Fire Arts Festival Review

By | July 11, 2004

Although I did make it to the Fire Arts Festival Friday night, I ended up being at work so late that I didn’t have time to go home and get my camera. I didn’t even have time to eat dinner. So, unfortunately, all I can show off are some poor quality photos taken with the camera on my Treo.

PyrocussionMore Pyrocussion

The Pyrocussion performance was pretty cool. Bob “Bonefire” Hoffman built these devices. When the performer pulls or hits with a drumstick on a rope or wire near the bottom, a burst of compressed gas is released out of the end through a whistle. As you hear the whistle blow, the small fire that is constantly burning at the top of the tube explodes into a fireball. The performers played the devices to the accompaniment of two drummers.

Singularity Machine
Singularity Machine

The above photos really don’t do the Singularity Machine justice. Before each performance, the rocks in the center are soaked with a combustible fluid. After the fluid is ignited, two guys in aluminized high-temperature protection suits use big tubes to turn the fire into a raging vortex. I’m guessing the tubes were blowing air at high speeds, but I don’t know for sure. The end result was a twisting, tornado-like vortex of fire that extended up to fifty feet in the air. Supposedly it can reach 75 feet, but it was pretty windy Friday night. The wind added a little extra excitement to many of the performances that night.

Wally “PyroBoy” Glenn had a box of sand that was drenched in compressed gas. Flames danced on the surface of the sand. You could put on an aluminized glove and run your fingers through the fire zen garden to create cool patterns of flames. Even with the glove, my hand got really hot in just a few seconds. One downside of interacting with this artwork was that my hand smelled like gas for hours.

The Fire Arena was filled with many more art works that were consuming vast quantities of compressed gas. By 11 pm, I started to get a pretty bad headache. Having not eaten dinner certaily didn’t help.

Anybody riding BART through West Oakland Friday or Saturday night got a free peek if they were looking out the north-side windows when the train went by. If you didn’t know what was going on, it might have been pretty freaky to look out and see a 50 foot tornado of fire surrounded closely by about two hundred cheering art lovers.

Kasia Wojnarski’s Tunnel Vision was a roughly twenty foot long punched out iron tunnel with lines of compressed gas ending in steel wool. The tunnel was covered in flames. Given that the wind had made the night pretty chilly, my friend Michael and I took the opportunity to stroll through it twice. Not only was it nice and warm, it was pretty cool to walk through a tunnel of fire.

Quite a few performances occurred on a stage in the middle of the Fire arena (a formerly vacant lot / parking lot). The Kabari fire dancers were excellent. Just six months after taking a class from Belva Stone at the Crucible, they put on a great show. There were lots of other great performances, but I have to catch a 6 am flight to Dallas tomorrow morning, so I’m afraid I won’t be covering them here tonight.

The Oakland Tribune [1, 2] ran some articles on the festival, but I couldn’t find the photos online. The articles in the paper were accompanied by a couple of nice photos.

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