Riv Hawkes | Executive Producer
Alison Mandible | Lead Game Designer
Angela DeCarlis | Artistic Director
Attendees of burns – including Burning Man and other smaller, regional events – typically seek out intense interpersonal connection with other participants. While this desire is widespread and sanctioned at such events, I observed that there were no spaces dedicated to fostering such interactions as an attendee at Firefly 2018 – a regional burn which occurs annually in Bethel, VT. Following the burn, my collaborators Alison Mandible, Riv Hawkes and I submitted for (and were awarded) a $2000 Art Grant to create a social practice installation for the following year.
VIVARIA, which was debuted at Firefly 2019 and which also appeared at FIGMENT Boston the same year, is a space created to host activities and events which aim to foster interpersonal connections between strangers. Activities are curated, and catered to groups of two to five people, especially who arrive to the installation as strangers to one another. All activities incorporate some aspect of non-sexual intimacy, leaving participants feeling more connected with the individual people around them than they'd felt previously.
Some inspiration has been taken from Authentic Relating Games and other interactions (tarot readings; blindfolded interactions/games) sometimes already seen at Burns.
The installation is artistically designed to look like a series of giant terrariums which are be lit at night and have invented plants, rocks, etc living inside as pillows, furniture, and tactile stimulation. Conceptually, terrariums are a good metaphor for community: they are self-sustaining, diverse, and beautiful. Terrariums also represent a "pocket of somewhere, somewhere else." VIVARIA should serve as a space at Firefly which is at once a part of the Burn and a space removed from it, or as an "also-space."  Onlookers are able to view (but not hear or interact with) participants as they engage in activity within the terrariums – in this way the participants become like fish in an aquarium: part of the environmental art installation itself.
 Vanhoe, Reinaart. Also-Space, from Hot to Something Else: How Indonesian Art Initiatives Have Reinvented Networking. Onomatopee, 2016.