Festival Artist Spotlight: Burning Man's HYBYCOZOArticle by: Laura Mason|@masonlazarus
Thu April 23, 2015 | 00:00 AM
The brilliant artists behind HYBYCOZO and this year's new Burning Man art installation, entitled Deep Thought, are a perfect example of how powerful the Burning Man art community can be. Both Serge Beaulieu and Yelena Filipchuk led lives deeply entrenched working in the tech and digital realms of the Bay Area while doing art on the side. It wasn't until 2014, when they created the Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone (HYBYCOZO) for Burning Man that their lives totally transformed. Now, they work with their hands to create geometric sculptures, lighting, and design pieces for the home (they even designed Fest300's awesome bandanas!) – when they're not busy concocting new ways to blow minds at the next playa event.
When gazing at HYBYCOZO you can see Beaulieu's and Filipchuk's tech-world influences in the sculptures' geometric, tessellated and laser-cut polyhedron designs, which are intriguingly mixed with mathematical patterns. But this year, after receiving a coveted 2015 Burning Man Honorarium grant to take their work to the next level, they will add something new to HYBYCOZO: the aforementioned Deep Thought piece.
A close-up of HYBYCOZO's patterns and geometry. Courtesy of Serge Beaulieu and Yelena Filipchuk
It's the pagoda-like structure and centerpiece of this year's HYBYCOZO (seen in the image above), that will take the form of a triambic icosahedron. If that geometric term reeks of high school math class, let us explain: It's a complex 3D shape made of 60 gold laser cut steel filigree triangle panels which will cast colorful light and shadow far and wide onto the playa. Sounds pretty cool, right?
Forming an arc around it, the classic HYBYCOZO golden polyhedrons will be placed to create a cosmic garden and grounds to evoke a transdimensional experience. Both Beaulieu and Filipchuk hope to create, with Deep Thought, a place of refuge and wonder, a place of silence and a place of celebration, but most of all a place to lay down, stare up at a geometric sky, and contemplate all the creation around you.
We wanted got the inside scoop on why Beaulieu and Filipchuk are so inspired by math, how these massive pieces get made, and how they've been influenced by Burning Man artists over the years.
Were you a math wizards growing up who stumbled into art, or vice versa? When did you first realize that something as simple yet complex as geometry was a major artistic influence for you?
Yelena: I would say that both Serge and I came from a design and aesthetic perspective first and foremost. Serge is an industrial designer and I studied environmental science, so although we've always both utilized mathematics and pattern, we kind of stumbled into this. Minimalism, simplicity and elegance have been the major influences for our style so we found a perfect fit with these structures. Two of them are Platonic Solid Polyhedrons, or shapes that are made up of the congruent faces of regular polygons and the same number of faces meeting at each vertex. So they are the most simple complex shapes. The third shape is the next level of complexity, an Archimedian solid, which is a composed of two or more types of regular polygons meeting in identical vertices.
Serge: But we really have dove head first into studying geometry since conceiving this project and are just astounded by the beauty we've discovered. From Islamic art to naturally occurring fractal patterns, our inspiration now most often comes from designs with a basis in mathematics.
An Instagram of Fest300's bandana, designed by Serge Beaulieu and Yelena Filipchuk. Courtesy of the artists
What does it take to build these marvelous shapes?
Y: A village. No seriously, it has taken so much love and support from our friends, family, and the Burning Man community.
S: The shapes are pretty hefty. They are made of 1/8 inch laser cut steel panels, with shapes coming in at about 700 pounds each and over 6 feet tall. The laser cutter we use is about the size of a bus. The sculpture was designed to easily disassemble and flat-park for travel. Each shape comes apart and, when all together, everything is about the size of a small mattress. We are excited about the new technical challenges we'll be figuring out for this year's HYBYCOZO.
How did you come to collaborate with Burning Man – and what gave you the idea for this year's Construction Zone and Deep Thought?
Y: Serge and I are have been going to Burning Man 9 and 8 years respectively, and have worked on a couple of different projects. I've put up a sculpture once before, totally renegade style. However, we really had this lightning bolt of inspiration last year and just decided to do it. But really we couldn't have done this without our community and all the supporters. We were so scared about putting up a Kickstarter last year because we thought we would never raise the money, but the HYBYCOZO has really taken on a life of its own.
S: What we didn't realize in building last year's HYBYCOZO is that being inside of the shape and surrounded by the sculpture is actually the coolest part. So we knew that for this year's HYBYCOZO we definitely wanted to create something that people can go inside. It was only appropriate that we'd name it after the super computer that was built to answer the question to life, the universe, and everything [in Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy]... We really want to create an interactive zone that generates wonder and a space for contemplation.
A rendering of HYBYCOZO with Deep Thought pictured in the middle. Courtesy of Serge Beaulieu and Yelena Filipchuk
What is it about geometry that inspires deep contemplation and thought in people?
Y: Math is the language of the universe and geometry is the structure that makes up every single thing in existence. We are literally made of it, so to be able to replicate some of the universal structures in a way that resonates with people is one of the most powerful ways to create. I think it helps people conceive of what their own purpose and place in the universe is.
S: It's a visual science where the answers and equations result in something very beautiful.
What are some revelations or deep reactions people have had to your geometric works of art?
Y: Well, we hosted 4 (or maybe more!) weddings last year which I think is pretty special, and have gotten to connect with a whole awesome community of people who are similarly fascinated by geometry.
S: People told us last year that they would stop by HYBYCOZO once a day because it felt grounding and serene to them. I really loved that.
HYBYCOZO at Burning Man 2014. Courtesy of Serge Beaulieu and Yelena Filipchuk
What other Burning Man art installations and artworks have inspired you over the years?
Y: Ah, where to begin? Burning Man is first and foremost an art and sculpture festival for me. It completely destroyed my conception of art in a white wall gallery setting, which is really the thing that inspired me to make my own creations. But I've really been taken by the scale and amount of work that it takes to build some of the bigger pieces, like Peter Hudson's Zoetropes, Marco Cochrane's Bliss Dance , and Michael Christian's Home . Kristen Berg's piece last year was also really beautiful.
S: My first venture out into Burning Man 9 years ago, I encountered the Belgian Waffle House which really set the bar high. Learning that it was created by a contemporary designer and artist (Arne Quinze) may have planted an inspirational seed. The Cubatron was so groundbreaking at the time, as no one really was using LEDs in that way to create a totally immersive and mesmerizing experience. The Ein Hammer, a giant, interactive fire-shooting sledgehammer, absolutely nailed it! We've both been absolutely in love with David Best's Temples over the years too, as well as the Temple of Wholyness in 2013 – a magnificent fractal pyramid.