Transformus Post Office
Transformus is a regional Burning Man influenced event which used to be on a glorious site near Asheville, NC and has moved to a different beautiful place near Masonville, WV. Rick from Happy Hill came for the first time to this location and observed things i never would have noticed. Specifically, that the huge fields were not actually a monoculture, but a complex mix of different types of plants as part of a sophisticated wildlife and field management program. There is a huge need nationally for this type of soil regeneration and specifically Rick pointed out that they had planted Asclepias which are critical for supporting monarch butterfly populations.
Transformus was the first time i really got to see Dash (our new conference intern) shine. Dash is a gifted cook out of Boston who is helping to organize the Communities Conference and they put out impressive meals on the Camp Contact stoves. No matter where people were in the sprawling Tranformus campus, pretty much everyone made it back to camp around mealtime, despite there being a lot of great food all free at the festival.
Jason Taylor is a hero of mine. A Louisa local who did not discover the communes til he was a teenager, he is now an integral part of holding them together. From building the replacement Llano kitchen (after the actual Twin Oak tree fell on it and crushed it), to repairing the Twin Oaks sawmill and kiln, to repairing and running the seed packing robot machine at Acorn – Jason is our favorite handy person who keeping the communes operating. Jason is the site manager for QuinkFair, last year in that role he manifested all manner of elements from designing and wiring the solar system to leading the effort to build and burn the effigy.
At Transformus he led the screen-printing workshop, using Acorn’s new screen-printing device. This was a test run for the Communities Conference where we plan to print dozens of participants’ clothes (as we successfully in some years ago).
In the above picture Jason is paying for his postage due, by stuffing a huge pineapple top in his mouth. Which requires me to explain a bit about the post office.
The post office is a Burning Man inspired activity, which we ran at Transformus back in 2013 when i was a dual member at Acorn. Burning Man influenced events discourage the use of money internally (as does QuinkFair). Instead of monetary transactions they encourage cultural and comic exchanges. So to get a inter-festival letter sent, you need to pay into the post office with perhaps a skit or a joke or a dance. Similarly, your incoming letter is “postage due” and the postal carrier may try to get you to perform out of character. Asked to “read something that moves you”, a postal customers name Snax who was working registration at Transformus read the section of the Velveteen Rabbit on being real and started crying during their rendition – momentarily all activity stopped at the busy registration to witness this dramatic rendition.
The power of a post office funologically, is it can bring a little culture bomb into a camp. Another postal recipient asked for one of our “Daring” cards and got. “Make out with someone you have never kissed before, consensually, for 30 seconds starting now.” The dare was heard by a lovely person named Freefall, who after a short discussion about risks and STIs, they kissed. Somehow the 30 seconds recommendation got blown threw.
One of the modifications we tested on the regular post office format is we developed a number of postal challenge cards. These including Daring, Beautiful, Funny and Wild Cards. This allows the postal customer to think about what type of way they want subsidize the mail service by delivering a tiny cultural performance of these different types.
Spacious is the principal organizer of the Camp Contact theme camps within several regional burns and at the big burn in Nevada. To the untrained eye, his principal contribution is a tremendous amount of specialty hardware – kitchens, giant shade structures, domes, chill spaces, solar powered refrigerators, drinking and cleaning water systems, showers, bikes, trucks, hand tools and much more. If you are a decerning organizer, you know that the inter-personal stuff is more complex than even the most sophisticated of these inanimate objects: lovely attendees, who can’t afford camp fees or telling prospective participants who make people uncomfortable that they cannot be part of the camp or figuring out how to cover an internal camp task which someone promised to take responsibility for, and then they flaked on it or dealing with people who promise to pay their camp fees and then do not or getting exhausted campers to break down many structures before the rain hits at the end of the event or figuring out just how much the camp attendees are open to building without deciding not to build it or not to come back to the next camp ‘cos it was too much to build.
Camp Contact would not exist without Spacious, the hardware (as complex as it is) is the easy part, creating a harmonious, financially viable, well-equipped camp with a bunch of diverse participants who are not always reliable – that is the heavy lifting of an organizer.
Perhaps because i am so disorganized, one of the things i appreciate in other organizers is being nimble. Being regularly interrupted and still being effective, being able to change plans gracefully on short notice, rapidly adopting to the shifting variables are all signs of a nimble event organizer. Orion Posey is the son of one of my favorite activists Susan Posey and the generous traveling electrician Milo MacTavish. Orion was supposed to be performing in a play near Norfolk, a few days before Transformus, but the play got cancelled and Orion reached out to me about being a conference intern. He agreed to come to Transformus, without really knowing what it is, but knowing that their festival activities would be secondary to the networking and outreach work we wanted them to do. Orion delivered a bunch of mail, dispersed a number of fingerbooks, acted as an ambassador from our events to workshops on topics we are interested in. With Twin Oaks population the lowest it has been in years; we can use all the help we can get, and Orion is the addition of a nimble set of hands.
If you are interested in our small regional burn in Virginia Sept 23 thru 26 – check out QuinkFair:
If you are interested in intentional communities, consider our Labor Day (Sept 2 thru 6) event, the Communities Conference: