Gary Stadler and Burning Man

2005 Deep-Playa installation

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My Artistic History at Burning Man:

I'd heard about Burning man for years and always wanted to attend, but I owned an electronics manufacturing company that took enough of my time that I had virtually none left for much of anything else. After 35 years I finally put it to rest and "retired" (ha!) and time freed up considerably for me.

The first time I attended Burning man in 2001, I realized that this was finally the place I could share my art and craziness with a lot of like minded people! To date I'm personally and solely responsible for the creation of four projects that have been quite well received, the first being a "good guess" at how it would work since I'd never been before...

I'd always wanted to create an inflatable laser/video sphere as an artpiece, but never really had the place to do it or a good reason. I made a 65 foot inflatable sphere at my home "just because" and it worked quite well. Somewhere along the line I was doing a laser show for friends in that sphere and Pat Flanigan dropped by- we got to talking and the result was that for Emerald City in 2001 Pat financed my putting together that big 120 foot diameter/60 foot tall inflatable white dome structure that was next to the green spires (only at night whenever there was no wind).

Being that this was my first time on the Playa, I really didn't know what to expect in a number of critical areas of its engineering, and Pat and I both knew it wouldn't survive the winds at all (and it didn't). But I was up for the challenge and I did it, and it worked quite well. It was a dance of "up, down,up,down" etc because of the winds. But it was amazing when it was "up" and one night in one hour we counted 5000 people entering it! Most came out quite awe inspired.


Project 2:
My second Burning Man project was for 2002, the motorized lawn swing "Kerman" as an art vehicle, featured in an article on Mutant Vehicles in the Black Rock Gazette in 2004

The swing has been on the Playa every year since, and every year including 2005 it has been/will be improved as far as it's visual lighting for night time. It's been quite fun, giving folks rides, hauling ice, and serving as a good general fun mutant vehicle.

Project 3:
My second art vehicle was created for 2003 and 2004, the Quadrapus, also featured in the Black Rock Gazette that was given to particpants at the entry gate in 2004.

The quadrapus is a whacky vehicle that started around a ship's radome that I found at a junkyard. It turned into the fun thing it is... it takes two riders up top and up to 8 at the tips of it's arms, and at night it is amazingly beautiful with it's multi colored LED lighting.
Again, I add to it each year to make it more and more visually stimulating both day and night. This year (2004) I added microprocessor controlled LED's in all of the arms to give it a beautiful "wave of colors" effect.

Project 4:
Two years ago, working with what I'd learned with the big dome in 2001, I created the 50 foot high inflatable illuminated rainbow tower for Mystic Beat Lounge camp, simply to be able to find home easily day or night, and it was very successful up to about 30 mph, above which we had to take it down to avoid it getting trashed.
Though I shouldn't have been, I was totally surprised at how quickly it became a beacon for thousands of people to find their bearings on the Playa, from almost anywhere.

For 2004 I made the tower 15 feet taller and changed how it was held to the ground, and was also a lot more scientific about the inflating pressure. It was a total success and it stayed up no matter what winds came around~! In doing the calculations, I realized that not only would it stay up in up to 65 mph winds, it would also *support* up to a 1,000 pound load. This is with only as much air pressure inside as you can blow with your mouth!! It was very weird this year as I climbed it as a test, knowing that I was being held up only by a tiny fan and a lot of air under not-much pressure!

Wandering the quiet reaches of the outer playa, you encounter a strange conical structure.
It looks like maybe a huge structure has been submerged in the Earth and all that remains visible is the peak, a beacon of light beaming from it to the great above, hinting at the wonders within.
You enter; a fantastic space emerges before you, an incredible matrix of multicolored brilliancy.
You see neurons firing and reacting to the stimulus of images and sounds;
You are surrounded by the workings of a giant brain:
Vision and sound become action become color become thought become memory.
Light as air, the great mystery of thought is revealed.
You have found yourself within the

INNERMIND 2005-2006

Gary Stadler and Bryce Kuhlman

2006 Deep-Playa installation


Last year, 2005, Bryce and I were given a grant from Burning Man, to do the Innermind project.

We managed to get the installation up and running, and despite some problems with the winds and a few structural issues, it was a great success.

Innermind is a complex inflatable structure 85 feet in diameter and 35 foot high on the outside, with a 40 foot diameter sphere inside it, held up by a central inflatable air-column made just like my rainbow tower (mentioned above in "My artistic history at Burning Man").


The entire installation is air-supported. Basically the outer cone is attached solidly to the ground by 56 screw augers placed into the Playa around it's circumference, and it is erected and held up solely by a central blower-inflated column.
The perimiter is "sealed" to the ground by a 3" diameter vinyl swimming-pool drain hose filled with water, that is sewn into a pouch that goes around the entire perimiter of the cone, acting as a well-distributed weighted "gasket".

The outer structure is made of two-color rip-stop material, white on the outside and black on the inside. The main function of the outer structure is to protect the inner sphere from the forces of heat, wind, rain, etc, as well as keeping light out during the daytime. Because of it's shape and structure, it is quite resistant to wind and weather, and because of it's outer white reflective color and the airflow paths, it remains cool inside under the sun.

Hanging outside in the very top of the central support column isa 2,500 watt HMI light configured to make a bright white light beam shooting straight up into the sky, as seen in the photos from 2005...looks pretty cool!!.

POWER for the installation will be provided by a sound-attenuated 20kw generator trailer located 100' away from the structure, with a buried cable. The generator holds 235 gallons of diesel fuel which is able to fully power the system for well over two weeks, non-stop.


The Inner Sphere

The inner sphere is made of totally black ripstop material, and the central air-support column is made of white ripstop.
The inside of the sphere represents of the nerves inside a brain, with a lot of artistic license.... so participants at the event walking into the installation will be walking into the insides of someone's head... a giant, very active brain.


This visual part of this installation will be based on the work we did for 2005- 200 or more strings of RGB LED's,
with the LED's inside translucent corrugated tubing .
The strings represent "nerves" and be between 5 and 15 feet in length... there are 2500 Led's in all. We suspend these strings everywhere inside the sphere above people's heads, in a fairly random organization in three dimensional space. Due to the inherent darkness of the inside of the black sphere, it has a very "infinite " inner-space look, because you cannot see the walls of the sphere.

The way the strings work is, a "light packet" of data is launched into the end of a string by a computer that gathers data from audio and interatcive inputs. The first LED receiving this "packet" of data glows brightly at a color and duration determined by the data packet that is launched, and when it's job is over it passes the "light packet" on to the next LED which will do the same thing. It will look something like a chaser, but since what actually happens is determined by the packet of data that can be manipulated and modified as it gets passed thru the network, a color might,for example, initially be red and be moving slowly thru the strings, but as it progresses it would be able to gracefully change to purple and accelerate in speed as it makes it's way thru the network.

The LED strings are joined together in a "neural network" by a few hundred "axion" circuit boards, each of which terminates an incoming string and has 2-to 5 outgoing strings hooked to it. Each of those outgoing strings is in turn terminated by another axion board that has 2-5 more strings leaving it. Each axion board has a microprocessor on it that can make changes to the parameters of the light packets coming in, and send them to any, all, or none of the outgoing strings attached to it, at random as it decides.

Thus there is a thick, rich matrix of colored light shooting around and interconnected in three dimensions of space inside the sphere, representing what happens in the nerves and axions of a real brain!

The mood of what's visulally happening in the LED matrix will change with interactive and audio inputs, sometimes soft, dim and slow, sometimes fast and lively.

The central Air Support Column

The central air suport column is tightly inflated by a small high pressure fan and functions as the main vertical support for the entire structure. Being made of white fabric material, it also lends itself quite nicely to rear-projection.


Located in the area between the sphere and the outer cone will be a substantial surround-sound system. The sounds that are heard will be original-composition soundscapes that will lend themselves to enhance the visual experience inside the sphere. Currently planned is a computer interface that creates some percentage of the the lighting mood as a direct result of the sounds being heard by visitors.
...Also there is interactivity; some of what the lights inside do is interactively based on what visitors create via microphones strategically placed within the structure