A Seed From Space Lands in the Desert: (Video)

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Shawn Gaynor's picture
A computer graphic of Michael Christian's sculpture the EPod
Michael Christian's sculpture the EPod is on its way to debut at Burning Man 2014

Countdown to Burning Man Series: Part Three ...

By Shawn Gaynor

As our last installment in our lead up to Burning Man series we interview artist Michael Christian, who was busy putting the finishing touches on the Epod, a globe shaped sculpture that is an interactive spinning jungle-gym.

The work was inspired by science fiction. It is reminiscent of a cosmic seed, bring life to a new world. With barnicles discovered growing on the outside of the international space station this week, the idea that life came here by way of seeds blowing across the cosmos is less science fiction and more science every day.

“I don't like duplicating -- that's boring to me,” said Christian. “This is fun. It's like an exploration, its a challenge. It's a lot of creative problem solving.”

Christian and the EPod crew are headed out to Burning Man late for artists bring such a large piece, leaving just a day or two for set up time. He prefers to be right where we found him, in his workshop creating.

“We go as late as possible because I would much rather be working here than in the desert under rain or dust or wind,” said Christian.

For that set up, 50 or more large metal frames will be connected with over 500 bolts, to create the globe of the Epod. It sits on a massive, tree-trunk-like metal base that hides a heavy duty spinning bearing, large enough to smoothly rotate the giant artwork.

On the team for this undertaking is Dallas Swindle. He is a very nuts and bolts guy, helping with the engineering that it takes to make a sculpture meant to be climbed on by dozens of people at a time.

“There is a whole lot of engineering and design constraints that you have to consider when you are building something that is going to go out to Burning Man. One of the biggest ones is the wind load,” said Swindle. The wind can blow 70 miles per hour and the sculpture will be bolted to the Playa with giant earth screws.

Swindle and Christian have collaborated before, including on a merry-go-round for last years Burning Man. They are most easy going when they are hard at work. As their deadline to pack up all 10,000 pounds of the massive Epod sculpture approaches the shop is filled with the sounds of welding, drilling and cutting.

Christian, Swindle, and the rest of the crew will be camped far away from the sounds camps, out near the giant jungle-gym/merry-go-round hybrid they've created.

“I've always felt like an outsider at Burning Man,” Christian admits. “From the very first time that I saw the work I had there it looked completely out of place, and out of context, and I wondered why I was continuing to do this event. But I felt like, OK so maybe my place is to be the outsider at an event? And I'm really well integrated into the event, but I really am not. I don't feel like a part of it in that sense – It's always been from an outside perspective.”

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