Proposed installation for Burning Man 2006
Over the years, we have seen fire art in many forms - flamethrowers,
fountains, trees dripping flames. Mobile, stationary, some small,
some large. Here's a new take - fire art on a macro scale; fire art
that will use the larger expanse of the playa as a canvas.
This is the idea - stretch a series of towers in a line 1000 or more
feet long, which can produce computer-sequenced patterns of flame
visible anywhere across the Black Rock City.
The computer control allows any or all towers to be individually fired
at a very high rate of speed (around 0.1 seconds) and in any pattern.
The resulting sequences can be simple lines of flame that stretch the
entire length; explosions can chase from one end to the other at a
great apparent speed; continual patterns can run back and forth across
the line; patterns can occupy the entire space between the ends.
These sequences will be beautiful while standing under the towers on
the pathway, but from another viewpoint - will be visible for miles
across the playa, as well as for miles above.
This piece should be powerful, beautiful, visible across the entire
city, and (as will be described later) - interactive. Participants
will be able to see the beauty of, as well as feel the power of the
The installation will be run several times per night during the event,
as many as possible given propane supplies and when the tanks begin to
Original Proposed Installation Site
Here's another new take on fire art - this
piece will be a truly interactive fire art installation. It will
be driven from a console with a bright attractive user interface -
buttons representing the fire patterns. Participants themselves will
be allowed to trigger the fire sequences (from an area outside the
perimeter and under supervision.)
Fire art has traditionally been a 'black art' - installations are
typically shrouded in some secrecy, participants are not allowed near
the installations, no one will tell you how they work, and just the
power of the flames usually keeps people away from the art. Here
participants will be allowed (under controlled circumstances of
course!) to operate the controls and feel the power of directing the flames.
It was surprising to find out how much this interactivity meant to many
participants with the smaller prototype Burninator. People are often
thrilled to be able to operate the flames, and surprised that they are
allowed even close to the controls.
This will not only be interactive flame art, but interactive flame art
on a huge scale. This installation can be an example of how
flame art can be safely interactive.
This project has already been realized on a small scale last year.
The 'Burninator' was a compact version, only 20 feet from end to end.
However, all the critical components were developed and tested, and
will translate to the larger version: the software, control board,
The scaling up of the flame and nozzle sytem, and the towers, will be
fully designed and tested in the bay area in the months before the
Propane supplied from multiple 25 gallon (100#) tanks.
Flame is unoxidized (yellow) propane flame.
Operating height of flame is 20-30 feet.
Multiple sets until main tanks freeze.
There is definitely an environmental impact from using nearly 3 tons
of propane for an art exhibit. Apart from not using the fuel at all,
one of the only ways to partially mitigate the negative effects is
to offset them in other ways. The greatest impact will be the
20 to 30 thousand pounds of carbon dioxide generated. This will be
offset by contributions to Terrapass (www.terrapass.com) and NativeEnergy
(www.nativeenergy.com). These organizations guarantee that the
amount of CO2 paid for will not be generated, by contributing to the cost
of alternate energy sources.
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; this will be filled and compacted
completely. All other materials can be broken down simply and will be
- The installation will be run only with one of the project's operators
present and supervising;
- a crew of trained people will be on hand to take shifts on the
controls and the safety spotting;
- there will be a perimeter around the control area;
- there will be a burn perimeter around each tower;
- towers and nozzles will be well above head height;
- system will be locked out except during performance times;
- interactive controls will only accessible during performance times
and when the crew is present;
- a full system check will be done before each performance to ensure
towers stable and unaltered;
- there will be mobile operators on duty during performance times to
check operation and shut down any tower immediately;
- the igniters will be visible to safety spotter at control
location - able to see the the towers are upright and intact;
- piping will all be propane- and pressure-rated;
- valves and other components will be industrial-strength;
- main cutoff switch will be located at the console.
- May-2006: materials purchased
- May-2006: construction begins
- Jul-2006: testing
- 19-Aug-2006: materials on playa
- 23-Aug-2006: towers assembled
- 25-Aug-2006: testing complete
- 28-Aug-2006 through 03-Sep-2006: performances
- 04-Sep-2006 through 05-Sep-2006: breakdown & cleanup
Bill Codding has built and displayed propane fire art at Burning Man,
Decompression, the San Francisco Fire Arts Expo, Oakland's Crucible
Fire Arts Festival, and others.
His work has been
inspected and approved by the fire marshals of the communities in
association with these displays, and he has held previous
flame effects permits in association with those displays.