2,000 LEDs on Fire

What’s 18 feet tall, 12 feet wide, has 2,000 LEDs and turbine-driven blast furnaces? Believe it or not, it is a piece of kinetic sculpture created by [Therm] (a collective, not a person) for Burning Man 2016. The project is about 60% salvage, has a Raspberry Pi 3 helping its three human operators, and took a team of 30 about 9 months to complete.

The Raspberry Pi drives LED using fadecandy. You can see a video of the sculpture (three giant moths, to be exact) and a video about fadecandy, below. (We’ve covered a subtler fadecandy project before if you want to see a different take on it.)

No place is the salvage more evident than the control podium which looks like it has some scavenged airplane controls. The turbines are also salvaged and modified to use electric motors. Apparently this is fuel efficient: the sculpture takes 80 gallons of fuel for a four-hour show. We don’t know, but they tell us that’s better than some other similar flame sculptures.

Although there are some 3D printed elements, this might be a bit ambitious for your first art project. Maybe start with something simpler. Or perhaps start with some LEDs and rebar.

12 thoughts on “2,000 LEDs on Fire

  1. not this burning man stuff again already is it that time of the year?
    please can someone actually explain how essentially hippies can afford to make these monstrosities. do they sell them like art? who buys them? scrap metal dealers? what is going on? are they just have (had) more money than sense?

        1. Basically.

          I realized it had gone sour as early as 2004ish when on a “burner” forum, a daddy’s money kid gave me his “cheap” way to do burning man and it involved a $2000 RV rental and the same again in drugs and alcohol…. and nobody contradicted him.

          1. And the shocking thing to me then, was I’d only been out of circulation from the internet subcultures that “made” burning man for about 3 years and it had gone like that so rapidly. Went from strong DIY ethic with reclaimed and cheap materials to spend to impress.

            However, it was always a thing with the internet startup crowd, they were part of it and grew it right from early days. BUT, those mostly socially focused startups then, they didn’t have beanbag chairs in the office to be trendy, they had beanbag chairs because they found them for $10 a piece and they were trying to make the series A $50k last all year, only paying themselves with options, scrappy and shoestring budget, they did stuff like burning man to meet their public…. on the cheap….they were the original disruptors and innovators whose style got poached by the hyperfunded dotcom bubble startups to seem all lean, scrappy, and cool while burning cash for thrust.

    1. Cost / Team of 30 people. Also BM gives out grants and artists have patrons. Or you spend all your IPO money on a giant party because you are stupid kids grumble grumble not in my day, DJ booths! had to walk up hill both ways every morning in the snow.

  2. Speaking of rebar sculptures, anyone remember the absolutely, positively ginormous “Barking at the Moon” in Oakland, California during the 1980s? It 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙮 covered a house and yard—right up to the property lines, and arching way over the roof of the two-story house. Must have been 40-45 feet high (with the huge wolf/dog on top). Now long gone, alas. Would make an incredible Burning Man project, using modern LED strings.

    I wonder if I could get away with something like that in Arlington, Virginia…

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