About this project
We're so excited to have surpassed our goal! To further show our appreciation, if we reach $2500, all backers at $15 or over will also receive a sticker and a patch with the Status Update logo. You can read a little more about where our funds are going by visiting the updates page.
If we make it to $5000, we’ll host a martini party on the playa when we light it up on Monday night.
I'm an artist based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and a small crew and I are raising funds to support bringing an interactive installation to the Burning Man Festival in Nevada this August.
My project is called Status Update, and it explores the intersection of memory, history, and technology. It consists of a spiral of 23 vintage light bulbs. Each light has a speaker, and there is an antique phone at the center. Participants are invited to use the phone to record messages, memories, experiences, or random thoughts. The recordings travel through the spiral, get collected into an evolving sound collage, and played back in patterns with the lights.
I've participated in Burning Man since the year 2000, but haven't created a project I felt would be the right fit until now. The event is one of the most inspiring environments I've experienced, and the opportunity to share this work there would be a dream come true.
The original installation was designed and built for an indoor exhibit last year, but needs significant modifications for the outdoor and uniquely harsh environment of the Nevada desert. We've completely redesigned the computer, amplification, and power systems, but need support to build them and bring everything out to the festival.
Burning Man is the world's largest leave-no-trace event, and any infrastructure there needs to be built ourselves! My primary collaborator, David, has designed a system so the entire project will be solar powered. We are replacing the desktop computer used in the original version with an inexpensive computer called a Beaglebone. It's about the size of a credit card. We chose this platform for several reasons: it's small, it's inexpensive, it takes an incredibly low amount of power, and it runs without a fan. Using electronics that can be sealed and don't need to be fan-cooled is essential when you're dealing with the very fine (and destructive) desert dust.
The off-the-shelf audio components used in the original installation all use lots of power and provide much more amplification than we need. They also take up an enormous amount of space! We are building a new amplifier from scratch that will be compact and efficient.
All four of our crew self-identify as members of the maker/hacker community, and support creating systems that are open-source and free to share. We sincerely hope any schematics or code we develop can be modified and applied to other people's projects, whether it's making art, a custom sound system, living off the grid, or something we've never thought of!
If you see the original project in the video, the lights for the original installation were mounted from a ceiling. To make this work outdoors, we'll fabricate light fixtures that stake into the ground.
Our largest expense is just getting there! Burning Man covered our ticket fees, for which we're very grateful, but It's a long drive with a lot of equipment from Minnesota to Nevada, and the time and cost of travel is significant. Our $1500 goal covers new materials, but only a portion of our travel costs and nothing for the power system, our time, labor, or camp necessities.
Risks and challenges
Because this project has been installed before, it gives us a big head start in anticipating the challenges. We know that it was a conceptual and aesthetic success, which is a big deal! Our challenges are logistical and technical, and arise from the fact that so many pieces of the reboot are being recreated from scratch.
In many ways, the tiny Beaglebone computer is a perfect solution, but it is also a very new platform. The original programming is being rewritten in a new language. We're confident that this will make the project more stable in the long run, but it will take work and debugging.
The power system is a new design, but has been created with flexibility in mind. If we have days without sun or a greater power draw than we anticipate, we plan to bring a backup generator.
Another challenge is the environment. The Nevada desert is a place like no other. All four of the crew are veteran Burners, familiar with the heat, cold, dust, and the physical and mental fatigue that are part of the challenge and the fun of this event. We have worked together on collaborative projects before, and have a high level of trust.
Thank you so much for reading, and thank you for your support! Some more information and photos of our work in progress are on my artist blog here:
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