by Laura Diamond
Project Radical Inclusion is the working title of my senior project for my major in World Arts and Cultures (WAC) at UCLA. The project revolves around Burning Man, and it’s principle of “Radical inclusion,” one of the 10 principals of Burning Man. It is my goal to introduce a program to provide greater inclusion for underrepresented artists at Burning Man, those trapped in poverty, especially artists of color. Our camp, Que Viva! has similar goals, and adopted Project Radical Inclusion as a camp project.
It must be understood that Burning Man is not an arts festival, it’s a community. Black Rock City is the name of the temporary city built by participants of the Burning Man project every year in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, that exists for eight days, and is then dismantled leaving no trace. While there, residents, many of whom call the city “home,” agree to live by certain principles as a form of self-governance. Black Rock City operates under a “Gifting” economy, with principles such as “Radical Inclusion” and “Radical Self-expression,” creating an open, inclusive environment that tends to follow people into their daily lives, and a strong culture and community has formed around it. Founder Larry Harvey called it “an international city in its own right” stating, “We want to change the world,” and as a participant observer in the community, I believe in its power to do so. Within this ephemeral intentional city, this growing, ongoing community, exists a counter narrative in the form of an artistic cultural experiment, and as such is effective in transforming people’s lives and influencing the dominant culture. Recognition of the power of this community is the driving force behind my senior project, a plan to address issues of “inclusion” at Burning Man, while giving greater representation to marginalized peoples. In experimenting with new ways of engaging with and thinking about the poor in our community, I suggest Burning Man has potential power to affect the lives of the poor in society.
The reality is however, that Black Rock City remains far less diverse than the community perceives itself, being primarily White and fairly wealthy. Burning Man costs a considerable amount of money to attend, even beyond the cost of the ticket, currently almost $400; there is shelter, which must be appropriate for the particularly extreme weather conditions including protection from the scorching sun, supplies to last for the week that must contain a minimum 1 ½ gallons of water per day, dust protection such as goggles and dust masks, transportation for you and your belongings into the desert, a bicycle to get around, lights for safety, and the luxury of time to make the journey. How can this community be “radically inclusive,” if there are those who can’t afford to even consider attending?
As an artistic social experiment with the goal of challenging the commodification of our culture and “changing the world,” I feel that the Burning Man community needs to face and overcome the obvious flaw in the plan for Radical Inclusion; the inadvertent exclusion of the poor from Black Rock City. Burning Man is participant driven, if one sees a need it is their job to do something about it. It is the intention of my senior project, and of Que Viva!, to create a path for greater inclusion in Black Rock City.
Que Viva! hopes to bring a group of artists (tbd) to Burning Man, by way of a scholarship program, beginning in 2015. This is more than just “Gifting” a ticket, this is a Theme Camp, with full participation by all attending.
We are looking for donors for this project, with many ways to give, including ticket donations, equipment for the camp infrastructure, such as tents, shade structures, and kitchen supplies, food and water provisions, as well as the personal needs that will arise as the team of artists is assembled and resources are assessed. If you are looking for ways to contribute to BRC, or to artists from communities of color, please consider giving the Burning Man experience to artists unable to attend on their own; you could change someone’s life. Thank You, Laura.
As isolated individuals
we will always be powerless…
But as communities
we can achieve anything—
Angela Y. Davis