- Tunnel Vision
I have always been drawn to fire as a source of metamorphosis and to explore its healing properties. My art piece Tunnel Vision brings its participants into an intimate relationship with fire and in doing so offers its visitors an opportunity for purification and transformative insight as they walk through a tunnel of flames.
Tunnel Vision is a steel tunnel, 11 ft in length and 9 ft in diameter, which, when turned "on," emits hundreds of individual flames and creates a virtual tunnel of fire (Fig. 1). The structure is made almost entirely of 1-in round tubing, bent into nine circles-with a 3-ft gap at the bottom-that connect, at 13-in intervals, to a base made of 2½-in pipe. Steel sheets (24 gauge) with multiple holes cut into them in Swiss-cheese fashion connect the nine rings to one another. Each of the rings has vents at 5-in intervals. When the tunnel is filled with propane, the vents are ignited and emit hundreds of individual flames that range from 10 to 18 inches in length. The size and intensity of the flames vary in accordance with the amount of propane released from the 25-gallon tank that supplies the fuel. The flames consume the entire tank in less than one hour. The effect is quite dramatic, especially when experienced, as intended, from the inside, walking through the tunnel, completely surrounded by fire.
In retrospect, Tunnel Vision is clearly a reflection of the events that saturated my life at the time it was created. I was a student midwife attending home births, while paying my bills with what I earned as a hospice caregiver attending deaths. Immersed in these seemingly opposite transitions, I observed numerous similarities. The similarity that is relevant to this discussion is the fact that both of these events, birth and death, take place through a tunnel. The vaginal canal provides passage into this world, and people who have experienced a near-death episode relate an experience of having traveled through a dark tunnel toward a light at the end.
The symbolism of a tunnel as a means of transport from one state of being to another is quite common; wormholes are a path through space/time, a tunnel carries one along when one is losing consciousness, subway tunnels transport the masses through the underbelly of the city-to mention just a few. The tunnel is a well-established symbol of transformation, and, as many participants of Burning Man can relate, so is fire. Each of the four elements has its own unique healing qualities. Air offers inspiration and higher thought; water soothes and nurtures our emotions; earth calms and strengthens the body; and fire, my favorite element, purifies and renews our entire being. Tunnel Vision is a marriage between the transformational energy of the tunnel and the purifying energy of fire. Burning Man is a testament to the tremendous impact of fire upon the human soul. The act of walking through a tunnel of fire at an event such as Burning Man is an empowering act of rebirth. The people that walk through Tunnel Vision are transformed to the degree that they are emotionally, intellectually and spiritually available.
Any act of creation is a spiritual one, and, I daresay, walking through a raging tunnel of hot, screaming flames and arriving unscathed at the other side falls none too short of a spiritual experience.
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