Paradise lost
The Doom of Tulum
Blitzkrieg on nature: Here the troops advance not by close-order marching. They "flow"...
As Tulum's popularity for vacationing has exploded over the last several years, so have its problems.
"Tulum – The Next Burning Man..." This weightless fast-talking and wildly gesticulative sales flick going viral (see bits of it below) perfectly manifests what philosopher Hannah Arendt in her time marked out as the banality of evil. By contrast with radical evil which means that one does shit knowing it's wrong, banal evil is shit action grounded in one's blind or myopic belief that it is the right thing to do. Or so awesome.

How art can possibly be not so fucking awesome or even go wrong! Like most Nazis who, "dressed to kill" in Hugo Boss, were marching, bright-eyed, to the beat of their fabulous ideology* following their charismatic gurus' transcendental visions to the point where they could not step out of their metaphysical fairy-tale. So, mesmerized, they kept marching all the way to hell.

The reference to Nazism is perhaps too strong an allusion in this "spring break" context, my friend comments, and suffices only as an explication of Arendt's notions of purposeful and mindless wickedness. On the other hand, it was Theodor Adorno in his Dialectic of Enlightenment who traced this extreme form of social degeneracy to the relation of humans towards nature as a whole. To quote: it "begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they're only animals." Or: it's only "environment" and this environment is ours. It happens to be theirs at the expense of biodiversity which suffers with every extra step along the path of this kind of anthropocentric thinking. In and around Tulum, it starves ever more with every extra "art" piece in the name of nature.

This arrogant "we decide" attitude affects the local population (that is to say, not only plants and animals, but also humans – which brings the question of analogical relevance back) and just as bad – definitely parts of population, each in different ways. In some cases, it's just as well. As elsewhere. As always the case in the societies where everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others – for historic reasons or some other and more immediate, and not always fair reasons. Otherwise "gringo" would not spell and sound so pejorative. It's easy to construe this situation – it being so not uniform – in terms across the entire political spectrum. In the ugliest of terms also. Not everyone is in the same measure willing to play the "development" game on their land against their nature and culture, even if they could, while also unwilling to leave. But who cares: "They are only locals." We burn as we please.

In the final analysis, of course, it all boils down to the issue of power, where Nazism is just one and most symbolically coded of its multiple expressions, wrapped in utmost negativity – here I press this button for a reason, along with other nitro-signs: to dissolve** the hyper-seductive semiosis of global mobilization for the Art with Me massive outing. It is one of the expressions of power that generates superior and inferior forms of life; stipulate, institute and impose grand agendas while dismissing others as trifling concerns. It is the issue of power in a vulgar sense: of the power that grabs and accumulates drawing its force from the depths of its impotence and insecurity (hence its vanity). Not the kind of power which grants left and right gifting until it exhausts itself. Or it is so resourceful it would never exhaust its strength. Like that of the Sun infinitely outpouring its energy – something worth worshiping and aspiring to personify. (See: Georges Bataille: The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy).
Part of the magic behind Day Zero is its ambition. Everything about it seems extreme...
— MixMag
Blitzkrieg on nature: Here the troops advance not by close-order marching. They "flow" in dispersed formations, ecstatically following the elite death squads comprised of real-estate shysters*** with mercenary demagogues on board who – unlike the leading global ecologists, local activists and all their Mayan gods combined – see no problem whatsoever disposing of some 200 tons of poisonous junk which this small town accumulates daily and strives to digest – catastrophically to no avail. Two kilos of waste before dinner, in the kitchen, for every two-course meal for one. More waste after dinner in the form of excrement. More menus every year - in geometric progression. No sewage system – except the reservoirs known as cenotes: They scrap all this reality by focusing on something "positive" instead - per their open-mind enlightenment dogma - recycling the fetid mess into the "pretty amazing" and "dope" destination imagery fostering in a feel-good ego fashion the extermination of nature for vested private economic interests. Peekaboo!

