My article about why Burning Man lacks a recognizable literary style has prompted a vigorous debate. One interesting contention that several people have made: a clear written aesthetic does emerge at Burning Man. It happens as graffiti.
“The scrawlings on the Temple, the Man Base and other sculptures are the literature of Burning Man. (Aside: don’t bring art to the playa that it’s not okay to write on; writing on art is following the principles of Participation and Radical Self-Expression.) Burning Man has distinct graffiti that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.”
“There is definitely a language of the Burner that I am aware of. Kind of a cross between New Age religion and rave goer. I’t is recognizable in the written word a poetry seen in places like the temple walls, camps, art, blogs, forums and the center camp stages.”
Ellie said that Burner writing “Might just be written on a wooden platform. Or in a port-a-potty. Often embodied in the most ephemeral of forms.”
And so on.
It’s a great point, one that I hadn’t considered. Certainly graffiti can be art – even literary art. The writing on the temple walls is absolutely part of our culture, although I question whether many of the people writing it are considering stylistic issues at the time.
I’m not convinced, though: I don’t recall seeing any graffiti that struck me as “only at Burning Man.” Quite the contrary. The graffiti seemed as ubiquitous in its style as in its presence.
But I could be wrong: perhaps someone can do a literary analysis of Burning Man’s graffiti to make the case.
But even before we consider the content, I’m stuck on Jared’s contention: “don’t bring art to the playa that it’s not okay to write on; writing on art is following the principles of Participation and Radical Self-Expression.”
Is it? For any piece of art? Not just the Temple and the Man and other pieces that are explicitly looking for it?
Is vandalizing someone else’s art actually an artistic act of self-expression? Read more »