Freedom in The City

Critical Walks in The City

Since 2002, PLATFORM has been running periodic and experimental walks around contemporary corporate culture. We have focused specifically on how the world‚s first and most enduring transnational corporation - the East India Company (1600-1858) - has much to teach us. "Loot! Reckoning with the East India Company" takes groups of 20 people around the sites of the Company in London's "Square Mile" (financial district) and East India Docks, making parellels with contemporary ethical issues in transnational corporate business.

PLATFORM has long used the walk as an important form for public space work. We have explored walking as a research tool, as a ritual, as performance, as intervention, as a political tool, and as a tool for sharing insights and information. Our walks have been devised by artists, historians, community activists, psychologists, and environmentalists in collaboration, and as solo ventures.

We are currently exploring walks according to the following themes:

The City as if it had never been built, The City before memory. These walks will explore the land and water underneath The City, juxtaposing the current ‘given’ with its pre-history, thus opening the imagination to its future. The Roman City of Londinium was founded on two wooded hills with a fresh water stream - the Walbrook - running between them, the city's walls surrounded by marshland. What might re-seeing this tell us ? Guided walks along the rivers Walbrook and Fleet form part of this.

The City that erases itself, The City of Forgetting. These walks will explore the questions of visibility and invisibility of the impacts of commerce in The City and have commenced with the walk "Loot - Reckoning with the East India Company", devised by historian Nick Robins and PLATFORM core member Jane Trowell.

The East India Company remains the most powerful corporation the world has ever seen, a precursor to today’s transnational corporations. Starting out as a speculative venture to import spices from the East Indies - modern day Indonesia - the Company grew to fame and fortune by trading with and then conquering and governing India. But visit London today where the Company was headquartered for over 250 years, and little marks its rise and fall, its innovations and its crimes. The walk takes you round this invisible behemoth...and asks in terms of contemporary corporate behaviour, what has changed, and what has remained the same ? Crucially, what can we learn ?




Hay un espectro que hechiza a Europa, o más bien, al mundo. El espectro es la Psicogeografía. Durante treinta años los dedos estranguladores, que sustentan la Tradición, se han ido retrayendo frente a la erupción de los excitantes y nuevos espacios psicosociales no euclidianos. Rock and Roll, la sociedad permisiva, el nuevo liberalismo que existe en la esfera social; todo esto ha actuado como una cámara de descompresión donde la pre-planeadas desilusiones que genera la sociedad de clases pueden ser productivamente puestas en función de un nuevo diseño, una nueva moda y una revuelta que no atenta contra nada. Centradas sobre la juventud como su fuerza de inocencia, las fuerzas vitales de la imaginación colectiva son dirigidas hacia la subsistencia económica, pues se trata de un recipiente de talentos donde las organizaciones establecidas y las grandes empresas pueden pescar nuevas caras y nuevas ideas.

Sin embargo, de igual manera que el Frente de Liberación Gay devino en moda gay, los Panteras Negras fueron reemplazados por el Islam y las ilusiones de Mao, por la Bolsa de Comercio de Shangai; la integración de un espacio psicosocial no euclideano en las mecánicas post-newtonianas es enfrentado por una oposición anti-euclideana que volverá a encender los fuegos de la revuelta con los fósforos de la metáfora. La Psicogeografía ofrece el tercer polo entre el falso universalismo de la modernidad y la universal virtualidad de la post-modernidad.

La Psicogeografía es universalismo con actitud. Es el universalismo que no busca expresarse mediante palabras, que se mantiene sólo como una sinopsis de lo salvaje. La Psicogeografía investiga la intersección entre el tiempo y el espacio, y así ataca a la ciencia en su punto más debil -la repetición mecánica de resultados. La Psicogeografía es la universalidad de lo específico, de lo particular en su punto de disolución.