The idea that this "Art with Me" (who is me and what makes this me so pivotal?) festival which triples in size every year (from 1000 people to 3500 and on to 9000, as mentioned in this very video with so much cheer and sex appeal to exponentially explode the FoMO numbers in no time) somehow resolves Tulum's sustainability, over-population and over-development issues is either stupid or insane! Or radically evil, manipulative. This idea denies all that it affirms and so much more when this idea is acted upon accelerating the entropic collapse of utopia into dystopia.
Tulum welcomes Dystopia, a journey that plunges you into a new sensory paradise... Radically different, it doesn't compare to anything you've experienced before.
— Rave Jungle
In the beginning, I saw Tulum as a place to escape to. As it developed and shifted towards an event destination, I thought that if anyone should produce something there it should be me....
— Damian Lazarus (Crosstown Rebels / Day Zero Festival)
How "artists" cannot see this absurdity, it being so obvious, tells about their status as artists – ideally someone who can read through Positivity Rubbish, especially through its most refined and thus most toxic type, familial or communal in appeal, appeasing and flattering in style; and lead others out of their banal captivity. Real artists perceive beyond the normal sensory range of phenomena, their imagination veering off the rails of mental framing, rejecting appearances, reaching out for the unknown and as far as the unknowable. They have enough sense to at least feel torture in the "enhanced interrogation" massage and read "enhanced seduction techniques" as a euphemism for rape.

If their perceptive faculties are impaired, why not rely upon rudimentary curiosity, if only a bit of childlike wonder required for their role, and do some research: An estimated 80% of hotels in Tulum lack proper water treatment. They dump their sewage into mangrove swamps or straight into the ocean. As a result, fecal contamination is widespread. Wastewater, even when treated for solid contaminants, increases the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the ocean, which produces algae coloring turquoise waters brown and impacting underwater life with tons of the sargassum daily washing up ashore befouling white sand beaches and as much the air. There is no garbage system. It's all just dumped in the jungle. Rains liquefy it into the rotten broth dribbling down into the underground rivers. Tulum is a ticking time bomb: "A "stomach bug" was going around when we were there, which turned out to be norovirus, something that usually only happens in crowded conditions..." — The Amount of Greenwashing in Tulum Is Sickening / Ecocult.

So blind to the real effects of their production, the kind of change it steers and how fast (faster than Chicken McNuggets), thus fooling themselves into believing what they do is art, they hardly qualify "to teach souls to fly."

Junk is color-sprayed into what does look like art. Or reshaped and renamed into the Pyramids of Positive Thinking, made entirely of indisposable plastic bottles and challenging in size – if not yet in grandeur or dramatic truth – the Temple of the Descending God erected a mile away by the Maya. Most of the trash is instagrammed out of sight, youtubed out of mind. The stench that spreads through this Caribbean Garden of Eden is perfumed into the ocean breeze that smuggles it from the source to the neighbors. No complaints: They can't tell the stink from their own.

