Scriptorium

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Scriptorium at sunset
Scriptorium concept illustrated by Gray Davidson, watercolor by Misha Naiman

Made by Majorelle Arts in 2018. Scriptorium was built at American Steel in Oakland, CA. The Scriptorium was partially funded by a Burning Man Honorarium as well as a fundraising campaign. Scriptorium was later shown at Autumn Lights festival in Oakland opening October 18th, 2018.

Specs

The Scriptorium is 24' long, and 12' tall. The central sculpture disassembles into some 50 pieces for transport. The surrounding space features 10 benches placed around the sculpture in a pentagon formation and 10 propane lanterns providing light. Near the benches are a series of writing boxes, frames on the ground, and tools allowing participants to inscribe their thoughts and designs on the playa surface.

Concept

The Scriptorium is a kinetic metal demigod writing teacher holding a stylus and a flame. The creature instructs Burners in using the playa as a canvas for inscribing art and memory. The sculptural space enacts the mythological drama of artistic gifts learned from spirits and nature.

The primary interaction in the space is in studying drawing from the creature who presides there. The deity’s inscriptions in the loose dust will be ordered chaos, patterns manufactured by the natural process of rotation, later swept bare by the wind. Participants may rake clean the interior of the writing boxes and, in imitation, leave their own inscription in the temporary medium.

The writing stations are places of encounter where preoccupation with the task of writing interplays with the social aspect of a seating area in the desert. Four or so humans may sit comfortably at each of the five stations.

In lieu of direct imitation, participants are welcomed to use the space as an enclosure of quietude where warmth and shade protect from the desert extremes. A low, well-lit retaining wall invites burners to spend time within the sculpture, experiencing it through time to learn the lesson of the space rather than speeding through on bicycles, seeing nothing and learning less.

We continue our mission to replace the paradigm of art-as-object with one of art-as-environment; as a narrative to be entered and experienced from within. This is not a museum where patrons can stroll, self-assured that they exist safely apart from the art they view. The Scriptorium draws participants into Burning Man’s world of sentient sculpture where wood and steel and flapping canvas come alive, prepared to nurture or consume them.

Simply by cycling through The Scriptorium, seating themselves and playing with the tools they find, participants enact a recurring mythological opera. They cast themselves as truth-seekers, supplicants and students of an ancient art in peregrination to a supernatural teacher. Patron demigods of writing (among many other crafts) abound in the mythological record and by acting parts in this unfolding drama participants not only recount these fables but explore themes of evolution and the human relationship to the lessons of the natural or un-natural world.

The interactive element of the piece – in which participants replace each other at the benches and writing boxes, erase each others’ work and leave their own trace of art in turn – mirrors the life cycle of Burning Man itself, inscribed yearly into the desert dust and erased just as completely to make way for a new creative hand the following year.

Desert Arts Preview Presentation