Tasseograph: The Proposal

Tasseograph: The Trash Tea Temple

Grant Proposal

Option One
Overall dimensions:16x16x26 feet

the base is16x16x1
on top of that 14x14x1
on top of that12x12x1
on top of that the house 10x10x10
on top of that the roof is8x8x2
on top of that 6x6x2
on top of that 4x4x2
on top of that 3x3x4
on top of that 2x2x3

Option Two
Overall dimensions:12x12x21 feet

the base is12x12x1
on top of that10x10x1
on top of that the house 8x8x8
on top of that the roof 6x6x2
on top of that 4x4x2
on top of that 3x3x4
on top of that 2x2x3

The outside will be heavily layered with ornamental decoration created from found objects and trash: tin can lids cut into stars of all shapes and sizes, plastic bottle caps, plastic water bottle bottoms, aluminum can bottoms,found wood and branches cut into shapes, etc. all mounted on door frames or discarded wood that can fit together solidly. Like individual mosaics forming pieces to a puzzle.

There will be several hooks or arms coming off of the structure to hold
an exotic array of hanging mobiles made of found objects, etc.

If possible, nine lights: four at each corner at base, four at each corner on roof and one inside.

The door can be extra small, like a Japanese tea house, or extra large for easier coming and going. I like a smaller door.

Inside will be an altar made of found objects similar to what i brought to BM last year or what you've seen in the past. The walls will be covered in cardboard painted in a super amazing way.

So basically it’s 16x16x26 or12x12x21 or some other size made out of wood from healthy forest thinning on Tuktuk’s ranch, found wood, found objects and trash from mostly food packaging

Structural: I will be setting aside four cedar treetops during the regular thinning of our property in southern Oregon. these i will strip on one side and cure in the open, leaving the branches that will later act as adornments and arms to support mobiles. all needles and greenery will be removed and the treetops painted. The treetops will become four pillars that frame the tasseograph, joined by raw log joists between the treetops: lincoln logs, essentially. the empty space will be filled in beautifully by shrine’s trash mosaics, which are mounted to solid panels for easy assembly and transport (and to prevent anything blowing away, everything is nailed or screwed or glued into the panels).

Lighting: I have access to some parr cans for lighting, with or without gels. otherwise, we could do soft, solar-powered lighting (i have a bunch of those lawn lamps which we could disassemble for our purposes, but buying them new might be better cause after three years they are pretty shot.) a small generator is the first option, though i hate the noise they make. I'd rather have people approach it in the deep playa in absolute silence, with maybe just bits of voices wafting out from the inner sanctum. so then, solar is the best option (wind, though less predictable, could also work). harbor freight sells a cheap array for under $200.


“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
—Confucius (who was probably drinking tea when he said this)

Tasseography is the ancient practice of reading tealeaves for the purpose of divination. In this case, the Tasseograph is also a fitting analogy for what we hope to achieve with this work: teaching people to find beauty and meaning in the physical detritus (used tea leaves, or in this case, garbage) that most simply discard. The purpose of this art project is to inspire others to see everyday trash as beautiful, to save everyday trash and use it—not because it is responsible or right or necessary to recycle, but because people are excited about the materials, about the medium. In other words, we hope to Jedi mind-trick ourselves into recycling for the good of our aesthetic health.

The idea is to make something stunningly beautiful and exotic out of materials deemed unworthy, the stuff we throw away everyday. I am speaking of trash alchemy, wherein we create a precious space using non-precious materials, replacing the gold and marble surfaces of traditional temples with the aluminum cans and white plastic water bottle lids that will form the Tasseograph.

We seek to claim a small space on the playa and make it feel Holy. This will be achieved not simply through beauty, but through ritual. In Zen monasteries, when the master takes on a new student there is a tea ceremony to mark the occasion. So, too will our temple be dedicated to the serving of tea on the occasion of new found knowledge. We shall create a place for people to perform the simple and beautiful ritual of preparing and serving each other tea, inviting different groups or individuals to serve tea in a style they choose. We will undertake a collective effort to gift hot or cold tea and maybe sake to the special travelers of the playa that make up the BM community. Like any good playa art, its value lies in the surprise of discovery, and the gift of its presence to the dazed and confused.


Lead Artist/Designer: Shrine
Shrine has been a freelance artist for over twenty years. His paintings and found object/trash sculptures have been featured at numerous galleries and events, and his guerrilla murals dot the Los Angeles cityscape, with other pieces in Edinburgh, London, and Portugal, to name a few spots. He has collaborated, both as a visual artist and performer, with Lucent Dossier and the Do Lab in many of their performances (including the flower and flytrap performance at last year’s Uchronia burn), Vau de Vire Society, and the national and world tours of Panic at the Disco! and Warp Tour. He lives at his home in Pasadena, which is in itself a testament to his love for making beautiful art from trash—although it probably does nothing for his property value.

Builder/Designer: Tuktuk
Tuktuk thinks about these kinds of things all the time. As one of the main organizers and builder for various theme camps for the last four years, he is primed and ready to bring his vision and muscle to the deep playa in the form of large-scale art. A dedicated burner (He was one of the main planners behind DIVERSION, Portland’s 2006 Decompression, and promises that a check to BRAF should be arriving shortly — heheh), this project is a natural progression for his ever-deepening involvement with the playa.

Structural Consultant (the man with the drill gun for an arm): Benny Cochrane
Benny has been on temple crew for many years now, helping David Best and Mark Grieve, and by extension, the rest of the burner community, to put their fears to rest and their dreams to flight.

The Guy with the Crane: Matthew
Matthew has worked for years on the artists’ support team at BM. He owns the big blue crane, and works magic. He is also a personal friend of ours, and loves our cold, cold beer. He will be integral to the lifting of the ornamental temple roof into place, and in the safe dismantling of such.

Plus, a slew of other folks. There is no shortage of willing and able hands to work on this. While the main build will happen with a smaller group off-playa at Tuktuk’s ranch in Ashland, OR, there will be plenty of people within our burner network who can be raised to help us get this thing done within a day or two of our arrival, and take down/clean up when we leave.


Now to Early August: Collection of materials, shout-outs to friends and on tribe and craigslist to save specific sorts of cans and bottles and whatnot. Further refining of structural needs and renderings. Scavenging missions. Spreading the word.

Early Spring: Culling of four cedar treetops from the ranch during regular thinning. Care will be taken to stack and cure the trees without damaging the branches on one side, so that they may later be used as adornment and arms from which mobiles can be hung. The needles and other greenery will be removed so as to reduce moop, and the entire tree will be painted various colors.

Mid-August: Shrine will bring a truckload of usable trash to the Lazy T Ranch and we will start to build it, paint it, and learn how it is put together for easy assembly and takedown. Consultations with Matthew to figure out when and how to use the crane. Disassembly into regular parts and preparation for transportation to the playa. Packing.

August 24 or 25: Drive it to the playa. Unload camp essentials first then proceed with art placement plan to the site. Unloading of truck and beginning of assembly.

August 27: The temple is assembled and we pour our first round of tea.

Week of the Event: we host irregular gatherings and performances at the site. Tutu Tuesday Tea Party, Funginears show, Vau de Vire/Lucent Dossier/Do Lab events, art car gatherings, silent meditations, dawn ruminations, lovemaking, saving lives one cup of tea and conversation at a time.

September 4: we take it down, load it up, and cart it off to another place (Bay Area or Ashland or Portland or LA) to be reassembled for permanent use as a pagoda. Usual LNT practices in order to ensure no waste or refuse is left behind.


I am always fairly stumped when it comes to this section of the art grant/ theme camp placement request/ mutant vehicle application, etc. I have been to the playa for a number of years now, and never once have I had a complaint against me or my camp. But despite what I always put in this section about how we plan to clean up the messes we make (placing our tools and screws over tarps to avoid spills, doing the majority of our painting off-playa, making sure every bit of everything is firmly attached so that it doesn’t go flying away in the wind, etc. ad infinitum ad nauseum), what it inevitably comes down to is crawling around on my hands and knees and making sure there’s nothing—not one bent screwhead or half-burned match—left. It is quite an existentialist exercise, wiping the slate clean of our presence, erasing our footprints, denying the world of any archaeological record of the contribution we made to this specific space/time. But it’s gotta be done, and here I am telling you that I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. Five minutes after we exit the premises you can go out there with your GPS and find the former location of the Tasseograph, and even with a microscope all you’ll find is the imprint of my butt where I drank the last beer before heading off into the sunset.

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