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Let there be steam!


Steampunk Neena

A Fund raiser for a Tree House – Fireballs in Oakland. (Map this!)

We could have been at a medieval alchemist workshop as flaming balls of fire lit up the dusk with a resounding “boom”, a merry-go-round powered by a steam engine whirled ephemerally through the surrounding vapor and a steam powered blender busily prepared margaritas consumed eagerly by the waiting crowd.

We were at NIMBY (Not in My BackYard), a cavernous workshop in Oakland, where art installations destined for this year’s Burning Man are waiting impatiently to be built. It was a fund raiser for one of the big installations in the form of a fantastic steam powered wood and metal tree house. Inspired by Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s (of “Amelie” fame) bizarre movie “City of Lost Children”, it will be ensconced in a tree 30ft tall spewing steam from its numerous branches into the thirsty Nevada desert. The partially assembled trunk and base stood tantalizingly in a corner as enormous metallic insect-robots, seeming like visitors from a different planet, pranced around spewing out jets of flame, feeding on propane offered by an artist hidden in a dark corner.

A couple of days ago we had attended a lecture by these latter day steam engineers from Kinetic SteamWorks, who lovingly restore old steam engines to power kinetic art. We saw a tantalizing artist’s rendition of the tree house. He was followed by the genius artist from ClockWorks, who had built a gigantic grandfather clock made entirely of wood at a previous Burning Man. This beautiful Gothic structure kept time on the Playa for a few days before being burned as do most things at Burning Man.

Burning Man is still a few months away, but watching the fire-dance-strip-tease at NIMBY, it was obvious that the countdown had begun!

Exothermia Steam Engine Fireball
EngineWindow Dingus SteamShreesh

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