The Tree’s Construction

Installing the Tree

We will build the Tree of Knowledge, using concepts about open hardware, fabrication and biohacking, to be a place of knowledge-sharing, beauty and collaboration.

The Tree itself can be installed in any urban setting with appropriate climate– indoors or outdoors.

We have already received a grant in support of a preliminary installation in Cambridge, MA this spring and intend to look for more. We also intend this to be a trial run of the bioluminescence and containment: in this initial installation, we will not be building the structure of the Tree; we will hang the fruit in a natural setting within the canopy of a living tree.

In this way, the Tree of Knowledge can be installed anywhere and its fruit can be hung on any tree (constructed or living, though using a living tree of course makes the project much easier to set up.)

Please note, however, that the installation does require supervision: the bioluminescent organisms require some “care and feeding” during any but very short showings (i.e. anything more than two days). Also, some preliminary lab work may be required to develop organisms suited to specific local / seasonal climates.

The Sounds of the Tree

Most nights, the site will provide a quiet and refreshing oasis away from the chaotic Silk Road of the playa. Soft chill-out music will be playing at the site, at a volume that will not impact neighboring sites or installations.

The night of the burn, we plan on organising a bigger party: the Festival of the Tree. Chill-out music will be replaced by dance / electronic music. In order to encourage people dancing, the volume will be slightly higher. (*Details of what we can do in this respect to be determined when we have a sense of how remote our location is: ie, distance to nearest neighbors.)

Safety Around the Tree

The Tree of Knowledge is designed with safety in mind.

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The construction of the main tree will be done according to a carefully engineered plan so as to provide a robust platform for the burners to interact with (and climb upon). All metal pieces will be coated for maximum durability against weather. The bioluminescent fruit intended for “picking” will hang on the lowest branches of the tree, so as to be in reach of visitors standing on the ground..

The bioluminescent organisms are suspended in a seawater solution, contained in clear plexiglass balls (*think: Christmas ornament). These will not break or shatter even if dropped from a height considerably higher than even the top of the tree; and won’t hurt much if dropped on one’s head. The organisms contained into the fruit are naturally occurring. While they have been bioengineered for climate and optimal luminescence, they are not toxic.

The site will be constantly inspected for safety concerns. Members of the Tribe will always be present on site. If anything were to happen during the event, e.g. if the structure were to break in such a way that it would constitute a hazard to the citizens of Black Rock City, we will do our best to repair it as soon as possible. (We will bring all necessary tools and materials for maintenance and repair.) In the event of severe damage to the Tree, access to the site will be immediately blocked until the issue has been resolved. If the Tree were damaged beyond repair, we will immediately erect caution tape around the perimeter, and coordinate with the ARTery a safe time to unanchor and remove the piece.

Interactivity of the Tree

The Tree of Knowledge lies in the middle of a mystical oasis, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of curiosity, learning and sharing.

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The site is both a destination, a place where travellers come in their quest for meditation and wonder; and also a source, a place from which knowledge spreads, illuminating the desert of Black Rock City.

From the moment the sun sets, travellers will be drawn to the Tree of Knowledge by its mystical glow on the distant horizon. As they get closer, they can marvel at the wonder of its bioluminescent fruit. It is a peaceful oasis, far from the chaotic setting of the Silk Road.

Here travellers will have their first encounter with the Tribe of Light, natives of the Oasis, known by our luminescent face and body paint.

Curious travelers will ask, “What is all this?” And to them we will say it is the Tree of Knowledge. We will tell them about the magic of bioluminescence, the value of shared knowledge, and other secret things; and we will encourage them to take some of the fruit — some of the light– away with them on the rest of their journey, to illuminate their path and share with their friends:

The lower-hanging fruit, which the curious travelers will be encouraged to pick, are transparent spheres filled with bioluminescent organisms in a saltwater solution. These are attached to the tree by leather strings; when untied from the tree, these enable the fruit to be worn as necklaces and bracelets– magic amulets to take home (*Staff will refresh the tree every few minutes.)


On their journeys, fellow travellers will see these illuminated amulets and inquire; and some number of them will seek out the origin, to get one of their own. In this this way, the project illustrates– manifests– the ways in which knowledge spreads.

Visitors willing to go through a short training course (about 30 minutes) will be given the opportunity to be turned into ‘evangelists’, apprentice wizards: Upon completion of this training, in a special ritual, we will apply luminescent paint to their body so that they will be easily recognizable as part of the Tribe.

These luminous evangelists will then be sent out of the Oasis and back to the chaos beyond, with a kit (a set of empty amulets and a flask of bioluminescent organism) and a mission: they will be charged with enlightening fellow travellers, sharing light and knowledge.

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