The Scriptorium is Majorelle Arts’ 2018 Burning Man Honorarium art grant submission. Below are the contents of the letter of intent submitted on 11/27/17.
The Scriptorium is a kinetic metal demigod writing teacher holding a stylus and a flame. The creature instructs Burners in using the playa as a canvas for inscribing art and memory. The sculptural space enacts the mythological drama of artistic gifts learned from spirits and nature.
The Scriptorium centers on a delicately balanced, kinetic, figurative sculpture; a 20 foot long mythological writing teacher in steel which holds respectively a stylus to inscribe gently on the playa and a propane lantern to light its work. The body is a chimera of mammalian, reptilian and human parts. As the wind pushes a small sail on its tail the creature will rotate, its inscribing arm extending, creating a drawing like a spirograph in the loose desert surface dust. The sculpture balances on a single pin, supporting it much like a balancing bird toy. Surrounding the instructor participants can sit at low writing boxes where they will be provided with tools such as styluses and rakes to imitate the teacher at work. Flames will light and warm these stations until 1 AM each evening.
The primary interaction in the space is in studying drawing from the creature who presides there. The deity’s inscriptions in the loose dust will be ordered chaos, patterns manufactured by the natural process of rotation, later swept bare by the wind. Participants may rake clean the interior of the writing boxes and, in imitation, leave their own inscription in the temporary medium.
The writing stations are places of encounter where preoccupation with the task of writing interplays with the social aspect of a seating area in the desert. Four or so humans may sit comfortably at each of the five stations.
In lieu of direct imitation, participants are welcomed to use the space as an enclosure of quietude where warmth and shade protect from the desert extremes. A low, well-lit retaining wall invites burners to spend time within the sculpture, experiencing it through time to learn the lesson of the space rather than speeding through on bicycles, seeing nothing and learning less.
We continue our mission to replace the paradigm of art-as-object with one of art-as-environment; as narrative to be entered and experienced from within. This is not a museum where patrons can stroll, self-assured that they exist safely apart from the art they view. The Scriptorium draws participants into Burning Man’s world of sentient sculpture where wood and steel and flapping canvas come alive, prepared to nurture or consume them.
Simply by cycling through The Scriptorium, seating themselves and playing with the tools they find, participants enact a recurring mythological opera. They cast themselves as truth-seekers, supplicants and students of an ancient art in peregrination to a supernatural teacher. Patron demigods of writing (among many other crafts) abound in the mythological record and by acting parts in this unfolding drama participants not only recount these fables but explore themes of evolution and the human relationship to the lessons of the natural or un-natural world.
The interactive element of the piece – in which participants replace each other at the benches and writing boxes, erase each others’ work and leave their own trace of art in turn – mirrors the life cycle of Burning Man itself, inscribed yearly into the desert dust and erased just as completely to make way for a new creative hand the following year.