I’ve written before on the nonsense of viewing the Burning Man as a kind of radical countercultural phenomenon outside the global capitalist art world system or in defiance of it. Burning Man displays the same kind of art as spectacle mentality that led to the death of art in the first place. Art is not a spectacle and occasion for ritualistic ceremonies based on self-pleasuring, narcissistic excess, didactic statements or what have you. That’s a Circus.
Burning Man has always been a kind of circus where various entertainers plan their entertainments over the year to see which one gets the most favorable attention and participation. How is this any different than Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Art isn’t celebratory party held once a year, either. The claims of the Burning Man promoters for being a “de-commodified” meeting place for pure art were as hollow and absurd as the same claims by the earth artists and conceptual artists who from the beginning were entirely interested in turning themselves and their art into commodities. The proof of that is the fact that they’ve all done so.
It’s also hardly not in the least surprising that it’s been entirely taken over by the capitalist class, including neo-con anti-tax fanatics like Grover Norquist. The participation of the Norquists, Musks, and Zuckerberg indicate what a farce Burning Man was in the first place claiming itself to be some kind of Exodus into pure ritual and artistic expression.
If it had been, the Capitalist class would have never gone near it. The only kind of art that can be made in today’s sorry excuse for an art world is by individuals living in isolation from the sick capitalist system that is going down in ruin.
Here’s a very good article in Tikkun (“Why the Rich Love Burning Man”) that details the innate corruption of the festival, but it’s worth keeping in mind that it was doomed from the start for takeover as all such publicity seeking “art fests” invariably are.
Keith A. Spencer writers:
Burning Man is earning a reputation as a “networking event” among Silicon Valley techies, and tech magazines now send reporters to cover it. CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Alphabet are foaming fans, along with conservative anti-tax icon Grover Norquist and many writers of the libertarian (and Koch-funded) Reason magazine. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even went so far as to claim that Burning Man “is Silicon Valley.”
There is only one place where art will ever find any kind of renewal and that is in small communities of artists who are decisively separated from the capitalist art world. Any groups that are organized in order to seek their own self-promotion, manifesto writing, and art sales are either deluded or dishonest in thinking they are somehow engaged in a defiant act of rebellion against the current art system. They are the current art system.
Burning Man also shows why the Situationists were doomed from the start along with the 1968 uprising in France. Nobody is going to change the commodification of art by Capitalism after America insured it in the 1950s. And most particularly by staging “art events” and “art happenings”. Having festivals with techno dance music and people blowing flames into the air and burning the Wicker Man? Fucking come off it.
All one creates is just another of the myriad cults that proliferate like mushrooms all over the US. The conceptual art cult, the earth art cult, the Marina and the fabulous nudity cults, body art cults…. All one creates is what the dismal excuse for an artist, Santiago Sierra, creates in the photograph of one of his performance pieces above.
Man… I got a headache… gotta go…