Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: September 2013

28 September 2013

A Manifesto For Live Art | The Evolution of Surveillance | New Tunes From Black Rock City | Indiegogo Campaign Update

It's time to get real with you all.

Landing from another three month tour's been really difficult.  There's no use in hiding that the life I've chosen is full of its own unique hardships – like financial insecurity, endless car repairs, and coming home to new property managers changing everything about the one "stable" place I know.  I can talk about change all I like, but like most people I struggle to embody it.

I've loved dedicating my blood, sweat, and tears to festival culture for the last six years but I have to wonder what more I could be doing with my life.  There must be some way to make a bigger impact in the world, to serve more people with my gifts.

This blog goes out to 7,000 people, now.  I want to hear from you and learn what I can do to make my presence in your life more meaningful, inspiring, and useful than it is.  What could I be doing better?  How can I repay you for your time and your support?  Let me know.

...And while you're pondering that, I'll just keep doing what I love.  Here are two of my finest essays yet; a fierce new free live EP from Burning Man; and some fun new merchandise for supporters of my Indiegogo campaign:


It takes a special kind of person to be a live painter. It’s one of these emergent 21st Century art forms that remix performer and audience – exposing the mystique of the artist and inviting everyone else into the party. Most of us are used to – maybe even tired of – explaining what we’re doing to unfamiliar fans and promoters. Being an artist is weird enough; but being a live painter requires a person to actually thrive on the combination of fear and wonder that people inevitably bring to encounters with the strange.  (Read more.)


This campaign is about so, so much more than shiny new stuff – that's all just there to subsidize the deeper and more meaningful work I'm doing to start meaningful conversations about our rapidly-changing world.

I made an event page for my work as a Google Glass Explorer where I've been sharing tons of news and articles about the questions of Big Data, health issues, and general anxiety about the future raised by advanced technologies like Glass.  Definitely check it out.

And last week I hosted a public chat on Tawkers, a really cool site for social discourse, about all of this.  You can read the archived conversation here:  "Art & Spirit in The Age of Surveillance."

On that note...I promised all of you a new essay series combining my twin passions for the past and future, and here it is – part one of my paleontology/transhumanism remix:


New dimensions unfurled and into them grew an exponential burst of minds and bodies, urged by necessity into new games of sight. Endowed with the radical new ability to detect at a distance, the naïve ecologies of Earth accelerated into unprecedented combinations of locomotive swimming chasers and chased. Simple musculatures adapted to navigate new axes, to maneuver. Surveillance – literally, "to watch from above" – was born...and animals like Anomalocaris were the black helicopters of the prehistoric ocean.  (Read more.)


This year marks my second stint as the official music for Center Camp Café's aerial fabric dance showcase at Burning Man.  (Here are two videos from 2011.)  They get up there on aerial silks and dazzle a captive audience; I hang out on the ground and improvise a live electronic soundtrack to their movement on guitar and effects.  Earth Song For Sky Dance.

Think Boards of Canada meets instrumental Nine Inch Nails.  Can you hear the dust in my pedals?  :)

This is just the first of several performances I'll release for free this fall.  Something happened to me this summer and I feel like my live sets are suddenly much groovier, more textured, and passionate.  I'm opening new portals with this whole cyberguitar thing, and really look forward to sharing the best of my shows from Gratifly, Rootwire, Fractal Planet, and Scoot Inn with you all soon.  In the meantime, enjoy this one...it's a quickie but I like it.

Guitar Looping & Aerial Dance at Burning Man 2013


I recorded video through Glass while playing, so you can get a sense for how dizzying it is to try and operate a guitar, all of those pedals, and keep an eye on my collaborators while I'm playing.  Apologies in advance for the vertigo.


This is my favorite festival of fall, each year, and one of the highest artist/guest ratios of any of them year-round.  I'll be performing on the spectacularly beautiful laser-cut Folk It Up stage late night on Saturday and giving a talk on "Entertainment as Social Action" in the Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, as well as making an increasingly-rare live painting appearance with Third Coast Visions, the art collective my friends and I started here in Texas.  

This year's lineup is populated with many of my favorite local, regional, national, and international acts and the grounds themselves will be a magical wonderland of creativity, so I hope to see you there.


13 September 2013

My Creation Skateboard Is Here! | Burning Man Through Google Glass | Rootwire Mural Video | New Live Painting

"As consciousness expands, so does the risk of insanity."
John Horgan

"Our idea of unity and our way of solving conflicts is simply to eliminate one of the two parties...But this is the habitual dualist's solution to the problem of dualism:  to solve the dilemma by chopping off one of the horns."
Alan Watts

My Creation Skateboards deck is finally here!

