Experiments in wearable electronic art.

Lessons From Burning Man 2012


The creation of truly wearable art really is an iterative process. Last year I had a short list of takeaways from the original Anthrolume 1.0 experience, the most important of which were:

  1. Make the next suit “hug-friendly.”
  2. It’s cold in the high desert at night! Design the suit for cold weather.
  3. Design for cable stresses.
  4. Get as many chargers as you have batteries.

Suit At Burning Man

Anthrolume in action

The good news is that on most fronts, Anthrolume 2.0 really was a spectactularly more successful piece than the 1.0 suit. All of the above except (3) were well addressed. The new suit was hug-friendly and I was glad for that – I can’t count how many serious bear-hugs I got. The overalls were warm because I could wear whatever I wanted underneath. And I had 12 batteries and 12 chargers – parallel charging is great!

Cable stresses, however, did continue to dog me this year. In fact, it was worse than last year. So the revised lesson is: if you’re going to create wearable art, wear it! The reason I didn’t discover my cable stress points was because the suit spent a lot of time hanging from a microphone stand on a hanger, instead of on my body. Lesson learned.

I ended up field-replacing four LEDs while I was at the Burn. But after that, the suit worked like a champ, including the abuse I put it through getting up onto the scaffolding at the 2:00 rave and two hours of straight dancing that night.

Also the 12 batteries performed well – 6-7 hours of continuous animation playback. Of course I wished for more – next year I’ll bring extra batteries.

I also learned more about which animations work and which don’t. Since my suit is really just an animation-playback platform, I’ll take that wisdom forward to improve how the suit looks in the future.

Other random observations:

  • CoolNeon LEDs are mostly playa proof.
  • Having pockets in the suit was great. I had to add special wiring extensions for that, and boy am I glad I did.
  • The cut-washer method of attaching the LEDs worked great – not a single washer came off the entire Burn.

I’m still working on Animaker. More to report soon.

Author: regenesis

Seattle New Media artist.

2 thoughts on “Lessons From Burning Man 2012

  1. Do you still feel coolneon pixels are best for costumes or were you happy with the cost, strength, product you got from Rose in China? I’m looking to make a costume and appreciate your website.


    • I and my Burning Man campmates have bought many thousands of LEDs from Shiji (via Rose) and their product has been consistently high quality. I have personally visited their facility in Shenzhen too. I do recommend their products. But things are always changing, and there are always new form factors to consider. Most of the new work I do uses APA102 SMD LEDs, which can use much less power and are smaller, but present other complications for wearable use. The point is to keep your eyes open for new and potentially better modes of mounting and presentation.

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