From 9th – 13th July 2008 I attended the Nowhere festival in Spain. Its a participatory event, non-commercial, in the spirit of the burning man festival. In this post I want to pass on my experiences and also why I did it.
So, why would someone go into a deserted place where there is no water, electricity, housing? An event where you have no artists, you can’t buy beer nor food, nor do they offer anything?
I danced on the party of the “Burrow” camp, rocked on the party of the “Aröckalypse” camp, and chilled in our own camp, “The Village”. My friend Rinne rode on the Mechanic Bull from the “No Chance Saloon” and Robert sang in Arockalypse’s Karaoke evening. And I myself organized a “Tapesculpture” workshop where other people could learn the art of tapesculpting and create their own sculptures, lightning them up with LEDs. So, in a placed that offered nothing, people made a lot happen.
I knew that going to the nowhere festival will be an excellent experience, because I was at Burning Man in 2006, and the events are similar. Back then, I wasn’t dedicated enough to blog much, but now I take more time to write about my motivation and experience.
Chronologically, it was something like this: On the first day (we came Tuesday the 8th), I first met Nikolaas and Isolde, which organized “The Village”.
It was great to see their faces for the first time. We started mailing to each other via the nowhere mailinglist in mid-April about possibly joining their theme camp, kept exchanging many mails, and finally met.
Wednesday, we organized the first tapesculpture workshop. I mixed up the time, so I stumbled into Esteban’s Yoga class and thought we have tapesculpture workshop, when you stumble into his yoga class he greets you like this:
In the evening, I cooked nice spaghetti (and fucked up by using all of Nikolaas’ propane, sooorry again/i>) and then we strolled around from camp to camp. Thursday again a tapesculpture workshop. This time we asked everyone to work on the same project, creating human sculptures. This was a bit better than working separated, when doing bigger things together you communicate more and get impressive results. Thanks to Sinead, she was not only a great tape-sculpture but also a great person to meet.
At this moment, everyone was rumoring about the river, a magical place where you can go swimming. For us it seemed that everyone was there but us. Cedric was already there in the early morning on sunrise. Besides mysterious rumors on the mailinglist about parasitic death insects that will breed under your skin (and healthy scepticism against magical candy mountain), it was irresistible. Swimming is something you can’t do at Burningman nor at normal rock festivals, so Robert, Ingrid and I walked to the river. Refreshing, it was worth the 30 minutes hike.
Thursday evening was open stage at Aröckalypse, Robert sang:
Later again a great party at Burrows/TheLemmings
On Friday, I strolled around with Robert during the day, to the Saloon and other places. In the evening was “Miss Nowhere” Beauty Pageant, and we also moved the tape sculptures to the swiss art installation, thanks to Juus and Rinne for helping! Friday night was also the first night where the “No Chance Saloon” was serving whisky, excellent. Robert and I kept walking around together, the best moment was when we ended up on the upper floor of the Middle Of Nowhere and sung “Bohemian Rapsody” with assorted family&friends there. It was so great and in-tune, that even Ingrid (400meters away asleep in the tent) was awoken by the sound and recognized our voices 🙂 This was my personal “best experience”
Saturday the winds and rain went stronger, it was already showing bad black clouds and impressive lightning on friday, on Saturday the rain really hit the camp. Of course, since woodstock hippies are magically attracted to mud and had a great time.
(we were playing poker in a nice Sibley tent, I was losing).
Saturday evening was the final pow-wow. A complicated “which camp is best” pageant in the middle of nowhere, a great fire show nearby, and long parties at Pandemonium Circus and the Saloon. Our beloved geodesic domes at the Burrows were partly gone already (“the bar! the beautiful bar!” – it was devastated by the wind), but party happened all over the festival. On Saturday we also had to bring a camp mate to Zaragoza, he was too tired and strung out to take it anymore 🙂 The night ended with Sunrise, I told as many people as I could to meet at sunrise in the middle of nowhere. Myself, I was clever enough to catch some sleep from 3am to 6am in a Sibley tent next to melfare tent, someone (thanks!) provided a blanket, bed, and good-night wishes. When I got up, it was so fecking cold that I had to plunder the costume camp taking everything I could possibly wear for some additional insulation, it was freezing so hard that people saw eskimos. I met other freaks in Costume camp with similar intentions (“dude, I already tried the pink skirt, it just doesn’t fit males, try this instead…”). For sunrise, about 15 people gathered in the middle, great sunrise, great people. Juus was one of them 😉 – greetings man, it was great to meet you.
