Singularity Transmissions

Postponing her wedding for art: A Burning Man story that tests inspiration — and love

Postponing her wedding for art: A Burning Man story that tests inspiration — and love

Asking a bride to postpone her wedding day is a recipe for disaster. But not for costume designer Amberry Jam; she's not your typical gal. She never cared for tradition, for sweetheart couture, for bridesmaids in matching duds, tuxedos or buttercream cakes draped in fondant.

She dreams of circus-themed nuptials thronged with jugglers, fire spinners and contortionists fringed by wood carvings designed and crafted by the happy couple, a sign of their commitment to each other and their dedication to their respective art forms.

So when her fiancé, sculptor Troy Stanley, suggested a rain check on their wedding because of an important commission, she was not only nonchalant about his request, she volunteered to help.

Out of a collection of past projects that didn't pan out, Singularity Transmissions, of which Stanley is the lead artist, emerged. The venture was awarded an honorarium from Burning Man 2012, a week-long outdoor art orgy in Black Rock Desert, a desolate, arid and harsh ancient lake bed 120 miles north Reno, Nev.

 Burning Man serves as a forum to separate man from nature to excite man's inherit need to get back to it.

Burning Man 101

Burning Man serves as a forum to separate man from nature to excite man's inherit need to get back to it.

There's nothing there now, and only memories will remain. A temporary city is erected and dismantled around the Playa (beach), a setup that resembles a proscenium theater. Themed camps promise an immersive, experimental safe space. Only coffee and ice are for sale. Participants, nicknamed "burners," have to bring all they need to survive in what Burning Man officials call an environment of radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.

It's common for temperatures to exceed 100 degrees midday and drop to nearly freezing at night. Sand and wind storms, dubbed "ancestors," can reduce visibility to just a few feet, if not a handful of inches.

The gathering has become so popular that a new lottery system implemented this year failed, turning Burning Man into a fiasco that saw 200,000 participants apply for 50,000 spots. Many veteran burners, art teams, theme camp creators, performers and volunteers were left without tickets, many of which ended up in the hands of scalpers to be sold for as high as $5,000, a far cry from the $160 to $390 Burning Man charges for each admission. 

To answer the crisis that could have sabotaged Burning Man's core spirit, 10,000 tickets scheduled to be released in March were distributed directly to key groups and participants.

Jam and Stanley are Burning Man virgins; Newbies, so they say, are those who discover that the Porta-Potties aren't that bad after all.  

Singularity Transmissions is one of 45 proposed pro tem installations, the only one from Texas, out of 350 that received $15,000 funding from BMOrg, aka the Burning Man Organization. Many more have been accepted, albeit other artists have to underwrite their own costs. Stanley's team has raised $10,000 through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and hopes to gather $35,000 more, a figure that doesn't include transportation to and from Nevada. The group expects to secure fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas so they can offer tax deductible benefits to patrons.

 "There can be a balance between technology and nature — both elements don't have to be antagonistic."

A temporary collective consciousness chamber

So, what is Singularity Transmissions?

The 40-foot wood interactive sculpture is like a colossal feminine womb thrusting up to the sky like the pestle of a fully-bloomed flower, with bow of Middle Eastern arabesque aesthetic and a nod to the festival's theme, Fertility 2.0. The pentagon-shaped center is a resonance chamber where the sound from 15 separate and independent 10-foot pods encircling the tower, covering a 100-by-100-foot area, feeds into using tin can phone "technology."

The tin can phones' steel wires carry the analog signals 60 to 75 feet before they are received by another tin can. The second can is outfitted with a microphone, modified from a tiny speaker found in old computers, acting as a receiver that codifies sound as an electrical impulse into a mixer, saved onto hard drive and piped into the center chamber, which has speakers installed in all directions.

"When you are driving down a road and you see vines taking over electrical poles and electric wires, I see that as an analogy of nature taking over technology, and technology conversing with nature — a symbiotic relationship," Stanley explains. There can be a balance between technology and nature — both elements don't have to be antagonistic.

"If I can make that happen, where they exist in the same level, we would have created a new environment, perhaps even reboot the environment."

Everything and everyone are part of a collective consciousness that keeps feeding onto itself, Stanley says.

An organic, fertile catalyst for cathartic self-expression

 "It's in isolation, when we are in our own little world and disconnected from the rest, that we feel we can be real."

Singularity Transmissions is a musical instrument, a medium to incite expression. 

