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FireHero 3: Christmas Special

Filed Under Art, Fire, Fire Art, Geek, Raspberry Pi | 2013-01-19, 18:46

I know the holidays are almost over (we still have my birthday!) but I had to share this video of Chris Marion’s latest revision of Fire Hero 3. I’ve been chatting with Chris off an on over the last 2 years about fire art, and how Interpretive Arson/Ardent Heavy Industries has gone about building and running our stuff safely and legally at events.

He goes into great detail on how he built a lot of the system which includes six flame effects that react to guitar playing and two 100ft flame cannons for even more fire. All the plumbing and accumulators are controlled by an Arduino Mega and a RaspberryPi with a custom built server and communication protocol (written in python).

The Python host software is made up of a series of algorithms designed to perform intelligent chord-detection, as well as detect single notes and place them appropriately. The software memorizes all the chord progressions of a particular song as the guitarist plays in order to ensure consistent output for each chord.

The system is designed specifically for live music performances. I’m hoping it gets booked for a show nearby so I can check it out in person.

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Pyrotopia: A Fire Arts Festival for the East Coast

Filed Under Events, Fire Art | 2012-02-18, 20:54

Want to play Simon with fire, watch well-dressed performers twirl fire, or hear the crackle of a Tesla coil but are stuck on the East Coast? Well if you’re anywhere near Pittsburgh you should go check out Pyrotopia on April 27th and 28th. It’s not often that the east coast gets a fire art festival. and to top it off this one is free and open to the public and is family-friendly.

(via Laughing Squid)

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A Day in the Life of Ed: 2pir Testing

Filed Under Body Modification, Fire, Fire Art, Personal | 2010-03-02, 20:27

The following is my “extra credit assignment” for the BME World Tour. Thanks to everyone for their support, I’m one of the 9 finalists!! We were asked to do a video, photos, and blog post of our day in order to pick the final 4 (or 5!) people who get to travel the world.

When I got word that I was in the top ten finalists, my heart skipped another beat. Closer and closer to a trip around the world. I could feel my passport tugging on my sleeve, “can we go!? can we go!? please please please!”, but I calmly explained to my anthropomorphized government document that the decision was not up to me. I still had one more assignment to prove I was worthy of such a trip: a blog entry, video, and photos of a day in my life. Luckily the next day had potential to be interesting enough to share with the Internet.

My day started with my fiancée, Heather, waking me up early with the video camera rolling. It was one of those cherished beautiful San Francisco days where the sun was shining and it was actually warm. In between my half-awake grunts, she said goodbye as she was off to hike around Alamere Falls with friends. Shortly after she departed, I crawled out of bed and made myself a gourmet breakfast of Lucky Charms and soy milk. A quick shower and shave and I grudgingly sat down in front of the computer to do some work. The curse of working for yourself is that every day is a possible workday. Luckily addressing my emails and other chores only took about 2 hours this time and I was soon out the door.

Down the three flights of stairs with a laptop, camera, and flip video in tow; I jumped into my car and trekked across the Bay Bridge to Oakland. I was headed to NIMBY, an industrial art space in south Oakland, to work on one of Interpretive Arson’s fire art pieces, 2pir.

For those not familiar with it, 2pir is “a blisteringly interactive large-scale fire toy”. It consists of two circles: an inner circle fitted with motion sensors and an outer circle comprised of 16 large flame effects. When a participant waves their hands, feet, or any other body part over the motion sensor it triggers a large column of flame. While on the inner platform, many people perform their best sorcerer imitation, summoning fire with their hands, while others choose to dance and twirl around, flames following their movement. The beauty of the piece is that the performance is different everytime.

2pir was designed and built by Interpretive Arson, a Bay Area fire art group that I’m a member of. It was originally built in 2006 and has since undergone several upgrades. This year it’s time for another one of those upgrades as the ignition system was no longer up to our standards for reliability. In addition, several components needed to be upgraded in preparation for our second international run in Denmark later this year at Smukfest.

The previous day we had spent some time finalizing a design for new flame effects and built a single prototype for testing. We wanted to make sure one new flame effect worked successfully before building the other 15. Today it was time to actually test this prototype and see how well it performed.

Fire against the sky

We dragged the prototype outside, hooked all the plumbing up to a tank of propane, plugged in the electronics and hit the switch. The resounding sound of combustion echoed off the walls of the warehouse. Success! But it wasn’t perfect. Ignition wasn’t 100% reliable and we wanted the best shape of fire we could get. After a period of tweaking, adjusting, and experimenting we were mostly happy with what we had. We made a quick run to Home Depot to grab a few materials and then stopped off for some burritos to refuel ourselves.

Back at NIMBY, the sun had set and the darkness of the seemingly deserted industrial section of Oakland was just asking for some noise and light. We fired the flame effect back up and enjoyed lighting up the yard and bouncing the percussive sounds of explosive propane combustion off the walls. After a bit of fun it was back to work: grinding, cutting, drilling, and welding the frames for the new effects.

