Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.” – Victor LeBeau, Retail Analyst Post WW II

I was thinking about the Burning Man 2013 art theme, Cargo Cult, when I came across the quote above. It seems particularly apropos for a number of reasons. Like many others, I find this year’s theme very intriguing.

I was also reading Kraken by China Miéville at the time. One of the recurring themes in this book is the idea that beings assemble themselves from their environment powered by the beliefs, hopes, and fears of people across the years. People, by the way, who are not even aware of the existence of what they have created. I also recall a simular theme in Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys which I read years ago.


So, as is the nature of such things, these thoughts come together to inspire an art project for Burning Man 2013: a number of life sized humanoid statutes, each representing an iconic theme of modern culture (money, fashion, technology, religion, etc.), that will be dragged by random burners from location to location across Black Rock City for the duration of the event. I call them godlings.

The skin of each statue is a decoupage of images associated with the statue’s theme. They are built around a rebar skeleton and stuffed with crumpled paper, making them sturdy but light weight. The statues are lighted from within, giving them a soft glow at night.


Each of these statues has embedded in it’s chest an inexpensive tablet computer. The tablet will periodically display an BRC address and implore a passer-by to take them to that location. Occasionally multiple statues will be programmed to meet up at a common location (an unique experience for the people who drag them to there). Once “released” into the city, each godling will be on it’s own… at the mercy of the burner community to get to where they want to go.

The tablet will also ask burners “may I take your picture?” and will record the time and (GPS) location of each snapshot. After the event these images along with the path taken by the statue through the city will be posted to a website.

So far, I’ve created a prototype arm, started welding a rebar skeleton (welding is new to me), and hacking on a tablet computer.


There is still a LOT I need to get done. For one thing, I need to figure out how long the battery will last. I may have to charge and swap out batteries every couple of days. I’ll post updates here as I make progress.

I want to create as many of these statues as I can afford and time allows… let me know if your interested in helping out.

5 thoughts on “godlings

  1. I would love to help! This is my first time at the Burn and I would like to get involved. I’m not sure how to print on vellum paper, or where I can get that done, but I’m sure I can figure it out. Let me know how I can help. -Regina

  2. This is a really great concept – Beastyo boyfriend happy to help with the electronic logistics – he’s been a Burner since ’98…tablet idea is great but please consider the dust…perhaps the motor-cross (boyfriend rode) solution with some programmed pit stops for maintenence as well as layers of removable screen protectors (or some sort of dust protection) to be taken off each day…I’m sure that you know that playa dust gets into every nook and cranny – dust on a lens – no pics…We’ve been through those epic dust storms – remember 2010 everyone? or was it ’09 – I lose track) …Looking forward to helping… and I appreciate the relationship you created to this year’s theme.

    Kisses, RK and Beastyo

    Do we get to burn them at the end? Better yet, shall they self destruct all together at a meeting site? 10, 9, 8….Run away!!! I love site specific non permanent art:)

    Easy cheat – meet at burn platform, just throw some light fluid on them- celebrate.

  3. Oh – Boyfriend can help you with welding – he knows how to do it -has arc welders, oxy-acetelene – blah blah blah – – reach out to us about rebar vs. other options for armature – ie cross bracing, finer weights for form etc…think frame, muscle, skin (these will get beat up as they travel – Iknow I do when I travel the playa and my skin stronger than vellum – think you should varnish- three different weights; consult a sculptor at your local art school for direction on armature construction:) Here’s a contact: David Cumbie at Crealde School of Art (google it for contact info) – Winter Park Florida (I used to work there, though I’m in Cali now — he’s a master bronze caster/realist sculptor – knows this inside and out – tell him Lesa told you to email him for BM project. Hope this is encouraging…we are here for YOU! We are going steal your idea…. Just kidding about stealing part…we usually do solar powered foot washing fountains…awww, cool water and vinegar – with fabulous lotions – everyone can steal this idea – the more the merrier for foot washing stations…

    Kisses, RK and Mr. B

    PS. Boyfriend suggests making friends with a local welder – learning curve is steep:)

    1. Thanks for all the advice!

      The welding is going OK. Have most of one skeleton done now (will post pictures soon). The welds are not too pretty but it will be covered up so that doesn’t matter. Seems strong enough and, since it isn’t a safety issue, should be OK.

      The effect I’m going for doesn’t require a lot of accuracy when modeling the human form. A generally humanoid shape is all that is really desired.

      For the dust, I’m thinking a very low tech solution may work best: cable a cloth to the statue near the tablet and hope people know what to do with it. 🙂 Actually, I plan for the tablets to be recessed a couple of inches inside the statue, secured by Velcro to the back of an open faced metal box welded to the skeleton. Hopefully that will cut down on the dust some as well as offer some shading for viewing in bright sunlight (which will be difficult at best).

      I’ll keep an eye out for the foot washing fountains!

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