Stone 27

Submitted by Benjamin Langholz

141+

Client: Burning Man

Location: Gerlach, NV, United States

Completion date: 2019

Artwork budget: $40,000

Project Team

Artist

Benjamin Langholz

Lead Engineer

Amihay Gonen

Engineer

Amy Kordosky

Steel Fabrication

Jeffrey Jones

Overview

Created and temporarily installed for Burning Man, August 2019, Nevada, USA. Dimensions: 27′ x 59′ x 43′. Materials: Stone and steel.
Stone 27 invites you on a walk along floating stones above the ground to experience a moment of complete presence. The installation is made up of 27 floating stones each weighing 600 pounds. The stones form a circular pathway increasing in height up to 20 feet above the ground below. The artist employed industrial materials, and the brains of two structural engineers, so that the installation could stand supported by four minimal steel columns anchored to the ground without the use of foundation (required by the temporary nature of the event). Stone 27 is fully interactive and has been climbed by thousands of people.

Goals

Burning Man poses unique challenges for creating artwork. All supplies including materials, tools, power, food, and living equipment must the brought in with us. An installation has about a week to erect, a week to be enjoyed by participants, and then a few days to strike and return the area to the exact condition it was found. This means no foundations, no burying supports, and lots of pre-planning. Artwork at Burning Man should also be interactive, withstand hard sometimes abusive usage of the 70,000 participants and an unpredictable environment with winds up to 80mph.

While all participants of Burning Man doing so at their own risk, safety is still a primary concern and I worked closely with the team at Burning Man on how we would present Stone 27 in a way where we felt confident of the structural safety, and an approach for personal safety.

Process

I had a moment of inspiration which lead me to suspend a large bolder between 3 trees using only mechanical tools. In envisioning this process I realized the potential for creating pathways of multiple stones and instantly saw the potential in this as an interactive artwork. After fully envisioning the concept and proving the single stone, I partnered and worked closely with 2 structural engineers in order to design the details, and complete a full finite element analysis. I was very sure that in order for the work to be successful we needed to keep all support members as minimal as possible creating a feeling of lightness in the artwork and in turn uncertainty of stability for someone approaching it.

Fabrication was done in Reno, the closest city to where Burning Man takes place. I searched for stones in the desert but decided against disrupting the natural landscape and instead worked with a local quarry to select stones with a similar composition to those found in the Black Rock Desert.

The project was made possible with the time of generous volunteers. Materials, tools, and transportation were the focus of the entire budget.

Additional Information

This project was created an honorarium grant for Burning Man 2019 and is currently available for permanent installation. In the future, I am dreaming of creating work incorporating waterways, and integrating into architectural settings. I prefer to create site-specific work whenever possible, and I have a range of concepts to suit the possibilities of any project.