1. an act or moment of becoming suddenly aware of something
2. an act of waking from sleep.
3. the beginning or rousing of something.
1. coming into existence or awareness.
Every day you awaken to your life. Every day is a new opportunity. As artists, we hope to remind the world of this fact, that every day is an opportunity that we awaken to. Awakening at Burning Man 2016 is a physical manifestation of this reminder - a representation of the power we hold in our hands and of all the possibilities we can imagine. The project is built by volunteers who believe in that vision.
The human body is the most highly engineered object in existence, a machine of uncountable parts and unfathomable function. Its workings have served as inspiration for all of humanity's greatest inventions. This work serves as an homage to two most amazing mechanisms in that machine: the human eye and hand. They represent what separates us/life from the rest of the universe, the ability to observe the world around us and manifest change in that world.
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Ryan Elmendorf (re:engineering) and Nick Geurts (yetiweurks) have worked together in Denver, Colorado for 3 years. As a team, they have successfully produced 2 highly engineered and aesthetically powerful artworks for Burning Man. Most recently, in 2015 was the Tree of Transformation and in 2014 was the Tree of ImPermanence.
The Awakening team also includes a community of volunteers who devote their time and skills to making this project happen. These volunteers design, coordinate, fabricate, cheer lead and fund raise. This community of volunteers are our greatest supporters and are vital to the success of this project.
Awakening is also supported in part by a grant from Burning Man.
Awakening is both a large scale articulating sculpture and an immersive camera obscura space that represents our coming into existence.
As a large scale articulating sculpure, Awakening is comprised of three separate related structures; the head facing toward two hands rising out of the ground. From a center console within the head, the digits of the hands can be controlled. The giant hands become your own and move like yours do. You become part of the experience of Awakening.
Climb through the ear of the giant head and you find a massive camera obscura inside! Practically, a camera obscura is a dark space with a small hole in one wall that lets light in. Directly across from the hole the image from the outside world is projected onto the wall upside down. A precursor to modern photography, the camera obscura also lead Leonardo DaVinci to discover that the human eye functions in exactly the same way. In this immersive space, you see things differently, the world looks familiar but different.
The head and hands are 16ft tall and the hands are placed an “arms” length away from the head with palms facing inward, as if the giant being is looking at its hands for the first time. The joints of the fingers are 12" diameter polished stainless steel spheres, and they are actuated by an elegant and innovative arrangement of stainless steel aircraft cable and motors. The structure of the hands mimic the anatomy of the human hands, with the outline of the steel plates representing the skin of the hands and the negative space within following the shape of the bones.
Using optical lenses in the eyes, the head is a stereoscopic camera obscura that focuses light from the outside and projects an image onto the back surface of the room. Each eye has a colored filter, and participants are given cardboard 3D glasses to give the image 3 dimensional depth with the perspective of a giant being. The field of vision of the projected image is nearly 180 degrees vertically and horizontally, which gives the viewer a sense of immersion. A high-intensity spotlight illuminates the hands and surrounding objects in its view at night. The placement of the piece on playa is critical as it will give participants a view of its hands and the temple in the foreground, the Man slightly behind, and Black Rock City and the mountains in the background. The view from inside the head will be particularly epic at sunset.
The Awakening crew has an extremely tight timeline to make the project come to fruition, departing for Black Rock City on August 20th. They have been putting an enormous amount of upfront time in engineering and fabrication design, and are currently starting full-on fabrication. All of the parts will be CNC plasma cut from steel sheet based on computer modeling, and once the parts are cut they will be assembled and welded in sections that will be small enough to transport to the playa and bolt together on site.
Awakening puts the participant in the head of a giant being who is seeing the world for the first time. The being (controlled by the participant) is able to move the fingers of its hands that it has put in front of its face in an act of curiosity and wonder. This represents the sense of wonder and awe that we see in the world as a child – a newness that is lost as we grow and are jaded by the drudgery of life.
In the spirit of this year’s theme, “Da Vinci’s Workshop”, Awakening is a fusion of Da Vinci’s extensive studies of human vision and optics. Da Vinci is known for being the first to clearly describe the camera obscura in Codex Atlanticus, published in 1502:
“If the facade of a building, or a place, or a landscape is illuminated by the sun and a small hole is drilled in the wall of a room in a building facing this, which is not directly lighted by the sun, then all objects illuminated by the sun will send their images through this aperture and will appear, upside down, on the wall facing the hole.”
Awakening takes this idea and integrates it with the fundamental workings of human vision – using lenses and two apertures to create a stereoscopic (three dimensional) image. In addition to optics, Awakening also conjures elements of Da Vinci’s exhaustive studies of the human anatomy, proportions and mechanics.
Risks and challenges
This project is the Awakening Crew's third Burning Man Honorarium project, and as always they understand the challenges and risks. The biggest challenge is creating an awesome piece of interactive art within the constraints of a tight timeline and budget. Fortunately, the crew is a group of serious, dedicated volunteers who understand that failure is not an option, and who will do whatever it takes to make this another successful project.
Since the project is only partially funded through Burning Man, this is where we need you to help close our budget gap and make it happen! In this way you can literally be a part of our crew and a part of the art.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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