Acidic Art Policy
The Emergence organizers strive to create a joyful and loving environment based on the 10 Principles of Burning Man. However, sometimes the 10 Principles come into conflict. This policy attempts to address issues where radical self expression and radical inclusion might create problems. Our approach is inspired by this insightful series of articles by Caveat Magister.
As organizers, we aim to create an environment safe from physical harm or injury. For example, we take instances of assaults and sexual misconduct very seriously, and enforce a “no guns” rule. However, despite precautions, we cannot protect participants from all physical harms (such as alligators and fire ants). Similarly, Burns are not necessarily emotionally safe places. You may find people whose attitude, lifestyle, politics, or musical preferences are repulsive to you. Art and humor can be confrontational, and to some, deeply offensive. Radical self expression does not come with the caveat of “as long as it’s not offensive”; and radical inclusion is not reserved only for people who you like or with whom you agree. Your radical self expression may be offensive to others, and you may be challenged by others’ radical expression. It is through being challenged at Burns that we learn and grow.
Our duty is to our community. Radical self-expression becomes “acidic” when it dissolves the bonds of trust that make community possible.
If you feel art or other forms of self expressions are offensive, First, we ask you to look inside yourself. Why does the art provoke you this way? What does it say about you (especially if others are not so moved)? Are you offended, or are you offended on behalf of others? Next, assuming the situation is appropriate (e.g., it is safe to do so), we suggest a direct “call in” rather than “call out” dialogue with the originator. A face-to-face meeting or phone call is by far the most effective route for resolving issues. Social media is proven to be notoriously bad for resolving controversial issues. Resorting to an online public forum before following the procedure outlined here is inconsistent with civic responsibility.
If you are still unsatisfied, and you believe the situation warrants official intervention given our policy, formal complaints pre- or post- event can be made through our online channel, and at the event via the Rangers or our team of volunteers. Following a period of investigation and discussion with all parties, if warranted the matter will be referred to the Conduct Committee which will determine whether the expression at issue “makes someone’s good faith participation in Emergence impossible.” If so, it will be considered “acidic” and the originator will be asked to remove it (if it’s an “it”) or cease the acidic expression.
The Barbie Death Camp controversy, in 2019 at Burning Man illustrates some of the challenges.
Please share any concerns regarding this policy via our contact form.