Salvador Dali on the Playa?  


I recently visited the Salvador Dali Museum for it's 26th anniversary. While soaking in the elements of the exhibition I came across this painting, called Sentimental Colloquy (Study for a Ballet).

Almost instantly, when I saw it... I imagined it as a full scale installation set on the playa in the Black Rock Desert, the location of the Burning Man festival.

I attended my fist Burn only last year, in 2007. I was invited at the last minute and didn't really have a chance to participate at a level at which I would have preferred. So, when I stared into this painting, I saw the potential for a future project.

At the end of my museum visit, there was a performance of interpretive dance based on several different Dali paintings and set to music against a video backdrop of the art. This was a beautiful ballet in it's own right and furthered my vision of the installation as being a moving piece. I see the bicycle riders as staged, set in motion and filmed or photographed in such a way as to recreate as closely as possible the same positions of the riders as in the original work.

The vast desert playa is the perfect canvas for a third dimensional recreation of this painting. I am not yet completely certain how I will approach the piece, but I have a few ideas.

One option would be to have a fixed, non-moving and complete representation in place for the duration of the festival. Another would be to have fixed bicycles and use participants as the body of riders, allowing a more interactive experience. Once in place, people could walk up, put on a head dress and be in a Dali painting.

A third, and the most participative, would be to use moving riders on their own bicycles, creating a living ballet that changes with each orchestration.

Logistically speaking, it would be less of a strain on storage and transport if I obtain bicycles at the Burn itself. Likewise, the use of fellow participants as the riders makes more sense than to use dummy models. The uniqueness that each person brings provides a more vibrant aesthetic than the black bodies. I would like to see a little color in this interpretation.

As I stated, I could allow the riders to use their own unique rides. This would be easiest. However, the absence of the black bodies and the presumably non-black bicycles would drastically chance the original tri-color balance of Dali's work. I enjoy the level of black in his painting and the stark contrast of black against the white playa would be much more effective.

To this end, the idea of having my own black bicycles is still appealing, despite the amount of work involved in obtaining and modifying. I may bring black body suits for people to wear should I decide that I will go for a more true representation of the original work at some point, even if only once.

I know that the Black Rock City Department of Public Works collects hundreds upon hundreds of broken and discarded bikes during and after the event. However, I don't know how many appear early on in the week. I would think most bikes are cared for and held closely until near the end of the festival. I will contact the DPW to find out if they have any idea of availability based on previous years and if they would be open to me recycling broken bikes for this project.

My thinking is that I would begin the installation with just the field of lines, piano, branches, rocks and head dresses. I would recruit and direct riders to the location to stage intermittent recreations for photos and video. I also intend to build a platform that would allow for viewing at the proper perspective. Lastly, the placement of the installation would be such that the angle of the sun would cast the same shadows seen in the painting at the proper time of day.

As the week progresses on, I can procure, paint and affix bikes to the playa. The piece could be transformative, evolving from fully participative to primarily interactive, eventually ending with all the bikes in place for more permanent installation. Or now that I think about it... perhaps do that in reverse... to evolve from fixed and monochromatic, to a living and vibrant.

The piano and waterfall is the most elaborate component. I will need to begin a search for a grand piano that I could modify. Perhaps I can cut and disassemble so that I could more easily transport it to Nevada. Also, the branches might need to be some sort of molded design. I will have to engineer a suspension model, perhaps having the left side resting on the desert floor and the upper right, affixed to the piano.

In all of this, I'll have to protect from the strong winds and sand storms that blow across the playa all week long. I can't have the water filling with dust and clogging the pump. Nor, do I want the branches to get ripped away and blown across the city. I think I can affix the bikes to the playa with the use of rebar.

I could add a perspective aspect using a smaller version of a piano and changing the depth and viewing position. I could also make the piano a drinking water fountain/oasis.

OK... that's the brain dump on the idea. More to come...

What next?

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