Tom grinds

The work went late into the night before we all decided to call it a day and I headed home. The late night drive across the Bay Bridge on the way back into San Francisco is always one of my favorites times. The bridge is relatively empty and all lit up, as are the downtown skyscrapers and streets of San Francisco. It’s a great time to turn up the music, coast over the water, meander through the empty city streets and clear my mind. My ritual-like return home always includes a hot shower before sleep and this night was no exception. After climbing into bed with Heather, the echoes of our controlled explosions rang in my ears as I drifted off to sleep.

A selection of photos: 20100228-2pir Testing


Help Support NIMBY!

Filed Under Fire Art, SF Bay Area | 2009-11-05, 14:26

NIMBY has been fighting a battle with the city of Oakland for quite some time now. It’s not an easy battle, and as you can guess it’s not a free one. While NIMBY makes some money via tenants paying rent, a large part of their fundraising comes from throwing events that the city is not currently allowing. In order to stay open and to continue to fight for the right to throw fundraisers, NIMBY needs your help.

Your support of NIMBY directly affects hundreds of us that use the space to build our art. On a personal level NIMBY is the home of Ardent Heavy Industries, aka Interpretive Arson. The existence of NIMBY means that our art has a place to live and grow! If you aren’t familiar with NIMBY (or even if you are), check out the video they put together too! Please help pledge whatever you can to keep things going!

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Dance Dance Immolation on Boing Boing Video

Filed Under Fire Art, Video | 2009-05-27, 14:34

We’ve been boing-boinged a second time for Dance Dance Immolation. The first was back in 2005 when DDI was in it’s infancy. Fast forward 4 years and this time DDI is a bit more polished. BB has a video put together by Eddie Codel, hosted by SFSlim and Charis Tobias and starring the various members of Interpretive Arson. Yours truly is in it for only a moment, but it’s one of those most wonderful moments where Rubin and I are hitting the buttons that makes the fire go! The video was all filmed during our setup and run for How To Destroy The Universe Part 6.

You can check out the official post on Boing Boing.


DDI at How To Destroy The Universe Part 6

Filed Under Events, Fire, Fire Art, News, SF Bay Area, Video | 2009-04-27, 17:25

Dance Dance Immolation - Inches from fire

On Saturday, we pulled Dance Dance Immolation out of storage for the first time in almost two years, dusted it off and got it running again. The event was “How To Destroy the Universe Part 6”, an industrial party held at the new NIMBY location in Oakland. We ran one of the longest and most problem-free runs in the history of DDI.   BoingBoingTV came and filmed and we had a chance to shoot the infamous sfslim with fire. We also got to shoot fire at several Noisebridge members, the newest blogger for Laughing Squid (Burstein), and a bunch of others.  Many photos and videos were taken. My photos can be found in this Flickr set and this album on Vimeo.

If you’ve never seen Dance Dance Immolation, here’s what it looks like in action:

One of my personal favorite photos of the night was captured by Audrey while I was practicing my Fire Art DJ skills:
Fire Art DJ
More photos and videos:
Audrey Penven
Neil Kandalgaonkar
Kristen Ankiewicz
Vanessa Naylon


Dracul: Prince of Fire, a Fire Ballet

Filed Under Art, Fire Art, SF Bay Area | 2009-01-09, 16:44

Last night we gathered with a large number of friends for the second performance of “Dracul: Prince of Fire” at The Crucible. We’ve been to several of the previous fire ballets and knew that the tickets were worth every penny. Apparently so did the rest of the Bay Area as the performance quickly sold out.

For those that aren’t familiar, The Crucible is an Oakland based non-profit organization that encourages collaboration of Arts, Industry and Community through training in the fine and industrial arts. You can take classes there on topics such as welding, neon, jewelry making, wood carving, fire dancing, and more. This fire ballet is a celebration/fund-raiser for their 10th year in existence. With your ticket purchase you will get a wonderful show, plus you’ll be helping a great organization.

The show itself was amazing from start to finish. I’m not a fan of ballet personally, but as readers know, I love me some fire. And there was plenty of fire for the evening. I don’t want to give away any parts of the show, but it had me applauding both the performers as well as the people behind the fabrication. In addition there was a lot of amazing aerial performances as well as humorous nods to popular culture.

I highly recommend going if you get the chance. I would recommend wearing warm clothes however, as it is held inside The Crucible’s warehouse, which is not know for its warmth. People will give you envious looks (rather than weird ones) should you bring a warm blanket. The show runs Jan 7th-10th and Jan 14th-17th. There are still several nights left at varying ticket prices, but they will sell out. For more info, check out the page on The Crucible.

