The Burninator X
A Proposal for Burning Man 2007
email: burninator at 4bc org
Last year saw the successful completion of one of the most exciting
largest-scale fire installations in Black Rock City, the
Burninator II, thanks to the Burninator Crew in conjunction with
the generous grant from the Burning Man organization.
The Burninator II, built for last year's event,
took the idea of fire art and made it really large - playa-scale large
- for the first time. We were able to see what fire could look and
feel like both from nearby - the flames near spectators and art cars
had a great power, and far away - they were visible anywhere you were
over the chaos in Black Rock City.
It would be great to make the Burninator even larger (possibly
stretching from the Temple to the Man?). Safety considerations might make
that difficult or impossible, with fuel sources much too far from the operators and
large electrical and signal losses.
SO, it's now time to take this idea into two dimensions, from huge to
really overwhelming...a half-million square feet overwhelming! The
Burninator X for this year will be built in the shape of an X, with
the two axes of the arms perpendicular to each other, aligned with the
axes of the city.
Vision & Philosophy
The move into two dimensions is something the Burninator installations
need to do. The flame will be visible along both axes; from
everywhere in the city the fire will be visible, but it will be hard to
tell how close you are to the installation. Standing near, you
will not be able to see everything without turning around.
The patterns, which last year were very linear, will now become
two-dimensional; fire can rotate along the spokes of the X; it can
sweep across, it can converge in towards the center or fly outwards,
it can spiral in or out from the center.
The noise and visceral effects of these new patterns will also take
the feel of the Burninator to a new level. Standing anywhere within
the half-million square-foot footprint will be to experience being
surrounded by the flames and the patterns.
I like to use technology to
create art, and control large-scale fire
in safe and creative ways.
I feel that the beauty of
fire, and art created with fire, is enhanced by the power inherent in
the flames and the respect and sense of fear that come along with it.
That power is one of the attractions of fire art and one of the
elements of fire art that is being further explored here.
It compels you to look straight at the flames; they grab and focus
your full attention, and force you to see the art with no
I also want to use the attraction that spectators feel to morph into
participation (and to mitigate
that fear), by giving them the rare chance to approach the
artwork and control the power of large-scale flame art themselves.
That attraction can also serve to open the door to education about
the environmental considerations of fire art and carbon-based fuels.
Possible Installation Site
The interactivity of this piece will take on two forms: educating
about carbon emissions, and once again allowing spectators to safely
operate the installation.
How to make interactive fire art compatible with the idea of the
greening of the event? The installation will serve to help educate
the participants about carbon emissions, carbon credits, propane and
carbon-based fuels. Signage and the user interface at the control
- make the connection between the quantity of fuel that users see
burning and common household usage
- educate about the world's supply of carbon based fuel and the rate
that it is being used
- provide an insight into the inner workings of the carbon credit
market and the organizations behind them
- ask people to examine the impact of using carbon-based fuels
for purely artistic
purposes, and the tradeoffs of 'discretionary' versus 'necessary' uses
of energy and carbon fuels
Once again user interfaces will be in place to allow participants to
approach the control station and control the power of the flames
themselves. As before, the idea is to allow participants to approach
fire art in a way they may not have been allowed to before.
Based on the feedback from participants last year, the user interfaces
will also be advanced this year. The
two-dimensional nature of the installation requires new thought as to
how the participants will interact with the control center. The main
interfaces will be a computer GUI, cards which when scanned will
create patterns of fire, and possibly arcade-type games.
This has been one of the greatest appeals of the Burninators, allowing
the participants to feel the control of the flames themselves.
A significant portion of the Burninator II can be used for a head
start on this year's Burninator X.
Much more effort will be directed this year towards making the
patterns more complex than the patterns of last year. The
2-D nature of this installation will provide some of this, but extra
effort will be put in to ensure that the two dimensions are used as
best as possible.
- Many of the towers, valves, and wiring harness are already
constructed and are re-useable, except for the costs and time
for repair of some equipment and one tower.
- The electronics were constructed in such a way as to be expandable,
and that will be leveraged.