La Psicogeografía se sitúa a sí misma por fuera de la democracia. No busca recrear el proceso mediante el cual la experiencia diaria es tamizada para poder ser reproducida como una telenovela, un programa político o un ensayo de doctorado para la facultad. No es una inmersión en la vida privada de la esfera social, sino una invasión a la esfera pública por parte de pasiones que de otra manera se encontrarían confinadas al mundo privatizado del individuo atomizado. Mientras que la democracia busca crear una síntesis de los deseos de los ciudadanos, la Psicogeografía es uno de sus polos antitéticos que se torna consciente del conflicto que existe entre nuestro idealizado rol como ciudadanos y la subjetividad que se deriva de las condiciones materiales de nuestra vida. Al suspender el 'sentido común' mientras nos movemos de un lugar a otro en nuestra vida diaria, podemos redescubrir el aspecto salvaje de la ciudad. Al explorar aquellas áreas en las cuales no tenemos ninguna buena razón para estar, podemos descubrir las razones que nos constriñen a frecuentar solamente ciertas áreas.



Making Critical Public Space

Interview with Krzysztof Wodiczko: Making Critical Public Space
By Elise S. Youn and María J. Prieto

Q: How do different theories of democracy affect your work, and specifically, how do your projects interpret Chantal Mouffe’s idea of the agonistic democracy, in which all members of society have an equal voice?

KW: In the process of doing my own work, I obviously reflect on the theories of Mouffe and others, or at the very least, they help me understand aspects of what I am dealing with. The paradox is that I do not learn from theory what to do, but at the same time, I do not stay away from it. This is because theorists and artists work simultaneously with similar issues.

That said, I think that the many fragments of theory concerning public space, democracy and public art are not necessarily all connected in one unified theory. Through my work, I can see these connections, but they are not systematically organized in my head because I am not a theorist.

When you refer to Chantal Mouffe, yes, I am extremely open to and inspired by some of the things she has said. But there are also many things to which she does not and cannot refer, because she is a theorist rather than a practitioner. Her approach belongs to the domain of political theory, or more specifically, to the theory of democracy. There could also be, I suppose, an ethical-political, as well as a psycho-political approach to democratic theory, although neither one is her primary focus.

I believe that the democratic process and public space cannot even for a moment be created if we do not include all potential speakers and actors in the discourse. We must be inclusive towards the participants – those who are perhaps the most important for agonistic discourse, but who are incapable of contributing to it. Their ability to speak and share their “passions” is incapacitated by the very experiences that they should be communicating. Before they can add their voice to the democratic agon, these actors must again develop their shattered abilities to communicate. They must do so for the sake of their own health and for the health of democracy. The process of unlocking their post-traumatic silence requires not only critical, but also clinical, approaches and attention. Thus, I must risk here injecting (even into Mouffe’s own theory) other concepts and ideas.

In my practical, artistic mind, I try to infuse (hopefully not confuse) the concepts of the agonistic democracy with ethical-political concepts from Foucault and psycho-political ideas from Judith Herman, a trauma theorist and therapist. Calls for “dissensus,” disagreement, passion and an inclusive adversarial discourse that acknowledges and exposes social exclusions (Mouffe) must be injected with a call for an ethics of the self and the Other in “fearless speaking” (Foucault). This would be combined with a call for psychotherapeutic recovery through “reconnection” that emphasizes the role of public truth-telling and testimony (Herman).

When you move into artistic practice, it is all about responding to what each project demands and then going further. In a sense, it is not about making or following theory; it is about creating a continuing practical work that asks new theoretical questions – a certain constellation of questions which may not have necessarily been brought together yet by philosophers and theorists.

Q: In your writings, you have referred to the ancient Greek concept of parrhesia, revisited by Foucault. Parrhesia is the idea of having a responsibility to tell the truth, to confess. You use this concept in your work to encourage those who have been traumatized to speak fearlessly. You have also talked about the importance of “fearless listeners” among those who do not necessarily have the obligation to speak, but who provide the forum within which dialogue can take place. In your experience, when a dialogue is established, is there something greater that gets created?

KW: Since all of the projections have been through monuments, in the context of cultural or art events, there is always something greater there. Even if it is not such a big event, anything that brings people to a monument will be recorded by the media, because somehow television, the press, the radio, and the internet cannot live without these historic, monumental public places. As long as there are a number of people outside looking at a monument, creating a spectacle, the media will be there, guaranteed. This means that maybe I can also use the presence of the media event as an opportunity.

Posted by agglutinations at April 11, 2004 01:38 AM



O primeiro encontro pós-situacionista de psicogeografia (::::biker-do-vinil) aconteceu no ínicio de agosto de 2003, na praça do japão.. A idéia é ocupar espaços públicos para criar rituais lúdicos novos, afim de celebrar encontros inesperados e reações desconhecidas. Novas variáveis para novas equações.

"As grandes cidades são favoráveis à distração que chamamos de deriva. A deriva é uma técnica do andar sem rumo. Ela se mistura à influência do cenário. Todas as casas são belas. A arquitetura deve se tornar apaixonante. Nós não saberíamos considerar tipos de construção menores. É possível se pensar que as reinvidicações revolucionárias de uma época correspondem à idéia que essa época tem da felicidade. A valorização dos lazeres não é uma brincadeira. Nós insistimos que é preciso se inventar novos jogos". Debord e Fillon (Potlatch, n. 14, novembro 1954)

A Semiótica Polisensorial versus a Cidade Cega. Estar aqui é possível. Você é seu próprio sistema operacional.




Fábio Duarte (fduarte@usp.br)

As discussões contemporâneas sobre nomadismo partem do ensaio escrito pelos filósofos Gilles Deleuze e Félix Guattari (1). Eles iniciam o texto com algumas diferenças entre dois jogos de tabuleiro: xadrez e go. No primeiro há regras internas, cada peça/objeto traz consigo todas as possibilidades de movimento, todas suas ações inerentes, com a intenção de se ocupar o maior número de casas com o menor número de peças. O espaço é fechado, forma-se a estrutura de Estado, numa guerra codificada. No go, ao contrário, as peças/objetos são apenas discos com simples ordenações aritméticas em relação as posições que ocupam, com valores equânimes, e as ações são realizadas por outras pessoas (quem as move). O espaço é aberto e valores externos são incorporados ao jogo, numa guerra sem limites de batalha.

Aí está uma das essências do espaço nômade: o espaço da protogeometria, que não é inexata como as coisas e fenômenos sensíveis, mas tampouco exata como essências ideais. A figura do círculo é fixa, exata, ideal; mas a circularidade têm essência fluida, vaga. Não forma uma figura precisa, mas não deixa dúvidas de que uma taça porta a circularidade e uma caixa de sapatos, não. O espaço nômade seria, então, anexato, posto que não preciso, mas rigoroso.

Como enlace ao tema deste ensaio, Deleuze e Guattari propõem que o espaço do xadrez é a polis, e o do go é o nomos. A polis tem uma estrutura definida, e definidora, de objetos, agentes e ações – portanto, um território constituído -; no xadrez tem-se consciência dessa estrutura primeira, e o jogo consiste, a cada movimento das peças, num processo de codificação e decodificação do espaço da polis, sem jamais desconfigurá-lo. No nomos é o espaço impreciso, “esfumaçado”, sem uma estrutura definidora; no jogo go, cada lance da peças consiste num processo de territorialização e desterritorialização desse espaço, sem contudo, jamais atingir-lhe uma codificação plena – pois inexistente.

O espaço das grandes cidades, com seu fluxo incessante de pessoas vindas de diversos lugares, um imbricamento de interesses e ações de campos distintos, a influência de ações de escala local e global, transforma-a num campo rico para análise de manifestações da cultura moderna e contemporânea.

Neste mesmo inverno de 1987, a galeria Clockhouse abrigava a primeira exibição do projetos do Homeless Vehicle, do designer Krzysztof Wodiczko. Parecido com um carrinho de supermercado, construído com placas de alumínio, barras e grades de aço, e plexiglass, a primeira pergunta que suscita é: pra que serve isto? O estranhamento aumenta quando alguns moradores de rua, que haviam participado das discussões e elaborações do projeto, começaram a utilizar o Homeless Vehicle (HV) nas ruas. Mas, afinal, o que faz essa pessoa empurrando esse carrinho nas ruas da cidade?

Num primeiro momento ocupam os espaços públicos, como monumentos, jardins, praças, imediatamente seguido de um policiamento (ou seria um des POLIS ciamento) dessas áreas, excluindo-os, assim, não só das esferas privadas das cidades como também da esfera pública. Os evitados ocupam então túneis de metrô, vãos sob as pontes e viadutos, buracos, e perambulam. Os homeless passam grande parte do dia caminhando. Sem ponto de partida, sem destino, são nômades caminhando pela malha urbana, e, poderíamos dizer, pelos seus interstícios.

A cidade está marcada por territórios e referências físicas – bairros, rios, edifícios, marcos, monumentos, praças – que servem como ordenadores do cotidiano urbano. Os usuários elegem alguns desses elementos, ligados à moradia ou local de trabalho, como referenciais na construção de seus mapas mentais. O homeless perde a casa como referência primeira. Seus mapas mentais são compostos segundo sua permanente circulação. Têm consciência dos pontos espaciais que conformam a cidade, mas os perdem como referências essenciais e afetivas. A única referência para o evitado, moral ou espacial, em última análise, é ele mesmo.

O homelesses assume a figura do nômade nos intestinos das cidades. No deserto, o nômade, sem referências físicas fixas para lhe guiar, caminha num terreno que apaga seus rastros, fazendo com que possa andar numa pequena região, geometricamente, caminhando infinitamente. O nômade, como notam Deleuze e Guattari, é o desterritorializado por excelência, pois ele não deve ser definido pelo que se move, mas justamente pelo que não se move.

Dentro do mesmo espaço ocupado pela polis, mas desagregado dela, o evitado ocupa o nomos, espaço impreciso, “vagabundo”. Faz seus caminhos nos interstícios da cidade não tendo princípios, mas apenas um ponto sendo conseqüência de outro. Nesse sentido, o seu território é construído de maneira coordenativa, não subordinativa, como o espaço codificado da polis.






Overcoming Tourism

Hakim Bey

Travel, in other words, is meant to induce a certain state of consciousness or «spiritual state» - that of Expansion.

Not warriors, not merchants, and not quite ordinary pilgrims either, the dervishes represent a spiritualization of pure nomadism.

As Sufism crystallised from the loose spontaneity of early days to an institution with rules and grades, «travel for knowledge» was also regularised and organised. Elaborate handbooks of duties for dervishes were produced which included methods for turning travel into a very specific form of meditation. The whole Sufi «path» itself was symbolised in terms of intentional travel.

All the different types of sub travel we've described are united by certain shared vital structural forces. One such force might be called a «magical» worldview, a sense of life that rejects the «merely» random for a reality of signs and wonders, of meaningful coincidences and «unveilings». As anyone who's ever tried it will testify, intentional travel immediately opens one up to this «magical» influence.

The wandering dervish however manifests a state more typical of Islam in its most exuberant energies. He indeed seeks Expansion, spiritual joy based on the sheer multiplicity of the divine generosity in material creation. (Ibn Arabi has an amusing «proof» that this world is the best world - for, if it were not, then God would be ungenerous - which is absurd. Q.E.D.) In order to appreciate the multiple waymarks of the Wide Earth precisely as the unfolding of this generosity, the sufi cultivates what might be called the theophanic gaze : - the opening of the «Eye of the Heart» to the experience of certain places, objects people, events as locations of the «shining-through» of divine Light.

The dervish travels, so to speak, both in the material world and in the «World of Imagination» simultaneously. But for the eye of the heart these worlds interpenetrate at certain points. One might say that they mutually reveal or «unveil» each other. Ultimately, they are «one»-and only our state of tranced inattention, our mundane consciousness, prevents us from experiencing this «deep» identity at every moment. The purpose of intentional travel, with its «adventures» and its uprooting of habits, is to shake loose the dervish from all the trance­effects of ordinariness. Travel, in other words, is meant to induce a certain state of consciousness or «spiritual state» - that of Expansion.

