Less than a month ago, I got to attend Burning Man for the first time (!). It’s not hyperbolic to say that I had the best week of my life there, and it certainly gave me enough stories to last me until the next Burn. To use a metaphor from statistical thermodynamics, it felt like we were all particles in a high-energy plasma (or in a fire, I suppose); as such, we had a good chance to frequently bounce off of each other and experience serendipitous transcendental interactions, one after the next. Ask me about it sometime =)
One incredible opportunity gifted to me by the massive New York sound camp Disorient via their very pornjy brother Jacob Joaquin AKA opcode appeared in the form of a Facebook message asking for programmers to write Processing sketches to animate the 500+ meters of LEDs on the camp’s signature structure, the Pyramid.
Since I’d worked with Processing before, this transmission signaled the perfect chance to contribute to my first Burn. I quickly responded, signed up on their forum (The Puddle), and cloned the repos. After clearing some minor hurdles during setup, I was off and programming!
Seeing the pyramid in real life was the closest thing to a dream come true that I’ve ever experienced. I freaked out with excitement the first time I saw, from across the playa, the DNA oscillating gently, then frantically, then exploding into Conway before being overrun by Snakes. I immediately biked over as fast as possible to get a closer look. I couldn’t believe it was real! A stranger from the Internet, distantly connected to me by miles of hidden cables and a common idea, broadcast a appeal over that network. I answered his call, and as a result I constructed the aforementioned logical systems, crystallized philosophy, remembered and executed in the lowest levels of the most intricately dense device mankind has ever built. The 3.1 billion pulsations per second of its silicon brain, coldly and precisely animating its hardware minions, rendered unto me a video of what the actual Pyramid would look like while executing my instructions. But it wasn’t until I made the journey to Black Rock City that this simulacrum almost literally leapt out of my monitor, like Athena springing from the mind of Zeus, and became tangible. It functioned as one of my orientation beacons for when I needed to get back to camp from the dark desert; by locating the Pyramid’s distinct shape, I identified the vector that would take me to 2:45 and Esplanade. It magnetically pulled my attention the entire week. To get the above photo of the DNA, I willingly stared through at least twenty minutes of other animations just so I’d have my camera readied to capture a single frame from mine.
NYC Resistor posted a thorough writeup, detailing the system’s overall design including the hardware. They managed to snag a video of my entire sequence, for which I am eternally grateful.
Here’s a sillier video of me doing headstands in front of the Conway and Snakes portions at night =)
I came back from Burning Man full of inspiration to build some cool LED artwork of my own from the ground up, engineering both the software and the hardware. Future blog posts will chronicle my descent into the Arduino rabbit hole; in fact, I’m nearing the completion of my first project. If you’re on the fence about going, let me assure you that Burning Man is a place you have to experience at least twice in your life . . . before you DIE. See you on the playa!