- The programming was done with a larger Burninator in mind - coding
in the additional towers and patterns will take less than half of
the time from last year
The sequencing and control software was rewritten last year to be
more generic to the control hardware and the installation size. This
work will continue, with the goal to be a package that may be able to
be reused for other fire art projects. Plans are to make this code
available to others for their projects.
A great deal more of the construction will need to be done in the Bay
Area this year, and more crew will be necessary if this is to be
done. Commitments have already been made by some of the necessary
people for the electronics, the safety, the construction, and operation.
Crew Roles (several may be done by each person):
- mechanical assembly (multiple)
- layout & perimeter
- safety (multiple)
- operation (multiple)
- maintenance (multiple)
- cleanup (multiple)
The timetable should look like this:
- 15-Mar: requisition and purchasing begin
- 01-May: construction begins
- 30-Jul: programming is complete, sequence development starts
- 13-Aug: begin on-site construction
- 16-Aug: trenching
- 24-Aug: on-site construction complete, testing begins
- 27-Aug: event opens, performances start
- 01-Sep: last performance
- 05-Sep: cleanup complete
The safety systems for last year's Burninator II were trying to advance
the idea of safety for large scale fire, with new ideas on both operational
safety and advances in the mechanical and electrical control of propane
that is not directly nearby - including tip
sensors and automatic burn sensors with shutoff mechanisms. This year
more new safety mechanisms will be tested, including a
radio-controlled remote shutoff system.
As last year,
a trained safety crew is always present
spotters are present to ensure towers are intact
a safety vehicle is present to reach towers immediately
towers have perimeters and are at a safe height
the equipment is tested and inspected daily
the system is locked out except during performance times and when
crew is present
piping will all be propane- and pressure-rated
valves and other components will be industrial-strength
The existing safety plan of the Burninator II will be enhanced for
the new safety systems and the larger installation size. The full
safety plan will be submitted and discussed before the event, with the
safety mechanisms, diagrams, and procedures. The safety and fire contacts
within the organization can testify as to the Burninator's crew's mind
to safety, and safety record.
As noted above, some of the components (except
those damaged by the desert conditions last year) are reusable. The
estimate here takes this into account and does not include the
towers previously built. Once again, the most significant
portions of the cost is the propane, and in making the components reliable,
industrial strength, and rated for safety. These estimates reflect
recycled and already available equipment and material as possible.
- 2860' 18 ga signal wire
- 2280' 14 ga heater wire
- tank heaters
Generator Rental: (***)
- 25kVA generator
- power box
- temp cable
Carbon Offsets: (****)
- educational material
(*): slightly larger than double the cost of last year, accounting for
increased fuel costs and additional night of running the
installation; also includes tank rental
(**): fuel for creating and running the installation, not transportation
(***): United Rentals Reno
(****): carboncounter.org, climatetrust.org
This estimate does not include:
Heavy Equipment: again, the only need will be for 2 hours of a trencher.
- labor costs
- programming costs
- cost of hardware that will be loaned
- cost of any hardware that will be re-sold and costs recuperated
- costs covered by the artist
- water (grey water was used last year; same amount this year) (*)
- t-stakes and fencing and transportation thereof (*)
- fire extinguishers (*)
Due to the cleanup plan and carbon offsets purchased for the
Burninator II, it was selected as one of last year's 'Leave No Trace'
Again, there is no denying the environmental impact of the carbon
dioxide created by burning tons of propane for fire art. The damage from
the CO2 created will, as last year, be mitigated by purchasing carbon offsets,
making the installation carbon-neutral.
And again, the cleanup will be trivial:
- No residue from the flames will ever touch the playa
- The only damage to the playa will be from the minimal narrow trench
made for the wire; the wire will be extracted and the trench will be
filled and compacted completely
- All other materials can be broken down simply and will be removed.
- The greywater will be dispersed carefully so as not to make marks, as it was last year
- The area will be 'moop'ed and inspected for wire, zipties, etc.
I have been a part of the Burning Man community for 13 years; I've
been a part of very large projects for more than
half of those, with my own art, the Temples, and the Burninator
projects. Last year's Burninator II was very well received -
it became a destination on the playa for people, art cars, and busses.
people said it was their favorite fire art, some said of any kind of
art, and quite a number (bless their little spectator hearts) even said
their favorite ever. The Burninator team intends to do it again!