“The Tinkle Drum”: The Sweet Melody of People-powered Art

If you’ve watched Desert Arts Preview and followed other Black Rock City art announcements, you’re aware that we’re championing playa installations that take sustainability into consideration. What does this mean? Among other things, a sustainable artwork may use renewable energy, be created from repurposed materials, and be built locally instead of transported across the ocean.

Very soon you’ll hear the sweet tinkle of people-powered art emanate across the playa. Bibi Bliekendaal and the team behind “The Tinkle Drum” have made decisions that favor sustainability at every phase of their creative journey… and then some. This wonderfully interactive Honoraria piece is all about international collaboration, recycled materials, and breaking down barriers by bringing people together through art and music.

Bringing People Together to Create Music

Concept sketch of “The Tinkle Drum” by Bibi Bliekendaal, 2022 (Courtesy of the artist)

Bibi Bliekendaal writes:

“The Tinkle Drum” is a life-size drum that invites people to walk inside at a steady, collectively negotiated pace. This activates tines on the outside of the drum and creates music. At night, the strikes of the keys also create a lightshow for people outside the drum to enjoy. 

I came up with the concept while out for a run in Westerpark, Amsterdam, during the 2021 lockdown. Inspired by the sight of a lone cello player practicing, I realized how I missed live music, the energy of people making and enjoying it together. I wanted to create something that enables people to make music together, to share a common goal and move towards it, no matter who they were or what they have.

A Build Focused on Sustainability

My partner, lead engineer Joshua Jordan, and I gathered an international group of creatives, engineers, and sustainable designers to help bring the project to life. The first step involved building a smaller prototype, which traveled to the Netherlands’ Where the Sheep Sleep Regional Burn in June 2022. 

In August the first “Tinkle Drum” will be part of the “Energy Junkies” exhibit at Living Art Lab in Amsterdam’s Marineterrein. Then in October 2022 it will move to the temporary artists’ community Lola Luid to give locals the chance to experience the interactive sculpture. This will be a great test of durability, an important component of the design given the harsh conditions of the desert and interactivity of the art piece. 

Testing out version one “The Tinkle Drum” by Bibi Bliekendaal, 2022 (Photo by courtesy of the artist)

The build has been and will continue to be an adventure in sustainability. An important goal for “Tinkle Drum” is to reuse and recycle materials wherever possible. These include pallets and scrap metal, and spent nitrous oxide canisters. Good ol’ fashion human legs and the desert sun will provide the power to make the Tinkle Drum tinkle. No generators here, baby! 

An emphasis on sustainability also means the first “Tinkle Drum” iteration will not travel to the US. Instead, it will be built all over again in August at The Generator in Reno. She’s going to be a pretty big job. If you’re in the neighborhood and feel like joining the build, we’d love to hear from you at bibi.bliekendaal@gmail.com.

Measuring sustainability is challenging but important. Tim Barry has joined the team to develop a unique model for calculating the carbon footprint (or carbon tinkle) of the project. 

Tim, alongside his Renewables For Artists Team and Green Transport and Emissions team, will apply CO2e models developed for September 2021’s MediMeisterschaften and the canceled 2022 Kiwiburn Regional Event to the creation of “Tinkle Drum.” This will help the crew develop a formula other artists can follow to calculate their art’s CO2e impact in the future.

An International Team

The group of collaborators and supporters has grown from those in the Netherlands and New Zealand to the USA, Bulgaria, Germany and more. All are welcome.

Sustainability, collaboration and diversity are big themes in my work. To have something we can all take part in, that makes art and music accessible — that’s what it’s all about. Huge thanks to Kiwiburn, Burning Man Project, and all people who helped make this a possibility. You can support Tinkle Drum’s journey to Black Rock City by contributing to our crowdfunding campaign. See you in the dust!


Cover image of “Tinkle Drum” creator Bibi Bliekendaal at Where the Sheep Sleep, 2022 (Photo by Bibi Bliekendaal)

About the author: Bibi Bliekendaal

Bibi Bliekendaal

Bibi Bliekendaal (aka BB Queen) is a Kiwi artist based in Amsterdam. She's spent 15 years creating and writing campaigns, short films and digital experiences for global brands — then after her first Burn in 2018 got inspired to dedicate time to sustainable art, sculpture and finally attend art academy. When she's not on playa, in the workshop, or at uni she’s probably on a surfboard or lost at sea.

3 Comments on ““The Tinkle Drum”: The Sweet Melody of People-powered Art

  • Bruce Rogow says:

    Why not profile the Alternative Energy Zone Village? No fossil fuel generator village and we give tours m-f at 11:00am to see our solar and wind powered camps.

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  • Anna says:

    I Simply love your idea and the way you developed It. I am sorry I will not be able to partecipate at the next Burning man but i do hope to see the massive Power of your creation in YouTube afterwards. congratulation and have the most successfull experience ever! Greetings from Italy!

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