Flaming Lotus Girls: Keeping it Real


Soma, Flaming Lotus Girls
SOMA installed at Pier 14 in SF. Bay Lights installation can be seen in the background. Photo Cred: http://www.sfhog.com/in-pictures-soma-burning-man/

The Flaming Lotus Girls are a playa staple. I’ve been astounded by their flaming metal sculptures for years, and the more I learn about them the more I admire them. What’s better than stumbling upon a 168′ fire snake during the middle of the night when you’re out of whiskey and still a mile from camp? Not much. (Thank you Serpent Mother for saving me that cold night.)

Every year we hear people bitch a little bit more about how the event’s values are disintegrating. More and more stories of tits n ass, super star DJs and models on segways take over the news streams. So props to these ladies for holding down the festival’s core values of radical self expression, radical inclusion, and hard fucking work with no reward except the simple joy of creation and community.

serpent mother, flaming lotus girls
Serpent Mother by The Flaming Lotus Girls – Photo Cred: http://hackaday.com/2009/08/22/the-serpent-mother/

The Flaming Lotus Girls are a leaderless, all volunteer art collective based in Hunters Point in San Francisco. They started in 2000 by six women and two men who wanted to create large interactive art installations. Now they have over 100 members, and they continue to grow. There is no criteria to join except a desire to learn and work. Oh, and you have to be comfortable calling yourself a girl. Over the years the Flaming Lotus Girls have brought light and fire to countless burns and events across state lines.

Their large scale sculpture, Soma, is currently being housed at Pier 14 along the picturesque Embarcadero in San Francisco. In order to share their art with the city, the girls had to weatherproof and completely rewire the sculpture to remove all the fire components and replace them with LEDs, no easy task!

Soma on the Pier. Photo by Mark Hogeson

Here is the artist collectives’ statement about the piece:

Soma translates the anatomy of neurons into metal, fire and light, magnifying the microscopic world to an epic scale — while beautifully demonstrating the conjunction of biotech, technology and art that so defines life in the Bay Area.

Soma, Definition: A soma is the cell body of a neuron, which consists of branching dendrites projecting away at different angles, and an axon, which conducts the nerve signal electrochemically to its neighboring cell.

In this urban installation, Soma features interactive LED lights to create a spectacular daytime and nighttime experience. The LED units, capable of producing 1.6 million colors, are individually controllable. The public is able to interact with Soma’s computer-controlled LED system directly by pushing buttons that activate a simulation of the trans-synaptic action.  The LEDs go on at sunset, every night.

28’ high x 40’, Soma, is made entirely of stainless steel and was originally created for the Burning Man event in 2009. This sculpture is a representation of two neurons connected by an axon bridge, using LEDs to represent the electrical impulses in the brain.

‘Soma’ Sculpture by Flaming Lotus Girls is Coming to Pier 14 in San Francisco by EDW Lynch at 4:31 pm on February 24, 2014 Soma by Flaming Lotus Girls A rendering of the “Soma” San Francisco installation. Image via Flaming Lotus Girls San Francisco-based art group Flaming Lotus Girls recently announced they will be bringing their large-scale interactive sculpture “Soma” to San Francisco’s Pier 14 for a yearlong installation. The sculpture, which takes the form of two giant metal neurons connected by an axon, premiered at Burning Man 2009. The original sculpture’s flame effects are being converted to LEDs for the San Francisco installation. Visitors will be able to trigger the LEDs to simulate neuron action. Flaming Lotus Girls is holding a benefit for the project, “Crossfire Synaptic Equinox,” on March 21, 2014 at Public Works in San Francisco. “Soma” is expected to go on display later this spring. “Soma” at Burning Man 2009. Photo by Jonathan Lidbeck
“Soma” at Burning Man 2009. Photo by Jonathan Lidbeck

Soma has gauged mixed reactions from viewers, and I was surprised at all of the negative comments I found online researching this article. Trolls are alive and well, and no, they don’t just live on the Unofficial Burning Man Facebook Group. Everyone seems to either think that Soma is the greatest thing in the whole world (burners), or else an insult to the waterfront (previously mentioned trolls and grumpy old ladies).

I just have to laugh at this negativity. Burning Man and the art it inspires is not for everyone! It’s not conservative. It’s not “nice.” And it certainly isn’t boring. What it is, is something that shakes up the norm and makes you want more. So good job girls. You’re not doing it right unless you simultaneously inspire and piss people off. Keep it up. You have Burn After Reading’s respect and blessing.

Soma recently suffered damage due to unauthorized climbing and the Flaming Lotus Girls are raising funds to aid in its repair and upkeep. Do you know they actually pay the city rent in order to house it there? Please consider donating HERE to their cause. 

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