Looked at in the proper light, the Ivory Tower is a terrifying art project.
UPDATED AT BOTTOM
The academics have come to Burning Man. They’re through the gates.
They’ve always been here, actually: but now they’re getting organized. I was at the very first meeting of “Burning Nerds,” a Burning Man staff initiated gathering of academics who attend Burning Man. I helped carry snacks for the party into Ashram Galactica, then stood in the corner and listened as meteorologists in leather skins and topless sociologists and dramaturges in fuzzy boots introduced themselves and discussed their research.
That was, I think, in 2010, and since then Burning Nerds has had more meetings in the desert and established a thriving email list. This year, they’re planning their first theme camp.
And good for them. The more participation, and kinds of participation, the better. But … lemme skip to the end here. I’ve reluctantly concluded that academia per see is very, very, bad for Burning Man – and that we’d be better off if Burners engage in a campaign of civil disobedience against it.
Not, let me emphasize, against the academics themselves. We’re all welcome at Burning Man, and the work they do just as legitimate as whatever other crazy project someone wants to put in the middle of the desert. I read all of their studies avidly, which is more attention than I pay to your theme camp.
But while any given piece of individual research is likely harmless, the project of academia itself is kryptonite to the spirit of Burning Man. Indeed, a case can be made that academia as an institution stands firmly opposed to the 10 Principles. Outside of “prison,” if there was ever a practice that contradicted “immediacy,” “radical acceptance,” and “radical self-expression” it is academia. This is true in theory, and especially in practice.
So much in the way bankers are welcome to attend Burning Man but we try to keep commercialization out, I think we’d be well advised to welcome academics but do our best to frustrate “academia” every chance we get. Read more »