This article originally appeared on Creators Mexico.
Reminiscent of the great Mesoamerican pyramids, this structure combines contemporary aesthetics and modern technology with Mexican culture, traditions, and overall legacy. Based on the tradition from which its name is derived, the Pirámide de los muertos or Pyramid of the Dead is an art installation created by a community of international and Mexican artists led by Tomas Burkey, a Chilean-American artist based in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, in central Mexico. Burkey, who is also the co-founder of a regional Burning Man celebration called La Calaca, made the structure with the goal of integrating how Mexicans approach and honor the deceased. After having participated in previous editions of La Calaca, this year the artists were invited to present the installation at Burning Man.
The pyramid consists of 128 brass niches that are one and a half meters high by one meter wide, creating an accessible structure where all spectators can interact. In other words, the pyramid is scalable. By day, it looks like an aesthetically pleasing altar that honors the deceased. But at night, in collaboration with Video Mapping MX, it incorporates projection mapping and electrifying light games.
"I believe that the pyramid wasn't mine after the La Calaca festival, but rather a [universal] impression, a reflection of San Miguel, of Mexico, and of its spirit. [We want to bring] the relationship with death here in Mexico to an international stage, especially to places like the United States, where [our view] is considered more taboo or where there's a real lack of understanding of the tradition," Burkey says to Creators.
However, the production of the pyramid is both costly and time-consuming, so Burkey and his team decided to seek help from the international community, hoping to garner greater crowdfunding interest for the project in Mexico. The project is currently in its conceptual phase, which means there's still time for it to be built and featured in the upcoming Burning Man festival.
Burkey says, "The project came to me three years ago, when my father passed away. I was looking for a way to honor him and for a way to unite the community in a manner that payed homage to our loved ones. The first time we created the pyramid, I put a picture of my father at its highest point. It was an incredibly powerful moment for me to be able to honor him so well, and also that people could connect with him in a certain way. I remember that there was this little girl who asked who he was, and when I gave her my answer and she realized that he'd died, she asked me if she could hug him. Then she went up to the pyramid and hugged the image. And then it all made sense, and [I thought about how] he would've loved it—he always loved kids—but moreover, I understood what this project is able to do: [Create] a beautiful moment where everyone can bring and honor their loved ones to a specific place, and in a creative way."
If you'd like to learn more or help this project become a reality, visit this site to donate or make a contribution.
Translated by Meredith Balkus.