Those who attended last week's Burning Man festival in Nevada love to tell you how they abandoned commerce, lived for a week without money or technology and rejected commercialism for their seven-day stretch in the desert. Then they will tell you how furious they were that somebody went out there to Burning Man 2013 and erected a 30-foot wooden Facebook "like" statue in the open art area of the desert.
The rumor going around Burning Man was that Facebook employees, who do indeed attend the event en masse, had erected the statue as a self-congratulatory homage to enjoy between trips to their air-conditioned luxury RVs. Like most Burning Man rumors ("Huge storm tomorrow! Daft Punk is playing here tonight!"), this rumor was complete baloney.
In reality, the Facebook like statue at Burning Man was the work of a Dutch painter and performance artist called Dadara, who called the piece Like4Real, or the Golden Like. His fans crowdsourced funding to the tune of more than $10,000. According to the Like4Real Facebook page -- a page that actually encourages you to quit Facebook -- the artist says that "Like became just another commodity, waiting to be cashed. But it does not have to be like that."
The piece was meant as a criticism of the monetization of our cultural interests via social media. Considering the statue was just a giant Facebook like symbol, the criticism component was lost on most viewers.
Assuming it was just a Facebook ad, people freaking hated it. "Definitely the lamest piece out there," said one Valleywag commenter.
Dadara is an experienced Burning Man artist, though, having previously built the Transformoney Tree and the Exchanghibition Bank. He makes fantastically detailed fake currency to hand out, and even Burning Man founder Larry Harvey is a fan of Dadara's work.
Dadara has previously done flyers and album covers for Dutch musicians, and has also designed an Absolut vodka ad and speakers for the British audio retailer Bowers & Wilkins. The man blurs the line between making money and criticizing commerce better than any artist I have ever seen.
Burning Man attendees felt that the piece violated the Burning Man ban on advertising. The artist did not mean the piece as an advertisement, saying in his manifesto that "the act of liking lost most of its real world and personal value, devaluating into a meaningless gesture of clicking and sharing from an infinite, hence worthless, pool of likes."
I did a ton of hallucinogens at Burning Man this year, and I still couldn't tell you what that statement is supposed to mean.
If it's any consolation, angry Burning Man people, they did torch the thing at the end of the week. "We will burn the Golden Like and thus bring the act of liking to where it belongs," Dadara wrote on his website.