The Machine

Large Scale Collaborative Sculpture
Video Documentation, Metal & Wood Work, Visuals for Events

The Machine was a temporary installation of a 52-foot-tall interactive mechanical structure assembled in the Nevada desert for Burning Man 2005. When participants turned all three “people wheels” around the main structure at the same time, the upper tier and arms of the structure rotated. This was accomplished through a system of people wheels, gears, belt drives, and three massive steel transmissions attached to one huge planetary gear attached to the upper structure. When installed, there would often be 20-30 people on the upper tier yelling down for people to turn the people wheels, and the people on the ground were happy to oblige.

This was a large-scale collaborative project, with a group known simply as “The Machine Crew”. The crew spent a year and a half in design, planning, and fundraising meetings with a crew of 12; 6 months on prefabrication with a crew varying from 30-60 people; and a month with 30 people in the desert for installation, maintenance due to heavy use, and cleanup after the planned destruction of the piece.

We hosted four fundraising events for the project, including two huge parties, a poker tournament, and an art auction and hot shop demo at Seattle glass artist Dale Chihuly’s boathouse.

I shot over 60 hours of footage of the design and fundraising process, as well as the construction of pieces in Seattle, and then assembly of The Machine in the desert. I did wood work, metal work and welding, visuals for two large fundraisers, and edited video for a presentation our crew gave at the Seattle Art Museum. For the museum presentation, we installed one of the transmissions in the lobby and I shot and edited footage to play back on two displays set up nearby.