A quest to present at a prestigious US cultural event is seeking 'crowd-sourced' funding at Kickstarter
NASA never had Deborah Davies' problem – just one month to raise the money for a spaceship.
Her overheads aren't as high though. This artist/educator, who operates where art meets technology, needs just £11,000 to get her spaceship sculpture concept, The Luma Module, built in time for the Burning Man 2013 festival in Nevada's Black Rock desert.
Based in King's Cross, London, where she is artist In residence at the Centre for Creative Collaboration run by the University of London, Deborah Davies has worked across the artistic spectrum, from sculpture to video, electronics, fashion design, taxidermy and performance. She is currently attracting attention from schools for her work combining textiles with electronics, with a strong pull to items that light up with LEDs and electroluminescent wire.
'Desperate need for positive female role models for young girls'
Deborah Davies will soon be exploring soft circuitry in the area of wearable technology, with students at the Royal Masonic school in Hertfordshire. Teacher Drew Buddie commented: "As a head of ICT at a girls school I see the desperate need for positive female role models for young girls. The work that Debbie does is so quirky and unusual, particularly in the field of smart clothing, that it is clearly attractive to girls that would not otherwise be interested in electronics.
"The crossover of fashion and electronics provided by soft circuitry engages girls and makes a whole world of technology far more accessible to them than they might otherwise think. I have been particularly struck by the fact that Debbie is constantly giving due consideration to how her work may be perceived by young girls, leading to her refining her projects accordingly."
The most pressing task for Deborah, however, is getting her ‘spaceship’ sculpture, The Luma Module, ready for Burning Man which runs from August 26 until September 2, 3013. It’s one thing being incredibly flattered by the invitation to take part – competition is intense – but quite another to garner the funding (a minimum of £11,000) and then build the installation (20x20x8.5 feet) in the hostile conditions of the Nevada desert. Over the course of a few weeks the festival will create "Black Rock City" for tens of thousands of visitors, and once it's over all traces of its existence will be removed.
The theme of Burning Man 2013 is the concept of Cargo Cult – the kind of practices developed by cultures in the wake of relationships with a colonising civilisation – hence the science fiction response. There won’t be aliens on Deborah's journey but visitors might think they have come across Ripley’s cat from the movie Alien as one of Deborah’s other skills is taxidermy, and there are certain to be some of her critters lurking in the vessel. Expect them to be wired with light, illuminating the way for visitors who want to experience the Luma Module. And they are just as likely to be rats as cats so expect some sustained screaming.
Deborah was inspired by the community ethos of Burning Man in creating the Luma Module. She says: “Festival goers who interact with the Luma Module will receive a glowing ball, the colour of which is representative of their 'inner light' as read by a machine on board the Luma Module. They are then invited to gift the ball back to the spaceship in order to light up the panels on the outside of the cabin walls.
"As the week-long festival progresses the cabin walls fill up with more and more light. Each person who participates will know that they have contributed to the Black Rock community by helping to light up the Luma Module and in turn light up their community.”
The London-based art collective Art At Acton Street is using the Kickstarter website for a 30-day "crowd-sourcing" attempt to raise the money she needs to provide materials, but in the meantime she has already scored some success with sponsorship. High street suppliers Travis Perkins have been the first to step in with support by supplying her with plywood so she can make the inner and outer structure and establish proof of concept. There are some novel ideas to earn investor cash, including dinner with the crew – anyone for freeze-dried icecream as eaten by real astronauts?
Deborah has already invoked elements of performance art to drum up interest and engagement. This includes the creation of an alter ego, “Mavis Powers – Technothropologist” (see video below), to launch a narrative about the discovery of a crashed alien spaceship, the Luma Module.
“We have already had some fantastic support, adds deborah, "but we do need to raise £11,000 in order to make the spaceship dream a reality. We’ve put together a package of rewards for Kickstarter backers which we hope will make contributors feel part of the Burning Man Luma Module experience, even if they are not able to attend themselves. They are beautiful items in and of themselves, if not a little quirky, and not just a token gesture. We really need help to make this happen, but that help will not be without reward!”