You know it’s Fall in San Francisco when your neighbor has swapped his electric car for a rental van or when you see a new Tinkerbell outfit walking down the street.
And if there’s no bottled water to be found— it’s time for Burning Man which is 33 years young and still flowering in the desert.
This year, France will be proudly represented by an artist, sculptor of the light as he likes to define himself, named Marc Ippon de Ronda.
He grew up with techno music in the 2000s’ and has been fascinated by the properties of light as an artistic tool. Marc Ippon de Ronda has already presented his work at Beaubourg in Paris as part of a special event, displaying his projects in Tokyo, London and in Italy.
Fragments, his monumental installation of about 7 meters high, will cover a perimeter of 40 meters, and will be totaling 13 tons of material. He will be showing off the colors of France’s creativity at Burning Man 2019.
And he can be proud. It is indeed the only French artist to have got the grant among the 27 installations co-funded by the Black Rock City Honoraria Program; most of the other projects have been submitted by North American artists.
We had the opportunity to meet Marc in Paris and to interview him just before he left for California.
Marc Ippon de Ronda, what’s your background?
“I have an atypical profile because I did not study art at school, I did my artistic education by myself reading books and meeting people.”
“I started working in the mid-2000s with techno music, and I rather naturally started to take an interest in scenography by creating light mapping for events. I like to treat light as an artistic tool.”
Your motivation to participate in Burning Man?
“I knew Burning Man because I was interested in the work of Leo Villareal (the artist who illuminated the Bay Bridge) and I read that he started with installations at Burning Man … I did some researches about the event, but I thought it was not really my line of creativity. The creations did not match to my own style, that is rather minimalist. So, I put the idea of Burning Man aside for a while.
Finally encouraged by friend artists, DJs, visual artists … I decided to propose a project that I had in mind for several months. But given the size of my project, given the type of installation, I could not finance it myself.
I submitted Fragments to the Black Rock City Honoraria Program to get a grant and I got lucky. To be fair, the grant represents only 20% of the budget, and the rest has been financed by a crowdfunding campaign and thanks to ATO’s Designs production studio’s financial, material and human support. Crowdfunding is new to me as an artist, and I’m happy to see people who have never been to Burning Man trust me. Unfortunately, funding is a bit of the nerve of war in this kind of adventure.”
What is this Fragments project?
“Fragments represents a dream, a desert-born temple, a place of meditation and an access to wisdom. Concretely it is a set of fragments of giant mirrors, planted in the sand with -in its center, a monumental staircase which one can climb at sunrise. I even wrote a legend that will be displayed at the foot of the work to support the dream, but everyone can put what he wants behind it.
“When I conceived this project, I had no space to expose it, but I had just in mind for several months.”
How did you manage the technical challenge of creating this 13-ton behemoth in such a hostile environment?
“First, I adjusted my idea a bit when it came to implementation. We had to get help from grade A professionals that have very specific skills. We have worked with RBHU in Berkeley, the engineering office that has already done technical designs of some very great works for Burning Man. I take my hat off for the help they brought to my team and for the amount of guidance they brought us throughout the process. The production was made in Brisbane by a local workshop.
“We chose materials that will have to withstand heat, the extreme conditions of the desert, the wind … There was no way to use conventional mirrors, we had to choose plastic mirrors, special LEDs, technical adhesives…”
“It is designed as a Meccano so it can be transported in a single container, assembled relatively easily using a crane, and dismounted without problem.
Another interesting thing is that since the installation is fixed and the earth swivels slightly every day, I had to call on a sundial specialist (Kevin Karney) so that the installation of the staircase is well in the axis for the duration of Burning Man.”
What are you expecting by going to Burning Man?
“My wish is to gather, federate and encourage dreaming. But also to create interactivity around my work.
I do it as a “gift” and I hope the burners will grab it. As an artist, I’m a little bit in the “control freak” category but I can’t wait for the milestone when the work will be mounted, and that I will simply share the moment with the people who will be there. I am very curious to see what will happen, how the participants will appropriate the installation. For example, a couple who saw drawings of our project, asked us to get married on site; these are the sort of things that make me vibrate.
I hope it will also be a great experience for my team who trusted me and who accompanied me on this journey.”
What happens after Burning Man?
“When everything will be finished, we will put everything back in the container, and we will store it. But our goal is for the artwork to be re-installed in California or elsewhere. It will depend on who can welcome it. Here too, we are looking for sponsors for the installation to find a place after Burning Man.”
If you’re going to Burning Man, do not miss the dusting mirrors ceremony that will take place every morning at 5:45 am, and start the day with a dream … by making a sun salutation at the top of the stairs.
And if you feel like to participate in the crowdfunding campaign for this large project to find a new home, go to Fragments site.