FoxCarn & the Betel Store is the China and Taiwan regional project for the Carnival of Mirrors at Burning Man 2015, the world's largest interactive art event.
We are building a robotic factory floor and high-end showroom that plays with our needs and desires—money, objects, beauty—to provoke deeper thinking about where our goods come from, who makes them, and where they (and we) are going
“Workers” will be recruited off the streets of Black Rock City to work in our factory floor. Stripped of their belongings and taught to recite motivational Chinese slogans, they will enter a gamified space of production that blurs the line between man and machine. Inside the factory floor, chased by an overhead real-life robot designed to enforce "efficiency" and “maximize shareholder value," workers will compete to extract materials and make products like our custom-designed iSwag. Their hard work will earn them not the products themselves, but tokens that can be “spent” at the Betel Store next door.
Our Betel Store's sleek products and sexy “beauties” will drive desire in all who dare to window shop. These marketing geniuses will re-package and promote our bleeding-edge FoxCarn products: iGift, iSwag, and more.
Our flagship store, located at Black Rock City's most exclusive address, will also feature value-added services including swag upgrades and stamps of authenticity. Shoppers should be sure to visit the CPR (corporate playa responsibility) desk, placed conveniently out of sight of the FoxCarn factory and its landfill next door, to maintain the fantasy that they help the planet with every purchase.
Poking fun at the worlds's most valuable brand, the Betel Store implicates all of us in the smoke and mirrors of the commodity fetish. Spotlighting the world's greatest factory empire, FoxCarn simulates the human and environmental costs of manufacturing in China, laying bare the alienated labor and devastated landscapes that underwrite Silicon Valley's rise. Our project poses the question: Who wins and who loses in this world web of production and consumption, and how can we do it better? We love our gadgets too, but we maintain that it is not only time to think, but to create different.
About Our Team :
Hailing from Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Cambridge, and San Francisco, we are Fulbright Fellows, Harvard robotics researchers, Stanford and MIT-trained engineers, international architects, designers, filmmakers, and wage slaves with a combined 50+ years of Burning Man build experience. Most recently our team members produced the 2013 Enlightenment CORE project (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1039056968/enlightenment-china-taiwan-core-at-burning-man-201 and https://www.facebook.com/ChinaTaiwanBurningManCoreProject) and the 2014 Taiwan Temple Market and China Dragon Den Souk installations. We also organized the 2014 Burning Taiwan and Shanghai Dragon Burn regional events.
Why are we doing this:
“The counter- point to the contemporary fascination with i-products is a regime of managerial autocracy and assembly line drudgery at the point of production, a contradiction that reminds us of the enduring relevance of Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism. Thousands of miles from the shelves of the Apple store, and ordinarily concealed from consumer concern, lies the reality of alienating toil...”
--Oxford University Professor Jenny Chan, in “The politics of global production: Apple, Foxconn and China's new working class”
Our project's design is drawn from the unique traditions, conditions and plight of the places we call home.
The Betel Store's design is inspired by the Taiwanese betelnut beauty stand, which features attractively-clad woman vending legal stimulants in ubiquitous neon-lit booths on the roadside. Evocative of the carnival peep show, the betelnut beauty is also lightning rod for debate about gendered labor. A wall of our store will be dedicated to sharing words and images of betelnut beauties, unsung heroines of the rural economy.
FoxCarn's factory floor is inspired by the collaboration between Chinese authorities and Taiwanese companies, such as Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer and China's biggest employer. This relationship also underlies the symbiosis of China's manufacturers and the US's marketers. Their relationship, however, is highly unequal. For the estimated US$300+ Apple pockets on every phone, Foxconn earns only $8 (Financial Times, iSuppli 2012). “Apple’s profits soar... because it tolerates and supports Foxconn and many other suppliers’ 'race to the bottom' production strategy,” notes anthropologist Ralph Litzinger. The human toll of this strategy will be featured within the installation, including real stories from the lives of Foxconn's 1.2 million workers.
Some of the most influential people in the world come to Burning Man, people from technology, from arts, from government, from around the world. What we do there is much more than a party in the desert— it's an experimental platform for social change, a place to design the future. The future we're hoping to inspire is not just a utopia of shiny gadgets, but a world where people and the environment are more fairly valued. FoxCarn and the Betel Store won't fix the world's problems in one week— but we're going to make an impact on some of the people who need it to hear it the most.
$900 - build materials, including lumber, lighting, and signage
$800 - robot parts
$800 - gift/product components
$388 - transport
(any additional funds raised over this minimum will allow for additional design enhancements and gifts to be shared with the community)
Risks and challenges
Engineering and building any installation in the harsh conditions of the Black Rock Desert requires careful planning . Having successfully completed multiple projects and Burning Man's Black Rock City and at regional events in challenging weather, we are confident that our team will make this happen.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)