I’ve never been to Burning Man, and I’m definitely Burning Man curious, but I’m also more than uneasy with the ostentatious displays of wealth. It’s not just the entry fee; the time and money required to build giant works of art seem like something that only privileged people would have access to (and I sincerely do not want to spend a week surrounded by tech people of privilege). I could be completely wrong. People say it’s transformative. I should really go one year, to see it for myself.
I’ve been thinking about a year-long film festival. Every month, there would be at least one double-bill screening: one film with incredible reviews that received a very limited release, from anywhere in the world. And another that was thematically related, whether by cast and crew, or by the story or location itself. Sometimes there would be talks and interviews. Every screening would end with a mixer and live music - ideally from a group that was also related. In one version, there would be a low monthly subscription fee; in another, there would be sponsorship or arts funding that would make the festival available to everyone. I don’t know if the latter is possible, but it would be better. Exclusivity sucks.
My sister participates in the Bushwick Book Club. Every season, a collection of musicians read the same book and write a song about it. Ideally, the audience reads the book too. Then there’s a show where everyone performs their song. The diversity of artistic reactions is fascinating, and each song is beautiful in itself. Her friend Dibbs helped to organize the original, in Bushwick itself, and apparently was part of the NYC anti-folk scene (the one that produced, among others, the Moldy Peaches and Regina Spektor). I’m awestruck, frankly.
My friend Taylor runs the Bay Area Arts Mixer, which takes place at the East Bay Community Space in Oakland every few months. Local bands take the stage; on the sides, local artists make new art in their chosen media, and share work they’ve previously produced. One month, I was the writer in residence, which was incredibly flattering. I sat above the stage and wrote on an old typewriter, poems and stories inspired by the pace of the music below.
My friend Dani has a band, Sapphire Lung, which plays “chamber slime”. It’s music from the soul, untemplated and mesmerizing. It’s hard to describe, but it’s beautiful. I’m impressed by their artistry, and I’m impressed by their bravery, and I’m impressed by the way listening to their hypnotic work makes me feel.
So much of life is templated, and so few of those templates are created for our benefit. We’re sliced into demographic groups for marketing purposes, siloed into pigeonholes for our careers, and we’re told strong stories about what life should look like; moved into metaphorical and literal three bedroom houses in the suburbs, with a car parked just outside. But there’s so much beyond this; so much constrained humanity just waiting to spill out. We can find the signposts in art, until the art itself is pigeonholed and demographied and siloed. We owe it to ourselves to break down the silos where we find them and let humanity exist in all its creative, imperfect, beautiful diversity.