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SynOrgy 2004: World's Largest Sierpinski Triangle

SynOrgy is Utah's Burning Man event: a great collection of talent from the local art community. For 2004, I created a giant Sierpinski triangle fractal. As far as I know, this was the largest physical construction of this particular fractal type ever created.

It was a level 3 recursion for a total of 27 triangles. Each triangle was constructed as half of a 4ft. by 4ft. square piece of backing board, making each triangle a right triangle. (Typically this construction is made with isosceles triangles; using right triangles just makes the fractal appear somewhat "squat".)

Each triangle was covered in aluminum foil to reflect the sunlight during the day and candlelight at night. A simple candle lantern was placed at the intersection point of all triangles on Friday night when I first set it up. I slightly underestimated the amount of foil needed to cover the whole work, so a few triangles went uncovered. Still, it looked pretty spectacular early Saturday morning when illuminated by 50 candle lanterns at the intersection points.

The wind picked up on Saturday during the day and was taking its toll on the foil. I had only secured the foil to the triangles by wrapping the edges around the triangles. So I spent a few hours on Saturday morning repairing the wind damage and weighing down the foil with rocks so that it could survive until Saturday night when the ginger bread man was set to burn.

Once the sun went down on Saturday, I went about lighting the candle lanterns again. The construction for the lanterns I had chosen was pretty labor intensive -- a suggestion made by other SynOrgiasts was to use a cup full of sand to hold the candle in place. If I ever do a candle lit installation again, I will use this idea. As it was, I was securing the candles inside cups with some melted wax. The desert heat was also taking its toll on the candles themselves; some were drooping over from the heat and all the candles were fairly soft after sitting in the sun all day long. So instead of having candles at every intersection point, requiring 50 lanterns, I settled for candles at the edges and at the next most important level of intersections. I managed to get about 25 candles to stay lit before the man was lit on fire.

Here you can see some picture of the work on Saturday night before and during the burning of the man. The picture on the right was taken by T. C. Christensen and is awesome! It was taken from the top of a school bus and has a great overhead view of the work with the reflection of the burning man in the foil. I believe it was taken as a time lapse which explains why the candle lanterns are quite bright.

I took some photographs during the day on Saturday that I will get scanned and uploaded to this page.