Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Building a Giant Flaming Polygon: Is It Art? Who Cares?

Since I've been working for about the past six months on a conceptual flame art project, I thought I'd start collating some of my notes and results here for public consumption.  I use Evernote for keeping most of my notes, but wanted to make some of them more publicly available, as I start to hone in on a design.

!!! Big Red Warning Header !!!

I have zero training in flame art apart from what I've been reading on the internet, and having a doctorate in physics.  Don't attempt any of this.  Don't blame me if you get hurt.  Don't build dangerous things in your basement.  It's a bad life choice for 99.9% of the population.

The overall design goal of the as-yet-unnamed artwork will be to create a polygon in which the edges are a propagating flame.  The flame will propagate along the edges, from vertex to vertex, highlighting each vertex as it goes, and eventually existing in a column of flame from the top of the polygon.  My eventual goal is to build a 4-foot-per-side regular icosahedron:
30 edges, 12 vertices, 20 sides.  Basically, your regular Dungeons and Dragons D20.

In the short term, the goal will be to create something smaller, possibly with longer edges, such as a square pyramid (eight edges.)

My inspiration for this project came from Burning Man 2014, but not from any particular art project.  Rather, it came from talking with artists, and experiencing the art there.  In past years, I've worked on relatively small scale projects, such as my solar powered waffle maker (The Waffle House of the Rising Sun):

I thought that, as my thoughts about art evolve, I would make for myself a different goal: instead of building something that I can create in under a year with the express intention of taking it to the Burn, I would set out an ambitious project for myself, something that had not yet been attempted, simply for the sake of creating something.  I am the more neural half of a set of fraternal twins; my twin sister has always been The Artist™ of the family.  So I have only reluctantly come to think of myself as capable of engaging in art in any serious way.  And I still am reluctant to think of it as a serious pursuit, rather than a weekend hobby.  But, as weekend hobbies go, it's a fun way to spend my hours, doing what I love: tinkering, for the sake of tinkering.  Whether I call it art or not is, in that sense, irrelevant (until I apply for a grant, that is.)

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