Mortorious at Burning Man 2019

Many thanks to Mortorious contributors Matt Newton, Megan Boivin, Natalia Baetz, Rebecca Rashkin, Stacy Standal, Tiffany Hollis, and Victoria Hollis! Also, many thanks to Jordan Layman, from whom we rented space during August at Idea Fab Labs, Santa Cruz. Making Mortorious was much work, but in the end, the installation at Burning Man was a success!

The Trip

I finally got the digital artwork to Ross Graphics, and then their equipment malfunctioned (of course!). So my planned Friday-morning departure was delayed until later that day. When I headed north, I immediately hit the Bay Area afternoon traffic that I had hoped my planned morning departure would have avoided. Loaded with Mortorious and pulling the camp’s trailer, the 400-mile journey to the Black Rock Desert took longer than expected. Due to traffic, stops for last-minute shopping, resting, and eating meals, I entered Burning Man around sunrise on Saturday. Whew!

The Location

After laying out camp, I went to The Artery and learned that Mortorious had been located in a prime spot, between large installations #Slonik and Tulpa Ashrams. Here I am (dressed for the dust, sun, and whatever else the desert wants to throw at me) showing a bit too much excitement about our location.

Burning Man marked our spot on the desert floor with a “floofy.”


Natalia and I set up Mortorious Saturday evening. I was excited to get the installation assembled, but I also was tired, and so I have forgotten who else helped us with the setup (oops!). My goal was to be able to start the “death counters” at midnight, which I was able to do.

Photo by Joseph Lakeman.

The two mural walls by Victoria and Rebecca also added security for the piece’s generator and helped everything stay upright in the wind. (On the right, just 350 feet away, you see #Slonik, the 75-foot tall, happy, green elephant.)

Mural wall by Victoria Hollis. Photo by Victoria Hollis.
Mural wall by Rebecca Rashkin. Photo by Victoria Hollis.

Here are the eight panels. Each panel has posters for one or two causes of death. The counters show their values just before Rebecca and I powered down the piece on Monday to remove it from the playa, so essentially these are the estimated number of deaths by each of the causes during the prior 8½ days.

“All Causes” by Rebecca Rashkin and “Heart Disease” by Kerry Veenstra
“Cancer/Tumors” by Stacy Standal and “Respiratory Disease” by Rebecca Rashkin
“Drug Accidents” by Victoria Hollis and “Vehicle Accidents” by Tiffany Hollis
“Falls” by Victoria Hollis and “Alzeimer’s Disease” by Kerry Veenstra
“Diabetes” by Stacy Standal and “Suicide” by Victoria Hollis
“Firearms” by Kerry Veenstra
“Homicide” by Kerry Veenstra and “Fire” by Victoria Hollis
“Mass Shootings” by Victoria Hollis and “Terrorism” by Victoria Hollis

The Response

I mounted a blank book on the side of Mortorious for participants to record their responses. Here’s a link to a PDF scan of their comments. Mortorious moved participants to share somewhat shocking thoughts about others’ deaths and about their own eventual deaths.