"Anyone can go into any of the pods and be honest," Stanley says. "They can't hear or see who's in the other pods or in the center chamber listening. It's in isolation, when we are in our own little world and disconnected from the rest, that we feel we can be real."

The team has reached out to other groups who may be interested in trying Singularity Transmissions. Among them are an all-female Bjork cover band, an a cappella choir, a San Francisco based ensemble and a Los Angeles-based theater. Though Stanley's team is experimenting with how a violin bow or guitar slider would work with tin can phones, the ultimate hope is for songs, prayers and Buddhist chants to send a message of peace to the world.

"All we want to do is listen," Stanley says. "Each of the 15 channels will be recorded separately and together as one."

Jam wanted the listening cavity to feel organic. To accomplish that she's using more than 3,000 coffee filters to fashion a filigree wall of ruffles and petals. Little wood benches for seating are accompanied by sprinkles of phonograph-shaped paper decorations. The structure is backlit and glows amber.

"When we talk about this listening chamber, I think you'll experience what god feels," Jam explains. "It's as if you are trying to listen to consciousness as a whole all at once, perhaps a mixture of confessions, singing, thoughts and talking. The experience can be very overwhelming — and that's just from 15 sources."

 "While the physical is fleeting, inspiration only grows."

Stanley's hope is that when people approach Singularity Transmissions, they hear something significant, have a cathartic moment and inspire others to pay it forward.

Working out of his Winter Street Studios atelier, Stanley uses computer technology to cut the many moving parts. The parts are then taken to a building behind Box 13 ArtSpace, where the team is testing each piece as it is built.

Stanley, Jam and a troupe of Houston, San Antonio and Austin creatives are designing Singularity Transmissions in pieces no larger than eight feet long so they can be stacked, banded together and transported on a flat bed of a semi-trailer truck for a one-way trip

Singularity Transmissions won't return to Texas. It will be burned to the ground at the end of the festival.

An unnecessary waste?

The collected audio will survive in an open-source database, hoping to serve as a muse for derivative works. Ashes will not be discarded. As the project's website expounds, "while the physical is fleeting, inspiration only grows."

Like a couple in love. Perhaps this will make Jam and Stanley's wedding day even more special.

___

Artists working on Singularity Transmissions to date include: Troy Stanley, Amberry Jam, Matt Kubo, Eric Hester, Logan Sebastian Beck, Bobby Bacon, Kenneth Lantz, Matt Crawford, Che Rickman, Tommy Gregory, Will Hill, Jay Hargrave, La Catrin, Stephen Scarpinato, Murph Murphy, Yvil Williams, Guy Brown, Naeemah Oglesby, Christy Love, Julian Luna and Melissa Riedel, with support from Brey Tucker, Jeff Trevino, Tommy Gregory, Jo Bird, VUW.Studio and Fresh Arts.

Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012, rendering by Brey Tucker, this WHITE BACKGROUND
Singularity Transmissions was awarded an honorarium from Burning Man 2012, a week-long outdoor art orgy in Black Rock Desert, a desolate, arid and harsh ancient lake bed 120 miles north Reno, Nev. Rendering by Brey Tucker
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012
Singularity Transmissions is one of 45 proposed pro tem installations, the only one from Texas, out of 350 that received $15,000 funding from BMOrg, aka the Burning Man Organization. Leading the charge is sculptor Troy Stanley. Photo by Matt Crawford
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012
The 40-foot wood interactive sculpture is like a colossal feminine womb thrusting up to the sky like the pestle of a fully-bloomed flower, with bow of Middle Eastern arabesque aesthetic and a nod to the festival's theme, Fertility 2.0. Photo by Matt Crawford
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012
Working out of his Winter Street Studios atelier, Stanley uses computer technology to cut the many moving parts. The parts are then taken to a building behind Box 13 ArtSpace, where the team is testing each piece as it is built. Photo by Matt Crawford
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012
The pentagon-shaped center is a resonance chamber where the sound from 15 separate and independent 10-foot pods encircling the tower, covering a 100-by-100-foot area, feeds into using tin can phone "technology." Pictured here is one of the 15 pods. Photo by Matt Crawford
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012
The team has reached out to other groups who may be interested in trying Singularity Transmissions. Among them are an all-female Bjork cover band, an a cappella choir, a San Francisco based ensemble and a Los Angeles-based theater. The ultimate hope is for songs, prayers and Buddhist chants to send a message of peace to the world. Photo by Matt Crawford
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012, rendering by Brey Tucker, this WHITE BACKGROUND
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012
Joel, Singularity Transmissions, July 2012