Quenching Thirst in Deserts of Mind, Body & Spirit
Presented in Liminal Zones

Painting by Janet Piésold, https://buddhist-pics.com/

SUMMARY: Co-Envisioner & Creative Project Lead for Locana, originally proposed for the Deep Playa at Burning Man 2015. Though this vision has not materialized in this realm, it has the flavor of a curated lucid dream. Readers are invited to enter and explore in accord with their own active imagination and sensory capacities. 

Locana’s Well & Waterworks


“Human beings were invented by water as a device for transporting itself from one place to another.”
–Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

THE MYTH: An ancient well in a bone dry desert. We, caretakers, honor the primordial water below the dust. Locana–named for the mystic dakini of water wisdom Locana– is an illusion of an immensity of water. It serves as meeting & reflection point, compass & thirst-quenching base as well as refueling point for our water bike emissaries who bring the gift of water to all directions.

THE EXPERIENCE: Desert wanderers discover a sacred water site. Locana Well & Waterworks extends in a 70’ diameter circle and includes a protection circle and central 30’ structure where water lives.  

THE PERIPHERY: To the 8 directions, 8’ tall outward-facing hooded snakes representing freedom from 8 great fears, are the guardians of Locana . These sculptures serve as shade structures, boundary markers & compass points. Constructed of steel with bodies hollow-casted in cement, each varies in color, texture and the organic shapes that decorate its hood and head. 

CENTRAL SCULPTURE: Locana rises as if from the dust. Torquing and spiraling to 30’ with a ground expanse of 28’, it conjures the movement of water between earth and sky, organisms shaped for fluid–tentacles, gills, organs–and the female form.  Its bulbous base arcs to a central stem that opens to the sky. This core is made of steel and wood. The skin is constructed of steel mesh coated with Hydrocal. Finished with wheat-pasted images, laser etchings and cutouts, the result is a mix of smooth and textured surfaces, accenting lines and organic forms in irregular patterns. The structure has a fluid, morphing identity. It feels contained, yet its biological form is porous. Many openings allow airflow and light–sunbeams in the day; inner illuminations vibrating out at night. 

ENTRANCES: Three entrances represent the three states of water–ice, liquid & steam.  Inspired by the action and shape of fish gills, they lead to an illusion of an immensity of water. 

INTERIOR: The interior is where water lives and can be accessed. All five senses are activated. 

Above the entrances, a simple misting system releases micron-sized water particles, enabling a gentle moistening and cooling atmospheric transformation. (This functions only during sunny, dry hours. No water reaching the ground. A crew member will be on-site at all times to monitor and turn off in the event of a dust storm). 

The walls are alive with fluid rhythms of light reflecting off water via interactive 3D projection mapping that varies with the movement of people within. 

THE WELL:  On a 1’ high and 6.5’ wide platform, the 3.5’ high and wide well is made with the same materials, textures, torquing spiral and organic forms as the main structure. The top has an 8-sided 3” overhanging ledge symbolizing 8 qualities of pure water. Looking within: The illusion of an infinite depth, a void where the water is, a portal. This optical effect is achieved through a conical narrowing, an upper mirror finish and lower coating in black. The Well has a cave-like resonance achieved through mini embedded speakers. 

THE FOUNTAIN: Within Locana is an archetypal hand-powered farm pump with gray water catch basin and anchoring base that appears to draw from the source deep in the playa’s belly. The pump is fed through trenched piping by a 1000 gallon tank. (This tank, housed in a modest sculpture, is far beyond the installations’ bounds to preserve the magic effect. Potable water is supplied by MECO.)

THE WATERWORKS: Visitors may refill their jars at the pump. The well produces 500 gallons/day–closely monitored to ensure zero waste & mudding. In addition, Locana Waterworks has 3 cargo bikes equipped with 5 gallon spout-rigged vessels. Blue jumpsuited bike crew fill the tanks at the pump and roam deep playa quenching thirst wherever they go.