Life Goal Achieved.
This year, as part of my adventure out to Burning Man "Waking Dreams" I created and offered a magickal installation, The Night Garden, to the city.
Made out of materials that would have otherwise become trash, the Night Garden hung inside a dome as part of the Captain Pump's Raiders Theme Camp at 4:30 and Center Camp. It was a huge accomplishment!
Before I dive into the story of how the Night Garden came to be I want to start in gratitude because the project wouldn't have been possible without the endless support from my friends, family, and camp members. Many hands were involved in the crafting of the flowers, and assembling of the dome. First, endless thanks to Charlie, Captain Pump, for allowing the Night Garden to be in our camp, and championing me throughout the creative process. Your encouragement was essential. Mega shout out to Dan for being the mastermind behind the lights, which brought the installation to life at night. So many thanks to Robin, who helped me troubleshoot the cover, which was a monster to manage and built the playatech. Gratitude to the crafters in no particular order- Bette, Maryana, Mary, Corrie, Cooper, Robin, Winston, Ash, Ian, Rob, Heather, Donovan, Cassady, Tom, Sangeetha, Dan, and Bonnie. Thanks to those who donated materials, including Laurie, Mia, and Bette, And Gratitude to the builders on playa- Zac, Winston, Robin, Tom, Alex, Mary, Bonnie, Dan, Rachel, Sean, Andy, Richard, and Leila. If there is any name that I have missed, know that my gratitude is with you, and please forgive my dust addled brain for forgetting you in this list.
I first attended Burning Man in 2013, and it was a life altering experience. From that first taste of the city and all the wild possibility it offered I knew I wanted to share whatever art I could in the desert. For those who may not know, Burning Man is a week long social experiment, where a city is constructed in Nevada's Black Rock Desert off the 11 principles. It is often called a festival in the media, but that is a poor comparison, for the event is so much more than a set list and good outfits. Each participant brings their own genius, and there are so many unexpected offerings it is a wonder to behold, from art to food to music to workshops to vulnerable, eye opening encounters with all kinds of people. The desert itself is a persona at the event, with harsh weather and unrelenting dust. It gives a unique character to the city that is hard to experience any where else. In 2015 I performed a ritual of carrying baggage to the Temple, and the year before, I crafted a wand to bring Yes! Magick to the event. I had always wanted to bring a bigger installation to the event, as the large scale art installation in the city and out in deep playa are one of my favorite parts of the week.
One winter evening, while daydreaming on my couch, the idea for the Night Garden began to form. I had read the blog post about this year's theme "Waking Dreams" and was immediately inspired. My goals for the project were:
to make something very colorful and beautiful,
to use as many reclaimed and up-cycled materials as possible, and
to practice collaborating
After a long text chat with my camp lead I had a plan and set out to begin prototyping flowers for the hanging garden.
The Night Garden is an immersive space filled with color, sound, mist, and mystery. Made up of 100s of flowers crafted from recycled materials the Night Garden is a magickal space to stumble upon inside Black Rock City. During the week participants can explore the garden, and small events from the camp will be hosted in the installation. Special care and planning have gone into the project to keep it MOOP free while still being a maximal art experience.
For months and months I made flowers out of fabric, foam, beads, and other found materials. I hosted craft parties where I was constantly astonished by the creativity and collaboration offered by my friends. There were many false starts, for a major component of the project was making sure the flowers wouldn't become moop, matter out of place, because Burning Man is a leave no trace event. The flowers also had to be able to withstand extreme temperatures, (The high this year reached 110 degree F!), possible high winds, and water, for to compete with the heat a misting system was installed inside the dome.
The Dome was another large part of the project to wrangle, and part of the inspiration for the installation. I had inherited the dome from other camp members, who had created it for their own camp, Wizard Depot. It is a massive PVC dome with a 20 ft diameter across the floor and a giant purple canvas cover I had constructed in 2017. I was determined to make the dome work for the installation since so much time, energy, and resources had been put into its construction. Thankfully, it became the perfect home for the Night Garden after some reworking of the unwieldy cover.
In the end there were two types of flowers that withstood stress tests, as well as some other organic-looking flair. "Floodles" as I came to call them, were made out of foam and beads, strung together to have a hint of resemblance to a wisteria. Dubbed the Floodle because it was a sort of flower-noodle. The second type of flower I called "Daisies," which were inspired by fabric and wire flowers seen on instagram. Both flowers were mounted onto hula hoops to make installation and transport easier. There were also a few supplemental vines and waterfalls, also hung on hula hoops, made out of ribbon, bubble wrap, and packing foam.
After a few harrowing weeks of will it work we were off to the Playa!
The Night Garden was built in three stages. First the Dome went up. This was thankfully very smooth. Weather was cooperative and we had a lot of hands to help. Second was the Dome Cover. It took hours to install the cover, as some of the initial ideas of how to add vents and tie downs didn't work. Robin was a champ, and we finally got it to work. Lastly was the install of the flowers and lights.
All the flowers were laid out in a grid and ziptied together. Once I was happy with the flow we wove the lights through the hoops, creating a colorful cascade. Once everything was attached it took sometime to sort out how to hang the apparatus. In the end we used tons and tons of paracord to affix the hanging garden to the dome. I was blown away by the teamwork and kindness of the camp in bringing the vision to life. Once hung and with lights on the space was essentially complete. A few playatech chairs and lanterns later and the Night Garden was open for enjoyment.
The Night Garden Realized 🌸
The Garden was beautiful. When the wind moved through it, there was a mesmerizing sway in the petals and vines. The lights added a magickal glow. One visitor likened the lights to the mycelia of plants used to communicate through the roots. I adore this interpretation.
Cuddle puddles gathered under the blooms. Impromptu music was enjoyed in the garden. There were games to play and quiet to be found. Everyone who encountered the Night Garden shared in the enchantment. Even though it was conceived to be a Night Garden, enjoyed in the cooler dark of the twilight, it was also extremely relaxing and enchanting during the day. I am proud of myself for bringing this vision to life.
I am so relieved to have this project complete. I am so ecstatic that it worked, that it was wonderful, that it didn't break or moop in the wind. Somehow everything came together after months and months of literal blood, sweat, and tears. There was also much laughter and community to enjoy throughout the making of the Night Garden.
One reason I was so determined to complete this installation is because I do not know if or when I will return to Burning Man. It is magickal. But it is also difficult, dusty, expensive, and consuming. With other life goals I have been dreaming and manifesting I am not sure where Burning Man fits. This was seventh year, and I am thankful for the opportunity it provided after a two year hiatus due to world events. I hope to install smaller portions of the Night Garden in future scenarios, such as Boulder Decompression and Open Studios in October, for others to enjoy. I may also install some of the flowers in my studio, as a reminder of the accomplishment.
Thank you for reading this far, and I would love to hear your thoughts on the project, especially if you saw it in person. Happy Burn! ~Khiri