Quitting a Third Time

Speaking with Jenn about the Frederick Douglas autobiography audiobook she's listening to, I had an epiphany: I should stop trying to do things that I'm not good at and refine things I am good at. It's not so much defeatist as it is hopeful: I want to know how this whole "living" thing works. I want to live life well—to be good at it. I decided to quit the Temple project. In a matter of days, the Black Rock Arts Foundation will make a request for "Letters of Intent" to apply for an art grant. I might be able to make the temple; I might not. But what is it going to do—to prove? Rather, I want to focus on projects closer-to-home—something I'm good at already and can get better with practice.

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Learning 3D

I decided I needed to learn a 3D rending software. I found Blender which is Open-Souce, and, hence, free. I read a bunch about the user interface and found it quite daunting because it was unlike any software I had used. Well, it was like all the software I had ever used, just mashed-up in a way I hadn't encountered yet. In 2 hours I had made it through most of the tutorial to make a gingerbread man and had a better understanding of how it worked. I was rather elated at the progress I had made. I recalled what it was like to learn something new and get good results—the kind of thing that fired my obsession with computers in my teen years.

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Second Small Model

Wood model from sticks and 2x4s.
Wood model from sticks and 2x4s.

I was reinvigorated to work on the temple again. I want to make a structure that is so appealing (visually, emotionally, and otherwise) that nobody will want to burn it. And I want to integrate the community so they are fully invested in the project.

I drew some more sketches, trying to focus on the appearance of the end product rather than being fixated on the ability to construct it. I started in on making a model again. I took a couple 2×4's and hot-glued them together for a "trunk". Then I needed something to make branches. I was looking for inspiration outdoors when I decided to use some sticks from my magnolia tree. I cut them and glued them on then added bamboo skewers as branches and small scraps of paper as the "leaves". For some kind of scale, I added Vince.

Rough composite image on-Playa.
Rough composite image with the Playa.

I basically built 1/4 of the tree and took some test photos against a colored backdrop. I had four photos, each with the model rotated 90 degrees—all set up with the same camera settings on a tripod. Then I pulled it into Gimp, did a rough removal of the colored background and composited the four rotations on top of one another to create a pseudo-representation of a full model. I added a photo of the Playa from Vittorio Carli's artinterviews.com to make it look like it was at Burning Man.

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Quitting and Rebirth

Yesterday I was sure the project was completely dead. I had nobody who was helping me. I created a model and sent photos to both Antoni and Brandon and received no response at all. But today I decided I would have to do it all myself, although I figured I should find someone to help with sketches.

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Motivations and Thoughts

I decided I needed to figure out my motivations. I wanted to see it happen, for one: I wanted to see it on the Playa at Burning Man, and see how people added their messages, and how the leaves formed, and how the lighting would transition through seasons at night, and how it would burn.

I also wanted to be able to feign humility about it, to put a positive spin on it: I'm adept at being not noticed, or at least not approached. So I want to be able to be near people who want to shower compliments and gratitude, but to do so with anonymity. It's kind of a funny motivation, but it's ultimately about trying to control having power: having the power to decide whether I accept comments like that. It's like I want some of the benefits of fame, but I want to avoid its pitfalls. I fully believe that power over other people is corruption: not that power corrupts, but that it is corruption itself. It definitely gets me into trouble because what I do, and why people are impressed with me are inexorably linked to why they like me. Wish as I might, there is no such thing as being liked for "who you are" separate from "what you do".

So I also find it frustrating to receive compliments for things I've done. If you want to see it firsthand, you can approach me after this and try it. I'll be polite but start falling down the existential rabbit hole: what am I? what have I done? everything is derivative, so what do I add? if all this that I have made is not just me, but a series of events and tremendous help from others, so what part is me?

I figure I will meet some very kind and well-meaning sadists today.

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I told Antoni I was going to quit. I just couldn't bring myself to work on the models and I couldn't get all the things in my head about what it should look like. The project was just too big and too elaborate to complete. I didn't have all the answers yet, and I didn't think I could: everything from safety and design to shipping and clean-up. It was all just too much.

Well he pretty much dressed me down, albeit full of caring and understanding. He said I'd become just another person who doesn't do anything in the world, but if that's what I wanted, that's what I'd get. Also something about how I didn't have to know how to do everything: I could find people to help.

I don't remember much because it was pretty emotional for me. I was quite dejected about the whole thing, and when I left, I was resigned to do it—I had no choice in the matter as the plan was already in motion.

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I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. with an idea for an art project: the temple. It's a tree that gets filled with people's messages written on the slats from palettes which form the "leaves". Yurt-like structures surround it if I remember right, although I think a larger structure to enclose the trunk is the way to go.

I realized I had no choice but to proceed. I e-mailed some of the art people at Burning Man and they said that the Temple is considered one of the art projects in the normal grant process. Grants are due at the beginning of February, and the cycle hasn't started yet. I started looking into it.

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