Eyes Wide Open: March of Lost Hope
Eyes Wide open installation
An Iraq war memorial at BurningMan 2006
by Sheila Morgan
Lights by Rich Howell
Soundtrack by Simran Gleason

Inspired by the American Friends Service Committee's traveling exhibit, Eyes Wide Open, which will collect a pair of combat boots for every fallen soldier until the war ends, we wish to bring an evolving Eyes Wide Open installation to the Burning Man this year, and every year, until the United States' involvement in Iraq ends.

The 21st Century has begun with a fiery explosion of terror inextinguishable because of its oily base. Although the future would be full of hope and fear regardless of this war, America's invasion of Iraq exemplifies how fear has dominated the decision making of mankind and we offer the Eyes Wide Open Memorial as a call to make hope the ruling order of the day.

Last year we brought a smaller version, a question mark-shaped labyrinth made of combat boots surrounded by a ring of civilian shoes. The labyrinth contained at its center a podium with a photo album of everyone who has died in the Iraq war and a gong that people may strike, to honor the soldiers and civilians who have lost their lives since America invaded Iraq. Each pair of boots represented about ten fallen U.S. soldiers.

Image by Kim Lane
We have designed a new and more sweeping installation to commemorate the men, women and children whose blood has been shed as a result of our nation's foreign policy -- a long pathway of marching combat boots leading to a huge pile of civilian shoes, starting the traveler off on a journey of hope that quickly deteriorates into fear. The mammoth photo album of the deceased from last year will be separated into several photo albums and placed, with gongs, around the mound of civilian shoes so carelessly discarded. Street lamps designed by Rich Howell made of aged oak wine barrels will illuminate the pathway at night with pools of LED light. A soundtrack designed by Simran Gleason will emanate eerily along the pathway.

Listen Some of the music is complete and posted here.


Artist's rendition of the walkway
The walkway's aesthetic will begin with a sense of hopefulness and idealism as the empty combat boots march off to war with the confidence of patriotic liberators. But as the traveler continues down the path, the streetlamps will turn into gnarled, irregularly shaped structures and the soundtrack will morph into a grotesque and somber dirge, representing the soldiers' disillusionment and confusion. The massive pile of civilian shoes and memorial photo albums bring the traveler to war's fearful conclusion -- death. And finally, the gongs represent the universal sound vibration sending a prayer of hope throughout the atmosphere that mankind will no longer use death and violence to resolve conflict.

The path will extend 100 yards and measure 10 feet wide. 500 pairs of combat boots will be required; 186 were salvaged from last year's exhibit, so 314 pairs of boots will need to be added. (Whereas in the Eyes Wide Open Labyrinth each pair of combat boots represented approximately ten fallen U.S. soldiers, in the expanded Eyes Wide Open: The March of Lost Hope each pair of boots will represent approximately five lost U.S. soldiers.) Every 10 yards there will be a streetlamp with 25 LED lights and attached to 5 of those streetlamps will be a sound system made up of a small battery and an MP3 player. We hope the large pile of civilian shoes will reach a height of 9 feet and we will collect the number of shoes required to reach half that goal. The rest we will rely on the Burning Man community for and would like to post in Jack Rabbit Speaks encouraging participants to bring a pair of used shoes for the installation.

A fishing net will be used to ensure that no shoes are blown away to create MOOP. Several photo albums, containing documented soldiers (American and non-American) and Iraqi civilians claimed by the war, will surround the pile of civilian shoes, mounted on oak stands with gongs attached to them.

photo by Heather Lynch

There will be four or five separate music stations, with soundtracks that progress in tone from Hope to Fear. From the hope of peace, through sadness to the fear arising from the situation itself.

Acting P.A.T.R.I.O.T.
The walk begins with a sense of strength. We are a free country. We defend freedom. Our intentions are noble and we have a clear sense of purpose.
The first inklings that something isn't right here. Are we really in this war for the reasons we've been told? Are we really conducting ourselves inthe way our propaganda purports? Do the "armored" vehicles we provided our troops at the outset of the invasion really constitute "Supporting our troops?"

These are mostly ambient pieces, with a bit of darkness.

slow, sad, solo piano music.
Same Ol' SOL
These are the most political of the pieces, with repetitive minimalist music, like an angry Philip Glass, overlaid by excerpts from the speeches of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, edited to expose what I think of as some of their underlying emotions. These contrast with Eisenhower's speeches from after WWII in which he describes the real costs of mainting a war-based society.
Ninety-nine point something
based on a quote from a Tim Barsky story in which a dead soldier, a young Yemeni Jew from South Berkeley, is describing his death: "War is hella boring, like 99 point something percent of the time. The rest of the time you pray like hell for boring." These pieces suspend in a state of waiting, waiting with tension only occasionally broken by sudden loud bursts.