Before I say another word, let me simply revel with you in a moment of modest success:  back in January over 1300 friends, family, and total strangers voted my design to victory in the international Creation Skateboards DIY Contest.  Thank you guys so much!  I just got word from the company that the boards are on their way – and not a moment too soon, because I'm broke as a joke after summer tour and needed another kickass perk for my indiegogo campaign to help support me while I pursue my Greater Calling as writer of provocative, futuristic meta-disciplinary ecodelia.  

So please:  buy this skateboard by contributing to my campaign.  You're helping me dedicate more time to sharing my words and insights with the world, and less time to hustling art.

Here's what's been on my mind, of late:


Someone whose opinion I greatly respect just pointed out to me that my posts about Google Glass sound like unequivocally positive fanboy raving - "breathless like a nun in adoration" - and so I want to be totally clear about how conflicted and ambivalent I am about all of this. It's important you guys know where I'm coming from, and that I'm not just gleefully strolling into Borgdom. In fact, the only reason I took on this opportunity as a beta tester is because the whole thing scares me silly.

I'm terrified by the knowledge that the people in power today think human beings can be reduced to data and reprogrammed...by the thought that I may not even recognize my children as human, or the world they grow up in as one in which we can survive. That we will be so caught up in the "bread and circus" of our Brave New World that won't even remember what we've lost.

But fearing the technological future feels to me like a symptom of the same dissociation that got us into this mess in the first place: the idea that we are separate from the automatic, unconscious realm of nature and the body, that we are one thing and the planet is another.

That is exactly why I agreed to become a Glass Explorer – to face these fears, to better understand them, to find what peace I can in my heart torn between enthusiasm for a world of unimagined possibilities and grief for a world crushed underfoot by machines. Demons are angels denied, hell is heaven resisted. I feel the urging of a greater Self and I'd rather help it come alive in love than fear.

Kevin Kelly inspired me with the thesis of his book What Technology Wants that we take a more deliberate, discerning approach to technological adoption. That we not simply rush in aroused by the thrill of novelty. That we treat our technologies (both machines and ideas) as our children - acknowledging that they have a life of their own, and we can only do our best to rear them lovingly.

What some might call giving myself to Google in human sacrifice, I call choosing to love a problem child, in the hope that taking the third path between the past-loathing uncritical techno-optimist and future-loathing neo-luddite reactionary will lead us into a world where the Made can get along with the Born.

If I'm a sacrifice, it's in the service of trying to teach people how to relate to technology with caution, care, sensitivity, and discernment. I think the vast majority of my fellow Glass Explorers are just cracked out on a Future High and walking into an open manhole. All the more reason to try and be a loud, exemplary exception to the rule. Figure out what good things can be done with this, and how to think about it in a healthy way.

The knights of old wielded double-edged swords. They were trusted to do so. Just because something could hurt you doesn't mean we shouldn't use it. (In fact, "If guns are outlawed...") So yeah, I'm an enthusiast. A reluctant enthusiast. I want to do my small part to steer this in the right direction.

"The good news is that the increase in entropy of the civilization we're experiencing is, in a sense, feeding the whole new information of a planetary culture. It's precisely the chaos of an industrial society that is creating the passion to create alternatives, so that the entropy or noise is creating the possibilities for innovation and music."

This is a conversation.  Feel free to weigh in on Facebook or Indiegogo, or email me personally.  I'll find a way to answer you in the essays I'm writing about this over the next several months.  Your feedback is invaluable to me.

In the meantime, below are the some of the videos I've taken through Glass at Burning Man & Rootwire:



The Arrest

Dedicated to everyone violated by the prison industrial complex for a nonviolent crime.  I wanted to do a painting that disturbed me, that was visceral and unsettling.  That felt violating.  (And, I wanted to ape the style of my homie and fellow live painter Andy Reed.)  I don't know if I pulled it off...looking at it now, all I can think is "space bacon."  Which in some weird way, I guess, is appropriate.  :P

Painted live at
Ecstatic Saturdays (Dallas, TX) 2013 04 13 - Bliss Goddess
The Upper Decks (ATX) 2013 04 19 - Sun Salutation
The Parish (ATX) 2013 04 27 - A Live One, Papadosio
The Granada Theater (Lawrence, KS) 2013 05 01 - Papadosio
Californos (KCMO) 2013 06 29 - Luminaries, Miss Conception, Wstndgrl
The Parish (ATX) 2013 07 04 - Psymbionic, Gladkill, Andreilien (Heyoka)
The Parish (ATX) 2013 07 05 - Mountain Standard Time, Earphunk
12th & Porter (Nashville) 2013 07 21 - Gates

Click for a closer look at the process:
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That's all for now, folks.  I know it's a lot.  I'm being way too productive these days.  Thanks for sticking with it!  Love and gratitude...