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The iconic 'Guy Fawkes' mask adopted by Occupy Wall St.

Listen to a discussion between filmmaker Ian MacKenzie and artist Pravin Pillay covering everything from Burning Man, the emerging paradigm shift, and how your mind has become occupied.

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO PINPOINT when the shift occurs – when you go from being an “observer” of the various occupations around the world, to becoming a participant.

Perhaps it was when you realized the thriving vitality that emerged when you walked onto the grounds of an occupation: the drum circles, the creative signs, and the passionate dialogue enticing your ears. Or perhaps it was the way your heart broke when you watched hundreds of people, occupiers and anyone else, enjoy a plate of food served up by dedicated volunteers. Perhaps it was when you realized these were more than just lazy hippies, hoping to leech off the hard work of “the rest of us” to feed their own addictions and vice.

Or perhaps you’re still convinced the Occupy Movement is a waste of time. No matter, the hacking of your consciousness has begun.

Pravin Pillay, media theorist, artist, and organizational designer, has studied the phenomenon of “cognitive shifts” since he experienced his own visit to the desert of Black Rock City. The annual Burning Man festival has been expanding the realm of the possible for over 25 years, galvanizing consciousness with mind-bending art, radical self-expression, and a demonstrated gift economy.

“When people recognize a different way of being, they realize they can choose their experience in life,” says Pravin. The implications for the Occupy movement, as the next phase of humanity’s emergent paradigm shift, are profound.

Listen to the full interview – 30 mins

How the Occupy Movement is hacking your consciousness by ianmackenz

What do you think – how has the Occupy Movement already shifted your perceptions of what is possible, if at all?

Feature photo: bearpark

About The Author

Ian MacKenzie

Ian MacKenzie is the founder and former editor of Brave New Traveler. He is Head of Video at Matador Network. Ian is also an independent filmmaker, with his first feature (One Week Job) released in 2010. His more recent projects include Sacred Economics and Occupy Love.

  • Chriz Miller

    Hmm… there are some ways that I strongly agree with you. The first time I went to Occupy Toronto I knew it was a TAZ, in no small part due to the festie crowd running the place. I also agree strongly about your ideas on the emergent property of both BM and Occupy. 

    A few things:

    (1) I don’t know if this was AdBuster’s deliberate intention, but NYC has the highest concentration of national news networks in the US (and is high for international news centres too, second only to London UK perhaps). It’s good place to get attention. 

    (2) Burning Man does have a central organizing ‘government’, and they do a lot to facilitate the common good (safety, infrastructure, support, sanitation, etc.). They do dialogue with the community and respond because they know if they have dissatisfaction, people will vote with their feet — ie. stop going. 

    They do however operate very differently than a traditional gov’t, in that they only work to provide a baseline framework (and grants) for participants to fill. It makes BM everyone’s. Occupy did not have that backbone. 

    (3) More to that point, I found at the Toronto Occupy the consequences of having a TAZ in an urban area — it became a magnet for services that weren’t being provided, but also a place where police had less of an ability to enter or control. BM evolved that way, which is where Rangers came from. Occupy had none of that. In Toronto I heard tales of numerous assaults (mostly from drug dealers to drug users) but the Occupy org could not handle them and the police couldn’t go in to deal with it either. 

    imo, If TAZs are to grow in urban areas (and I would like to help them do so) they will need a model that is more realistic and responsible, which means some agreed upon operating principles. There is a huge desire for it, and urgent problems that need space where societal change can happen. What does that look like? How can we make it happen?

