The Power Plant
154 Shoreview Ave
Pacifica, CA 94044
665 Eddy St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
The power plant is a cluster of flowers made entirely of reused bottle caps and scrap metal. It will stand about 7 feet tall and will take up approximately15 square feet. The leaves and petals are composed of flattened bottle caps that have been punctured with holes and stitched together, by hand, with wire. Each leaf and petal will consist of color-coordinated caps to form patterns or gradients like a mosaic. The planning of these patterns has taken many hours of sorting and coordinating. The stem and branches will be made of reused scrap metal that has been welded together. Each branch, flower and leaf will be detachable with screws and bolts so as to facilitate safe transport. The Plant will be assembled on the Playa.
The Power Plant will be lit by a solar spotlight system for ambient light. We plan on purchasing ready-to-go solar spotlights.
The interactive portion of the piece will feature 1-3 bicycle generators that can be pedaled to make the flowers on the plant glow. Each generator will consist of an exercise bike that will be hooked up to either a motor or an alternator, which will be wired to colored light bulbs in the flowers. The parts for the generator will be recycled, using discarded materials collected from either craigslist or the dump. The motors will come from a fairly large appliance, such as a washer, dryer, furnace, or even a vacuum. At this point we do not know much about electronics, but we have an expert joining our team (see below). For this reason we do not have very detailed plans or drawings of the generators. We have done some research and the construction of the generators is well within our reach. The concept is simple. Human energy will spin the bike's wheel, which will spin a turbine on the motor/alternator, which will produce AC electricity to power the bulbs.
Ideally, the Power Plant will be placed near the Man in the forest of recycled trees.
There is something mystical about artwork on the playa. Whether you stumble upon it in the middle of the night or go out seeking it after reading about it in the What Where When pamphlet, the art installations at Burning Man are something special and unique.
As repeat burners (6 Burns for Max; this will be Andrew's 2nd), we know the value of interactive, large-scale artwork. We have always valued the opportunity to interact with others' installations and are deeply thankful that so many people put so many resources towards providing amazing interactive art. Now it's our turn to give back. In the past we were just kids. It was ok to come to the Burn without a major contribution, but now, as 22 year olds, it is our time to develop into full-fledged Burners, sacrificing months of hard work for the benefit of the playa community. The Power Plant is extremely labor intensive and each leaf/petal takes over 6 hours to construct, with minute details and countless cut fingers. We have talked about the satisfaction that we will receive just by knowing that people will recognize the dedication that it will take to make this piece. We know that burners will appreciate it and see all that we've put into it.
For the 2005 Burn, Max made a chain mail tunic. With hundreds of caps left over, Max needed to think of something to do with them. With all the vibrant colors of the caps, a flower was a natural thing to make. Thus the idea for the Power Plant sprouted.
The Power Plant is the perfect project for the Green Man theme this year. It represents one of the many possible relationships between man and nature. It will be a natural symbol, the flower, yet will rely on human waste and energy to operate to its full potential. It will be almost totally energy efficient, using the power of the sun in the day to light it at night. It will also use the power of human energy and teamwork to make it glow. The only non-renewable energy input will be in the welding process and transportation. The use of the bottle cap is especially powerful, as it is an everyday object that we usually take for granted, discard and forget about. The fact that it can be used creatively to make something beautiful opens up the possibility to do the same with other objects that we usually consider being waste. The collecting process has been interesting as well. Every time a bottle is opened our ears perk up and we make sure that the cap is harvested. We have collected caps from hundreds of people for the last three years and each time we take a cap we tell them of the flower that it will become. This project has already made people more aware of their waste and the possibility of reusing it.
The two primary artists will complete most of the construction of the Power Plant. We have received small doses of help and will continue to, from friends in the preparation (hammering flat and punching holes) of the bottle caps and construction of the leaves and petals.
Max has extensive welding experience and will do most of the stem and branch construction and will assist others in this part of the building process.
The bike generators will require some assistance from an electrical engineer. Kellen Gillispie, a fellow Burner is completing his MA in electrical engineering at UC Santa Barbara in April and will join the work team then.
All of the construction is to be completed in San Francisco and it will be ready to assemble on the Playa upon our arrival.
Cleanup will be very simple. As the piece will be able to stand alone, we can simply dismantle it and load it into our truck/trailer and take it away.
We began the construction of the petals and leaves with the start of 2007. So far we have completed more than one full flower (out of 4) and five of the 8-10 leaves. We should finish the leaves and petals by the end of June. The welding of the stem will take place in May. We have weekend access to a welding studio and it will likely take 3-4 weekends of labor. The bike generators will be constructed in June and July. We will make a prototype in the beginning of June and replicate it over the course of the rest of the month and into July. Combining the components and troubleshooting the electrical system will be done throughout the rest of July and into August.
The Power Plant will not leave any byproducts or disturb the Playa. All leave no trace guidelines will be followed closely. We are experienced burners and understand these guidelines and take them to heart.
Looking at past recipients of art grants, we know that we are up against some stiff competition. We may not have the most detailed plans at this point, but that is one of the unique things about this project. Like any plant, there will be irregularities and unexpected events. Everyday we continue to come up with new ideas for the project and most of our methods are trial and error. For this, the project is very natural and also represents our growing process and relationship with Burning Man. Like we said above, we are young and the future of Burning Man. The Power Plant will be our first (of many) major contribution to the event and we are very excited about making it happen.
Artist's rendering of the Plant (by Max)
Diagram of all components
Schematic drawing of generator and lighting
Max in his chain mail at the 2006 Burn
Pile o' bottle caps
Our first flower and our leaves that we have completed
Detail of flower
Detail of gradient on petal
Detail of center of flower
Shadow cast by flower
The completed leaves
Leaf #1 Leaf #2
Detail of wire connections (underside of Leaf # 1)
The beginning of the large center flower pod
Everything we've made so far