Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Its been one week since I returned from the playa and my mind is still spinning from the experience.

Here's a small collection of images showing the project's life span in Black Rock City.

In short, it was an awesome experience. My camp mates/crew really came through and provided the perfect amount of help needed through out the event. The tower broke during the big windstorm on Thursday - a bit of a disappointment to lose the beacon aspect of the project - but the shade structure portion held firm and provided a public shelter space that was utilized day and night by the city's citizens. Every evening at sunset I would create a new perimeter for the project using LED string lights arrayed in differing circular patterns. In addition to protecting the guy lines from errant art cars and bicycles the lights had the unexpected effect of creating an extremely chill and calm enclosure around the three benches surrounding the virtual fire pit of red and yellow LEDs at the tower's base. I really liked it!

I always seem to forget how difficult it is to work on the playa. It's hot, it's dry, it's dusty and it's windy. All at the same time. I brought 28 gallons of water to drink in the course of 12 days and ended up having to borrow another 5!

A brief timeline:

  • Thursday 1:30 a.m. - I arrive on the playa
  • Thursday daytime - set up camp and arrange for trenching power to the center of the plaza
  • Friday - project perimeter set and tower structure assembled
  • Saturday - tower lights installed, gin pole set up, guy lines rigged and lots of lights un-installed
  • Sunday - tower raised and shade structure set up
  • Monday - shade cloth installed
  • Tuesday - shade cloth struts and lighting completed

Once completed, I found it a little bit difficult to release the project to the city - eventually I was able to resign myself to the fact that the sculpture needed to stand on its own and trust that the people who passed by and through it would treat it with respect - which they did. The site stayed amazingly clean of MOOP and I only saw one person attempt to climb it.

Thursday afternoon we experienced and extremely powerful wind storm that swept directly up 3 o'clock toward the man - hitting the tower at its weakest point and ultimately breaking it at the midpoint of a three section span. We dis-assembled the top two sections during the storm and left the rest of the tower in place as a testament to the power of the playa. The shade performed extremely well in the wild weather - the articulating shade panels would automatically reconfigure themselves to create the least resistance to the wind.

This will probably be my last year working with bamboo on the playa. It cracks like mad in the dry environment and there's no way to predetermine the structural strength of a given pole other than bending it until it breaks. All in all I'm quite pleased with the way the project turned out. The biggest success I think was creating a habitable public space in the plaza. I've begun work on refining this idea for next year using wood and steel and adding an element of sound triggered by the wind.

More to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great job, glenn! welcome back to the default world. i cant wait to see your presentation & hear some stories. maybe you should swing by my house on your way home one of these days, & you can share REAL stories, not the p/c versions you have to share @ work.