Obviously one doesn't need to travel to experience this state. But travel can be used - that is, an art of travel can be acquired - to maximise the chances for attaining such a state. It is a moving meditation, like the Taoist martial arts. The Caravan of Summer moved outward, out of Mecca, to the rich trading lands of Syria and Yemen. Likewise the dervish is «moving out» (it's always «moving day»), heading forth, taking off, on «perpetual holiday» as one poet expressed it, with an open Heart, an attentive eye (and other senses), and a yearning for Meaning, a thirst for knowledge. One must remain alert, since anything might suddenly unveil itself as a sign. This sounds like a kind of «paranoia» - although «metanoia» might be a better term ­ and indeed one finds «madmen» amongst the dervishes, «attracted ones», overpowered by divine influxions, lost in the Light. In the Orient the insane are often cared for and admired as helpless saints, because «mental illness» may sometimes appear as a symptom of too much holiness rather than too little «reason». Hemp's popularity amongst the dervishes can be attributed to its power to induce a kind of intuitive attentiveness which constitutes a controllable insanity: - herbal metanoia. But travel in itself can intoxicate the heart with the beauty of theophanic presence. It's a question of practise - the polishing of the jewel - removal of moss from the rolling stone..

We need a model of cognition that emphasises the «magic» of reciprocity: - to give attention is to receive attention, as if the universe in some mysterious way responds to our cognition with an influx of effortless grace. If we convinced ourselves that attentiveness follows a rule of «synergy» rather than a law of depletion, we might begin to overcome in ourselves the banal mundanity of quotidian inattention, and open ourselves to «higher states.»

In any case, the fact remains that unless we learn to cultivate such states, travel will never amount to more than tourism. And for those of us who are not already adepts at the Zen of travel, the cultivation of these states does indeed demand an initial expenditure of energy. We have inhibitions to repress, hesitations to conquer, habits of introversion or bookishness to break, anxieties to sublimate. Our third­rate stay­at­home consciousness seems safe and cozy compared to the dangers and discomforts of the Road with its eternal novelty, its constant demands on our attention. «Fear of freedom» poisons our unconscious, despite our conscious desire for freedom in travel. The art we're seeking seldom occurs as a natural talent. It must be cultivated ­ practised ­ perfected. We must summon up the will for intentional travel.

In the 1950's the French Situationists developed a technique for travel which they called the derive, the «drift.» They were disgusted with themselves for never leaving the usual ruts and pathways of their habit­driven lives; they realised they'd never even seen Paris. They began to carry out structureless random expeditions through the city, hiking or sauntering by day, drinking by night, opening up their own tight little world into a terra incognita of slums, suburbs, gardens, and adventures. They became revolutionary versions of Baudelaire's famous flaneur, the idle stroller, the displaced subject of urban capitalism. Their aimless wandering became insurrectionary praxis.




On Going A Journey

On Going A Journey
by William Hazlitt
( 1822)

"...I cannot see the wit of walking and talking at the same line. When I am in the country I wish to vegetate like the country. I am not for criticising hedgerows and black cattle. I go out of town in order to forget the town and all that is in it. There are those who for this purpose go to watering-places, and carry the metropolis with them. I like more elbow-room and fewer encumbrances. I like solitude, when I give myself up to it for the sake of solitude; nor do I ask for

A friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper solitude is sweet.
Cowper, "Retirement," 741-742

The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do, just as one pleases. We go a journey chiefly to be free of all impediments and of all inconveniences; to leave ourselves behind much more than to get rid of others. It is because I want a little breathing-space to muse on indifferent matters, where Contemplation..."




Ellen Auerbach Ciudadana del Mundo

Renate Schottelius fotografiada en la pampa argentina en 1946 por Elen Auerbach, fotografa de vanguardia, profesora de la Bauhaus quien muere el 30 de Agosto de 2004 en Nueva York a la edad de 98 años. "Soy una ciudadana del Mundo irredimible" diria durante una entrevista en 1998.

