Aug. 18 2015 06:10 PM

Art collective builds video-arcade environment for big annual desert fest

Andrew Koorey (left) and David Timms inside The Wonderlust Arcade
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

    Burning Man kicks off Aug. 30 in a desert in northern Nevada, but a group of local festivalgoers has been prepping for the famed annual event since April.

    Sol Diego is an arts collaborative that brings together San Diego artists and so-called "Burners" through making large-scale, immersive art. Since 2011, its members have created impressive interactive art pieces that travel to Burning Man.

    "What we've really excelled at in the past is building an environment for people to interact," says David Timms, one of Sol Diego's founders. "The first year, we did a climbable sun structure. Then there was a nautically-themed carousel with ride-able animals. The third year was a rocket ship and a fish. All three were burnable art pieces, so we eventually lit all of those on fire."

    For the last few months, Sol Diego has been working on this year's entry: "The Wonderlust Arcade," a whimsical, artful and somewhat trippy handcrafted video-game arcade.

    "We've got Pong, Space Invaders and Frogger, all sort of Burner-fied," says Andrew Koorey, who designed and programmed the games, in a video the arts collective made about the project for their Kickstarter campaign.

    The arcade also includes a large, handmade pipe organ open to anyone who wants to play and other custom games inspired by Simon, Battleship, Operation and more. And the structure itself plays with perspective in interesting ways.

    "The Wonderlust Arcade is an arcade within an optical illusion," Timms says in the video. "Forced perspective—it's that point on the horizon that everything converges upon. What we're doing is we're warping that to create the illusion of a longer hallway...As you enter the room, you will appear taller."

    Timms says they won't be setting the arcade on fire this year. Instead, the piece will travel to YOUtopia, San Diego's regional Burning Man event, in October. He says he hopes the piece will help inspire other artists to join their collective.

    "What these projects do is they're large enough and they require a certain level of collaboration in order to do them well," he says. "It's a good excuse to bring artists together to work on things that are much bigger than what they would normally tackle."

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