A good portion of the collection are gorgeous, bold, beautiful pieces.
You could make the argument that the goggles, fur, etc. were examples of cultural appropriation. But that is a silly argument. Burning Man *wants* its culture to be appropriated. We want our culture to spread into the world. And while we shun feather war bonnets on Participants, we embrace appropriation in many other forms of expression. Even our sacred Temples borrow heavily from other traditions.
But 14 pieces in the collection are troubling.
For example, he created a fabric print using an illustration of the Playa with many recognizable Playa landmarks and art.
There are also handbags that are replicas of known mutant vehicles. And even a “Hug Deli” fanny pack.
This clearly violates the Decommodification Principle, doesn’t it?
Burning Man culture has literally been turned into a product.
As soon as I saw the Vogue slideshow, I got online and lost my cool.
One of the first questions that came up in comments was, “Did he ask for permission from the artists?” I spoke to several artists represented on the fabric. Yes, they were contacted by a representative of Manish but they responded with very clear, “No, you may not use it.” Ewwww.
But, by far, the most disturbing piece is the LampLighter/Temple outfit.
It looks like a Lamplighter robe, and then has writing scrawled all over it. Those words, presumably, are taken from our sacred Temple. Even if it is just a facsimile of writing that *looks* like it is taken from the Temple, it is pretty darn crass. Maybe even blasphemous?
I know it is a little silly for a culture with such a rich history of attacking sacred cows to get culturally vegan when it comes to our own iconography. But it just feels so wrong? It would be like taking photos of people privately crying at a funeral and then printing their faces on t-shirts.
If we dig deep, maybe this is a poetic opportunity for our community to feel what other cultures and faiths must feel like to see their sacred things disrespected. But mostly it just feels gross.
On the upside, passionate conversations are happening all over Facebook, email lists, message boards and bar stools about this saga.
Click Here for a transcript.
It definitely is not resolved.
I have been in touch with Manish and asked if he could help explain his collection and artistic decisions around artist’s rights, Decommodification, and blasphemy. Look for “Part 2” as soon as I get his response.