"Die vielen Wechsel und Veränderungen in meinem Leben, all die Neuanfänge sind für mich jetzt, am Ende meines Lebens, Ausdruck einer Suche nach etwas anderem. Etwas, was hinter den Dingen steht...ich würde es gern noch herausfinden" (Ellen "Pit" Auerbach, Fotografin)



The Hieroglyphics of Driftwork

The Architectonality of Psychogeographicism or The Hieroglyphics of Driftwork


(in memoriam Guy Debord)

obscure & mysterious grottoes into which they enter, imitating serpents -- spaces of return to an intimacy that "once upon a time" was shattered by memory -- by the simultaneous reiteration & belatedness of memory -- that faculty of human consciousness "closet to the divine". But don't they say that "to forgive is human, to forget is divine" ? In the ritual reiteration or "remembrance" (dhikr) of the sufis one forgets the "self" precisely in order to recall the Self; -- thus to re-member is to erase separation, & this erasure is a species of forgetfulness. (In certain key Islamic buildings like the Alhambra the reiteration of dhikr as calligrammatic text becomes the very definition of built space as mnemonic device or "Memory Palace" -- not ornament but the very basis or crystal-precipitation-principle of architecture.)
"Since we are Jesus Christ," as one of the Brethren of the free Spirit boasted, "the only issue is that what is already perfect in us should be reiterated ..." This process however leads to a paradoxical un-learning -- hence to a loss of fear -- so that one can "let oneself be led by one's natural senses, like a little child". Now, the cave stands for unconsciousness; -- the goal however is not to lose unconsciousness but to recapture that which unconsciousness separated us from, that which consciousness "spoiled". Thus within the dark grotto itself memory must be paradoxically inscribed -- key images are reiterated (literally repeated in some cases by a palimpsestic or incisive over-drawing) -- images which represent out lost intimacy as a pantheon of animals ("good to think with") -- each animal a special joy or "divine" function. Thus the the cave becomes the first intentional architectural space, the intersection of unconsciousness (the bliss of "Nature") & consciousness (memory , reiteration).



Travesia Nomádica por Bogotá

Interazioni urbane. ON/Bogotà

Marialuisa Palumbo
El andar como práctica estética. Interacciones urbanes è il titolo di un ciclo di seminari tenuti lo scorso febbraio a Bogotà da Francesco Careri, Giorgio D'Ambrosio e Alberto Iacovoni, organizzati dal Grupo Construcción de lo Público del dipartimento di Architettura dell'Università di Los Andes. La città, e le forme della sua investigazione, in rapporto all'esperienza di Stalker/Osservatorio Nomade il tema di fondo dei seminari. Negli appunti che seguono provo a raccontare alcuni dei punti centrali del dibattito ma anche la nostra esperienza di Bogotà: una città cresciuta di ben venti volte negli ultimi cinquant'anni fino a circa 7 milioni di persone, di cui oltre la metà abitanti in zone informali o clandestine. [MLP]

IN VOLO. 37000 piedi sull'oceano atlantico, 1000 km/h. Fuori -52°. Contemplo ipnoticamente, sul piccolo schermo di fronte a me, l'immagine dell'aeroplano che sorvola l'oceano alternata alle informazioni sul volo. Il tempo trascorso dalla partenza, l'altitudine, la velocità e il tiempo para il destino: ciò che resta per terminare il volo, ovvero, il tempo che ci separa da Bogotà, nel cuore della Colombia...
Marialuisa Palumbo

PS. Un ringraziamento speciale per Camilo, Tatiana, Diana, Pacio, Margherita, Raul, Catalina, Alessandra, Paolo e Alvaro e tutti quelli che ci hanno così calorosamente accolto a Bogotà!





The Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice is also known as: Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, All-couples day, Feast of Epona, Feast of St. John the Baptist, Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Midsummer, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, Vestalia, etc.


People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June. Most have been religious holy days which are linked in some way to the summer solstice. On this day, typically JUN-21, the daytime hours are at a maximum in the Northern hemisphere, and night time is at a minimum. It is officially the first day of summer. It is also referred to as Midsummer because it is roughly the middle of the growing season throughout much of Europe.

