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The L2K project is the ring of 2,000 light pods placed around the Man during the event. Invented by "The Wizard," Tim Black, Lights 2000 (known as L2K) is an interactive installation first exhibited at Burning Man in 1999.

L2K consists of 2,000 red-orange light emitting pods placed on the ground at the perimeter of the 600-foot diameter Great Circle which surrounds the Man. Light patterns start as pre-programmed sequences from a computer called a pattern buffer. These patterns are modified via 200 interactive control panels holding a total of 2,000 pushbuttons. This control method invites live participation by visitors to directly define the L2K patterns. People push any of 2,000 small buttons then look out on the main ring and see the effects of their actions written across the horizon.

The main components of L2K begin with 2,000+ cement light pods stored in 80+ buckets. Approximately 40 computer-controlled wiring harnesses of 50-foot and 10-foot lengths connect the pods to 13 button boards, one pattern buffer master controller, four control obelisks with batteries, four blank obelisks, four battery boxes with controls, and a test pattern generator. A wand allows for testing the harness sections, and various wiring and supplies help the crew to maintain the ring and its components.

L2K is, like many other projects, labor intensive to install. The process begins with collaboration between the project crew and DPW to mark out the perimeter of the ring with flags placed about 20 feet apart around the perimeter. Clear markings of 0, 90, 180, and 270 degrees eliminate the need to estimate those points. The obelisk towers are placed at this location approximately 30 feet apart. These four openings serve as the entry points to Great Circle around the Man. L2K crews place additional flags along the circumference approximately every 2 feet to serve as guides for trenching. This part of the process takes about 2 hours and involves about four to six people-the more help we have, the faster this part gets done. During this time, pod buckets are pre-staged around the ring about every 20 feet with each bucket holding about 21 pods. The gaps for the tower obelisks are skipped.

The laborious task of trenching begins once the ring has been flagged out. With the trenching tools available the crew of two to three takes about 6 hours to complete 2,000 feet. The trench is dug at about 5 feet per minute to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Once trenching has begun, the harness can be laid in the trench and the pods can be hooked up. The pods plug into connections on the harness at about every foot. The connections plug in only one way, eliminating errors due to crossed wires. Once each harness has all of its pods plugged in and they appear to be flashing, that section can be buried. The process of connecting pods requires 10 to 20 people removing the pods from the buckets and dropping them on the playa next to the trench at about 1 foot apart, to connect the pods and burying the harnesses.

Once the entire ring is dug, connected, and buried it can be enjoyed by all. But those who have helped install the ring over the past few years know that the story doesn't end there. The ring requires daily maintenance. Traffic dislodges pods, which need to be plugged back into the ring. The pods were designed to separate from the harness if sufficiently disturbed, protecting the harness itself from damage. Every evening just after sunset when the ring starts running is the best time to reconnect pods. When one is discovered disconnected the crewmember simply digs down to the harness, locates the connections, and plugs the pod back in.

The day after the Man burns. the ring is removed. The process takes initially about two dozen people to disconnect the pods and place them in the buckets. The pods are simply lifted straight up and the connectors come apart. Damaged pods are set aside for recycling. Once the pods have been collected, the harnesses are pulled up from the playa, coiled up, and placed in storage bins. The obelisks and battery boxes are loaded on a truck along with the broken pods and any non-working harness sections for transport. Currently this gear is transported back to Reno, where repairs and maintenance is performed.

The pod buckets are inventoried. Assuming about 21 pods per bucket it is easy to see how many pods exist and how many will need to be made for the next year. The batteries go on a charger, and water levels are checked throughout the year. The non-working harness sections are repaired and cleaned. Damaged pods are sorted depending on the type of damage. Pod recycling was used this year as a means to save money by extracting any part that is still useable and discarding the rest. Cement bases that are not cracked can have a new lens glued on, etc. This process reduces the number of whole pods that need to be made by about 10 percent.

Theft, Vandalism and Damage
This was a hard year for respect to art. The several glass dragonflies from Jeremy Lutes's art installation "Lily Ponds" were stolen, and wood for art projects was removed without permission. This is but a short list of things that were taken without the consent of the artist.

A new effort will be needed to educate the citizens of BRC that art theft of any kind hurts the event and should not be tolerated. We are a self-policed community, so part of the solution seems to be encouraging the citizens of BRC to help watch over the ring or other art projects.

The following report comes from Tim Kendziorski who is the project manager for L2K.

"This was a bad year for theft, vandalism, and damage to the L2K ring. Pods were taken in wholesale fashion from the ring. It appeared that the standard MO was to take every other pod from large sections, disguising the theft. But for those of us who have been involved in the project for any length of time, the theft was glaring. Estimates are that as many as 150 pods left the fold in this manner. At $2 to $3 per pod, the cost accumulates to a substantial total. On the other hand, thanks go out to the many people who have emailed to say that they have found pods and wanted to return them. L2K did not escape the rash of vandalism seen at the Man this year. The obelisks were tagged numerous times.

The button boards located inside the Man's pedestal were damaged as well. The fragile buttons were literally pulled off several boards. The cost to replace these components is as yet unknown. As of this writing, I have yet to find a source for these switches. The button boards were a nice addition for 2002. We hope to return them in 2003.

Damage is no stranger to L2K. The pods are designed to withstand being kicked around, squatted on, and ridden over by bikes. Most of the pods survive. Damaged pods were at what we would consider a normal level when compared with previous years. But damage to pods can be avoided almost entirely simply by not driving over them. In several instances, art cars drove over the pods. On one occasion, a member of the L2K team stopped the driver to let them know of the mistake. They stated that they didn't know not to drive over them. While the word does go out to enter and exit the Great Circle through one of the four openings intentionally built into the ring, people seem to ignore the request. The result is broken pods. Reinforced pods were employed for the first time in 2002. None were lost to damage. However, the new pods only numbered 5 percent of the total. It is not yet known if the new design will pass the test of time. Some have suggested that the pods be chained together or some other security measure taken to prevent theft. This is being researched but no suitable method has been found to safely do this."

Additional suggestions for protecting L2K include:

  • Make part of the certification process for any vehicle on the playa a verbal or written confirmation of the understanding that the only way to enter or exit the Great Circle around the Man is through the four openings. If this agreement is already required, perhaps a stronger warning is needed.
  • Publish information in the guidelines handed out at the gate that driving over L2K damages the project. Include a reminder of the appropriate points to enter and exit the Great Circle.

Submitted by, Crimson Rose

There was no L2K article for 2001 to link to.