GLC 2016: Money, Art and Burning Man’s Future — It’s Time to Talk Hurty

Categories: bmglc,bmglc2016,Regionals

Today, GLC participants are rocking up for their first day in the land of plenary. 

With two unconference sessions, four plenary sessions, and 41 breakout workshops, there are many juicy topics planned and even juicier topics and conversations that are yet to reveal themselves.

How could they not? Take 500 Burners from the around the world, add one part principles, two parts passion, three parts pet rocks and god-knows-how-many pet peeves. Shaken AND stirred. And hey presto: Radical Education, baby!

So far, we’ve highlighted Burning Man’s not-so-final-frontiers and the trouble with bubbles.

On Saturday afternoon, our resident scribe Caveat Magister, Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey and Education Director Stuart Mangrum will lean even further into the winds of Burning Man change to explore the Renaissance theme and the touchy topics of money, art and where we grow from here.

“We’ve reached a point where questions of how Burning Man culture interacts with the 21st century economy are unavoidable. They have always been there, but they are front and center now,” says Caveat.  

“Art and money had a completely different relationship in the Renaissance — and Burning Man definitely has a different relationship with both of them than the default world.”

According to Caveat, it’s not only important to lean into the winds of change, it’s time to lean into the pain.“This conversation is walking into a place where we often don’t go because it hurts,” he says. 

And where does it ouch?

“What do people get in shouting matches about on Burning Man’s online forums? ‘Why are ticket prices the way they are?’ ‘Why do vehicle passes cost what they cost?’ ‘Are we funding enough art?’ ‘Should we be funding art differently?’,” he says.

“This is where the anger is and there is a strong incentive to not talk about these money-related issues. In fact, we are very good at talking about some aspects of Decommodification — we’re very good at talking about Gifting — but I think we’re kind of bad at having conversations about money and economics. It’s a taboo area.”

But this need to have the icky community conversation (we’re crossing all body parts for no hammer and tongs) has become even more imperative as Burning Man explores its new frontiers as a nonprofit.

“If we limit the question to ‘how do we move the money around for art?’, we’re really not asking the significant questions,” says Caveat.

“Burning Man is now trying to do work in the world that will be funded beyond ticket sales. So the question is foundational: how do you fundraise for a nonprofit in a decommodified way? What does it mean? What does it even look like? That stuff has to be invented. The question of what kind of relationship a community dedicated to art should have with money has to be asked, and it’s important that we do it in a way that is legitimate to the community.”

And the da Vinci’s Workshop theme, with its Renaissance context, is providing the platform to ask these questions and “think out loud” to GLC participants and the broader community — and to invite them to do the same.

“The idea of doing da Vinci’s Workshop was not initially about money or economic questions, but as soon as it became apparent that questions of patronage are central to the Renaissance, Larry said: Let’s walk towards this conversation,” says Caveat. 

But he warns: “We’re not going to have immediate answers. Nobody’s going to leave the GLC saying ‘this is the plan’.” 

Wanna hear more on this particular confab? Stay tuned for more news and views from the conference. In the meantime, take a gander at The Burning Man Philosophical Center’s blog series on the Renaissance as well as Larry’s latest post, which explores some of the issues that will be raised at the session.

Author: Jane Lyons