"Solstice" is derived from two Latin words: "sol" meaning sun, and "sistere," to cause to stand still. This is because, as the summer solstice approaches, the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky on each successive day. On the day of the solstice, it rises an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before. In this sense, it "stands still."

(In the southern hemisphere, the summer solstice is celebrated in December, also when the night time is at a minimum and the daytime is at a maximum. We will assume that the reader lives in the Northern hemisphere for the rest of this essay.)





Raphael Kessler BOLIVIA



Dibujo con GPS

GPS Drawing [Gallery] [Projects] [Information]
over land - on water - in the air - maps - experiments - contributions

Water on water (back)
Looking south across the choppy English Channel towards France and then around to the north to the Kings Esplanade in Hove. (18 images)


The Man

The Man


arquitectura TEMPORAL

Steve's Fotografik Rephlux - Burning Man 2004


We need to reinvent a public world

America is now wealthier than at any other time in its history, yet all around us and within us a feeling of lurking anomie persists. Like that scratchy sensation at the back of your throat, that shudder down your spine when you feel the flu coming on, and symptoms of this deep unease pervade our society. The spread of materialistic values has contributed to a moral coarsening and a growing cynicism in our country. Within a manipulative world all motives seem venal, all efforts illusory. But at a deeper level, it is the commodifying of imagination itself, the moral passivity, the social isolation, the angst that is generated by living in a solipsistic world of fraudulent satisfactions that is producing the greatest evil.

When children addicted to video games slaughter other children with automatic weapons, and do this in the style of video games, we know that something tragic is occurring. Critics call for better values, as if values were something that could be advertised and sold. And yet to even entertain a moral value one must first be someone in a world beyond one's self. We're suffering the symptoms of narcissistic injury. The vital here and there of spiritual experience is disappearing from our world. It's dissolving into vicarious spectacle. The world, in some nauseating fashion, no longer appears to belong to itself.

We need some deep and drastic therapy to break this spell. We need to reestablish contact with our inner selves. We need to reinvent a public world. We need immediate connection to the natural world of vital need. And this is where my work and the experiment called Burning Man comes in.

Imagine you are put upon a desert plain, a space which is so vast and blank that only your initiative can make of it a place. Imagine it is swept by fearsome winds and scorching temperatures, and only by your effort can you make of it a home. Imagine you're surrounded by thousands of other people, that together you form a city, and that within this teeming city there is nothing that's for sale.

These challenging conditions represent the chief appeal of our utopian experiment. Since its founding in the Nevada desert in 1990, Black Rock City has grown from a hamlet of 80 people into a five square mile civic entity complete with a fire department, two daily newspapers, over 20 radio stations, a department of public works. [whistles] In 1999 its boulevards and avenues were thronged by a population of over 23,000 people. This elaborate urban infrastructure has been described by the London Observer as a, "beautifully zoned tentopolis designed with a precision of which the Renaissance city state idealists would approve".

This city that arises annually and disappears without a trace occurs in an extraordinary setting. The Black Rock desert is an empty void. Not a bird or bush or bump disturb its surface. It is a place that is no place at all apart from what we choose to make of it. Think of it as a vast blank slate, or better yet, think of it as a sort of movie screen upon which every citizen of Black Rock City is encouraged to project some aspect of their inner selves. This novel use of nothingness elicits a superabundant production of spectacle. But it is spectacle with a difference. We have, in fact, reversed the process of spectation by inviting every citizen to create a vision and contribute it to a public environment. We call this process radical self-expression. What makes this self-expression truly radical is its reintegration of the private and personal back into a shared public domain.

The idea was essentially that you would take the elements of mass culture that had been expropriated from real culture and denatured of their meaning and you would appropriate it back and invest it with new meaning by making your own show.

All of this activity forms the immediate background of Burning Man. It forms a whole series of these anti-consumerist utopias that people were trying to create. The theoretician that people were always citing, they talk about him still, was Hakim Bey, who originated the notion of TAZ, the "Temporary Autonomous Zone". This was anarchist theory.

