Burning Ritual

A burning ritual with a handmade connected candle.

Welcome to the “Burning Ritual”. Entering a new year, or decade, is often a time where we create new goals or decide on big changes we want to make. Set those ideas aside for now. You do not need those things to be a better self. Instead we will focus on how to better care for ourselves as we are now.

Commissioned by absurd:joy for a one-off event called Indie Games Trash Night, a handful of artists were invited, myself included, to quickly design and implement rough yet meaningful experiences. When a visitor begins the Burning Ritual, a voice asks them to follow a series of steps. The connected nature of the piece allows them to perform the ritual at their own pace, with actions such as lighting the candle, lifting, or touching the ash bowl indicating the step being performed. When ready, they are asked to write down something they would like to forgive themselves for, or give themselves a break on feeling guilt. Then they burn it. A haphazard string of lights circling the ritual space reacts to the actions taken, further setting the mood. In the end it was a chance for contemplation and reflection with subtle use of technology to enhance the experience.

Designing Burning Ritual required careful experimentation and research, including learning an entirely new craft. To create this interactive experience I first learned how to make my own candles; I used zinc core wicks which allowed me to connect the candle itself to a microcontroller and sense when the wick was touched, lit, or put out. The base of the candle and a small copper bowl were similarly touch sensitive allowing the ritual to be automated. Audio would trigger explaining the next action to take the LEDs would animate as the steps were performed.

Electronics Used