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This project was successfully funded on June 12, 2018

Wrong Desert

by Wesley Skinner


2018 will be my tenth burn. To commemorate this personal milestone, I want to give back to the BRC community with what so many people seek on the playa: peace and natural beauty. Using the skills, techniques, and hard lessons learned from working on seven other Burning Man installations, I’d like to work with my own team to create something personal, playful, and ultimately inspirational for other BRC citizens.

Wrong Desert expresses my desire to “be the change I want to see at Burning Man.” In a world with rapidly declining resources and radically increasing pollution, this piece is the antithesis of the human excesses and resulting natural resource depletion that plagues the world – and that can often manifest on the playa. As a metalworker and artist by trade, this will be my 10-year-anniversary gift to the citizens of Black Rock City.

Flourishing in a harsh environment

On a recent extended trip to the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, the numerous cacti fascinated me. Using only sunlight and the occasional rain, they flourish in a harsh environment. While they may appear to be dead or dying, they are actually thriving, having evolved to use no more than what they need.

Importance of sustainability

The lifestyle of these desert plants spoke to me as a powerful potential direction I hope Burning Man can take and, in the process, become a more sustainable event and its participants better citizens of the planet. We can evolve past using diesel, gasoline, and propane to create Black Rock City each year. We can create life-changing art and experiences and also be good stewards of the environment.

Project Layout

Wrong Desert includes a large steel cholla cactus, three aluminum agave plants, and three steel boulders sculpted into benches. The boulders have artfully integrated solar panels, and also conceal the battery bank - no loud, stinky generators!

Cholla cactus

The centerpiece of the installation is a formidable cholla cactus, typically found in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. How it appeared in the Black Rock Desert is anyone’s guess! The 10' tall cholla will appear mostly dead, sculpted from repurposed curved steel pipes. Its skeleton has thousands of plasma-cut holes, through which both the sun and internal lights will beam to cast dappled shadow patterns on the playa. The trunk has spines of rubber tubing riveted to a skin of upcycled motorcycle tires.

Aluminum Agaves

Three 3' tall aluminum agave plants also thrive here, with 6’ tall “shoots” of heat-shaped, glowing translucent plastic tubing, lit internally. The agaves’ leaves are repurposed laser-cutting scrap.

Glowing Boulders

The 3 boulders will have a steel frame and be skinned with diamond-pattern “expanded metal.” They will be subtly sculpted into benches to provide seating for participants and diffusely lit from the inside, creating a field of glowing rocks at night. The largest boulder will serve not only as a mounting surface for a solar panel, but also as an enclosure for the battery bank and electronics.

The goal is to achieve an exceptional level of craftsmanship: tidy welds, integrated bolting joints, hidden wires, and artistic anchoring plates. The piece is purposely small to achieve superior workmanship in the time allotted.

Minimum fundraising goal: $10,000

Creating the Wrong Desert will cost approximately $17,000.

$8K Materials / Fabrication$3.5K Solar Power / Lighting$3K Transportation / Installation$2K Operations / Fundraising costs

Much of the steel and aluminum for this project was generously donated in-kind. However, this project is self-funded, so we have a long way to go financially to realize the vision of bringing renewable-energy-powered art to the playa. This Hatchfund campaign will pay for the costs of solar power and lighting components, additional materials, specialty tools, metal-finishing supplies to make it shine, and transportation to and from Black Rock Desert. Should we overfund this project, we will add better light effects, a serene natural soundscape, and perhaps 1-2 more smaller chollas.

Help us create the Wrong Desert at Burning Man by making a tax-deductible contribution today!

Every contribution counts, whether you can afford $25 or $2,500. It’s a small project, so every donation makes a huge difference. Want to support us further? Please share this campaign on social media, email, or however you communicate - every “share” is worth a lot!