This is the One Tree. This is public art. You can see people interacting with it. It generated society around itself. It put people in a relationship to one another. It dripped water through those branches and people bathed in it. It also generated steam, and, if we look at the next slide, you'll see it sprouted leaves of flame. This was by Dan Das Man, a brilliant artist, and if you come to the event I'm sure you'll see more work by him.

The next slide, please...

This is my baby. Now, we called this the Nebulous Entity because I didn't want people to know what the hell it was. We were very insistent on ambiguity. The Burning Man's famous for our never having attributed meaning to him, and that's done on purpose. He is a blank. His face is literally a blank shoji-like screen, and the idea, of course, is that you have to project your own meaning onto him. You're responsible for the spectacle.

So this was the nebulous entity, and we made it as nebulous as you can imagine. A brilliant artist, Michael Christian, created the sculpture, and Dr. Aaron Wolf Baum designed a system that absorbed ambient sounds from the environment, fractalized them, and then broadcast them back to people. It continuously talked to people in a sort of burbling dialect. You'll notice also that it is mounted on airplane wheels. When we were designing it, one of the artists said, "Let's put a motor in it!" This being America, someone was bound to say that. [laughter] I said, "No. No, this has got to require people's effort. They should expend some calories to make it move! They need to invest themselves in its motion!".

You know, if you take people and scatter them like grains of sugar, or imagine them as ants on a sidewalk in a perfectly blank featureless environment, you'll find that they'll spontaneously begin to create certain kinds of order. It is in our nature. The first thing they'll do is surround any focal point of activity. They'll form circles. You will see this happen naturally. They never form a square, — I've never seen a rectangle — always a circle. Then, if you take that focal point and move it, you'll create a vector, and that forms a parade, a procession.

So the idea in this flat environment was to take advantage of the flat plain and make a work of art that only people could move, a giant plaything, and then permit it to move about, as if animated by its own impulse, and it generated parades and processions throughout the city.

Here, at its base, you see speaking tubes. People could talk into those apertures and it would distort their voice. We painted it white, so it would be reflective, and we didn't move it during daytime, only at night.

Next slide, please.

This is that same mobile platform, stripped down, and outfitted with a new work of art. This is "The Tree of Time". It was created by an artist named Dana Albany, and this is another typically BoHo project. It necessitated this huge network of people cooperating and collaborating with one another. She had people fanned out all over eastern Oregon looking for bones — they met a lot of ranchers in the process, — and I'm not sure how you'd pay for such a service. Only a community would have the sort of resource to accomplish this. They found a lot of cattle bones, generated several unlikely friendships, and it circulated throughout Black Rock City just as the Nebulous had.

Next slide please.

This was created by Rev. Al Ridenour, who I mentioned earlier, and the LA Cacophony Society. It was a perfectly scaled replica of an attraction at Disneyland called "It's A Small World". They renamed it "Small After All World" to avoid prosecution. The original was created in the 50's or 60's, I think, and children of that era were taken there in droves. Al says it frightened him out of his wits.

The premise here is that this recreated version is ruled by Chairman Mouse and his New World Order, and they have come to the desert to create enforced world solidarity. It featured a large cast of "ethnic" characters. A milkmaid from Switzerland and a Swahili chieftain were handcuffed together in front of it. All the while, this incessant theme music played, "It's a small world after all...", the sort of tune that sticks and rankles in your brain. They had German helmets with mouse ears sticking out of them, and they goose-stepped around like storm troopers. At the climactic moment, a beautifully rendered effigy of Death sprang from a concealed spring in the back of the great bell tower, and all hell broke loose. The whole thing just blew up, and that was that. [laughter]

Needless to say this was a ritual with some cathartic intent, especially for denizens of LA. Obviously, it's about anger, about the emotions of those who've been conditioned to experience in a world that has been alienated from them and commodified as a distanced spectacle designed to make them passive, a system that relies on social isolation to achieve its ends.

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