The Post Office at Alchemy – Experiments in Guerrilla Transparency
We are going to run the post office at the Burning Man regional event called Alchemy. A Burning Man style post office is a long lever funological tool. It creates the opportunity for all manner of theatrics, self-reflection/self-expression, and bemusing vignettes as customers attempt to send or receive their mail through a post service which they employ without money. Below is most of a seductive letter i wrote to people who i want to join Sky, Sara, Kassia, Willow and me on this adventure.
Were i on the other side of this seductive thread i would be asking
myself , “Why should i be going wildly out of my way– all the way to Georgia– to come
to this event, other than these fun people who i can see here?”
To put it more formally, “What funological frontiers will be advanced by our
groups and my personal participation in this event?”
We are going to build a post office. Modeled after the Burning Man
postal service, it is an inner-festival postal service which collects
letters and post cards from our camp (YAB) and delivers them to people
or their trusted camp mates in other locations during the festival.
The funological long lever in this situation is that both the senders and
the receivers need to pay the postal service and they can not use
money to do it. Our collective imagination can tickle, enchant and
transform the camp participants who dare to use our postal service.
Examples will help here:
Random Unwary Participant (RUP): i would like to send a letter
You Are Beautiful Postal Employee (YPE pronounced Yippee!): Great, to whom?
RUP: Priscella Wombat
YPE: Do you love her?
RUP: Excuse me?
YPE: You don’t look deaf, here i will whisper. [softly, leaning towards
RUP] Do you love her?
RUP: i heard you the first time. Isn’t that a quite personal question?
YPE: Look, do you want this mail to work or not?
YPE: yes work. All Yippee Mail is guaranteed; whatever you want to
have happen suggested in the letter will happen. Our trained staff
of experts (including yours truly) will help you to manifest the
reality you want by consulting with you at our usual, exorbitant,
RUP: i think i understand. So i guess i like her a lot and would like
to get to know her better.
YPE: Excellent, now we are talking. So we will start with the address
– one of the most important parts. ” Prescilla Wombat” [postal worker
writes on randomly selected post card]
What camp is she in?
YPE: And how can she uniquely identify herself?
RUP: She has two small moles under her left eye?
RUP: She has a flower tattoo on her ankle.
YPE: Apparently you are blind as well as deaf – have you seem all the
wild ass flower tattoos around here? Can she sing?
RUP: Not really.
YPE: Quote poetry? Do contact improv? Play the lute?
RUP: She can juggle!
YPE: Fantastic. [Scribbles wild instructions about juggling to the
postal carrier.] Now go think of some amazing thing you could do
together– and no, going to the burn together does not count– and ask her to
do it in this postcard. And when you come back, cut in line to the
front and i want to hear the first two verses of Bobby McGee in
falsetto from you. If you don’t know the words ask around and someone
ELSE will help you.
YPE: Next! [Looks behind the current RUP]
Of course, much more abbreviated dialogs are possible
Willow (age 9): Hey you! [to person walking by] Come here!
RUP: Me, ah, okay. [foolishly steps towards Willow]
Willow: Who is your best friend at camp?
RUP: Mannerva Frump
Willow: Write them some post card. [Slams a card on the table pushing
it towards RUP]
RUP: Okay. [Cautiously takes the post card]
Willow: And i will only mail it if you find me some chocolate.
RUP: Ahhh, okay. [sheepishly]
Similar complex or simple exchanges can happen at the end, when the post is delivered.
We are not staffing the entire post office, though we can certainly do
some shifts as office workers and carriers if we like. Rather, we are
organizing the volunteers who are making this event happen.
There is a tremendous capacity for guerrilla transparency work here.
You can ask people what they are afraid of or how they want to change
their own life as part of the postal fee, and before you ask them these
questions you can contract that they will think deeply and answer
Free and Kate and Aurora are also part of the You Are Beautiful (YAB)
as well as the Cville fire dancing troop Scintillation and other
friends. We were part of YAB at Transformus and it provided fine
central camp/lounge and food services.
There is a bus going down that we are in dialog with and we are taking
Shana’s Subaru, hopefully we will be caravanning. The event itself is
$45. There is also a camp fee for YAB, which provides a meal plan
(we will kick in TO/Woodfolk veggies and other food) and a
central lounge area.
The event itself has both a burning of a man and a more emotional
temple burn and uses the same cashless interior economy.
It would be better if you were there with us making this and other
exciting things happen.