Art Bike Relief at Burning Man: Installation (2/3)
Published 27 August 2019 by Cécile Ravaux
This year Makery experiences Burning Man from the inside with Cécile Ravaux of French Burners and Art Bike Relief. Part 2 is reported directly from the unforgiving conditions of the desert playa.
Black Rock Desert (Nevada, USA)
Three days before the official opening day of Burning Man, we arrive on the playa to set up our camp, consisting primarily of recycled and reused objects.
We brought 1000 repaired bicycles, including superb art bikes designed by Mack “The Infamous Bike Guy” Carter.
View this post on Instagram
I feel so blessed! My new wonderful small Tall-bike designed by this amazing amazing guy : Mack Carter ?? thank you for that bitchin gift! I promess him to bring it back to France! Find all his fucking crazy creations on social médias with #dothemackcarter #bike #burningman #maker #
A post shared by ??́???? ?????? (@cecileravaux) on
Mack Carter isn’t the only incredible artist on our team. In our final week of preparation, we decided to make a collective artwork to be exhibited on the playa during the event. Nepalese artist-maker Michelle Lama, at age 30, is doing her first burn. Determined to advance her country’s education system and empower women to be more independent, she contributes to the Art Aid Nepal program at MakerKT in Kathmandu, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) intiative. She also gives workshops in schools and as part of the “Creating Heroines” series for women in order to bring new skills, modest but no less essential, to the community. Cutting wood, painting, installing electrical systems are all skills that she would like to develop through art and individual creativity to make these projects more fun.
Art Bike Relief invited Michelle to join our adventure in the desert to design the artwork that we will build on the playa: The Prayer Wheels. The art installation consists of five redesigned bicycles, all connected to each other. Once visitors straddle the bikes, the first pedal movements activate the chains, setting in motion 50 prayer wheels built from recycled tires and bicycle wheels. We have three days and three nights to complete this artwork in time for opening Sunday.
Guillaume Godart, a carpenter maker from Toulouse, is our wood leader. He cut more than 1.5 km of planks, which little hands like mine burn according to a Japanese technique to bring out the detail of the wooden planks, which will then be painted gold by Océane. In the metal and bicycle studio, Lilian, another French artist, maker and founder of the invisible collective Lîle offers lots of advice on how to connect the five bikes in an artistically pleasing form.
We are all exhausted, the slightest movement requires considerable effort. There are 20 of us working in conditions that make us crack at some point. I’m learning so much. Assigned to the prayer wheels, I follow directions to screw the wood pieces onto 100 bicycle wheels, but the lack of physical strength and fatigue prevent me from making quick progress. Then the generator breaks down… No more light, it’s 11pm and we have been working since 8am in intense wind and dust… Now it’s my turn to crack.
For the past 10 days, everyone has been pushing themselves to the limit, and unconsciously, the group spirit that has developed around the production of this project has made us into a family. There is always someone to boost our morale, give us confidence in our mission, and nobody gives up, despite everyone’s exhaustion. It was Yahav Levy, an Israeli student in industrial design who scorched the planks with us, who came to encourage me the other night. We were in the middle of a dust storm, at the end of a day where the wind and the sun had completely crushed us. We need to liberate ourselves from the stress and concentrate on our project, which up to this point had seemed to me utopic. Positive energy is in the air, and we are all connected together.
The generator is working again after a full hour of power outage. It’s 1am and we are all back at work with a single goal in mind: to finish our art piece. Despite the harsh conditions, I believe we will make it.
Read part 1 of this series
More about French Burners and Art Bike Relief