    • Pravin Pillay

      Chriztopher North – Insightful and Thoughtful comments. Agreed – BM does have a “government” This organizational entity seems to have emerged out of necessity for few reasons: one, to meet the basic common infrastructure needs of the community; two to mediate between the community, the local resident community and state governing/policing bodies, three to ensure the principles/values that defined the community had some continuity.The rest of this post is for those who might be following this thread in this corner of the modern day Agora known as facebook.I would like to give a nod to the Situationist International (SI) who were important in the 1968 wildcat general strikes/ “uprisings” in France. This apparent failed attempt to unseat the oppressive world order at the time – what they would have termed – the society of the spectacle. I say apparent, because SI did insert their tools into our collective memory and I believe these memes conveyed by some activists and artists through time became precursors to the principles that are reflected in the anti-concept of the TAZ and phenomenon become institution that is Burningman. Of course the history of the TAZ goes back through time and culture in the Western culture surfacing in Dionysian festivals and of course in creative tension with the ordering Appollonian forces.( Perhaps Nietzche, if he were alive, would say that the same creative tensions are alive and evolving well in the Occupy movement.In the last issue of the SI magazine they give an account of their ‘uprising” and what is needed for future revolutions. SI, also states in the last line of the issue: “the SI will be superseded.” They then dissolved SI.I wonder if Occupy and its cousins will take these insights to heart and understand how to convey, continue and deepen the collective legacy beyond and within full view of the ever watchful eye that is both within our minds and out there algorhythmically cruising facebook, twitter, and our phonecalls for tidbits of information.Some of SI’s gifts that they reformulated for their time and passed forward to us include the following:- Psychogeography, - Dérive, - Détournement, - The Construction of Situations- Work, Leisure, and Play( Voice writer Bryan Zimmerman noted,”One of the boldest characteristics of psychogeography may be its ability to influence and bring together all kinds of artists, social scientists, philosophers, urban provocateurs and spelunkers, and even traditional geographers, in an entirely accessible venue-public space.” ( 2009, the 6th annual Psy-Goe-Conflux festival (AKA Conflux) was be held at New York University in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development on September 18-20th.In 2010, the 7th annual festival was held on October 8–10 at NYU Steinhardt’s Barney Building.mmmm – it would seem that Conflux festival that is usually held in the fall in NYC did not happen in 2011 for some reason… or did it? ;) the wikipedia entry for Psy-Geo-Conflux there is an interesting reference in the notes section the top post is a youtube video – Occupy Ninjas Take Manhattan seems to be “cooking” its organizing principles and perhaps something more defined will emerge. Perhaps not. Both options are likely true. The ‘essence’ that sparked this global uprising is, by its nature, with great stealth, already re-formulating its next creative expression and gathering energy in our collective sub-conscious. If we were completely conscious of it then it could be mapped and its moves predicted by the industrial-technological forces that wish to mitigate its effects. If it is to remain vital like a TAZ, it must remain readying outside of our perceptual horizons and erupt spontaneously like “magic” when the system is ripe. How and where it will erupt is a matter of those who have a sense of the compass by being in communion with the livingness of the TAZ. Some eruptions may be violent. Comfort with unpredictability and willingness to stay in the unresolved state is a strategic creative advantage. Myself, I am a proponent of the the playful and non-violent, because I feel it is very hard for a industrial-technological awareness to compute the efficacy of playful non-violence. What is not known or understood, cannot be prepared for. This is the art of cognitive hacking. It is kinda Zenful ;)In terms of exploring how to generate TAZ’s and network them together – it seems that this is what we are muddling through and realizing (ie making real) as you read this and judge it worthy of incorporation into your mental workings or for the garbage heap of rejected notions. Perhaps this process of realization, like ourselves, is a work in progress. What we are exploring and evolving right now is one moment of a silver thread that runs through the space, time and consciousness of our species and each one of us. Of course the internet along with social media and hand held devices are dimensions of a medium (and the message) that facilitates the ability of people to generate and network TAZ’s in new ways. In parallel there exists the age old practice of ideas being transported between real world sites or nodes through the creative works and minds of those who have be gifted with the experience of a TAZ and thereby enabled that which is behind and beyond the TAZ to incorporate itself into their inner compass. Whether it be the left bank of Paris during the turn of the 19th Century, Prague, NYC, London, Berlin, Mesopotamia, or in the digital ether – there will always be those of a certain ilk who conspire to inspire.

      • Chriz Miller

        Pravin – I enjoyed the history lesson, and I couldn’t agree more about playful non-violence and the system’s inability to compute. It reminds me of a favourite quote by David Eisenberg – “The best way to subvert the dominant paradigm is to have more fun doing it than they do, and make sure they know it.” 

        The power of the internet becomes apparent not only for disseminating info, but also for creating an audience. In some ways I want to suggest that beautiful political videos (like the Occupy NYC Bull Fighter – ) are a force, but the movement is more mainstream around very entertaining non-political videos. 

        Take the Sax Man, who has over 12 million hits by playing George Micheal tunes while occupying private spaces. And he gets a whole shopping mall food court behind him while he does it.

