Monday, September 10, 2007

Chicken John on Paul Addis: "[He's] a hero"

Steven Jones gives Chicken John some press in this San Francisco Bay Guardian article on Burning Man that centers mostly on the Paul Addis' arson of the man and reactions to it. Jones explains how Chicken John and Addis have known each other since 1995, and that CJ even kicked Addis out of his Odeon bar a couple times. No surprises there, since San Francisco is a small town, and the core of old-skool burners is even smaller. But then there's this lovely quote from Chicken John:

"[Addis is] a hero. He did the thing that we've been talking about doing for a decade," Rinaldi said. "No matter how misguided he was, his intention was to facilitate art."

Umm, how does that work exactly, facilitating art by destroying something that someone else has created? I guess I'm just a grump, but I don't see where Addis' action is facilitative, helpful, or even a good prank, because it involved the destruction of something created by someone else. To me, it's akin to burning a book, destroying someone else's creation because you don't like what it represents (and no, it's not the same as that iconic gesture of flag burning, because a flag is a reproduction, not an original work - how would we feel about some slashing a Van Gogh to make a statement?).

In an earlier post I talked about why I have trouble with Chicken John's campaign, but now we have someone who is holding himself up as a guardian and supporter of the arts commending Addis as a "hero" for destroying someone else's work. Does Chicken John think it's okay to destroy art if you don't agree with it? Is that how he's going to improve the condition of the arts community in San Francisco?


minx said...

Oh, but the yearly Burning Man sculpture *is* a reproduction (of a reproduction of a reproduction) of a much smaller, *original* art piece built by Larry Harvey (and friends) on Baker Beach nearly 2 decades ago. In the ten years that I've been heading to the playa, the mid-city Man has become an icon; "welcome to nowhere- here's your counterculture symbol of the week". It's something many come to see, a tourist attraction, though is it still art? Methinks not. While artists such as myself and many others wrack our brains trying to come up with something new and exciting each year for the playa, the Man remains a well-funded icon, essentially the same year after year, it's best use a landmark of orientation and one-time gathering point for the ever-more maddening, ever larger crowd. Make no mistake, the sculpture of the Man may be the center of the city, but it's not The City itself. And its obviously easily replaceable, as is any other icon. IMO, Larry should quit being so damn creative with the stupid themes and come up with a new installation to replace the Man. It'd certainly be more civic-minded to come up with something new after all this time , *if* he isn't scared of losing his icon/ consumer brand.

Anonymous said...

"facilitating art by destroying something that someone else has created"

Please don't be one of those whiny new-skool spectator burners who worship the sacred icon at the center of the Playa. It's not Disneyland, kids.

Yes, some crafts people built the man that got burned early, but if they are upset by the early burn, then they're a part of the problem of the domestication and watering down of the event.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

"whiny new-skool spectators" - hmmm, I always appreciate it when a reasoned opinion is met with an ad hominem attack.

I don't "worship" the man, but I do respect work put into something by other people. My entire issue is not with the object itself, but with the intention of the person who destroyed it. In that action I see nothing but contempt for the work of others. There is much in this old-skool v. new-skool attitude that I find cotemptible, but it to does not lead me to acts of destruction.

Lord Kook said...

@ minx

While I agree that the Man is a 'copy of a copy', it's difficult to accept treating it simply as a symbol that anyone can manipulate to justify their own means. It's part of the festival, always has been, and likely always will be. To argue the Man isn't intrinsic to Burning Man, and that the festival can and will be better without it, is faulty logic. If you want your week in the desert where you and your artist friends can have that utopian opportunity to create your own art, you're going to have to accept that big flaming skeleton as part of the experience. It's not assimilationist rhetoric, and it's not corporate sell-out.

It's amazing to me that in a place with as many opportunities for free-thought as BM, so many people are getting tied up in the Man. Go make a new art car. Go make some piece of mind-blowing art that eclipses the man in it's sincerity and scope. Then, when someone besides you burns it before you wanted it burned, tell me you don't feel at least a few pangs of righteous indignation.