Burning Man

Black Rock City, Nv

(Installation Collaboration)

Day Six: Radical Curiosity

“One of the things I was initially looking forward to about Burning Man was forgetting about the bees for a while. I love being an art activist. I cannot imagine doing anything else at this point, but it can be all consuming and I rarely have time for an extended break. I was not trained for the rigor of holding steady to help cultivate big change. I just keep showing up. It is new to me and is heavy at times. I am finding that carving out time to unplug is vital to the work. In the desert, beyond putting up the installation, the usual day-to-day work of The Good of the Hive was non-existent. (Well, for me at least… Zach had a camera in his hand the entire time). There was no cell service and no email for 12 days. There was no planning where the next murals and installations are going. There was no discussion of contracts or speaking engagements or websites. We were just there in the desert riding bikes, dancing, playing, dressing up (and dancing some more). 

One of my favorite things about Burning Man is the gifting society. It is de-commodified, so there is no money used at all (except for ice). People give things away everywhere. Little stickers to drinks to back massages. There are little boutiques set up throughout the city where you can try on clothes and just leave with them – no money or barter needed. You can create a new outward appearance for yourself in minutes without thoughts like, “Can I afford this?” Burning Man has a unique style that feels somewhere like Mad Max and Lady Gaga’s closets had a love child. Zach and I came very prepared for the desert in terms of survival, but we were shamefully underprepared in terms of creative attire. These gifting boutiques were just that, a gift. They also helped me drop out of bee-activist mentality and into simply being a goofy human. 

Truth be told, I did think about the bees. I can’t help it. They are always hovering just behind my eyes, asking me to look at something in a new way. Throughout the time there, I thought a lot about the incredible difference between the world outside Burning Man and this temporary oasis of ‘something completely different.” If we can create a place like Burning Man and people collectively embrace those changes, doesn’t it mean that big change out in the ‘default world’ is more possible than we think? Isn’t it all a socially constructed reality, therefore socially changeable? Doesn’t it mean that it could actually be joyful to change? I haven’t said it in a while, but I used to say often, the good news is that every problem the bees face is human made, so it can be human solved. Is it possible to dance our way toward global policy change for healthy pollinators and people? Why is that so strange to think about? What would happen if global leaders rode bikes together wearing ridiculous, yet beautiful, hats and glow sticks? Would it remind them that we are all just grown up kids that want to get along deep down? Change is palpable at Burning Man because it is experienced through the body, not just the head. ‘Being” here showed me a side of myself I’d forgotten lately. 

Zach and I did an interview each night in our tent (so I guess I did do some work) but it was generally filled with more laughter than we had experienced around the bees in a while. Partly because we were exhausted, but also because dressing like Lady Gaga was starting to make sense. There is so much joy to be found by facing who we are as beings without judgement. If seeing things in a new way is the goal, radical curiosity is not just of value, it is a principle to live by.” - Matt