I watched the documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened on Netflix and I can’t stop thinking about it. All of it. The documentary details not just the story of the festival, but the players involved, made from footage shot at the time, interviews with relevant people and screenshots/images of the online content made. It is a really compelling collage of information and I would recommend watching however you can. There is a second documentary made by American entertainment company Hulu, Fyre Fraud, which as of writing I haven’t seen, but trust me – by the time this is published I’ll have gone full spiral and be researching everything I can on this disaster. This column is just one week short of being a Bnieuws inspirations/obsessions article.
It’s an age-old premise: get enough of the right people to talk about something and eventually you’ll create interest in whatever you’re creating. Here, around 400 ‘social influencers’ posted a single orange tile onto their instagram pages, without crediting that it was paid, to advertise the event. That initial buzz inspired thousands of people to part with their money, selling out their tickets within 48 hours, being sold a promise of a festival on a remote island, complete with flights, food, and accommodation - all of which was never there.
The ‘social entrepreneur’, Billy McFarland, was a somewhat genius in creating businesses that specifically target privileged (rich) people’s ‘FOMO’ – or, Fear Of Missing Out – through social manipulation and connectivity. Fyre wasn’t his first company and this desire of image, wealth and lifestyle that we see so frequently stated as being the downfall of the ‘millennial generation’, it isn’t the primary antagonist here. FOMO, as a concept, is used as raw currency: inflating self worth by projecting a desirable image, and everything that comes with that. Fyre festival, and the team behind it, capitalised on FOMO and the whole project went very, very wrong.
In a tale of two acts, the promotional material for the festival was a seemingly impossible reality. The biggest names from the world of influencers and modelling like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner were flown to a private island to drink, dance and party, all whilst being recorded for the promotional video. They had no idea what they were filming or promoting, other than an image of a good time, and (with some clever tricks in the editing room) it worked. Following the promotion, was delivering an impossible vision against a series of ill-planning choices. There was no way to physically fit the amount of people they had sold tickets on the island; there was no time to arrange what they promised and Billy constantly borrowed more and more money from his investors to brute force the project through to its bitter end. A perfect Shakespearian tragedy.
I won’t go into every element of the story here, but one of the most powerful things is the way the film reflects in the last scenes that the initial promotional shoot in many ways was the festival, that everything else was just a fallout from selling an impossible dream: “Fyre festival happened twice”. In this bleak timeline, the image they were selling was as much a tangible and real thing as the actual event they invited people to. Here, the image > the reality.
Just like Shakespeare, this disaster acts as a cautionary tale for the spectator: the tragedy that happens when we, collectively as a society, listen to the people selling us an image without questioning motive – or even if that image is reality. I’ll admit this is a tentative link, but we can extract this message back to our own professions, where we create stories of people, buildings and infrastructure. The ‘architect’ with a capital ‘A’ is known to dictate how people will feel, move and experience their visions, especially in education, through the power of influence. You can’t tell me our renders don’t feature glamorous people enjoying impossible spaces - developments thrive on images of smiling kids running through natural gardens. The only difference is that these folk were called out on their lies.