This is why we can’t have nice things that shoot flames and blink electronically programmed LED color light displays. For the half-dozenth time since its public installation in July, the Flaming Lotus Girls’ interactive sculpture “Soma” at Pier 14 has been damaged by hooligans and horseplayers using the piece as a set of monkey bars. People, please do not use the “Soma” sculpture as monkey bars. “It is a delicate piece,” says Flaming Lotus Girl Sabrina Veksler. “It wasn’t intended to be a jungle gym.”
The latest round of repairs will be partially financed by In The Red, a Friday night benefit at SOMArts Gallery with a silent auction and the Opulent Temple DJs. Having built and now repeatedly repaired the “Soma” piece at Pier 14, the Flaming Lotus Girls find themselves in debt and in need of patronage. Without public art like this, all we’d have is that ugly-ass bow-and-arrow thingy.
“This is about the sixth or seventh time we’ve actually had to go down and repair damage to this sculpture,” Flaming Lotus Girl Denise told SFist. “It hasn’t been this significant before, but the little bulbs [often] get broken or go missing.”
The “Soma” sculpture at Pier 14 does not shoot flames, as it did when installed at Burning Man 2009. The piece is now illuminated by plastic resin-cast bulbs on 97 LED lights with 1.6 million different possible color combinations. It blinks its software algorithm-powered colory hues from sundown to 2 a.m. nightly, with buttons in place for participants and passersby to control and manipulate the light display.
“We ask for participants to only interact with the piece that way, and not to not interact with it by dangling from it or climbing on it or interacting with it in any way that puts the weight of their bodies on the piece,” Ms. Veksler told SFist.
There is some signage asking fans to not climb upon the piece. But that hasn’t always worked, particularly in the latest case with a perpetrator described by the Flaming Lotus Girls blog as “a swinging/climbing person who is absolutely large enough to be old enough to know better.”
“It caused a significant buckling,” Veksler continued. “Essentially, it appears that somebody hung from one of the lower arms, which put tremendous strain on one of the pieces that was already welded to an angle. While it didn’t actually break, it did significantly weaken the piece to where if somebody did come along and dangle from it yet again, it could have actually broken the [entire ‘Soma’] piece.”
The sculpture is still still functioning, as the Flaming Lotus Girls came by Saturday and removed the busted arm. But the repeated breakings and horseplay damages are starting to add unanticipated financial burdens.
“We’re paying out of pocket,” Ms. Veksler said. “We’re paying encroachment fees to the Port Authority, we’re covering the insurance ourselves. We’re doing it for the love of putting our art in front of San Francisco.”
“We built this,” she said. “We love it, it’s our baby. We gifted it to San Francisco to enjoy. But we don’t want it ruined.”
You can support the Flaming Lotus Girls’ ongoing maintenance fees and future projects by attending In the Red at SOMArts Gallery at 9 p.m. Friday, featuring Opulent Temple and custom several Flaming Lotus Girls custom sculptures available at auction.