The Iron Monkeys are a blacksmithing collective based in the historic Georgetown District of Seattle. Starting in 2006, they have collaborated on public art pieces that have been placed at Black Rock City (Burning Man) and beyond. They like to create spaces that are opportunities for people to mingle, to meet, to gather.
Iron Monkeys believe art should be experienced, not just observed. As we create each piece we ask ourselves, “What are people going to feel here? How will people interact with our art? How will it change them?”
Our pieces tend to combine defined space and fire: the elements of community. We are the beacon across the dark desert night that guides you home. Our art invites you to warm up just a bit more before seeking the next adventure. It is the comfy room that allows you to strike up a conversation with other amazing people that have gathered in the space we provide. Our pieces will provide a happy memory, a wicked smile and a warm fire for you to take with you anywhere.
The 2014 Agora of Light is a continuation of the unfolding series created by the collective.
In 2006 they created Luminferous:
In 2007 they built The Tree Spire:
In 2008 they created Diablo:
In 2009 they created Incunabulum:
In 2010 the Monkeys brought the stunningly beautiful Crossroads to the Playa:
In 2011 they brought the Garden of Monkey Retrospective to the Desert:
On the 7th year, they rested.
Then in 2013 they created the Guardian of Dawn:
2014: The Agora of Light is a gathering space, the next chapter in the Iron Monkey’s myth of The Guardian of Dawn, wherein the Acolyte’s curiosity overwhelms their fear. “How do we transcend fear?” the Acolytes asked themselves. “By facing the darkness,” they answered.
Reflecting on our project design from last year, the Iron Monkeys realized that The Guardian of Dawn lacked both intimacy and places to sit. In response to that, the Agora of Light incorporates a defined perimeter and ample seating for participants to rest, gather and talk.
In Ancient Greece agoras were defined by colonnades. Embracing this, the Iron Monkeys are bringing back the six columns from our 2010 piece The Crossroads. These six columns are set up in pairs to create three distinct entry points to the 60’ wide circle of the Agora.
Filling out the perimeter of the circle are curved benches framed on each side by LED acolytes. Increasingly smaller and shorter benches will be placed in front of the the outer benches to create an amphitheater seating effect. To encourage dialogue, virtuous words are incorporated into the design of the benches. The intention for including words in the seating places is to inspire storytelling and sharing. Words like remembrance, truth, curiosity, understanding and strength pose questions to participants who may answer as they see fit.
The roof of the pavilion will be constructed from steel pipe, formed into the shape of leaves. The leaves are overlaid to form a 36’ wide, six-pointed structure, with each point being supported by an outward-facing acolyte. The leaves will be screened with steel mesh which will provide shade from the sun during daylight. A centerpiece placed within the pavilion will either be a warming fire or a water fountain The large zen from 2014, a six-foot wide 12 sided bowl, will be repurposed to build this piece.
Three zen gardens are placed inside the Agora between the columns and center pavilion. Each zen garden is approximately three feet wide, filled with sand, lit on fire. Interaction with the zens consists of participants pausing to write or draw in the sand with provided tools.
Having spent their entire lives safe and warm within the glowing embrace of The Guardian of Dawn, the time has come for the Acolytes to pull up stakes and confront the unknown. The darkness had always been the ultimate extent of their explorations, a black membrane made of uncertainty they never dared pierce. Something has changed: fear has evolved into curiosity. The Acolytes, flush with new found inquisitiveness, cannot fight the compulsion that drives them to explore the shadows. With the blessing of the Guardian they embark upon the next leg of their odyssey. The Acolytes seek their own light after having been defined by the light of The Guardian for so long. The excitement, verging on fear, of this new journey is soothed with the knowledge of their inevitable return home.
Every night of their travels the Acolytes build a fire and gather around the flames. They recreate home. Applying lessons learned from the Guardian they create a warm, welcoming gathering space. It’s what they know best, and do it well. In the face of so much that is unknown and unknowable, their nightly conclave is a comforting talisman. It’s a necessary piece of familiarity. The Guardian of Dawn, their touchstone of safety and protection, lays far behind them.
The Agora of Light ignites the exchange of ideas, a fire built to welcome other wanderers. A beacon beckoning in the night, the Agora of Light offers refuge from darkness, and provides a forum for exchange of experiences. But only for an evening; when the sun rises the travelers break camp, say farewell, and continue forward. They gather night after night, sometimes drawing a crowd, sometimes alone, but always with fire and always on the cusp of an epiphany.
After countless sunrises, sunsets and nights telling stories around the fire, a nascent wisdom begins to emerge within the Acolytes. The stories they’ve heard coalesce into something that is not uniquely of them and yet is not foreign. Certain words begin to resonate. Courage. Truth. Understanding. Temperance. These words become the catalysts of interaction in the Agora of Light. A fresh understanding, one born of experience rather than acceptance, emerges. The Acolytes develop new ideals gleaned from these words which they will excitedly share with the Guardian upon their return.
The Agora of Light contains the echoes of the past and dreams of the future. The Guardian of Dawn’s refuge, a place of safety and comfort, has transitioned into a marketplace of experience and self-awareness. This metamorphosis is not necessarily comfortable, but growth seldom is.
Won’t you come in from the dark?