Post Build Follow up
To our valued backers,
We've just returned from Nevada after bringing the Fountain to Burning Man, and we'd like to update you on our build. Let us first thank you all for your support of our art, your collective contributions made this project possible, and we are so grateful for your backing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Let me promptly and bluntly deliver the bad news, on the fifth day of construction a critical support beam buckled, causing the fountain to collapse; the final installation was never realized. We can only speculate about the cause of the support beam failure, although the nature of the collapse is consistent with folks climbing the structure, a common practice at Burning Man. The support beam that buckled did so in a finite way and could not be repaired on-site. We hope that in sharing our process and experience you will find that your donation supported our most genuine and exhaustive attempt to bring this project to life.
After successfully reaching our kickstarter goal and before materials sourcing could begin, the fountain underwent three generations of design changes. Working with Burning Man's art support team, several design changes were suggested to address the dessert conditions of high wind and heavy dust storms, the use of heavy equipment, and the means of mounting a structure on the playa floor, a dried lake bed. The third and final design change enabled us to raise a 25' structure without the use of heavy equipment such as lifts or cranes, as there was no availability in our budget for these expenses.
Once we reached our final design and had generated the drawings, schematics, materials lists, and build instructions, we were able to source and order the parts needed. At this point we began the pre-assembly, as a great deal of the labor could be done at home in Brooklyn. This pre-assembly included cutting 2,000' of rope, 500' of steal cable, and 1,800 sq ft of netting to size, as well as modifying eight 25' flag poles and pitching machines. Jigs were fabricated to specify the location of auger holes and earth anchors along the footprint of the installation. Eight custom wiring harnesses were fabricated to allow fast connection of all electrical components and safety lighting throughout the piece. We also sourced and purchased a camp to support seven people living in the desert for 7-12 days; as this was not achieved using Kickstarter donation funds, I will not detail this process here.
On August 21st the three-man build team left Brooklyn in a Ford Flex, towing a trailer containing the installation, neither the truck or trailer were rented using Kickstarter donation funds. We crossed the country in four days on a beautiful route through NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, MO, KS, CO, UT, and NV, sleeping at campsites, and eventually a motel before arriving at the black rock desert around 2AM. Under a black nights sky we'd not experienced in some time, with our nearest neighbor a dim light on the horizon, we built our shade structure on a pristine and untrampled cracked playa lake bed. The next two days saw us finalize our camp and liaise with the art support team. To meet the Burning Man organizers that we had been corresponding with for months was a culmination in itself, and we were met with much love and assistance in readying our plot with our various auger, trenching, and anchoring needs.
50 hours after arriving on the playa we began construction. Within two days we raised the 25' tall structure that would support the hanging elements of the device. Working 8-12 hours in desert conditions had begun to take a toll on the build team but we kept moving and when the general admission gates opened we estimated we were 48 hours from completion. Two days later, up with the sun, I arrived at the build site for what I hoped to be our final day of construction, to find the structure partially collapsed. It was clear within minutes that we did not possess the resources to repair or redesign around the failed support beams. We deconstructed the assembly and removed it from the arts esplanade that day.
While our attempt to bring art to this community had failed, we received a tremendous amount of support from the Burning Man arts team that should be passed along to you, our supporters. Every member of the art support staff reiterated how difficult it is to build art in the desert, how many pieces technically fail each year, and that we should not consider this experience a failure. At no time did any member of the Burning Man staff intimate that we had neglected a specific duty or had disappointed the cause that we were working towards. On the contrary, we were thanked for our efforts at great length. While this consolation serves the build team far more than you, our backers, you should know that the Burning Man organization views our failure as an unfortunate possibility with any playa installation; we are happy to say that the invaluable relationships built with the art support staff are well intact, and we hope that you find this to be an indicator of our best efforts.
It is also important to us that you know what you paid for when donating to our Kickstarter campaign. The nearly $8,000 raised on Kickstarter comprised approximately 80% of the cost of the build materials. The remaining sculpture costs, as well as the costs of travel and surviving in the desert were contributed by the build team. Special thanks and recognition is due to John Cantwell, who's late support and participation allowed us to move forward in the face of zero-hour budget issues. Thank you John, you'll never know the depth of my gratitude.
Lastly we would like to address the incentives associated with your donation. Due to our failure to erect the final product, not all incentives can be met. We would like to offer you all the polaroid incentive as an immediate recognition of your support (we have captured many stunning images from the playa), and we hope that you enjoy this one-of-a-kind gift until we can get you the appropriate reward. Please contact me with your shipping address and to open a dialog about your incentive tier.
In closing I'd like to again thank all of you for supporting us with your hard earned dollars. Our appreciation also extends beyond your tangible monetary sacrifice, to include your value of independent art, your interest in contributing to the Burning Man community, and your faith in us (however misplaced!)
On a personal note I'd like to apologize for coming short of this goal, and make a plain statement that I hold the sole responsibility for this outcome. Should you feel that your donation was not collected responsibly and in good faith, please contact me, as I greatly value our relationship and consider it paramount that you feel satisfied as to our process and efforts.
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A unique Polaroid-style instant photograph taken at Burning Man 2011.
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The Fountain of Light Documentary DVD.
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Dinner & Drinks for two! You and a guest will join us for our send-off dinner party in NYC the night the crew leaves to take the installation on the road--an intimate way to experience the energy of the project and its build team if you're in NYC. A great gift or date!
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ART! The build team will craft you a custom commissioned perpetual motion sculpture in the spirit of the project. A one-off piece built to your taste, needs, and space.
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