Estimated reading time: 3 minutes —
Vaneeesa Blaylock, Artistic Director, VB/CO
Refund for the space that you won’t allow me to use.
Dear M2Danger, m2, EmCee, and Kev,
On Monday, Ronon Carver, head of Burn2 security and apparently chief Burn2 art moderator, informed me that we would not be allowed to perform our work VB22 – The House With the Ocean View at Burn2.
Information on our performance is here:
Mr. Carver explained that our work was not art but “Corporate Marketing” which was not allowed. He said that the only way we would be allowed to participate in Burn2 is if the work was by an anonymous artist and we promised to never tell anyone who we are. Apparently artists at Burn2 are not allowed to have an identity.
Unfortunately, my work thru 21 performances in Second Life over the last year and a half has been all about identity. So to deny us an identity renders us slaves rather than artists.
He said that no one can ever claim authorship for anything at Burn2 and that I should have known that.
I don’t know how I would have known that since artist names were all over Burning Life ’09, my only previous experience with this event. I do understand that the management has changed this year, but it never occurred to me that the Burning Man organization would have an even more authoritarian and artist muzzling posture than Linden Lab itself.
Here are 2 images from Burning Life ’09:
The first is of myself and Burning Life ’09 Artists’ Duel Camp organizer Silene Christen. If you’ll notice the sign behind us, one that I did not make, but Christen the organizer made, my name is not anonymous but largely displayed along with a number of other artists. If you look at the small print at the bottom you will see that it also had a notecard giver to provide information and weblinks about the artists, all things that Mr. Carver has told me violate the spirit of Burn2.
In the second image you see a poster for our performance at the Burning Life ’09 Burn Stage. Again, the poster was not made by me, but by Burn Stage Coordinator Yman Juran. Once again the poster which was displayed on the playa throughout Burning Life ’09 prominently displays the name of the non-anonymous artist.
Given these practices at Burning Life ’09 I do not know how it would be reasonable for me to know that you require artists to have no name.
I understand that as a private organization, you have the right to exclude art you don’t like, but you took my L$8,000 under circumstances that were entirely false. You are requiring a drastically different level of submission from artists than the organizers of Burning Life ’09 did and I do not see any reasonable way I could have been aware of this. Therefore I believe you took my money under false pretenses and if you will not allow us to perform, I believe that you owe me a refund.
What I really believe is that you owe me the last month of blood and sweat and tears that I put into creating this performance that you will now not allow me to present, but I don’t suppose there’s a simple way to be compensated for that. I believe you at least owe me a refund of my L$8,000.
While I do not mean any disrespect to Mr. Carver, almost the most upsetting aspect of this experience is that you have chosen to have as your chief art moderator a security expert. Do you not even believe in allowing artists a modicum of self-determination? Surely there are Second Life artists or arts organization administrators who could perform your art moderation for you, and while they might still make decisions artists don’t always like, at least you wouldn’t be sending the additional message to artists that our opinion of you is so low that we won’t even allow your work to be moderated by someone who understands your culture.
I am trying to be as rational and non-dramatic in this letter as I can be, but there is no denying that I feel violated by you. Each week for the last month your Rangers have come by and given me a list of things to change.
I know that Burning Man and Burn2 have a degree of utopian thinking at their core, but I cannot believe how much you seem to want artists to bleed for the privilege of living in your utopia. I do not believe it can be a utopia if you are unconditional master and I am unconditional slave.
If the goal of Burn2 is to sterilize creative expression, crush the human spirit, and ban art, then you have already succeeded even before opening day.