Whew! I'm back from Burning Man. I've been back for over a week and I'm still overwhelmed. What a great year! The quality of the art and eye-popping technology leaves the default world in it's dust. Today I'm going to focus on two standout projects among the many that I witnessed on the Playa.
By far my favorite art car "el Pulpo Mecanico" or, the steampunk octopus, as it is lovingly known at Burning Man. This large, fire-belching, eye-popping, other-wordly wonder was created by Duane Flatmo with a lot of help from his friends, who hail from Arcata, California. I'm not the only one who loves El Pulpo, it has even generated worshipers. According to the Facebook site, The Church of th El Pulpo Mecanico,
"WE FOLLOW EL PULPO MECANICO. THERE IS NO OTHER. JOIN US OR PERISH IN HIS OCTOPEDAL FIRE."(And, yes, it is in all caps; so you better obey.)
Here is the description of the project from the official website: "The "El Pulpo" is a combination of art and technology melded together. We built this knowing that it would be fun to watch as the giant cam spun up through the center moving the tentacles and eyes in and out while fire spewed from the tentacles and head. No hydraulics or computers were used in this contraption. We built the sculpture primarily out of recycled and used junk found at our local scrap yard."
I strongly recommend you visit the website which has the details of the conception and construction of this magnificent work of art. There were rumors that this is the last appearance for this work at Burning Man. And it looks like, since there is a remodel in the works, the rumors might be true. A short video of the remodel is linked on the right below. I don't know if they can top what they've already done, but I'm definitely excited to see what they come up with next year.
Another favorite, of the much-lower tech variety, was a puppet, an ichthyosaur, AKA "Dr. Camp's Holy Bones." Brought to the Playa by a group hailing from Reno Nevada. The lead artist is Jerry Snyder, who was interviewed in this blog entry. The puppet-creature is based on the actual ichthyosaurs, which are textbook examples of convergent evolution. They sort of resemble a mix of dinosaurs, crocodiles and porpoises. Real ichthyosaurs were about 6 to 13 feet long, but the puppet was over 50 feet. [Oops! Apparently I was wrong about this. Please see Jerry Snyder's correction in the comment section below.] The puppet was suspended from a frame and the primary construction materials were plywood and ropes. It was designed so you could tug on the ropes which caused the alligator-like jaws to open and close and the puppet to writhe through the atmosphere, giving the impression, particularly effective at night, that it was swimming through the ocean. Very spooky. Very cool. Apparently, Dr. Camp is the name of a legitimate paleontologist, but it was decided to commandeer his name and create a fictional character. As Jerry explains it, " We’re sort of reinventing him as this itinerant miner who wanders into Berlin, Nevada, an ignorant, uneducated guy who has this revelation that this is God’s portrait on Earth. This is the face, the image of God!...God is a fish-lizard!" I admit that I have seen god take on various forms in assorted mythologies in the world, but a fish-like dinosaurian god is a first for me. My thanks to all the folks who helped bring this fabulous project to Burning Man! All hail the fish lizard! May he inhabit our dreams forever!