So who are they we are being hyper-seduced to art with? – stripped of the title of honor they have usurped. Creative bio-inventory, human tools stone-blind to the reality all around and especially the reality of power that takes them for a fun ride before it devours them from within. The eyeless cuddly shmoo-boon hand-puppet species servicing the strategy by which cold-blooded one-dimensional money-ha-ha ecocidal nogoodniks achieve their unwholesome bet-a-million real-estate objectives. Art, love, freedom, joy, community on the banner... In the era of BoBo lifestyle imagineering, this kind of lingo is the standard advertising pitch. Nothing new or original since Disneyland has launched its communal Celebration some 30 years ago. Except here in Tulum these planetary uplifting and resonant punch-words inflict, in their effect, real damage to the environment as it cannot possibly accommodate all the respondents and all so ignited by the prospect of unimaginable communal ekstasis, plunging into creative flow, sinking into spiritual bliss, and free-falling into the bottomless pool of universal love.
Taking shape in the heart of natural splendor, at Aldea Zamá, an up-and-coming eco-chic community for beautiful living in accord with nature, this 40x40 feet high installation can hold up to one million positive thoughts [one per bottle]. When in Tulum, be sure to visit The Pyramid of Positive Thinking!
— Sac-Be: Travelling the Modern Roads of the Ancient Maya
As for their placement on the beach, those towering "awesome" walk-through "wow" attractions, the giant spirituality toys eclipsing the sun, "the most largest art-installations [...] ever seen" so clearly from top to bottom, back and forth, in and out belong to amusement parks where exposure precedes aesthetic purpose; their fundamental task is to entertain asking nothing from the audience except their fleeting bits of attention leaving the viewers crawling dwarfed beneath the structures amazed but unchanged. Orlando, Anaheim, Tampa... the sanctuaries of monumental cheesiness, the heavens of "size-matter" philistine sensibilities, the universe of crass pedestrian tastes, where the roads to hell ("marketplace fun") are paved with stupid mickey mouse poop. It's the kind of "art" which is utterly devoid of audacity. Uncritical, domesticated, thoroughly positive and servile, requiring no sophistication of response, it gives the common denominator audience exactly what they want on their holidays in paradise: the feeling of being in the right place, at the right time and all the false confidence of being saviours creating with selfies more global "awareness", as if Tulum is short of it covered by all the major lifestyle media outlets, while screening out its gruesome reality. Essentially the fantasy-park decoration with its deployment of artifice over substance and pastiche employed to magnify its already total spectacularity, the only exculpation for this kind of pseudo-art is its tip-to-toe begging for a hurricane to come and wash it all off.
Known for his massive figurative sculptures, South African artist Daniel Popper has constructed a new artwork as part of an arts festival in Tulum.
Straight from Burning Man, the 37-foot interactive art installation, Illumina, landed in the heart of Tulum.
Keep your Man Burning where it is and to whom it was originally intended. I must be able to arise and breathe.
— Chaac, The Mayan God of Lightning and Thunder
Given the local circumstances and destination dynamics, it may well be that even audacious art is not an option anymore, conscious and globally vocal of the immanent environmental disaster. But the kind of art consisting, in Susan Sontag's silent vision, of the "expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express."

In other words, given the reality of Tulum, what it really needs to sustain itself is a program for a radical reduction of jumbo means and global effects in art (whatever shallow spectacles sneak in here under this lofty definition) – including the ultimate strategy for the renunciation of art itself, perhaps.

If everyone is an artist these days indeed (just as stupidity is never mute or absent) with most of those tripling "with-me" artistes expected to be doing it, as always, with their feet, do the place a huge favour do it with your imagination instead – not even with your hands, see? Be truly original stay where you are immersed in the art of carbon-free motionless voyage. Or come express yourself in as much infinite ways through sheer solitary and silent enjoyment of Tulum – for what it is and has always been. A fantastic piece of nature – in and of itself. And you nature with it!

It will capsize you like nothing else.
It's not a problem of getting people to express themselves, but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say.
— Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations
* The ideology which at the outset was nearly as benign as the New Age philosophy these days, pulling upon esoteric and intuitive wisdom, its roots reaching as far as India, and spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation and rituals, all aimed at personal and collective transformation, authenticity, enlightenment and empowerment; as a natural response to and heroic stance against the increasing depersonalization, dehumanization, standardization, mechanization and robotization of modern urban life. Read: The Occult Roots of Nazism by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke.

** "A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window." ― Gilles Deleuze, "A Thousand Plateaus."

*** "Shyster" is not a figure of speech. It is the most precise descriptive term in this context where shady deals resulting in shaky land titles and consequently in sweeping evictions are so commonplace that they are regarded as part and parcel of "purchasing" property in Tulum. Read: "Who Killed Tulum? Greed, gringos, diesel, drugs, shamans, seaweed, and a disco ball in the jungle" — The Cut/New York Magazine. "How rich hippies and developers went to war over Instagram's favourite beach" — The Guardian.
Remembering Tulum
Paradise Lost
Tulum as we found it in 2010 through 2014 as we left it.