What happened to self-reliance?

A lot of camps are using Kickstarter to try and fund their shit. I don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, hey, every little bit helps. Self-reliance means doing whatever you can, right? And you get shit in return, it’s not total “give us money!” I’ve been there – might be there again this year. What’s the difference between using Kickstarter and throwing a fundraising party in a warehouse?

On the other hand, why did I think “That’s cool…” when Temple did it but when theme camps do it, it doesn’t sit right? To quote an Eplayan, “Fund your own fucking camp like the rest of us do. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. Or do something smaller that you can afford. Radical Self Reliance, remember?” I have no problem with The Dusty Swan selling mugs. I guess…something about Kickstarter (so far) seems more like “begging,” as one Eplayan referred to it. Kickstarter seems more hand-outty?

I think it boils down to another us v. them.

Tents (real burners!) v. RVs (lazy tourists!).

Glow sticks are great! v. Glow sticks are MOOP. Tutus and furry boot covers v.

People with half a brain and some imagination.

Camps relying on themselves like you’re supposed to (according to their definition of radical self-reliance) v. camps relying on whatever means necessary (according to their definition of radical self-reliance).

“That commerce line is fuzzy when it comes to fundraising, isn’t it?” – AntiM

My opinion: it just depends. Not all RVs contain frat boys and rich people just there for the party. Maybe for somebody, putting on a tutu will change their life. Maybe some groups are earnestly using Kickstarter to help, rather than solely relying on it. Ultimately, I do feel Kickstarter defeats the purpose of community, gifting, reliance, etc. It’s turned it into barter (“give us this much money and you’ll get this”).  Another Eplayan pretty much nailed it:

“Fundraising, in the way I believe it’s generally used for BM IMO, is when you’re raising funds for a non-profit, selfless purpose. Say, the 2011 temple. Will those people get to keep large, costly items for themselves after raising $20k? No, it’s going to be set up for a week for thousands to enjoy and then burned for thousands to see.

Commerce is when you’re going to get something material out of it.

Usually, however, when you fund raise for something non-profit you don’t get to keep a stage, instruments and mic/sound equipment as your own personal property.”

I was in a position of assigning money to request art grants for a burn, once. People got free laptops. I was totally opposed to some of the ways money was handed out. If you need it, bring it! We’re a do-ocracy! Burners do! …right?

Bottom line, I’m pretty sure more and more camps are going to be turning to Kickstarter and either they’ll get money or they won’t. I’d “donate” (I don’t feel it’s donating/gifting. You’re paying money to recieve goods/services. That’s commerce.) if I was rich. I’d love a BUS patch – but that sort of does the Us v. Them thing again. “I am such a good and generous burner! Look at all this VIP, top-tier schwag I’ve got!”

That being said, The Bureau of Unclaimed Secrets wants to “…to provide the citizens of Black Rock City with personal, thought provoking and interactive art which encourages them to rediscover and capture the secrets of their Rites of Passage.”

 We’ll have several “Rites of Passage” themed prompts posted to help with inspiration…”Tell us a secret about your first kiss”, and so on.  In the spirit of our inspiration piece, we’ll be recording whispered secrets from those who feel inspired to share.  These will then be entered into our bank of secrets being continuously played in the designated sound lounge.  The sound scape of whispers will create a sense of meditative quiet and give participants a thought provoking shared experience.

We’ll also be collecting written secrets, which will be numbered and filed…we are bureaucrats after all!  Everyone submitting a written secret will be given a set of official tags: one for a keepsake, the other marked with the number of the submitted secret.  The numbered tag will give the bearer access to the corresponding secret throughout the week, and people will be encouraged to gift these tags as they see fit.  Imagine jotting down one of your deepest secrets and then gifting a total stranger the rights to read it… – their blog

They’ve done a great job of stating their purpose and detailing exactly what the funds are for. I’ve only looked at Kickstarter’s for Temple and The Bureau of Unclaimed Secrets, but hopefully other camps will follow their example of utilizing Kickstarter, rather than relying on it.


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6 Responses to “What happened to self-reliance?”

  1. Sputnik Says:

    WRT radical self-reliance, I always have to go back to my first experience. Camping with UberCarney in 04. We brought a fucking roller coaster out and didn’t ask anyone outside of the group for money, not even the org. 26 tons of steel dragged all the way across country. Why? Because we wanted to do it. Because giving that was so much fun it almost made my head explode.

    Eplaya bar in 06, and Booby Bar every year has been the same, and I love them for it.

  2. Allison Says:

    Hey! I wear tutus and furry boot covers!

