Have You Ever Slid Down Into a Volcano?

photo: Aleks Stirajs
Truth is Beauty 2013 photo: Aleks Stirajs

I have been writing about Bliss Dance Studios for several years. They are my friends and I am a BIG fan. My favorite blog post was when they were assembling Bliss Dance before Burning Man 2010. There were some pretty scary moments and from where I was sitting, it was a miracle when it all fit together.  It was their first try at art of this size, you can see that post HERE.

So I believe art begets art. For example, one of the Bliss Dance crew, last year she was the operations manager for Truth is Beauty, Katy Boynton, created Heartfullness with her crew in 2012 and brought it out again in 2011, you can read about that HERE.

But it was a huge surprise to me when one of the Truth is Beauty crew announced a few months ago that she wanted to create a volcano, Paha’oha’o, about 30′ tall, and bring it to the Playa this year. So then it started, the vision, what it should look like, what it should be made of, would there be fire? Then there were structural drawings and discussions of materials. I found it all very exciting. Although I am not on the crew, we have a potluck on Tuesdays so I got to see materials testing, the structural engineer stopping by, the stairs getting built and tested, and oh yes, the slide, or as the artist Kahai Sumida Tate says:

The only way down will be to take a leap of faith into the belly of the volcano via a 22’ drop slide or lava tube that is made with an organic linoleum.

Building the last few weeks has been at a furious pace and I have had the chance to see the pieces come together, the sides of the volcano being built, the drums being created, and then this happened:

And just to bring it back to art begets art, Katy Boynton is the Project Manager of this project and Marco Cochrane has sculpted a eight foot high hula dance, who is making an offering to Pele, the fire goddess, to live in the belly of Paha’oha’o.

I wanted to know a little more about the volcano and what it meant to Kahai, this is what she has to say about it:

In Hawaii, eruptions are viewed as beneficial, as acts of creation, and Hawaiians often see their lives mirrored in the level of volcanic activity.
On those islands, an eruption usually begins with lava gushing from a long crack in the earth. The hot, highly fluid material leaves a smooth, skin like texture along the eruptive fissure. Because the structure is reminiscent of a huge vagina, native Hawaiians traditionally regarded an eruption as the menstruation of the goddess Pele, with the red lava always flowing toward the sea, the same path taken in ancient times by women to cleanse themselves. Participants will be able to sacrifice themselves into the volcano burning away their outer shell to start a new beginning.

The volcano will stand 30’ tall by 60’ in diameter layered in burlap which will look like molten lava. The lava will be illuminated wall washer led volcanolights that will be programmed to look like flowing lava. There will be a ladder to allow to people to climb to the top of the caldera and sacrifice themselves into mouth of the volcano. Inside the volcano will be an enclosed room with a 12’ ceiling, Marco Cochrane’s sculpture, and Hawaiian pahu drums.

If you would like to see Paha’oha’o burn at Burning Man this year, read about the burn HERE.

And did I hear you say you would like to volunteer to help Paha’oha’o? They are looking for volunteers at Burning Man this year to help participants at the the top and bottom of the slide. Participants will sacrifice themselves into the volcano burning away their outer shell to start a new beginning! 3 hours of fiery fun! Sign up for a shift using the link on the event page HERE. Mahalo!

About the author: Affinity


Affinity, a Burner since 2000, was legally married on the Playa in 2001, was wedding coordinator and then training coordinator at Burning Man, before becoming the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) Social Media Coordinator and an Advisory Board Member. An attorney, she served on the Board of Directors of the Western Pension and Benefits Conference. She interned with the Human Awareness Institute for 10 years. She writes about how art is envisioned, produced, created, installed and its afterlife.

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