Time for Some SKIN!

Got my first godling statue ready for it’s skin. After some false starts and a couple of mistakes… it really didn’t take that long. Maybe four days work total to build the base, weld the skeleton, and build out the body.

I ended up with a 4′ diameter 1/2″ plywood base. A full 8′ of 4″x4″ cut at 45 dergree angles and sanded down to make the skids.

Welding the skeleton was… well, I abandoned my first attempt but the second one worked out. By the time I was done my welds were looking much better.

Next came crumpled paper held in place by lots of masking tape. Short lengths of PVC tubing extend the rebar arms and protect from contact with the sharp ends. LED rope light is wrapped and then covered with the smooth layer of paper that will act as the base for the decoupage skin.

So, now to print and cut out images enough images to cover the thing. And a thanks to those who have done some printing and cutting for me! And if anyone else is willing to do more of that… just let me know.


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.


Well made it to Burning Man, built my art project, and made it back home.

When I first arrived, a week early so I could work on some ESD software, there was very little out at 8:15 and H where I camped. The following video was during a relatively mild wind storm. The camper, sun shade, and shower enclosure stood up well to the wind. The shower enclosure is laying down in the wind in this video, but the later addition of some tie downs fixed that.


Here is the area around me after everyone else moved in. It also shows my art project when partially finished.


And finally the art project completed.


As always, no real description of the experience is possible. But try this and this to get some idea.


Among other things:

  • My purple bike with purple wings.
  • Stuff to build a shower enclosure and evaporation pool.
  • Some “flying buttresses” (purple 2x4s) to provide some additional support for my popup camper
  • A propane powered ice chest.
  • 1200 watt inverter (which is way more than I need)
  • A 10×10 foot shade (A Quik Shade Summit 233, which I hope survives)
  • A bunch of freeze dried and “tasty bites” food
  • two really cool desert festivale shade cloths that I hope will help keep the camper cooler
  • A el-wire encrusted “dragon” hat.
  • A Victorian cape and top hat outlined in “flickering” el-wire
  • A “steam punk” pendant with purple el-wire to go with the cape
  • A softly glowing (i.e. invisible in the picture) furry coat
  • A few hundred feet of purple and orange el-wire *
  • 20 1/2″ fiberglass rods *
  • 20 36″ x 1/2″ rebar poles with 1/2″ conduit attachments for the fiberglass rods *
  • A bunch of tools, including a butane soldering iron *

I’m almost ready. Which is good considering that I’m off to Summer Meltdown this weekend and driving down to Black Rock City next weekend. So not much more time. And yes: two weeks in the desert. The first helping get the emergency response system software running and improved.

* And the project (described in an earlier post) is back on. I never liked the platform, but it finally hit me that I could put the fiberglass rods closer together  and use motion sensors pointing outward to detect when people are around. Right now I’m thinking two modes: a changing pattern mode when nobody is around and when someone is detected, light up the purple everywhere and the orange only where I detect someone moving. See if people create their own games using the thing. Or I could get fancier. At this point it is all going to be a “work in progress” as the rods aren’t built, I don’t have the sensors or the Arduino Mega I need for all those I/O pins (both are on the way).

I’m also still worried about the stability of the fiberglass rods in the wind. I’ll need plenty of space around to keep them from hitting things should they oscillate wildly. Also, not sure how long it will take for them to dig themselves a nice big loose hole, even with the 36″ rebar for stabilization.

I guess it is all a grand experiment.

Work In Progress

Way back in 2010 I was working on “The Hug Meter” for Burning Man. I made some progress, eventually ended up with nice LCD display that let me view the waveform from the sensor. Using touch, I could select different modes and adjust parameters to tune the behavior.

However, I never could find a way to consistently gauge the size of a crowd using the data I was getting from the sensor. While trying to find a solution for this, I hit upon the idea of building a platform with load cells: Essentially a giant scale. But the weight to meter level association would have been way to obvious, taking some of the fun out of things.

I then started thinking about a different kind of display and interaction. Something that would work well with the platform. I realized that by using multiple load cells I could determine the “balance”, which way they were leaning, of the person or people on the platform. I could use that input to drive the el-wire. Eventually I worked out how I could  do something like this:

That is a circle of 24 10′ long fiberglass rods wrapped with two different colors of el-wire. With an eight channel sequencer, I could light up in the direction of the lean with one color and use the other color to indicate where everyone should lean. I would try to make it a little interactive game.

