Deus Ex Machina (aka Gearotical): A 2017 Southbay Community Art Project

“Inside the industrial cathedral, come experience Gearotica!”

PROJECT SUMMARY:
This will be an interactive, burnable installation which invokes a dilapidated factory. Upon entering, you will near an altar on which to select or place your offering. Turn a crank; an automaton parts the clouds; a Monty Python’esque index finger descends and—rejects it! There is no appeal.

Read more about Deus Ex Machinae (aka Gearotica):

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BACKSTORY

This piece began, while sitting around a camp fire with friends, as a humorous riff on the “useless box” as seen on YouTube:

An altar from which an offering emerges causes clouds to part and the hand of God to descend from heaven and knock down the gift. This “rejection” causes the offering to disappear back into the altar… this humorous riff was expanded to include a building, a back story and a title: Deus Ex Machina or “God from the machines.”

How this ties into the 2017 ‘Radical Ritual’ theme: Any deity, we suppose, observes our rituals. Perhaps. The creator and sustain’er of worlds does not actually DO anything on our behalf. We are the drivers, the doers, and the masters of our own fate. Though we may plead and demand intercession, ultimately WE are the actors. Even if God responded, he’d say “I do not make deals!” No offering or bargaining ultimately changes the turn of the Wheel.

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PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION:

 

 

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The Altar: The Rube Goldberg nature of the altar experience is definitely intended to invoke Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”. This entire piece is built up around a kinetic sculpture that parts the clouds, causes the finger to descend, and rejects your offering.

The factory: The dilapidated factory will be slightly trapezoidal, 40’ at the entrance, 30’ deep, 20’ wide at the back wall, and 20’ tall (roofless). This will be made of plywood with dimensional lumber for structural integrity. The main trusses, made of dimensional lumber – some on the ground, some still in place — will enhance the structural integrity of the walls. Sono-tubes will be installed and painted to look like concrete pillars supporting the factory ceiling.  The dilapidated factory will be slightly trapezoidal, 40’ at the entrance, 30’ deep, 20’ wide at the back wall, and 20’ tall (roofless). This will be made of plywood with dimensional lumber for structural integrity. The main trusses, made of dimensional lumber – some on the ground, some still in place — will enhance the structural integrity of the walls. Sono-tubes will be installed and painted to look like concrete pillars supporting the factory ceiling.

Ghosts of Industry: The factory will be populated by “ghosts of industry” (mannequins formed from chicken wire). The walls include a grid of “broken windows” (either painted on plywood, or other non-glass representation). Reflecting a factory, a small wall of lockers, pigeonhole mailboxes, and an old-style lunchbox will remind viewers that the workers have just left the building.

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BURNER EXPERIENCE

Beyond the physical experience of the ghostly factory and the hand of God, this piece is intended to provide a 24×7 experience. By day, it will be a place to walk through as if in a museum of economic history, to look at details of the art and to contemplate the impact on society of the progression from the Industrial to the Technological age.
We will also provide colored sharpies, spray paint (offered only during times when an attendant is present) and the like to encourage participants to “tag” the piece or add graffiti as if it were indeed a derelict structure.
The Disney Corporation hired Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard to help them with the technology needed to score the soundtrack for the ground-breaking movie, “Fantasia”. When participants open the door to enter the garage, they will hear the soundtrack and be greeted by a plywood iconic figures, catch phrases (“Hi, everybody!”), and hear music from that movie.
By night, this installation will incorporate dramatic lighting and sound to enhance the spectacle and draw in participants for further interaction. Once the participant has gone past the altar and entered the garage (the exit route), they will find replicas of ocilators, theramins and other sound-effects machines to play with
Finally, this installation will provide a playa night-time burn to be enjoyed by all BRC citizens.
We envision Deus Ex Machina to be an experience which makes people ponder how the Industrial Age, as it has evolved into the current high-tech Age, may have left humans behind. The dawn of Silicon Valley, represented by the iconic HP garage, may have been the very moment when individual effort became less essential to the advancement of humankind.

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HOW TO INTERACT:

All is grey or rusted. Lights will be dim, casting shadows. Low, ambient lighting at the entrance will gradually increase as participants delve deeper. A wooden altar in the center of the factory attracts the eye, with a mysterious “touch me” crank attached. The altar may include representations of offerings, or may include a receptacle in which to place your offering. The altar will be 4’ wide, 8’ long, and 4’ tall, with steps leading to the altar itself. It will house a wheel/receptacle to select or place your offering.

The automaton will spring to life once the offering is placed. The participant will turn a crank, and a mechanism much like a grandfather clock will spin interconnecting gears to part the clouds and lower God’s finger. A choir of angels will sound. Once the
offering is rejected, the classic “whant-whaaaa!” sound of disappointment will broadcast the rejection.
The gears themselves will be precision-cut hardwood, clad in metal to ensure there is no warping or undue stress due to playa conditions. The clouds will be 1/8” plywood, painted to look majestic.
Once past the altar, proceeding deeper into the structure leads to a semblance of the HP garage, the birthplace of the tech age which replaced the industrial age. Colors will become brighter and “new” as the old is replaced by new. The garage will refer to the original audio oscillator, which launched Silicon Valley.
Ultimately, this piece reflects the evolution from the Industrial Age to the Age of Technology.

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PARTICIPATE:

This project is twice the size of anything the South Bay has ever brought to the playa.  That means we’ll need twice as many people to help us burn the thing!  The burn is planned for Thursday, August 31st at 9:00pm.  That will be the very first burn at Burning Man this year!  We need a team of 60 people to help us set the perimeter prior to the burn, and we’ll need help the next morning to help us Leave No Trace.  But we always make it a party, so come and join us!

 

 

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