July 28, 2004
Surveillance Society

Surveillance in our society is becoming more and more pervallant. I've been thinking about doing a side art project for Burning Man involving mock surveillance, which may not get a good reception from participants. It's interesting because, Burning Man used to be an almost refuge from normal society by people with creative careers. The idea that pictures may escape the event is a controversial idea, but it is generally accepted that pictures will be posted on participant websites.

But despite our regular society getting more and more transparent and locked down in terms of technology, you just don't see surveillance cameras at Burning Man. In fact when I saw a dark sphere looking down on me, I automatically assumed it was for protection of "The Embassy's" satellite uplink from yahoos. As it turned out, the camera was just for recording the event's climax with the burning of the man, as one of the Embassy techies showed me by grabbing a nearby joystick.

And there are other projects which involve cameras on the playa, such as Folding Time, which is described as "A Timewave Panorama of Burning Man Showing the Rise and Fall of Black Rock City". Even so, I think transparency at Burning Man is something many are experiencing and reacting to by building more private camps and less willing to talk to "strangers". Donalde Davis wrote this in his conclusion of Burning Man 2003 (last year):

"When I first went to Burning man in 1997 the event was half its current size and you could do anything you liked with impunity so long as it didn't involve guns, explosives, and non art cars. There were no arrests that year, the police serving as a constructive rather than a harassment influence and no greedy gun toting BLM goons peering into private areas.

Of course now long gone are the days one could safely light up a pipeful of Cannabis or urinate out in the emptiness. A web of surveillance using night vision equipment provided nearly as little privacy, even out in the open, as in a prison yard.

This years Burning man festival was in my observation a fabulous thing to experience, undoubtedly continuing to send out cultural 'echoes' as more people realize what fun such a thing can be. There is more talk of regional similar events springing up. Perhaps at such smaller burns the initial freedoms will be enjoyed until they too grow large enough to attract the attention of the cops and especially those BLM swine. Inevitably with enough people involved things have to be reigned in a bit to keep folks from getting killed. Such concerns as well as the headaches of grappling with federal agencies and groups hostile to the event have confronted the Burning man organization over recent years."

Which is why I'm pretty sure people would tear down my artwork if I made a non functional sculpture like this:

Posted by nym at July 28, 2004 10:03 AM | TrackBack