The fiberglass rods are stuck into pipes driven into the playa at a slight angle. A cloth skirt would allow the rods through while the pipes remain safely under the  platform.

So far I’ve got some of the rods built. The one on the right is a prototype. The one on the left is the first one built using the large lot of el-wire I got.

However, I’m not sure I’m going to get it all finished in time. I’m also thinking that I may want to take just few rods this year to see how they do in the wind. They are 1/2″ fiberglass, but I’m concerned they may whip around dangerously.

Heading to Burning Man 2012

I’m going! Again! I wanted to get involved in some way and found a match for my skills with the BRC Emergency Services Department. I’ll be working on some of the paging system software and helping to keep things running during the event.

When I went before, in 2010, I camped with the Space Virgins. This year I wanted to do my own thing. I bought an used popup tent trailer and will be pulling it down behind my truck. There should be plenty of room. Hopefully I can find some last minute camp mates.


My big art project is kind of on hold (more on that in another post), but I’ve been working on some costumes. In addition to the hat, I’ve got a rainbow fur coat coming that I’m planning to light up, as well as something involving a black morph suit, lots of black tulle, a chrome “no face” mask, and even more el-wire.

Hmm… I need to redo the eyes using green. I ran out after doing the ear/wing things… but it would help to break up all the (otherwise glorious) purple.

Completely Different

This blog started out as a way to share the stuff I created in Second Life. Second Life is an online virtual social environment where what you can make and be is limited only by your imagination. One of the things that took place in Second Life was a virtual Burning Man like event called Burning Life. Through Eye Ree, my Second Life avatar, I created some of the art shown in this blog for Burning Life events.

But Eye Ree was not my only Second Life avatar. There was also Tina Yugen and Anima Ahn. Role playing them taught me some interesting things about myself. With them I explored my gender and sexual identity, social roles, fashion, interior design and other things. I spent most of my time in Second Life as Tina.

My virtual experiences in Second Life increased my awareness of some long ignored aspects of myself and reawakened the artist in me. Eye Ree, Tina and Anima were the Second Life group “Completely Different”. Three different aspects to my personality represented virtually.

The experiences also rekindled my interested in Burning Man. For years I had been interested in going mostly for the alternative lifestyle aspects of it. But Burning Life changed how I saw Burning Man, just as Second Life in general changed how I saw myself.

I went to Burning Man for the first time in 2010. I missed 2011 but, if things work out, I will return in 2012.

I’ve decided to adopt Eye Ree as my playa name and use this blog to talk about my Burning Man experiences.

“What do you want out of Burning Man?”

A friend recently asked me that question. What’s the appeal? Why do I go? I don’t have a simple answer.

What I really want to do is create the same sorts of big, lighted, interactive art I made for Burning Life  for Burning Man. But that isn’t really the answer to the question. The question would be why?

A big part of the appeal of Burning Man for me is the special challenge of the event. Burning Man is, first and foremost, a social event and I don’t do social well. I’m not wired like most people. To get the most out of Burning Man, I have to step out of my comfort zone and engage with people.

There is also the challenge of the physical. The my skills and experience are with the digital. I know how to get things done with a computer, but designing, building, and installing a large work of art on the playa is currently beyond my ability. And the social thing makes it hard for me to find people willing to help.

And finally there is also the simple thrill of participating in an event as unique to the human experience as Burning Man. The transcendence of the mundane. The catharsis of reality. Or something like that.

“I want to want something.”

This was the wish I wrote on some art left out on the playa in 2010 for that purpose.

I got my wish. I want to be a part of Burning Man year after year.

But I’m still not sure I know how to answer his question.

Burning Life 2009

I did an installation for Burning Life again this year, 2009. The theme, borrowed from Burning Man, was Evolution.

What I built was a “Tree of Life” that you could ride from base to tip along a random path. If you intersect an “Environmental Factor” (the colorful spherical things) on the journey you are ejected. If you make it to the bubble your road stays with your name over it. The tree starts off empty and over the course of the event it filled out with the glowing bubbles of the survivors.