Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Organ Donor opus 1 at Borrego Days Desert Festival

Two Sol Diego Artists Collaborative projects that previously appeared together at YouTopia 2014, Sol Pyramid and Organ Donor, were successfully installed for the weekend at the Borrego Days Desert Festival in Borrego Springs, California.

Held 24 – 26 October 2014, the 49th annual festival celebrated the people and culture of Borrego Springs.  Live entertainment, astronomy demonstrations, contests, shopping, food, and art were features of the event, with a very popular parade rolling down the center of town on Saturday morning.

Borrego Springs is located in the middle of Anza Borrego State Park. It’s an unincorporated area of San Diego County with a long and colorful history. First homesteaded in 1875, busy during World War II due to war efforts activities, favored by Hollywood stars as a getaway during the 1950s, Borrego Springs became California’s first Dark Sky Community in 2009.

Sol Pyramid lead David Timms was invited to bring the Pyramid to Borrego Days after organizers saw the video of the Pyramid from YouTopia. Organ Donor enthusiastically agreed to accompany the Pyramid as an installation.

The site was located on the main street a short walk from Christmas Circle in downtown Borrego Springs. The lot was cultivated three years ago as an urban garden, with plantings of Ocotillo and Pallas Verde trees. The trees are well established and provide an extremely pleasant site. Efforts were made during the installation to preserve and protect the trees and the site in keeping with common sense and the Burner ethic.

The Pyramid construction began at 6pm Friday evening and lasted until 2am Saturday morning. Organ Donor construction began at 8:00am Saturday and concluded at 2:00pm Saturday. Programmed LED lighting repurposed from a 2012 Sol Diego project was installed on the Pyramid structure before sunset on Saturday. This represents decreased Borrego Days construction time for both projects compared to YouTopia.

Hours of Construction Time
Borrego Days
Percent Change
Sol Pyramid
Sol Pyramid Lighting
Organ Donor

The liaison for communications about Borrego Days was David Timms. David provided substantial assistance and support to Organ Donor in terms of housing and offered reimbursement for the unplanned travel expense of renting a UHaul truck when Organ Donor’s tow vehicle failed Friday morning. David reported excellent communications from Borrego Days organization.

The construction site was essentially identical to the site at YouTopia, being level packed humus-free earth and small stones, directly accessible from a paved road.

Organ Donor worked well throughout the event, aside from a few fuses blown when participants tried to play too many notes simultaneously (just as at YouTopia). One of the eight strands of LED lighting failed to light up after installation, and on-site debugging attempts were unsuccessful.

The relatively short notice prevented substantial or coordinated advance advertisement. The groups that potentially missed out, according to the members of the public that visited the installation, were school groups and bands that participated in the parade. With more advanced notice, collaboration could have potentially moved the encounter with the art from being entirely within the “delightful surprise” category to occupy a bit more of the “planned presentation” rubric. However, this distinction is not necessarily an improvement. The sheer surprise of seeing a large LED-illuminated Pyramid arise in the center of town, and then disappear only two days later, is in keeping with the spirit of the endeavor and was entirely successful in surprising and delighting the steady stream of visitors.

And, surprised and delighted they were. Reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Visitors were welcomed by installation staff during the entire time the installation was deployed, with extended hours on Saturday evening.

Serving as docents were Organ Donor Paul, Organ Donor Abraxas, and Organ Donor Richard. Education about organ pipes, blower boxes, windchests, software, embedded processor control, machine learning, and direct electric action was provided.

Visitors were present in small groups and couples for almost the entire time the installation was open. Foot traffic came by at such a rate that extended conversations were possible. Multiple contacts were made involving potential future involvements and opportunities for Sol Pyramid as well as Organ Donor. Sol Diego made a very successful outreach into a non-burner community by participating in this festival.

The most significant contacts in terms of future opportunities were with the chair of NWEAMO festival, a teacher involved in founding a new Maker-based school in Escondido, a burner named Wobbly who is interested in founding a burner event on private land in the desert near Borrego Springs, and the chair of the Daffodil festival in Julian.

The next planned adventure for Organ Donor is the STEAM Festival at Del Mar Fairgrounds on 6 December 2014.

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