Hey there, I've been going to Burning Man since 1995 and a funny thing happened out there starting in 1997. I recently shared a shorter version of this story in my inbox zine. Mark saw it and thought Boing Boing readers might like it as well. So, here you are:
I'm 99.7% sure that "EAT FUCK KILL" is the playa's first meme.
Let me explain.
It was the summer of 1997. Burning Man was right around the corner and I wanted to find just the right thing to gift out on the playa.
I was a regular at the local flea market here in the Bay Area and, on a Sunday just before the event, I went searching. I soon spotted a long open box full of black-and-white buttons. There were a few dozen of them and each one read "EAT FUCK KILL." I knew right then and there that they were the perfect thing to bring to the desert. These irreverent buttons were exactly what I was looking for.
In small print, around the edge of the buttons, there was a clue to their origin: The Doom Generation. The buttons had been a promotional item for the poorly-reviewed 1995 film and now, two years later, they were just waiting for me at the flea market.
That's me at the 1997 Burning Man, standing in front of the jankiest sign ever. If you're wondering why there is grass, it's because that year the event was held at Hualapai playa, which is located in a different part of the Black Rock Desert.
I got to the playa early in 1997 because I was the editor-in-chief of the now-defunct daily newspaper, The Black Rock Gazette (that is a story for another time). I started handing out buttons, maybe two dozen or so, mostly to Burning Man staff and volunteers. They were instantly popular. Strangers came out of the woodwork looking to score one.
On Saturday afternoon I wanted to leave camp to go shooting with friends, so I hid the box under a bench. When I returned, the box was gone. :: sad face ::
The original button with Evil Pippi's kindler, gentler variation, "Eat Fuck Chill."
After the event, the buttons quickly took on a life of their own. Soon there were new buttons with all kinds of alternative messages (the greeters put "GREET FUCK CHILL" on their buttons, for instance).
Bigrig Industries (me and my then-boyfriend), in our EFK work shirts, sitting down for a drink at the Mazda-licious Bar and Grill (Burning Man 1998).
The next year I made stickers and photocopied a set of postcards. I also silkscreened about a dozen used $1 work shirts to gift to friends (these shirts became the most highly-coveted EFK item).
Twenty years later, people are still talking about the buttons and asking me when I'm making more stuff with the EFK image on it. Well, that time is now.
From now until September 23, I've brought back EFK with an online 20th anniversary pop-up shop which has a bunch of limited-edition products. I've also dug deep into my photo archives and scanned in all kinds of EFK-related images from "back in the day." You can see those in this gallery.
If you want to make an EFK meme of your own, I've put a Photoshop file on the site. It's free to download. I would love to see what you come up with!
Live long and Eat Fuck, um, Chill.