Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back to the Future with Raygun Gothic Rocketship

Next door to the Amtrak train station on the San Francisco waterfront, a 40-foot retro rocket sculpture has been created by Five Ton Crane, a group of Burning Man associated artists for a year-long installation, and it’s stunningly playful.

The artists Sean Orlando, Nathaniel Taylor, and David Shulman (above), along with a crew of over 60 volunteers, originally created the sculpture for the 2009 Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Red Rock Desert.

In the desert, you could walk inside the rocket as if you really were going to take off, but insurance and permit considerations made that impossible along the San Francisco waterfront.

Accordingly, a kiosk was designed by Alan Rorie, displaying the daily intergalactic schedule for the Raygun Gothic Rocketship.

The retro rocket’s placement next to the Amtrak station is an unintended bit of irony since rail travel is experiencing a back to the future moment right now, although the United States is falling behind the rest of the world in that arena with each passing day.

Maybe that’s why the kiosk designer insisted that “Earth” was a “Local” stop.

I was taking a train on Friday morning, just before the rocketship’s official installation, and talked to a European tourist family who were going to Los Angeles via an Amtrak train to Bakersfield followed by a bus ride to downtown LA. When they asked me what they were getting into, I replied, “It’s very, very old-fashioned and slow. Pretend you’re in a Hollywood movie from the 1940s and you should have a good time.”

The European patriarch talked about how his family was on their way home from a trip to Shanghai. “Ten years ago China had no modern rail infrastructure. Now they have high-speed trains going at 270MPH everywhere. It’s amazing.”

Meanwhile, in California, it is taking forever to start building a modern railway system while the state chokes on its own exhaust. I wish the Rocket Gothic Raygun artists were in charge.