Further Future Pt. I: Fashionistas, Ideologues, 'Burning Man Elite'
Photographic evidence of an uncertain future that looks great in vinyl.
Everyone, everywhere, is always trying to pin down the future, of everything. But has such a task truly ever been in our grasp?
I spent some time last weekend in the sand and sun; the desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, with a group of people who felt inspired enough about the unknown ahead of us to at least give mapping it out a shot. We were at Further Future (FF).
FF is a music, art, and futurism festival that celebrates luxury empowering creativity, and those people bold (or just plain arrogant) enough to connect the dots between the here-and-now and the yet-to-be-seen. FF is what happens when technology meets art and marketing. It's a Mars colony on Earth, populated by really, really, passionate people. (And others that look damn good in vinyl. And others that just want some damn mollywater.) In 2016, nearly 5,000 people are said to have showed up on the Moapa River Reservation, where FF was held.
FF is the festival for the gilt-edge festivalgoer. It's a "transformational festival." Some say it's a meeting of Burning Man's "1 percent;" more about funding startups and catering to an already privileged creative class. The futurist gathering itself, which is only in its second year, makes claims of being, a "new kind of music and arts festival."
Further Future is not Coachella. Not even close. But what is it?
It is a place of seminars and panels and talks that tend to be honed to a slightly finer edge than a chat with TED. It's a temporary chill zone for the sharing of emerging wisdom that might fall near to but squarely outside the boxed agenda of a boardroom meeting. Maybe it's Revenge of the Nerds where all the dweebs have special edition Teslas and tantric sex instructor certificates.
Over the course of four days, almost everyone I spoke with, or hung-out with, or danced with on top of giant metal rigs at three in the morning––hoped to contribute, or takeaway, at least something, more than the typical festival experience.
The music, which came from a lineup of emerging and well-known electronic artists of varying sub-genres––Daedelus, Papercutz, Kid Koala––felt kind of like the pulse powering the constellation of questions and answers we would be orbiting within between Friday evening at festival commencement, and the Monday morning departure.
Amanda Kahlow, CEO and Founder, 6Sense / Gary Mueller, entrepreneur; Future Further organizer / Saturday Afternoon
"Fuck them," preached Amanda Kahlow, founder of marketing intelligence platform, 6Sense.
Ms. Kahlow was referring to potential "haters," or anyone standing in the way of young entrepreneurs hoping to change the world with their creations. She is joined by fellow creative future-seeker, Gary Mueller––who curated Further Future's Vision Speaker Series. Kahlow spoke on the future of data and artificial intelligence.
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc. / Saturday Afternoon
After speaking on the future of the Internet, and benefits of blockchain technology that extend beyond bitcoin, Eric Schmidt told a reporter: "It’s well documented that I go to Burning Man. The future’s driven by people with an alternative world view."
I snagged this portrait of the Burner, in full gear, moments after he'd arrived via personal helicopter.
"Wow," said Schmidt. "That's a great shot. Thanks!"
The Rain / Saturday Afternoon
Desert rain is as mysterious as it is elusive. It is often violent, and can be over as quickly as it starts. A Saturday downpour nearly brought Further Future to its end––but also cleansed the afternoon of the morning. Revelers clustered under staging tents and partied on, despite a clear threat of electrocution, and the slight chagrin of event staff, who built a bridge to dry land out of the same pallets people were dancing on.
Musical Guest, Jane Fitz / Sunday Evening
U.K. DJ Jane Fitz was one of many artists providing a constant thump of at least 140 beats per minute throughout the weekend. Joining her were acts creating sounds and songs normally associated with late-night surreptitious gatherings in warehouses in Downtown L.A., or Berlin, or Brooklyn––a far cry from any pop culture icons or holographic rappers. Bigger names, such as Nicolas Jaar and The Pharcyde, also played sets at Further Future.
Almost everyone in attendance engaged in an almost unending dancing display. Rain, sun, dust, and sand all proved to be elemental enhancers. People danced in line for food, on top of each bar, on top of the stages, in the tents, in RVs, with people they knew, with utter strangers.
Rasa, "They Call Me HaHa," Southern California / Monday Morning
"This is my second Further Future. This year is at least three times bigger. For me, the music is what moves my heart and soul. That's what I'm here for. Everything else is an added bonus. I like [Further Future] because it seems like [the organizers] make it possible for everyone to get the experience that they are seeking out. Saturday I danced all night, and yesterday I went to listen to some of the talks."
Lenisa, Life Coach, Las Vegas, NV / Monday Morning
"This is my first time at any music festival. There was a lot of energy. When I first got here, painting was the first thing I did, which I think speaks to the type of people that this festival attracts. Everyone is very creative. But I think what has driven me the entire time has been the food. Food is medicine.
"I was also sober the entire weekend, and I had an amazing time."
Arthur, Designer/Startup founder, San Francisco, CA / Monday Morning
"Saturday night, there was nobody over there," Arthur points to the Robot Heart stage, a traveling art collective spawned from past Burning Man events, and a central part of the Further Future experience.
"There was nobody on the heart; so I climbed up there, and danced alone for a long time. Later on, when I would get water or something, people would ask me: 'Were you the guy up there dancing? We loved that!'"
The fashion of the future is so uncertain, even Kanye has to take a few nods from Star Wars. However uncertain the coming years are for the garments we present ourselves in––if that uncertainty is expressed by neon and brightly colored cyber-goth sirens; steam punk-inspired idealists; desert wanderers carrying umbrellas as accessories; hesitant bros letting their freak flags fly via neck-tied bandanas; and more lycra one-pieces than anywhere on this planet, then everything might just turn out to be okay after all.
All photos by Ben Parker Karris for The KIND.
Check back later this week and explore the role of cannabis in these not-so-far away future years with Jane West––industry activist, and one of FF's keynote speakers.