With the Bay Lights as a glittering backdrop, the Flaming Lotus Girls have installed their beautiful and interactive 2009 sculpture, “Soma”, at Pier 14.
San Francisco has been showcasing art at Pier 14 for a while now and Soma is the third art piece to have debuted in Black Rock City that will now grace this breathtaking corner of the City. The piece was installed over the last two weeks and has already become the toast of San Francisco.
The sculpture is 60 ft long, dendrite to dendrite “depicting two communicating neurons connected by an axon bridge. A soma is the cell body of a neuron, with branching dendrites projecting away at different angles, and an axon which conducts the nerve signal electrochemically to its neighboring cell.”
Soma is the combined work of over 100 Flaming Lotus Girls volunteers and the fire that glowed on the playa has been replaced with 97 LED lights that mix wonderfully with Leo Villareal’s Bay Lights behind them.
The Flaming Lotus Girl’s Soma site describes Soma as a sculpture that
… represents the communication between two neurons: She transforms the neuronal flow of electricity that forms the foundation of consciousness from a molecular to a monumental scale.
Built of stainless steel and LEDs, SOMA leads us to ask fundamental questions about human thought and neurological transmission. What is consciousness? What is communication? How does our physical and cultural environment shape us? What makes us human? Soma invites us to explore individual, collective and cosmic consciousness, the ego, and the hidden potential within us all for a more connected future.
The Black Rock Arts Foundation was instrumental in collaborating with the Flaming Lotus Girls to have the piece installed at Pier 14.
Originally displayed at Burning Man in 2009, Soma is an interactive sculptural installation depicting two communicating neurons connected by an axon bridge. A soma is the cell body of a neuron, with branching dendrites projecting away at different angles, and an axon which conducts the nerve signal electrochemically to its neighboring cell.
Soma translates the anatomy of neurons into metal, fire and light, magnifying the microscopic world to an epic scale. In this urban installation, Soma features interactive LEDs to create a spectacular daytime and nighttime experience. Soma is made entirely of stainless steel and a waterproof 12V lighting system. It occupies a 28′ high x 40′ long x 25′ wide rectangular footprint, secured to the ground beneath each nucleus with concrete anchors, covered by wooden platforms. Its weather resistant, stainless steel body features 70 custom LED units, each outputting 270 lumens of light. Each LED unit is mounted inside a unique resin casting. The LED units are individually controllable and capable of producing 16 million colors. The public can interact with Soma’s computer-controlled LED system by pushing buttons to activate the trans-synaptic action potential simulation. The on-board computer system can be remotely controlled and configured to automatically respond to factors such as time of day, lighting conditions or special events.”
Soma will be the third piece installed by BRAF in the Pier 14 Tidal Plaza on San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront. BRAF previously collaborated with the Port of San Francisco in 2007 to bring Passage by Karen Cusolito and Dan Das Mann and in 2010 to bring the Raygun Gothic Rocketship by Sean Orlando, David Shulman, Nathaniel Taylor, Alan Rorie, and the Five Ton Crane crew to the same location.
Soma was built at the Boxshop and has been installed at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, Black Rocky City, and at San Mateo, California’s Maker Faire. The Flaming Lotus Girls, some original Soma builders and a bunch of new people – a few who were personally touched by Soma on the playa, worked for just under two years from proposal to completion, to bring Soma to the Embarcadero. The process involved a lot of re-fabrication of the sculpture including the removal of fire, changing out all the LEDs, adding new resin and UV-resistant bulbs, then waterproofing the whole thing and making the piece City and “public” safe. (Please do not climb on the sculpture!) There are two buttons that allow participants to interact with the LEDs that are active from dusk until 2am.
It required a lot of work and money to make Soma City ready and if you would like to support this project, it would be greatly appreciated. You can go directly to Soma’s website or you can donate through the Black Rock Art’s Foundation at their Click and Pledge page.
The Flaming Lotus Girls are throwing a Soma@Pier 14 – A Cerebral Celebration, August 1st to celebrate the installation.