The following trailer for Dracul uses footage from previous performances to give you an idea of what to expect:

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Fire on the White Holly In the Sausalito Yacht Parade

Filed Under Art, Burning Man, Fire Art, SF Bay Area | 2008-12-15, 12:01

For 19 years, the Sausalito Yacht Club has held the annual “Lighted Boat Parade”. Everyone brings their boats out lit up with Christmas lights and cruises around the Bay. This year for the 20th time, they held the same parade, only there was a new entry, the White Holly, which took things a step further by being loaded up with fire art from around the Bay Area.

The White Holly is a “High Endurance, Expedition Vessel” primarily used primarily for research missions. It’s a pretty hardy ship, but one has to wonder if anyone had in mind what it was used for on Saturday. Unfortunately I wasn’t there, but I saw multiple comments on my Twitter stream of friends mentioning going on a boat, needing ear protection, etc. The best being “It’s like we took Crude Awakening and stuck it on a ship. There’s nowhere to run or hide. God help us.” I wasn’t fully aware of what was planned until the next day.

So what was on the White Holly? Well up front there was Epiphany, a 25′ steel sculpture by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito that many remember from the Crude Awakening installment at Burning Man 2007 or maybe Maker Faire 2008. It had a “beating” heart of fire. There was El Diablo, a jet engine repurposed for shooting fire (and being noisy) by Jack Schroll. There were also flame effects built by the Flaming Lotus Girls and Bob Hofman installed on the boat amidst the Christmas lights. Don’t forget the Tesla coil hanging off the side of the boat upside down sending arcs into the water. And to top it all off, the loudest air raid siren ever produced, the Victory Siren, announced to the entire area that the White Holly had arrived.

Videos and photos are still trickling online, but here’s what I’ve found so far:
Wally also posted about it over on Planet Wally
There’s also a good video over here.
Friends Leslie and NetDiva were lucky enough to be on board and have posted their Flickr sets from the White Holly.

The Victory Siren

Tesla Coil Test

Megavolt2’s Video


Dance Dance Immolation on Forbes.com

Filed Under Fire Art | 2008-07-25, 15:17

Dance Dance Immolation

As many of you already know, Dance Dance Immolation is a project from Interpretive Arson, a fire art group I’m part of. It was originally built by a talented group of friends and is now maintained and improved by a number of people. We try to bring it out a couple times a year to run and show it off. Every now and then this results in some press. Occasionally we’ll get some random out of the blue mention in an article somewhere. The latest is a small blurb in a Forbes.com article entitled “Geeks Get Their Game On”. It’s an article about the different and unique games and activities geeks engage in these days. Here’s the blurb on us:

For those that like their fun with a frisson of fear, there’s “Dance Dance Immolation,” a game that pairs the hit music videogame “Dance Dance Revolution” with balls of flame. Participants boogie along with the game–a kind of Twister set to music–while covered in firefighter gear. Missteps activate blasts of fire, often to the face. The brainchild of Interpretive Arson, a California-based “fire art troupe,” DDI is mostly played at outdoor festivals.

It’s always cool to see DDI/IA in the news somewhere, and the kicker for me in this case is that Forbes decided to run my photo (original on flickr) with the article.

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Explosion Collection

Filed Under Fire Art, Video | 2007-09-18, 21:31

We’ve recently stumbled upon some good videos of explosions again. Last time it was Explosive Ordinance Disposals but this time it’s an even bigger explosion, as well as some other large ones I had the opportunity to see in person.

Russian Vacuum Bomb
Containing 7.8 tons of high explosives, Russia’s latest “vacuum bomb” is non-nuclear but results in an explosions equivalent to 44 tons of explosives. While the “Mother of all Bombs” is 8.0 tons, it is said this “Father of all Bombs” is even more powerful. The shockwave is readily visible, I only wish that the video had audio.

2BLEVE was an art piece created by Nate Smith at Burning Man in 2006. In short about 250 gallons of fuel was ignited in two “boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions” (hence the name, 2BLEVE). A BLEVE occurs when a tank containing pressurized liquid is ruptured and the fuel quickly vaporizes, something you don’t want to happen by accident.

More pictures and videos of 2BLEVE.

Crude Awakening
Crude Awakening was an art piece in the deep playa for Burning Man 2007. It consisted of a 100ft high oil derrick and 8 figures in poses of prayer “worshipping” the derrick. Politics, opinions, and green man theme aside, the explosion and burning of it at the end of the week was still awe-inspiring.

The extended version with the ridiculous amount of fireworks (for those without ADD):

The explosion from up close:

From a mile away:

Morning after
from thinkcooper:

Following the Crude Awakening burn, early Sunday morning, Nate figured we should dispose of the last couple of hundred gallons of AV fuel on his trailer. A group of a ~dozen of us headed out to the CA site around 5:30AM, and cleared out a 250′ safety perimeter. Nate filled two tanks with a ~200 gallons of aviation fuel each, pressurized them with propane, and then set them off. Bob Hoffman and I were laying on the playa right below the rings. What a Sunday morning treat for the all-nighters still hanging out at Crude Awakening site