2017: Temple of Awareness

This was the proof of concept build for the Temple of Awareness that we took to Burning Man in 2017. It was the official Temple for the Element 11 regional burn, and topped out at about 25’ tall. It was an absolutely gorgeous burn, with light winds creating smoke- and fire-whirls that came out of the structure in a stately procession. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever designed. 

Here’s the short fundraiser film explaining the whole Temple process:

Temple of Awakening, Burning Man

2016: Temple of Awakening

This was the last burn I ever designed for Burning Man. It was originally a proposal for the Temple proper, but the Burning Man Org realized that, as enthusiastic and organized as we were, we still didn’t have the resources to pull off an 80’ version of it. We were granted a special honorarium to build a 40’ version. 

In February of that year I realized that my health was so poor that I had to step off the team and take care of myself. The crew did a stellar job of seeing it through, and I was able to scrape myself together enough for a 24 hour jaunt out to Burning Man later that year to toss a flare and fire the structure. It was a beautiful burn. 


2015: Twelvefold Temple of the Cosmos

My first Temple, designed for the Element 11 regional event in 2015. It was inspired by European gothic cathedrals and enclosed by a rope light labyrinth.

2014: The Coontie Pod

In 2014 we had our act together a little too well: We had already started construction on an effigy for that year’s Circle of Regional Effigies (CORE) at Burning Man, when we found out that there wasn’t going to be a CORE that year! The Coontie Pod therefore became a build for Element 11, and we made a much smaller version to go out to the Souk installation at Man Base for Burning Man. The Coontie Pod traveled around a bit, attending a rave at Saltair before living in the back lot of the Utah Arts Alliance for a while. It was eventually burned during the celebration of Bobby Gittins’ 40th birthday out at Bonneville Seabase. 


2013: The Labyrinth and the Snake Goddess

The Snake Goddess

In 2013 the effigy (the structure designed to be burned) for Utah’s Element 11 regional Burning Man event was a three-sided castle, and the theme of the festival was “Labyrinth: Find Yourself By Getting Lost.” Bobby Gittins designed and built the effigy, and I wrapped a classical 7-circuit labyrinth made of rope lights around it and inside it. In the very center I placed a paper mâché Snake Goddess modeled after the ancient Minoan figurines. 

2012: The Secret of the Bees

In 2012 we were invited to submit a design for the Circle Of Regional Effigies at Burning Man, and I had the privilege of being the designer for that project. The Secret of the Bees was a giant wooden Bee Goddess effigy, loosely inspired by the Venus of Willendorf and referencing Utah’s identification as “The Beehive State.” Inside the effigy I placed a human-sized paper mache version of the Bee Goddess, and inside her open abdomen an even smaller gilt clay version. We removed the smallest version before everything else was burned. The little Goddess still goes out to our annual Bee Fest here in Salt Lake City every summer. 


2008: The $hrine

My adoptive father passed away in 2004. In his professional life he’d been a highly successful Chartered Accountant, but in his personal life he’d never really gotten over the trauma of being raised in chronic scarcity during the Depression, World War II, and the extended years of rationing that the UK went through afterwards. No matter how much money he made, he could never feel good about it. He became an alcoholic and in his later years developed Diffuse Lewy Body Dementia, where he suffered fully-formed hallucinations that were often terrifying to him.

Four years after his death, in early 2008, I’d decided to enter training to be a financial advisor. The timing was cosmic. I signed a contract and joined an office just in time to see the global economy go tits up. I realized that this place I’d chosen to work in was full of greedy sociopaths I wouldn’t trust to tend a houseplant, much less my (or anyone else’s) retirement savings. It seemed like a good time to go back to Burning Man. I conceived an art piece for this: a giant, golden, 3-sided dollar sign that would be burned on Thursday night. A little mini-temple to our collective dysfunction with regards to money. The event theme that year was “The American Dream”—apropos. 

And so the $hrine was built and burned. Two nights later, I was in a rather visionary state of mind, and Dad came to me and apologized for being such a dickhead when he’d been alive. It’s OK, Dad, you had a hard come up, and I forgive you. We’re good now. 

2007: The Green Duck

My very first year at Burning Man, and my very first participatory art piece for the Burn – the Green Duck. I was part of Ze Frank’s old online community that supported The Show back in 2006, and he encouraged us all to conceive and develop our own participatory projects. This was mine. I built the Duck from branches off the maple tree in our back yard, and invited people from the community the world over to write messages for the Duck on cloth “feathers” and send them to me. I got feathers from as far away as France and Israel. 

I had no idea what to expect on playa. I parked the Duck at its marker, left a bucket of blank feathers and sharpies, and hoped for the best. I checked on it every day, refilled the feather bucket, and cleared away any detritus. I discovered a fundamental principle of Burning Man structures: “if you build it, they will fuck in it!” It is my dearest wish that today there’s a teenager somewhere walking around who was conceived inside the Duck. I hope his parents named him Howard. 

When we went to pitch the Duck into a nearby burn bin at the end of the week, I found a carefully wrapped nugget of high quality marijuana left as a gift inside it, and also a half gallon blueberry juice bottle full of piss. These gifts pretty much evened each other out. This here video is of the Duck’s last moments. We had intended to place him gracefully on the pile in the bin, but he ended up beak-first as if he were a meteor streaking into the bosom of the planet.

The heart I’m cutting out of the Duck in this video was burned ten years later in the Temple of Awareness, my last project for Burning Man.