The Shit Show Circus: Fire Playground for Burning Man 2015 ::

collaboration between members of acavallo && acme brooklyn ::

CAD sketches :: in progress

Project Summary //

Come one! Come all! Step right up to the playa’s hottest, sweatiest, sexiest ride. Part playground, part three-ring Big Top, the Shit Show Circus is an interactive, fire and steel playground for grown-ups. A semi-circle of carnival and playground rides becomes complete when the A Cavallo carousel docks in. Other art cars will be encouraged to dock as well. 

Philosophy of Installation  //

The idea of “circus” evokes a very specific set of connotations, memories, and emotions, regardless of a person’s personal experience. The circus is a magical journey into the world of the impossible, where imaginary play becomes performance and in which spectators become participants. Dressed and decorated like a vaudevillian burlesque performance meets Big Top, the SSC is a place to both spectate and participate—and a place to artistically and philosophically explore this intersection. By providing a non-threatening place for people to at once be amazed by what they’re seeing, and amazed that they have the ability to play along, voyeurs become circus stars and voyeurs again. Participation becomes performance.

The simplicity of the rides evokes childhood memes of innocence and carefree play. The fire and steel remind us of the danger in losing that innocence, that in all things innocent there is the chance to be burned. As adults we crave experiences that make us feel alive, free, and stimulated. We revisit playgrounds of our youth to recapture feelings of simplicity and safety. The Shit Show Circus is an exploration of appropriating a childhood memory for the adult release of inhibition.

Risk and fear hold many people back from participating in spectacle in their daily lives—the Shit Show Circus is a place where risk is managed safely, a place to let go and be impressed by the antics of others. It’s a place to give in to imagination and the possibility of the impossible.

Physical Description of Installation //

The Shit Show Circus will be constructed in a semi-circle, a collection of independent, interactive pieces. These pieces will include (but are not limited to): a slide, a merry-go-round, a swing-set, an adult-size bassinet, a flaming witch’s hat, a seesaw, and a ticket booth. The semi-circle will be closed when the A Cavallo carousel docks there, and this docking station is open to other art cars as well.

When an art car is docked, the enclosed area becomes a performance space. This performance space is the Inner Ring while the Second Ring is made up of the rides and carnival pieces. Each ride will have an interactive fire element. The merry-go-round, for example, will trigger propane poofers when spinning; the swings may have pull strings for people to shoot fire, similar to the horse reigns on the A Cavallo carousel. The Third Ring will be other art cars who pull up to the spectacle to both watch and play.

We will work with other collectives and groups to put on organized performances in the Inner Ring: burlesque, dance, impromptu theatre, and fire enclaves. We have poi and burlesque dancers from A Cavallo already committed to the project, but—in the interest of radical participation!—we definitely would like to get other groups involved as well. The perimeter will also be designated by strung globe lights.

How intallation fits the mission of Burning Man //

Participatory play is one of the most important aspects of Burning Man, and the Shit Show Circus is the embodiment of participatory play. We’re not only encouraging radical participation of people on the playa, but also allowing people to be spectators; recognizing that some people participate by watching and encouraging others. This makes the Shit Show Circus as much about radical inclusion as play. In no way is this art piece a commodity to look at. It’s an experience.

 We also want to inspire other Burning Man artists to dig deeper into creative sourcing for art projects; perhaps encouraging others to do more with less throw-away materials, less blinking LEDs, more hands-on construction and natural light. We’re interested in how people play with fire, and we’re very interested in how this could translate to an off-playa (modified) installation, either as part of a larger Community event, or as a permanent adult playground in a public space.

 But, perhaps most importantly, the Shit Show Circus isn’t just about our creative expression. It exists so that other people can find theirs as well. People who interact with the Shit Show Circus become a part of the piece and—hopefully—the piece becomes a part of them as they remember how to play in their Default worlds.

Rough Budget //  

Rides: total 25k 

Witches Hat: 4k

Merry Go Round: 6k

Bassinet: 5k

Swing Set: 3k

Slide: 4k

Seesaw: 3k


Dock: 2k

Main Signage: 3k

Center Ring: 2k

Deco: 4k

Trucking/Transport: ?

Propane: 3k

Solar: 1k

Bar: 2k