Friday, August 31, 2007

Paul Addis: Why he burned Burning Man










This statement from Paul Addis is from Laughing Squid:

Hi, folks. This is the alleged arsonist/douchebag/attention whore himself, writing you from Fernley, NV, where I have been chilling out for a couple of days.

Having read your various comments, a few things should be addressed. First, this operation was extensively planned well in advance, and the number one thing to Black Rock Intelligence was that NO ONE be hurt. If you people actually knew us, you’d know that we have an extensive background in doing things exactly like this. In fact, we were on the ground for some thirty minutes before ascent, scoping the scene and clearing people in order to minimize any possiblity of injury to others. We were aided by several people who were recruited on the playa the night of this burn (BRI has no idea who they are, so don’t bother asking).

Second, the operation was planned in conjunction with the lunar eclipse because Black Rock Intelligence knew that another event at the trash fence would draw the bulk of lunatics to it, rather than to the Man. In fact, one of our peripheral operatives aided in getting as many people to the fence event as possible to help BRI achieve its goal of zero injuries.

Third, word went out across the playa days in advance that Black Rock Intelligence was pulling this op. This word continued to go out right up to the moment that our chief operator began the arduous climb up the guide wire. As you can all see from the results, BRI performed flawlessly in this regard.

We could give a fuck less what you all think of us for doing this. Most of you are newbies who have been drawn in by the semi-religious nature of the event, or maybe just the easy drugs and easier sex. You have nothing to offer the event other than your fucking money and obedience. You spend the rest of your lives in mortal fear of everything that insurance companies tell you to fear, and pretend that you’re free and clear because you spend four days at a desert bacchanal where spinelessness is not only encouraged but genetically replicated for implementation in successive generations. In short, you are the swine of which [Hunter]Thompson spoke. Get over yourselves.

Some of us live quite well without fear. Doing so requires the ultimate in what Burning Man used to represent: personal responsibility and individual liberty. That’s all been lost in the last decade of Burning Man’s history. Consider this operation a history lesson that was desperately needed.

One final note: Black Rock Intelligence has been permanently disbanded. All other operatives have made the ultimate sacrifice by swallowing their L-pills to avoid being captured alive. I am the sole surviving member of BRI and ask that you respect my mourning period for those who gave their lives so that this operation was a complete success.

Paul D. Addis
Fernley, NV

An interview with Addis on Wired News:

Paul Addis, the San Francisco playwright arrested Tuesday for allegedly torching Burning Man's giant effigy five days early, won't admit to setting the icon on fire. But he effusively praises the action---whoever did it---calling it a badly needed "reality check" for the desert art festival.

Addis, 35, says Burning Man has turned into an "Alterna-Disney," while the early burn acted as a protest aimed at the event's increasing commercialization.

The Tuesday morning blaze, for which Addis faces charges of arson and possession of fireworks, drew a mixed reaction at Burning Man and in the blogosphere: Some rallied to support Addis, saying the early blaze was a righteous move to reset burners' priorities, while others complained that the act threatened to ruin the festival's main event.

Wired News spoke with Addis by phone Thursday as he waited outside a hotel in Fernley, Nevada, for a ride back to San Francisco.

Wired News: So the big question is, did you set the Man on fire?

Paul Addis: For legal reasons I can't answer that. One of us is looking at a felony charge, and it's not you.

WN: Is the Black Rock Intelligence, a group you are openly a member of, claiming responsibility for burning the man?

Addis: This was a Black Rock Intelligence operation. But since the group has been disbanded, they can make no claim to responsibility. The Black Rock Intelligence has disbanded, and I am their sole surviving member. I got caught and the rest of them took their L-pills, potassium cyanide.

WN: Are you saying that the other members of the Black Rock Intelligence have all actually committed suicide?

Addis: Take it for what it is.

WN: OK, but if you were part of the Black Rock Intelligence and you're saying burning the Man early was a Black Rock Intelligence operation, isn't that the same as saying you did it?

Addis: No, because it could have been one of our other operators, and because they're all dead no one will ever know.

WN: Was the Black Rock Intelligence, a group you're a member of, responsible for putting the giant testicles on the Burning Man in 1997?

Addis: No, I did that. It was a solo operation. I was part of the building team who built the Man in 1997. I was standing in the back yard of the guy who had the man built. We had the legs assembled, and they were sitting in his backyard. I was on a break and thought, "What's missing from this thing?" and I turned around and I thought, "Balls!"

You can do things through different people with no one knowing the total project so I had one guy buy the balls---they were huge 54- to 60-inch beach balls---and I had another guy buy silver spray paint and so on. Then at Burning Man at around 4:30 in the morning I scaled up the robe, locked the balls in place and came down.

WN: And how was that received?

Addis: It was very well received. They stayed up there for hours. Burning Man was very cautious in taking them down, though, 'cause I had jokingly said I was going to fill them with hydrogen. It's that sort of zaniness that doesn't fly there anymore. The Burning Man organization doesn't have any sense of humor anymore and that streams and trickles down to the participants themselves.

WN: You went to Burning Man in 1996, 1997 and 1998 and hadn't been back until this year. Why did you stop going to Burning Man after 1998?

Addis: I decided after 1998 it wasn't worth it. Burning Man was only advocating social impact and responsibility in the name of its own self-preservation, survival and expansion, and I was not willing to be a part of that.

Burning Man in the period of 1996-1997 was the right place at the right time with the right minds. We had a great opportunity to put all of our hands on the wheel and really affect social evolution. We had a bunch of gifted people who had the chance to break the mold on a lot of things.

A lot of people were very interested in making sure the future of America was better than the past. We had lived through the Reagan years and the Cold War. We already knew what we didn't want and had the opportunity to build a better place for ourselves and the future generations to come.

Burning Man was the perfect place, but once it made the decision that its own survival was more important than its content or style, everything was lost.

And another interview on ValleyWag.

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3 Comments:

At 5:33 PM, Blogger The Realist said...

As someone who went to BMan, including the '96-'97 period Addis refers to, I have a very different take on that period.

Only someone who is a true nihilist would look upon that period as BMan's 'golden age.' The "year of death" - '96 I believe - was a truly scary experience and was in many ways BMan's Altamont. There were at least 2 deaths (one a suicide by motorcycle and the other[s] when a speeding car ran over a tent full of people).

After this, the organizers had to make changes for the safety of all. If one chooses to look at that as the organizers 'selfish attempt at self-preservation' - well, what the fuck were they supposed to do? The event had to be changed to prevent it from falling completely under the control of those who see "freedom" as just "blowing things up." Burning Man, very simply, grew up. Addis, obviously, did not.

 
At 9:40 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

On the one hand, you're right. Organizers of the event had to do the responsible thing as the event grew, and safety and liability increasingly became considerations that had to be dealt with. On the other hand, what was once a counter-cultural event became more institutionalized, alienating the young radicals and artists that made the event exciting in the first place. They'll be taking their energy and talent to other venues.

The "grow up" trope is always used by institutions against radicals. Fortunately, they always more or less ignore it.

 
At 8:31 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Speeding cars should probably avoid tents full of people.

 

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