush’s foreign policy, or his plans to drill for oil in Alaska.

On the second day of Phoenix Festival the members of FXCannon and I are sitting in an old Ford school bus that has been converted into the tour bus of Aura, a Seattle performance art troupe. Aura will perform tomorrow’s nights “death ritual.” We’re hanging out with a member of a troupe, who makes his living as a glass blower. We talk about the economy and the collapse of Enron, and Jeff points out that the electronic music scene is on the cutting edge of the coming economic change. “We’re going to go back to the way this country was meant to be by the founders. Everyone was meant to have their own business, not to work for megacorporations that own everything,” he says. Here people are founding the new new economy, consisting sustainable personal businesses.

I met a girl from South Carolina, who has a degree in public relations and has she says she’s just been laid off from a job designing circuit boards for MCI and that it’s the best thing that ever happened to her. “I’m on severance for the summer, then I’ll be on unemployment for a year. Then I’ll figure out what to do next,” she said. Oakes is in a similar situation: he’s launching his new career as a cog in the electronic music community wheel while receiving unemployment.

On my last night at the festival before returning to Olympia, WA early for my day job, I watch Aura’s “death” ritual. Fire is twirled, people are entranced by the performance. Fussik says that he and the organizers were never big on the ritual aspect of the festival, but last year they left the ritual out and people missed it. It’s back this year to provide some closure to the series of festivals. Next year Fussik and company will organize a new festival, designed with Burning Man in mind, that he hopefully get away from the rave scene. “We’re sort of the darling of the rave scene right now,” he says, “We want to create a new festival that rips away the facade. With a rave, you’ve gotta have particular elements. So the new festival will be purely a community art and music project, with no myth, no religion.”

Though Fussik sees Phoenix Festival as being a vacation from the real world, rather than a permanent replacement for civilized society, many of its attendees don’t agree. They’ve made electronic music parties a way of life. Phoenix Festival is but one of many other large outdoor gatherings this summer, and many more will occur indoors during the rest of the year. A high tech, nomadic tribal community has emerged and is thriving despite government intervention. Whether they realize it or not, they’ve incorporated Bey’s TAZ model into their organizational process, and are the living embodiment of the Archaic Revival.

More Info:

Official Phoenix Festival web site Includes a complete list of acts playing at Phoenix Festival, photos from previous years, etc.

Seattle PI’s Phoenix Festival coverage

Pyrosutra the web page of one of Phoenix Fest’s headline performers.

FXCannon website

Burning Man the official Burning Man web site.

Northwest Tekno a guide to the electronic music community in the northwestern United States.

Hyperreal the web’s authoritative guide to electronic music culture.

DeOxy’s Terrence McKenna page one of the best Terrence McKenna sites on the web.

Zero News Datapool, Hakim Bey An excellent collection of Hakim Bey’s writings

Douglas Rushkoff a media theorist who has spent much time studying rave culture.

Autonomous Mutant Fest

Autonomous Mutant Fest is, in a way, an attempt to re-create what Burning Man was in the beginning. Personally, what I find attractive about Burning Man is how big it’s gotten. They build an entire city out in the dessert- that’s pretty impressive. Of course, I’ve never been so maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be or maybe it really was cooler in the beginning. At any rate, I plan on attending both Burning Man and AMF next year so we’ll see.

Autonomous Mutant Festival

Conference on Permanent Autonomous Zones

There was a conference on Permanent Autonomous Zones this past Labor Day weekend (the same time as Burning Man!?). Although the conference is over their website is stuffed with information.

PAZ Conference

(via New World Disorder)