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  • The Fire Pendulums
  • Joe Bard and Danya Parkinson

Pyrokinetics is an art cooperative composed of friends and partners Joe Bard and Danya Parkinson. Our artistic thrust is the incorporation of movement into sculpture. Our name is derived from the Greek words for fire and movement and describes our various artistic collaborations. In working on other Pryokinetics projects, we were introduced to the idea of incorporating fire with art and the challenge of discovering whether a sculpture can be motivated with a propane flamethrower.

Our experiment began in August 2004 when we chose to build a pendulum. The graceful movement, simplicity and wide range of motion of a pendulum made it an ideal choice for experimentation. The pendulum was constructed from a framework of rolled tubular steel, copper and brass. Electric solenoid valves dispense the propane, and ball bearing pivots give the structure silky action. The Pendulum of Fire (Fig. 1) is suspended from a copper-tube umbilical cord that both provided support and sent propane to the solenoid discharge valves. Each solenoid valve had a pilot light at the end. The activation of each solenoid thus created an instant flaming jet effect, propelling the pendulum in the direction opposite that of its discharge. The four jets were oriented in a north-south, east-west configuration, allowing for directional control of the pendulum. The "pilot" uses four buttons to actuate the jets and drive the 20-ft-high pendulum, swinging it in whichever direction feels right.

For Burning Man 2005, we proposed to continue the exploration of pyrokinetic sculptures and were granted funding to build a companion piece for the 2004 Pendulum of Fire. Using similar construction techniques and materials, the new sculpture took the idea of the pendulum and expanded on it by turning it upside down and adding a counterbalance, bringing the fire almost 30 ft overhead, making what we called a Pendul-up of Fire (Fig. 2 and Color Plate

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Fig. 1.

Joe Bard and Danya Parkinson, The Pendulum of Fire, steel, copper, propane, 20 × 30 ft, 2004. (© Joe Bard and Danya Parkinson. Photo © Bucky Sparkle.) The Pendulum of Fire sunrise show, learning how to drive, August 2004.

A No. 2). The disposition of the two sculptures could not be more different.

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Fig. 2.

Joe Bard and Danya Parkinson, Pendul-up of Fire, steel, aluminum, brass, propane, 27 × 40 ft, 2005. (© Joe Bard and Danya Parkinson. Photo © Lea Bonnier.) Friends and family in the best seats in the house.

The Pendul-up has a hypnotic and tranquil movement, like that of a tree (on fire) swaying in the breeze, while the The Pendulum of Fire has the deliberate and aggressive motion of an ill-tempered dragon chained to a pole. Juxtaposed, the two sculptures made up the 2005 Fire Pendulums installation and showcased the use of fire in similar ways that nevertheless yielded very different fire performances.

Satisfaction is hard to come by as an artist. One can always see something in each piece that one would do differently if again faced with the same problem to solve. In the instance of the 2005 Fire Pendulums, however, I was not merely satisfied; I was totally captivated by the experience. [End Page 351]

Joe Bard and Danya Parkinson
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