Friday, July 10, 2009

Tortuga: The making of mobile art

Tortuga: Elements of Evolution. "she can never make a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps," Charles Darwin

Well, we have gone back to the drawing table several times and have emerged with some new and improved ideas and modifications. We feel that the final result, as pictured above, will not only be a spectacular visual sight on the playa, but will also be in keeping with this years theme - "Evolution", since it is entirely based on the Galapagos Tortoise and it’s surroundings.

This one's hamming it up for the photo, don't you think? But, I digress . . .

Our vision starts with volcanic activity - the volcano frame is welded onto a "platform" made from the frame of the vehicle, stainless tubing and wood. It is then welded into the front of the former van.

Acrylic felt in several colors will be attached to the structure of it, and will "flow" over onto the former vehicle to form a lava "island". The "cone" of the volcano will be active and will "erupt" with the use of rope lights on wires coiling upward, spot lights, mylar and fans to create simulated flames and smoke. Red rope lights will also be affixed to the mountain of lava to illuminate the lava at night.

The volcano will not obstruct the vision of the driver as the driver will be positioned high enough to see over it.

From the hardened lava vegetation is formed. Lush tropical rain forest will be permanently affixed to the newly formed island. (here you see the green "backdrop" of the vegetation.) To form the backdrop, the original van body has been cut away. Bench seating, made from fiberglass over wood, is permanently mounted onto the chassis in place of the van body. Rear overhang is reinforced with additional chassis framework. The cut-away has been retained to insert the trunks of trees, and to serve as battery and water compartments. Metal struts have been placed strategically for passenger gripping and for tortoise mounting.

We of course are using artificial plants and flowers - a dazzling array will be wired into the cutaway, hot glued and woven onto the seatbacks of the tram-island.

Within the resplendent forest, animals like toucans, snakes, lizards and boobys (it’s a bird - really!) will live and thrive on the rain showers that come from the hidden misting system. (we will have a thunder-storm recording as well as jungle animal sounds for a little sound effect - not louder than a typical car stereo . . . well, outside of the ghetto anyway!) Green rope lighting will be strung throughout our jungle and at night will illuminate the forest.

These fake bananas look good enough to eat . . . if you're a stuffed monkey!

On top of this jungle (onto the top platform and struts of the island-tram) we weld the geo-dome structure of the tortoise shell pictured below.

The dome will be covered in a cloth which will complete the tortoise shell and allow the light from several spotlights inside it to shine through. The legs, neck and tail of the tortoise will be constructed of wired duct material giving it movement and flexibility and will be permanently mounted and glued to the "island". They will also contain spotlights inside. The desired effect:

The head will be fabricated of bent metal strips and will be welded onto the roof of the van cab. The tortoise’s eyes will glow amber from the lights we place inside the head. (Oooh!)

So why the art car, you ask?

For more than 15 years we at the Green Tortoise have been bringing hundreds of people to the playa annually to experience Burning Man. We not only have a village of over 200 folks camping with us, but we drive/operate the shuttle to/from Gerlach and Empire as well. We feel a need to contribute to the Burning Man "society" as a whole and this art car (capable of holding 30 or so folks from the playa) is our way of participating, as well as giving back to an event that we have felt a part of for many years. We have a remarkable line-up of our highly talented, well qualified bus drivers who are eager to drive folks around on the playa night and day, beckoning to all people who are willing to hop aboard and experience the playa on our island.

We are confident that our tropical island jungle will stop people in their tracks as we roll by - and we’ll be inviting all to ride with us, to share the vision, and to create a new moment in our own evolution as well as theirs - wont you come with us?

Additional photos and updates can be found at:

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