Six metre zither installation to rise in Nevada desert

Aalto is to be the first university to build its own work of art at the Burning Man event, which is known for its creative insanity.
The prototype is built at Design Factory and will stay in Otaniemi after the event. Photo: Mikko Raskinen.

Nothing is too bold or bizarre at Burning Man, organised in the Nevada desert from late August to early September, even a six metre pike head zither at which lively blues jams will be held.

'We wanted to create something Finnish, and someone in the group suggested a pike. This sparked the idea of Kalevala and the Finnish zither,' explains Anssi Laurila one of the Aalto on Fire project managers.

'We made a model of a pike head with a 3D printer, on the basis of which architecture student Johannes Kara designed that,' he continues pointing at the light coloured wood structure standing in the Otaniemi Design Factory.

The current structure is only a prototype, as transporting the giant pike head to the Nevada desert would be impossible, and, for this reason, the team will build the actual installation on-site. The heart of the installation is a made-to-measure Finnish zither made by Koistinen kantele that the company's Managing Director Hannu Koistinen’s son Anttu Koistinen has promised to play at Burning Man.

'Hannu Koistinen has been an incredible driving force in this project'  Mr Laurila praises.

'Mr Koistinen happened to be an acquaintance of a team member's wife, and he was immediately enthusiastic about taking part. The project has been coloured by an assortment of strange and positive coincidences. The perfect people have joined the project along the way even though they are not paid for this - on the contrary, everyone is responsible for their own travel expenses.

Encounters

A colourful group of people is participating in the Aalto on Fire project. The group includes students and alumni from the business sector, the gaming world and even the Theatre Academy. According to Mr Laurila, encounters between different types of people and skills is the exact ideology behind Burning Man.

'The event in itself is a laboratory of the future, where new ideas in all fields and areas ranging from economic systems to society to art are tested," he explains.

'At the event, one is surrounded by a great deal of creative insanity; it is the type of atmosphere that inspires one to think about what all is possible.'

The atmosphere and the creative people there are also of interest to enterprise. For example, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, as well as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg attend yearly, and it is said that the decision to establish Google was made at Burning Man. The event started out as a mid-summer bonfire party on a San Francisco beach in 1986, and has developed and expanded from there, but the fundamental principles the event was founded on have remained the same.

'Everything deserves respect; people and nature,' Mr Laurila emphasises.

'Something akin to a pop-up town is built in the desert, and is then cleared away after the event, so that nothing is left behind. The works of art are burned in the spirit of the festival.'

Mr Laurila, who studies entrepreneurship and international design management has previously participated in the event twice.

'However, this is the first time that Aalto or any other university for that matter has participated in the event in this way. Mr Koistinen has planned to play blues music on the installation's zither - the mix of a Eurasian instrument and Afro-American culture may prove very interesting. Our objective is to encourage other festival goers to also try their hand at playing the Finnish zither,' he says smiling.

A documentary is also being filmed about the Aalto on Fire project, which will show the entire life cycle of the project and the personal experiences of participants before the event, at the event and after it.

Further information:

Anssi Laurila
Tel. +358 40 721 5694
[email protected]

Burning Man a Google: Professor Fred Turner from Stanford University examines the Burning Man phenomenon and the commercial significance of its ideas in the Silicon Valley ecosystem
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TSIhOyXk5M

Burning Man website
www.burningman.org

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