SFist tells us about a new Big Art installation on Pier 14. Soma was made by the Flaming Lotus Girls, and debuted at Burning Man in 2009.
Bizarrely, Pier 14 on San Francisco’s Embarcadero is just to the South of Pier 2, between the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge, rather than near the Exploratorium at Pier 17. Maybe they should have put it in San Francisco’s SoMa district, the new epicenter of the tech industry.
New Burning Man Art Comes To Pier 14
On July 21, just after sunset, a new interactive, LED sculpture will light up Pier 14. The 28 x 40 foot stainless steel installation is a modified version of piece that premiered at Burning Man in 2009.
Named “Soma,” which refers to its abstract depiction of two neurons connected by an axon bridge, the sculpture was created by local art collective the Flaming Lotus Girls with support from the Port of San Francisco and the Black Rock Arts Foundation (Burning Man’s arts nonprofit), it was built using stainless steel handrails gathered from a local shop, click here to learn more about it. The project also raised $17,000 on Kickstarter and they’re still accepting donations here.
Unlike the Burning Man edition, which shot fire from multiple points, the waterfront version will feature LEDs, which are controlled by buttons accessible to the public. The Flaming Lotus Girls write that the LED units are “capable of producing 1.6 million colors” and the computer-controlled buttons allow people to activate a “trans-synaptic action.”
According to the Flaming Lotus Girls’s blog, the sculpture will turn on ten minutes after sunset and stay lit till 2 a.m., just like The Bay Lights. The exhibit is open 24 hours a day,. Soma will be up until July 2015.
“Soma” – an interesting choice to represent Burner culture. Why, you ask?
Soma is indeed an accepted term for a neuron. It is more than that, though. Use of the word goes back beyond even Greek times, to the Indian/Aryan Vedas, the oldest known texts that are still in use today. It is the first known drug, a botanical entheogen consumed in rituals and considered “a God for Gods”.
Soma is also the name of the wonder drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World which is used to control the population in blissful ignorance. In the book it is described as an opiate, hallucinogen, and stimulant, with no side effects. The British-born Huxley has a long association with the Bay Area. He was the major inspiration behind the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, where there is a “sacred vessel” meeting room named after him. His dystopian novel is considered by some, along with his student George Orwell’s 1984, as a blueprint for modern society.
“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution”
– Aldous Huxley, UC Berkeley, 1962.
“We’re a self-service cult. Wash your own brain” – Larry Harvey.
Here’s Huxley’s whole speech: