My name is D-day Dinglehopper, and I'm an artist.
Last month, Rex wrote an insightful screed on art, the importance of art for the sake of art, and how art-ing can foster a community and spiritual renewal. I don't disagree. As someone who has been making art in various modalities my entire life, I appreciate good art, bad art, corporate art and weird, off-putting art thoroughly, because it's art, and art is important. Art keeps me from being an asshole, to be honest. I've been told that I come off as a gruff, burnier-than-thou curmudgeon on the podcast. That's fair. I'm thoroughly disappointed with large swaths of the culture at Black Rock City. I see Burning Man as a place of wild abandon, a magic theater of municipal proportions, and I watch our potential weirdness being wasted on the pre-fab pomp of "fitting in" with an abundance of fuzzy leg-warmers, sparkly fairy wings, and boutique pod belts. I watch people building derivative sculpture, staring at cell phones, while riding boring, unadorned bicycles (and don't even get me started on the influx of electric goddamned scooters on playa.) I criticize, because I think we can be much weirder, much more competent, freer burners. We can make better, sillier art that isn't a variation on things we've seen before.
I care so much about this, because I'm compelled to create on a daily basis. Rex or Beth have probably mentioned my work ethic in passing, but in case that slipped past you before, I really do make art every day. Whether it's mixed media sculpture, graphic design, cooking, music, construction, writing, or editing Accuracy Third, art and aesthetic composition takes primacy in everything I make. You can see that in the design of our recording table, or our stalwart companions in the studio, Hmer and Spider Anatomy (pictures below in the pictures section, ovbs.) When I visit Black Rock City, I see a huge cohort with a mindset similar to mine, but I'm pretty sure those people are in the 90th percentile, creating and crafting for the benefit of the vast majority who are slacking off and treating a one-of-a-kind opportunity of a vanishing city like it's some fucking warehouse party or dance club. (I don't hate dancing or DJs or clubs, I think warehouses are incredible, and I'm not a goddamned old man, okay?)
Okay. I love art. I hate work. I need to work to live, so I go out of my way to do good work. I no longer make rich people richer for my nine-to-five. I've made a career of running programs and operations and facilities and events and things for nonprofits. My daily effort on another's behalf genuinely does improve my community. I should feel pride and fulfillment because of that. But for the most part, I don't. I am an artist, and what I want to do more than anything, all the time, is to make art. I want things to be pretty and interesting for the sake of things being better to look at. I want to make art on my schedule, and I want it to be good, and no matter how good it is, I'm disappointed when I'm done with the vast majority of it, because it doesn't match the conceptual UR-art that compelled me to produce art in the first place. No matter whether you like it, it's not good enough for me. So I make more. I work all day at a job I can barely stand. I go home afterward, spend quality time with my family, (maybe interview someone for Accuracy Third,) and then after I've put them to bed, I cut up stuffed animals or sew pockets and hoods onto clothes or affix fish hooks to each other using 1/16" braided cable and ferrules. (Ferrules is your word of the day, by the way.)
My point—if I have a point—is not that you're doing it wrong. If you care enough about Burning Man that you listen to our podcast, you probably put a lot of thought into your burn. I would like to thank you for that in general and for listening to us in particular. But I would also like to implore you to do better and to pressure your community to do more. Push back against those conversations with your campmates when someone says your camp frontage is "good enough," because the real gift you're giving to the community is the wicked DJ lineup you've assembled. Take the time to create your own playa fashion instead of buying pre-fab day-glo hoo-hah off the rack (I started out sewing playa wear together with dental floss for thread, and so can you.) Do more than just wrap your playa bike with a strand of LEDs or E-L wire. Put more thought into it, and push the members of your community to do the same. Each and every one of us can be responsible for someone gasping with awe at what we created, on-playa and off. Every citizen of Black Rock City should be a fucking revelation. We can be, if we want to be. We’d better be, or someday I’m going to see one pair of pink, furry leg-warmers too many, and I’m going to leave Black Rock City for good. I don’t want that to be the case, but I work for a living. I only get a couple weeks off a year, and I’ll be damned if I spend the only paid vacation I get being disappointed.
Make (better) art.