Setting the Scene: A Glowing Tree

Setting the Scene

Just off the edge of the Playa, when the sun sets and the sky grows dark, a magical path suddenly appears, twin lines of glowing markers winding into distance…

Curious travelers who reach the end discover an oasis. And in the middle of the oasis, a magical tree: from its branches hang wondrous glowing fruit, large and small ornaments filled with bioluminescent fluid… This is the Tree of Knowledge.

The oasis is populated by a strange tribe, caretakers of the tree, their faces and bodies elaborately painted with colorful glow-in-the-dark paints. The Tribe of Light.

At night, most nights, chill– almost ambient– music plays; this is a peaceful oasis. Visitors can “pick” the low hanging fruit and take it with them: these small spheres hang from the tree on lengths of string, and when “picked” make ideal necklaces and bracelets.

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The Tree

The Tree of Knowledge will made from a dead tree (recycled in a sense), about 8 meters (~26 feet) high and 6 meters (~20 feet) wide. For the sake of transportation, the tree will be cut into sections which will subsequently be reconnected on site by means of steel rebar combined with a set of metal collars to ensure stability (see figure 5)

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Creating the Fruit

The key to the project are organisms which have been engineered to enhance bioluminescence. We are experimenting with a range of algae and bacteria in order to establish which are best suited to our purposes, and can best survive the harsh climate of Black Rock City.

Current candidates include Vibrio Fischeri (whose bioluminescent properties are found predominantly in symbiosis with various marine animals, such as the bobtail squid) and Pyrocystis fusiformis (a marine dinoflagellate whose bioluminescent properties can often be seen in coastal marine waters).

The organisms will be contained into transparent plastic containers of various size. Bigger containers will be directly connected to the branches of the tree in such a way as to mimic the fruit of the tree. Smaller containers (amulets) will be hang via string from the branches, in order to be easily “picked” by the public.

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