When you think of Burning Man, you think of the improbable. Imagine adults creating vehicles and structures like you would have as a child while playing with legos. Dubbed “Burners”, the attendees of Burning Man come from all walks of life – giving the event a certain exclusive vibe that other festivals or gatherings have yet to imitate. Amongst the endless creativity are the art cars. They serve as public transportation, visual stimuli and are a central part of the Burning Man eco-system. From outfitted yachts to the Mayan Warrior, they come in all shapes and sizes and Black Rock Desert wouldn’t be the same without them.
For the 2015 installation of Burning Man, currently stationed in the Mojave Desert, is a huge project has been undertaken to create the biggest art car ever assembled to the Playa. Armed with hundreds of volunteers, Big Imagination Foundation has dubbed this Project 747″, aptly named since the base of the mutant vehicle will be a Boeing 747 chassis. The project is being lead by Ken Feldman, who in 2009, came up with the idea by drawing some crude plans in the dust. While these specific plans weren’t built upon until years later, 2014 to be exact, Ken strayed off course and built another art car: Charlie the Unicorn.
During his return to Burning Man in 2014, he came back as a tourist, because at Black Rock Desert, there are no spectators. On the final day, while driving Charlie the Unicorn, painstakingly through the 2 lane desert highway backroads, Ken and Will, another caretaker of the Charlie the Unicorn art car, began to rehash the idea of Project 747 from 2009.
After his return to Venice, Ken began to put his plan into motion. After contacting the bone yard in the Mojave Desert and receiving the hefty quote of a 747 chassis, he brought his idea to a decompression party (essentially a Burning Man after party/gathering) where he shared his idea with friend and Big Imagination Foundation co-founder, Jonathan Teo. His reaction might have well as been an automatic green light for the project.
“Our mission is to incubate and support projects that are bold, inspiring, and visionary. What we want people to do is be inspired to be the best that they can be. To make a change. To look at the plane and think ‘if they can do something this crazy, what can I do?’ It’s not just a big party, it’s a multi-purpose exhibit with an overarching theme that it achieves in different ways.”
Jonathan’s vision of the project is simple:
“We wanted to do something that was so big it would be community owned. Something everybody can get involved in and something that would be really crazy.”
With volunteers ranging from NASA engineers and prominent architects to individuals who had original involmenet with the initial Boeing 747 project and airline stewardesses, this undertaking has been built by everyone, with noone taking ownership, which, mirrors Jonathan’s expression of his vision.
While there is still a long ways to go and months of preparations and modifications that need to be made like logistical planning for the 900km voyage and to make sure enough funding is procured in order to maintain the project for years to come, the team is creating something that is bigger than them. Literally and figuratively.
“Some people might say that it’s too big or too difficult or too expensive, but to achieve what we set out to do and positively impact so many people in the process… That’s worth it-you can’t put a price on that”