        Flash mobs of choir singers, hula hoopers, knitters, etc all do the same — giving a space for silliness in the public square (literal and virtual). It’s also giving a huge space for breaking social norms of behaviour in an acceptable way (“Dude, that’s weird. Oh, no way, they’re taping it for youtube!”).

        With no guidance, the internet itself is providing the framework for the larger emergence that is rippling out. I think it’s affect for revolution has more to do with creating a forum for mutual knowledge (see the Steven Pinker RSA Animate video about the idea – – start at 7:41 for the specific part re:revolutions). 

        When mututal knowledge spreads ideas that are being suppressed in the mainstream (repressive totalitarian regimes or a struggling American middle class) the idea itself goes viral. If the conditions are not bad enough to warrent it, it will not spread, so it truly is a way for ideas “who’s time has come.” If people do not have an authentic connection with the issue, it will not spread. If you can create a simple framework (like Adbuster’s to Occupy) with something that resonates massively, it will spread like wildfire. 

        And what now? What are the most important issues we’re not talking about? I’d say as long as the issues underlying Occupy stay (and it certainly doesn’t seem to stop) there is something that will resonate and can be repackaged. I also think it is the reason why the social revolution will happen first. As Brene Brown says “we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history.” 

        Everyone in the developed world can relate to her message. We are, as a whole, miserable and searching. I think the best solutions will rise as they are presented (Brene Brown’s TED talk went viral). There is such an appetite. If the revolution is love, isn’t it exciting to help this cultural snowball keep rolling? :)

        • Pravin Pillay

          Good Points Christopher – This is FUN! I Love the Sax Man… As a “former” ;) performance artist – he is fun. This is skillful magical engagement by an artist-hacker.

          As a cognitive hacker, it is of course important to skillfully and artfully play the edge between performance art and entertainment/spectacle. Personally, I still struggle to hone the craft as a vocation. I love when performance art masquerades as entertainment/spectacle. If there are minds in the crowds that are prepared then they will receive what they need, others who are not prepared will simply be entertained. It is like a mentor or elder telling a story. If the mentee is ready to hear then wisdom is harvested. If not, the mentee hopefully feels that they have given someone time to remenices about the good ol’ days and the story can cook until the mentees mind is ready. The seed however has been planted. The more compelling the story and the more skillful the cognitive hacker, the more likely seed will sprout when the conditions are right. (12 million hits for the Sax Man – nice!!!)

          I figured you probably knew most of this history stuff but I figured others following this thread might wish to see how emergence moves through time in nested rhythms that are beyond generations. One of the creative tensions in our contemporary minds seems to be how to surf the emergence of what is happening in our lifeframe as compared to what is emerging over generations. History provides context and perhaps some guidance when we re-engage our ingenuity to meet the opportunities and challenges of conditions as they present themselves.

          In terms of the connection to Adbusters and the Occupy movement, SI encouraged “occupation” of factories and of worker’s councils to run the occupations.

          Also good point with David Eisenstein. For those that would like to hear a bit more on the subject play and relational connection in change , below is a link to a interview podcast with my friend and colleague Rick Ingrasci.

          “Rick Ingrasci, M.D. M.P.H., co-founded Interface (Boston’s largest holistic education center), the American Holistic Medical Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Hollyhock Retreat Center, where he has been convening an annual Hollyhock Summer Gathering since 1986. He co-authored the bestselling “Chop Wood, Carry Water: A Guide to Finding Spiritual Fulfillment in Everyday Life.”

          Many of the underlying issues that have surfaced in Occupy have been with us since we first started gathering in groups. Power, Status, Meaning. Yes I am hedging in on Existential questions and I won’t go into Sartre or Viktor Frankl, but I would say their works are worth the time invested to understand what is evolving now for individuals and for us as a species. Perhaps when we gather and we are in our engaged playful space, like children we are learning how to be in relation to each other and with the earth. Perhaps we should be more engaged in play as adults in our collective and personal lives. It may bring some important ingredient to our collective ontology.

          These existential issues seem to manifest again and again – and the paradigm “change” is really a response into the accumulation of creative tensions and comes out as collective behaviour in alignment with the cultural values that are held in that time and place. There is of course diversity in mix of the issues across cultural and geo-political spectrum.

          That being stated, at present, it would seem that as a species we are a gamechanging “moment”in our evolution. We are now a substantive force of nature in our biosphere. We are also having to deal with issues of scale and density as well as how diversity and unity are held in an emerging global culture. Fortunately the human mind seems to be well designed to adapt readily to changing environments. 

          Institutions could be said to be manifestations of our most important values. They are tasked to convey these values through generations. When they no longer serve – we tend to tear them down and regenerate them in a more resilient adaptive form. Rome had its Huns and its senate to engage change. I wonder what new institutions are being generated and re-generated?

          My personal conviction is that love is what binds and holds us and when misplaced it also is what causes us to kill and devastate ourselves and others (including other life forms) – this from first had experience in war zones through out Africa. What humans are capable of in the name of love is amazing… and the other hard won lesson -we always have an individual and collective choice.

          My hope is that as a species we will be able to make the shift from industrial-technolgical paradigm to a relationship aware ecological paradigm (where love and technology are embraced and engaged with wisdom) in a timely and compassionate fashion. 

          Love is what binds us to each other and the earth and I agree with my friend Velcrow Ripper (re: that we are in an emerging love story – with all the trials and tribulations and hard work of being in love.

          • Chriz Miller

            Thanks for the follow up Pravin. Just one follow up — I really do think the age of information is being creating a field of ‘competitive memetics’. Ideas are being developed, but obvious mistruths are being exposed. I work in media, so I don’t tend to believe in conspiracies, but in the words of Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” 

            I don’t think that they’re being bought off per se — I think everyone feels afriad to leave the broken system we’re in and actually figure out something more sustainable. 

            We have one large advantage over the other civilizations — we have a means of communcation that is democratized and truly massive. I hope we make the shift too. I think most everything knows the industrial-technolgical paradigm is broken. We live on a finite planet. 

            Have you ever seen RSA’s 21st Century Enlightenment? When the problems are on the scale of world-wide commons, I think the solution has to be compassion.

            Oh, one other media point re: ideas who time has come and how new technology can help spread it despite the wishes of the powers that be —

            Pravin — thanks for the history as well. I am not a real academic but it is no surprise that history has already explored most every idea. I think that’s why the parts of the equation that have changed (ie. the internet) become so interesting. 

            Also, thanks for the podcast link. Will listen when I have a chance to relax after the holidays.

  • AreWeReally?

    Grateful Dead, another San Francisco precedent, spawned an itinerate occupy movement that was the best kept secret in most towns until the media through MTV discovered the scene. The first twenty years of the Grateful Dead parking lot scene were the most democratic, radical all inclusive, self governed, create your own reality, not their’s, occupation going. The parking lot scene was quite primordial until the yuppie weekenders overwhelmed it. Burning Man evolved in a similar fashion with a small group of participants creating the gig and subsequent scene that now has a capacity crowd clamoring to join in. Occupy looks like the Grateful Dead parking lot of old, and could greatly benefit by Burning Man’s principles and organizational accumen.

  • JustChuckinIt

    I love the small self reliant communities up everywhere, and the acceptance of the protests here in NZ. Police were actually escorting them down the street in Auckland for the marches. It got my attention quickly, and I was very intrigued by it. I like the point of the movements, yet I don’t know how much effect they are having. Sad to say, I think the ones that are most effective are the ones that are getting more violent opposition, for example NYC and other parts of the world. I don’t know how much change it will bring about, but I’m glad to see some people standing up.

    One thing that concerns me though, and no offense meant, but I have heard accounts of some places being havens for homeless drug abusers. I don’t know this from experience, but I had people who stayed at Occupy Auckland tell me a lot of the homeless addicts were using the camp  for their own purposes. 

    Here is the discussion on my blog as well: Occupy Protests – Are They Making A Difference?

Sawing logs, catching Zs, sleeping it off, getting some shut-eye...some ideas for where...
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Only by letting go of what you think you want and where you are can you find where you...
"The 1% need us, and the fish need us, and the forests need us."
I didn't agree with everything I heard and saw, but that's not the point.
I see a lot more than just over-privileged "kids" asking people to do their laundry.
In a matter of hours, he would be my husband.
You can't escape the harsh conditions, which persistently remind you where you are.
Nowhere is radical self-expression better manifested than in Burning Man art.
People should fill up gas in Reno and get ready for miles-long waits to get in.
Dust storms could mean burners are in for a wild ride at Burning Man.