Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 Burning Man Art Theme: American Dream

And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.
~ William Shakespeare, As You Like It

This year's art theme is about nationality, identity and the nature of patriotism. One species of the patriotic urge conflates the nation state with mass identity. Governments, as actors on a worldwide stage, become a surrogate for self, a vast projection of collective ego. And yet, there is another type of patriotic feeling that attaches us to place and people, to a home and its culture. Both these feeling states (and their attendant ironies) are relevant to this year's theme.

In 2008, leave narrow and exclusive ideologies at home; forget the blue states and the red; let parties, factions and divisive issues fall away, and carefully consider your immediate experience. What has America achieved that you admire? What has it done or failed to do that fills you with dismay? What is laudatory? What is ludicrous? Put blame aside, let humor thrive, and dare to contemplate a larger question: What can America, this stumbling, roused, half-conscious giant, still contribute to the world?

Anyone embarking on this path will encounter hundreds of fellow participants – many of whom come to Black Rock City from around the world. Indeed, in order to discover the flag of any particular county amid this welter of imagery, it will be necessary to inspect the flags of many other nations. Each of these may be imagined as a dream no less radiant or precious than the rest. Each country is a source of culture and identity; yet each may also be regarded as a glimmering illusion: a sovereign artifact, an arbitrary puzzle piece, an isolated fragment on a map.

Today, Americans appear to live amid the tarnished squalor of a second Gilded Age. By nearly every measure, America has become a more unequal society. A mere one percent of the population now controls a third of the nation's wealth. Education, health care and home ownership – these now escape the reach of those who thought they were the middle class. Forty years of heedless mass-consumption have turned dreams into delusions. America's awash in debt. Embroiled in a wayward war, its citizens are told to shop.

Many feel that the United States is now adrift. Its allies, once so numerous, begin to fall away and chart an independent course. Its citizens, more tellingly, have lost their faith in progress. Polls indicate they now believe their children can't expect a better future. They distrust the institutions of government, of finance, and the corrupting power of large corporations. And yet, the native traits of any culture are deep-rooted. Freedom, opportunity, inventiveness, the power to transform oneself: these values and a love of self-expression still endure.

more at Burning Man

Powered by ScribeFire.

No comments: