Cake or Death?

Name/Burner Name: Dominic Barbato and Emily Gosnell Emily (left) and Dominic at Mosaic Experiment

Where are you living currently? Ann Arbor, MI and Baltimore, MD

When was your first burn? How did you find out about burns? Em and I actually went to our first burn together back in 2011 when we finally made it to Burning Man. I had found out about burning several years prior to that (it took me 8 years from discovering Burning Man to actually making it to the desert). At one point during college I was reading "This is Burning Man" by Doherty, and it came to a point in the book where they were describing an artist attempting to build a full-scale model of the game "Mousetrap" complete with a piano dropping off of a crane at the end of the Rube Goldberg-esque contraption. It never worked..... so they spent their time dropping pianos from cranes...

It was at that point I thought: "Wow, there is a place in the world where someone would let me build an elaborate contraption to drop a piano from a crane..... and then would be completely fine with it failing?"

It was only a matter of time.....

Project name and description: We did an interactive game called "Cake or Death". Emily carried around an open platter of cake and Dom (dressed as Death) had a closed container.

When a participant chooses Cake, they got themselves a tasty treat and went on their way. Those who were brave enough (or foolish enough depending on your disposition) to choose Death were given a Death Tarot Card that said the following:

"The receipt of this card signifies that the bearer has experienced a symbolic death. Think of all the regrets you carry with you each day, the painful memories you try and hide, and the worries you may have about the future. As you have symbolically died today, take this as an opportunity to feel reborn and live the rest of your time here as if all of those regrets and worries have been lifted from you.

Your Rebirth begins the moment you hand this card to another person."

The goal was to give people a positive mindset for their time at the burn while simultaneously setting the stage for future gifting (since the last line asks you to pass it on).

Death card. Photo by A

What was your inspiration? Well, Eddie Izzard (a British comedian we are both fans of) does a bit called "Cake or Death". The gist being that the Church of England can not do fire and brimstone very well (thus the ridiculous cake or death choice). Obviously, our project does not have anything to do with that other than the name.

We originally did the piece for another regional (Transformus in North Carolina) where our camp was running a tea house. We needed snacks to go with tea and cake was an obvious choice... the Cake or Death set-up flowed from that because we thought it would be funny.

As for the Death Tarot, Dom was the primary writer of that. His explanation: "I was going through a major bout of depression in the spring of 2014, and it was really rough. I had a thought during it that what would really help me out was just someone (even a stranger) giving me an excuse to drop my baggage and go about my day without it burdening me. The writing on the Tarot Card was my attempt at that."

Time spent on project? About a month. The hardest part was getting the costumes, that and laminating and printing all of the Tarot Cards. The writing on the back went through a few drafts as well.

Did you collaborate with anyone else? All of the awesome members of the Bliss Junkies Union: Olga, Chelsea, Dave, and Morgan

Challenges during the project: We actually did not start out planning on laminating the cards.... but through a mistake at the printer, they were on much thinner paper than we were initially thinking of using. We were worried they would easily become MOOP or would disintegrate in bad weather. Emily had the idea of laminating them and we are really glad we did.

death cardWe also went through a few different arrangements when it came to the "performance" At first the Tarot Cards were visible, which made people choose them exclusively without thinking. Then we tried having Dom hide them in his cloak and not present anything. This created a problem because people would often not realize "Death" was an actual valid choice and would think we were just jokingly pointing to Dom wearing a costume. It seems hard to believe, but it took a few trial runs for us to realize the most effective thing would be for us both to have plates with gifts... but only one visible.

Having done this twice we can say with certainty: People at Mosaic were much more willing to choose Death over Cake compared to people at Transformus.

Any words of advice for future projects at Mosaic Experiment? Just prepare for sudden changes in weather and you should be fine. Mosaic is such a fun place to do a project because it is such an intimate setting, so you can really experiment and be creative without having to worry about working out the kinks in your project with thousands of people present.

That is about it..... we never really considered ourselves artists..... just bliss junkies who like provoking responses from people :).

Mosaic Experiment 2015: How will YOU participate?

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