Well, on Sunday we woke up booze-headed and hiked up the hill to take pictures and enjoy the view, eating Ananas from the can. We saw some horsies (horses! horses!) arrive at camp, but couldn’t touch them as we were on mountaintop – alas, you can’t have everything. During the day, we were cleaning up and talking with everyone we met, I gathered addresses and tried to finish off the beer stash (of course, an impossible task). Sunday night was pimped by Arockalypse (they had casualities, their church tower turned Pisa-nesque), they held sports games. Mud wrestling, tied-together-legs-race, etc. Great fun, moderated by Michael and John (was this their names?). Everyone was tired and exhausted at that point, so the sunset gently moved the community to bed early. Despite being the last, weird things happened on this day. Although the party was over, Hannah and some other artists set up a glass cube of river water to measure the body volume of people (at least I heard that this reason was shoved in the front row to explain diving in a glass cube!?). To the passerby it looked like this:
Participatory – do instead of must
The reason why I like nowhere so much is because it’s a participatory event – everyone attending is also organizing and contributing. You will never meet a stressed-out lady selling beer – “thats 10 EURO for two beer, no we don’t take VISA” – nor do the performing artist have to perform “excellent because the audience paid for it”. In the contrary, you give away beer if you want, and you get beer if someone gives it away. The person you give your beer to is happy, and the next day you meet again, but then he or she may be the performer and you are the audience. No “VIP” area, no VIPs. If you perform something you do it because you want to, and maybe because you prepared for that moment for some months and look forward to it. Great people with a great attitude.
What makes it good
The event also works because there is a dedicated crew investing their time into it. Beyond the normal attendees, there are people that help organizing the event (Nowhere Organization), building up the core structures (the “Werkhaüs” crew), and a lot of volunteers that keep the wheels spinning. I would like to say thanks to people in NOrg, Werkhaüs, and the many volunteers for community jobs. To my knowledge, nobody makes money with this event, nor can anyone “make a living” out of it, which deserves much respect.
Second to the people, there are a few principles and social rules that make the event work. Participate. Express yourself. Be self-reliable: bring everything you need, bring everything you expect or communicate with others about it, don’t expect that others care for you. And everything you bring, take it with you – “Leave No Trace”. No commerce. This is the best part. You can’t sell or buy anything on the event. You give and receive, a culture of gifting keeps needful things circulating.
I like the principles, they are easy to follow and make the event safe and stress-less for everyone. Also, they render us all equal and make us able to communicate and connect to each other on the same level “whats your name, where are you from, which camp are you with, whats your project?”. There are more tips and tricks regarding nudity, children, etc… but I think the core rule is participation and self-expression, this helps me a lot to connect to other people.
Somehow … Like Christianity
Somehow, the idea is similar to christianity and the christian community. You have some rules and social principles which you share. Gifting is also a christian value, as is participation. In the churches I attend, the spirit is that everyone is a minister, everyone is a saint. From the first day on, you share the responsibility. I can connect to this when I see it on Burningman or Nowhere.
In my view, nowhere is not about changing the whole world, not everyone wants to stick to the principles nor has an inclination to socialize and share. Also, I can’t life like this the whole year nor do I propose to live a burningman life at all times. I take it as “work hard – party hard”. During the year, work hard and earn something that you can then spend within a friendly atmosphere.
So, after writing all this, and you reading up to here, some last words: greetings to all nowhere participants, I love you all! I will meet you again nowhere, sometime.