Stoics in the Monegros desert

installing process. Photo: Sean Toole
Monegros desert, Spain, part of Nowhere festival
'Si ad naturam vives, numquam eris pauper; si ad opiniones, numquam eris dives'*

*If you live in harmony with nature you will never be poor; if you live according what others think, you will never be rich


This installation was shown at Nowhere festival, European version of Burning Man, where people practice strategies of self-reliance, sharing and cooperation. Our installation was centered around the sculpture of Seneca, one of the stoics, representative of the influential school of philosophy in Hellenic times, and surrounded by renewable energy sources (solar panels), and hydroponic plants. Due to its self-reliant strategies and calm mind attitude, in the recent years stoicism was actualized by authors of self-development literature and researchers Pierre Hadot, Donald Robertson, Svend Brinkmann and some others.

In the installation, Seneca was covered by thermal blanket aimed to save his warmness inside. It symbolizes expectations of energy crisis in Europe, of cold winter and shortages in food sector. People went through COVID-19, isolation and fears of 2020, and just started to feel themselves well again, but all of a sudden in the 2022 the war of Russia and Ukraine started. That leaded to multiple humanitarian and economical problems around the world. European political leaders openly manifest a need to economy energy resources, to change food and spending habits. At the same time summer of 2022 is characterized by heatwaves around the Europe, with enormous fires, desertion of soils, drying major rivers and pessimistic forecasts concerning upcoming harvest.

Wide-spreading subculture of Burning Man can become a culture of the future, in view of the fact that more and more people can face energy problems in the future and can't be sure now that their states of origin can solve this problem. Oil crisis of 1973 was a really tough time for a lot of people, and very often they ignored signals of it. In 2020’s we can partly rely on renewable energy sources, but also we should think more that it is we who should organize it to ourselves. Food and energy.

As a part of our experiment, for a time of a festival (6 days) we tried self-reliant lifestyle of living in electric car, with raw food diet of fruits and vegetables with additional supplements - proteins, plant-based milk, spirulina and electrolytes. Car became also a space for meditative sessions for festival attendants. They could relax during very slow ride, laying in the specially organised part of the car, decorated with golden foil from inside and crystals. We used meditative music and aromas. Air-conditioning as a benefit. All together it changed the feelings of the body, just staring at the sky through transparent car roof, at the golden reflexes on the inner surfaces, and laying in relaxing refreshed space. We used electric car for sleeping mostly and spend its energy for air-conditioning only. Spanish desert during night is pretty chilly, so we strangely avoided minuses of camping living, but at the same time absolutely followed the line of the 'burn culture', even without joining any barrio.

The idea of hydroponics farm was taken from Dutch pavilion presented at Expo 2020 in Dubai that was held in 2021-2022 because of coronavirus. It showed how condensate of desert night can be used for planting due to cone form of the temporary construction. We used the same principle of condensate with easy-to-have plastic bottles. Thanks to it, we have our basilic and fresh mint. New fears of coldness and crisis gave a birth to new style of self-reliant camping, less traditional that van- or tent-based, with no cooking and no refrigerator. Kind of glamorous camping - Tesla, fresh fruits and trendy health supplements.

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