    But yeah, I totally donated to the Temple and think it’s awesome that they’re on Kickstarter but theme camps won’t be getting any of my money. I’m all for helping people out, but theme camps begging for cash doesn’t really do it for me.

    • J Says:

      And you, of course Alison, aren’t one of the mindless sparkleponies I’m referring to! 😛 Geddan with your bad self!

      Sputnik, that’s how I feel. Do it cuz you wanna. If you can’t afford it, do something else. On the plus side, if a group doesn’t raise ALL of the money they set as their goal, they get none of it. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.

  3. liz Says:

    whoa, a shoutout! thanks…i’m really glad you like the concept and i hope we’ll see you on the playa. 😀

    i’ve been reading all the hubub on eplaya and i started feeling guilty and even considered just canceling our kickstarter…but the more i think about it, i think it’s a good discussion to have. i actually had this discussion last week with the BM org folks who initially declined my request to put our project on their support page because it was a theme camp. i was able to point out to them that our art project just happened to be IN our camp and i specifically call out that no monies will go to the camp, just the art. they agreed and said they’d post it, but it’s been a week, so i’m wondering if they haven’t changed their minds. ah well.

    when push comes to shove, i can (and probably will) fund the whole thing myself, either by using the savings i already set aside each year for BM or selling stuff on etsy (without advertising on eplaya :P). i just thought kickstarter was a neat idea for people (mostly my friends and family) who can’t go to the burn to feel like they were involved and contributing in some way.

    but i feel like using funds to buy things like booze, tickets, airfare, etc. kind of goes over the line…at least for me. like people have said on eplaya, if there’s someone out there who wants to chip in $10 or $20 or $100 for someone else’s BM ticket, RV, water, booze, etc…i guess that’s cool, but i’m sure as hell not taking part of it.

  4. Kendall Says:

    I like Kickstarter both for playa bound work and default projects. I am happy to support art projects in some small way when time/distance make it impossible for me to participate with hands on work.

    I appreciate the opportunity to gift clever swag (I’m a sucker for clever) and can’t wait for Temple Bacon to be delivered to camp mates this year.

    Love love love the Bureau of Unclaimed Secrets concept.

    Will there be mis-appropriation of funds for some projets, maybe, but I try to be saavy with my $ and let karma sort out the details. I understand that in some instances there

  5. Issa @ LoveLiveGrow Says:

    I’ve got no opinion on the Kickstarter/theme camp thing, because I haven’t looked at who’s doing what and what they’re offering/asking for. I always think fundraising and who pays for what is an interesting question, though, which has become more relevant for me over the last couple of years putting together a theme camp for Alchemy.

    A couple of years ago there was a theme camp-ish art project asking for money at the Alchemy art fundraiser. They were asking for a lot of money, and one of the items on their budget breakout was a generator. I bristled at that – there’s no way I want to help someone else buy a generator! Gasoline to run it? Yes. A generator that you can use this one year as part of your camp/art and then use however you like for many years to come? No. Later at the event, though, I was looking at other things that people got funding for, and just because it’s not a big-ticket item like a generator doesn’t mean it’s not an “asset” that the camp organizer/artist gets to keep. What about EL-wire bought with art project money? The fabric used to make such-and-such that could easily be re-purposed elsewhere after the event? It’s not like these things are consumed in the making of the camp/art.

    When Joshua and I started Fucking Awesome, we decided that anything we would own, we would buy. Yes, this meant we paid gob-loads of money on that dome, and people probably would have pitched in money if we’d asked. But at the end of the day, we own a dome, and I don’t feel right asking my community to buy me a dome, regardless of how much they enjoy it at the event. We asked if people wanted to contribute that they buy things that they wanted to own, and then donate them for the duration of the event. So, buy decorations that you like and take them home at the end. Buy the camp a popup or tables or whatever if you like, but you still own it afterwards. It felt good to do things that way.

    This year we have a dilemma that I haven’t quite worked out yet. Everyone would like the dome to be warmer at night. Alchemy gets cold and the whole point of the dome is to get naked in it, which isn’t quite compatible with the cold. We could heat the dome for about $400, some of which is fuel (which I don’t mind taking donations for), but most of that cost is for the heaters. Joshua and I don’t want to buy them ourselves, because we just have no need for heaters like that. And I’m sure people would pitch in on the money, because it’s not that much and would be a great benefit for the camp. But there’s the whole getting-your-camp-to-buy-you-things things. I don’t like it. I’m going to come up with some way to get those heaters for the camp without paying for it all myself and without feeling yucky about it, but I haven’t come up with the solution yet.

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