Posts for category Afield in the World

April 26th, 2013  |  Filed under Afield in the World, Culture (Art & Music)

FLOAT: Air-Quality-Sensing Kites in Beijing

FLOAT project poster

Every year, the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) — Burning Man’s sister non-profit dedicated to the funding of interactive, participatory and civic art projects around the world, year round — awards grants to support art projects that reflect and forward its mission.

In 2012, one of those grant recipients was FLOAT, “a participatory art/design project using air-quality-sensing kites in Beijing, China. FLOAT had two components; a workshop and a public installation. The workshops gathered local Beijing residents to make kites with an air-quality-sensing module, and the public installation was a group kite flight in parks throughout the city using these kites. The air quality data was fed and geolocated onto a mapping API, and displayed through LED lights. A series of longer term installations throughout the city offered residents ‘air quality stations’ that displayed air quality data in real time, previously recorded data and education about urban health. Through the poetics and playfulness of kite flying, FLOAT sparked dialogue on urban environmental health issues, and gave agency to city dwellers to map, record and engage actively in the monitoring of their environment.”

A scene from “Stars in the Haze”, by Joshua Frank

If you find this ingenious and important project intriguing, we highly recommend you watch “Stars in the Haze”, a fascinating short documentary film about the project, written, shot and edited by Joshua Frank.

You can see a full listing of all of BRAF’s art grant recipients from 2013 and years past here on their website. These grants are made possible by the generous donations of good folks like YOU. If you’d like to help, please donate.


April 22nd, 2013  |  Filed under Afield in the World, Culture (Art & Music), Events/Happenings

It’s a Cacophony Spring! — “Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society” book release events in May 2013

City Lights Bookstore SF, where modern American literature was born, announces:

Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society LAUNCH PARTY !
Thursday, May 16, 2013, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Boosktore, San Francisco, California


“An evening of irreverent antics

with Kevin Evans, Carrie Galbraith, John Law and friends

celebrating the release of

Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society
Edited by Kevin Evans, Carrie Galbraith and John Law

published by Last Gasp Books

Come one, come all… your own risk.

A template for pranksters, artists, adventurers and anyone interested in rampant creativity, Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society is the history of the most influential underground cabal you’ve never heard of. Rising from the ashes of the mysterious and legendary Suicide Club, the Cacophony Society, at its zenith, hosted chapters in over a dozen major cities, and influenced much of what was once called the underground. The Cacophony Society’s epic exploits radically changed the way people live and play in the world. The group inspired Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club and Burning Man and helped start pop culture trends including flash mobs, urban exploration, and culture jamming.”

What has been said about Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society:
Read more »

March 15th, 2013  |  Filed under Afield in the World

In defense of academia, and why it’s good for Burning Man

Albert Einstein and Kurt Godel – paragons of academia?

About 60 comments deep into my post about why Burning Man and academic culture are at odds, I realized that what started out as a provocation and reaction had turned into a relevant conversation … and that the comments section on a blog is a terrible place to have a relevant conversation.

There are worse places, but they’re filled with toxic fish.

So I invited anyone (especially academics) who disagreed with me to send me short essays expressing their disagreement, and said I’d post some on the Burning Blog in order to give their ideas a better hearing.

So far only one has responded:  Lans Ellison.  (That’s a pseudonym:  he asked that his real name not be used.  I am hardly in a position to object.)  Much in the same way that my opinions in no way represent those of Burning Man, Lans is only speaking for himself, etc. etc. (boilerplate, boilerplate).

His essay is below, unaltered.  I’ll include my own response to his ideas in the comments section, after some other people have had a chance to speak (if they’re inclined to). Read more »

March 7th, 2013  |  Filed under Afield in the World, The Ten Principles

Why the 10 Principles? Because you never change the world the same way twice

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Inspiration can be stronger than gravity

During her presentation at Burning Man headquarters last night, Nicole Radziwill gave an example of the way she’s trying to integrate the 10 Principles into her classroom at James Madison University. (“The Burning Mind Project”)

“I was trying to figure out how to emphasize Gifting,” she said (I’m quoting from memory, so this is inexact). “When we came to a point in my Artificial Intelligence class when I’d have them do projects, I told them ‘All right, you can do projects alone or in groups, but before you do that I want you to ask yourself: ‘what do I have that I can give to a group project? What important thing do I have to offer?’ Think about that, find your answer, and in another class we’re going to present it to everyone together.”

What happened next, she said, was that students got up and told personal stories about the work they’d done in the past and the work they wanted to do in the future, and what they were passionate about offering if they could. Other students started responding. “They said ‘hey, I did something similar once, and if we put those things together we could do this really amazing thing,’” she remembers – and suddenly she had groups of students coming together to work on projects they cared deeply about.

It sounds like an amazing experience, and shows the potential that an activity like “bringing the 10 Principles into the classroom” has to inspire meaningful change.    It’s the kind of effort we’re going to see a lot more of in the next few years.   Read more »

February 28th, 2013  |  Filed under Afield in the World

How Does Burning Man Compare to Kumbh Mela?

Kumbh Mela “art car”. Photo by Chip Conley.

Chip Conley is (amongst other things) a successful hotelier, world-traveler, festival aficionado and Burning Man Project board member. He’s just returned from a five-week tour of Asia, during which he attended five different festivals. Lucky for us, one of the festivals he attended — along with 80 million other people — was the centuries-old Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest gathering of religious pilgrims, which takes place every three years in India.

So how does Kumbh Mela compare to Burning Man? Well, seeing distinct commonalities in the experiences, Chip penned a fascinating post comparing the two in his Fest300 blog. And we? We are the beneficiaries of his perspective.

Read Chip’s blog post here. While you’re there, be sure to poke around his other posts … they’re great.

Have you been to Kumbh Mela? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

February 26th, 2013  |  Filed under Afield in the World

Burning Man should treat “Academia” the way it does “Commercialization”

Looked at in the proper light, the Ivory Tower is a terrifying art project.


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 »

December 23rd, 2012  |  Filed under Afield in the World

Art as Catalyst for Change in Haiti

Earthquake damage in Jacmel, Haiti, Jan 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter Prengaman)

When the devastating 2010 earthquake struck Jacmel, Haiti, Sue Frame was sitting in a restaurant with her best friend, Flo McGarrell. Flo was an incredible artist who had worked tirelessly in Jacmel for marginalized artists including women, the physically challenged as well as those who identify as gay or transgender.

As the earth began to shake beneath their feet, Flo and Sue made a run for the nearest exit, but tragically, only Sue was able to make it out alive before the restaurant collapsed. Sue vowed to continue Flo’s work in Jacmel through the creation of Jakmel Ekspresyon, a non-profit arts organization whose goal is to provide a place for artists to learn and express themselves in a non-discriminating environment. BWB has partnered with this one of a kind organization in Haiti to create a program that will train and create employment for these artists for years to come through the creation of a screen printing studio and business.

Jacmel is known as the arts capital of Haiti-famous for its vibrant arts culture. However, it is very difficult for artists to benefit financially from their work due to persistent political and economic challenges that have plagued the country for centuries. It can also be extremely difficult for these marginalized individuals to be accepted by the community and have the ability to make a living.

Jacmel Ekspresyon art classes

But, with the support from the Burning Man community, we can make a real and lasting difference in transforming this paradigm. This screen printing project will be the first of its kind in Haiti. BWB will send ten artists to Jacmel to teach skills in design, screen printing and professional development. There are currently no screen printing services available in Jacmel to create post-cards for the tourism industry or for the various international organizations who work there. This project is sure to be a success and we need your participation to make it happen.

If you would like to apply for the artist in residency program, you can read all about it here.

We are asking for your financial support in making this unique project happen. We have just launched an Indiegogo campaign that will fund the residency program and the construction of a screen printing studio.

This is an incredible opportunity to support the arts and a unique program that will make a significant impact in the lives of these artists and for the Jacmel community.

Thank you for your support.

December 3rd, 2012  |  Filed under Afield in the World

Getting Dusty With Sandy

The line between light and dark. The anatomy of a New York City blackout.

At the end of October, a San Francisco-based group from the Burning Man Project traveled to New York City. We had planned four days of meetings with the thriving Burner community, and were eager to engage with new friends. What we hadn’t planned on was engaging with Hurricane Sandy. Which is how our intrepid crew from San Francisco found ourselves discovering unexpected playa lessons on a very urban landscape.

The Burning Man Project nonprofit seeks to extend the Burning Man ethos beyond the desert, and New Yorkers have some good ideas about how to do that. We had made plans to meet with regional contacts, to see Board Member Leo Villareal’s newest art installation, to host a participant discussion about the Project, and to attend a local theme-camp-inspired Halloween party.

Thrust into the eye of the storm, we found ourselves without power or water, unable to leave the City and largely unable to communicate back to California. Fortunately, we also found ourselves witnessing Burners helping each other through, conducting meetings by candlelight, respecting the resilience of New Yorkers, and affirming the importance of shawarma.

Continue reading for an account of our big learning Big Apple adventure … Read more »