A Burning Man 2023 Project Proposal
Letter of Intent

Lead Artist Name

Sjors Houkes (he/him)

Art Installation Title

The Manticore
(working title)

Project Summary

A sculpture of a mythological creature that comes to life and engages Burning Man citizens in a videogame-like ‘boss fight’ via controlled physical play sessions. An externalisation of the struggle with your inner beast that you can approach in any way you need in that moment.

Physical Description

A hulking being rests kneeling on a raised platform that looks like a altar or arena. Battle-worn, it is motionless until interacted with during scheduled operation times. Outside of these times, it will still present a striking sight, like a sfinx. Organic and beastlike – a manticore, with elements of a minotaur or gargoyle – with fur, skin, claws, wings, horns and teeth. Its eyes glow orange-red. Over its head rests a ‘life bar’ or energy indicator in the form of an LED bar. More LEDs will be present under its fur, to light up during certain phases of the interaction. The construction consists of aluminium, wood and more lightweight filler material, covered in artificial fur and skin. It allows 1 person inside, controlling the creature with electronics, motion and sound.

Physical Dimensions

The arena is roughly 20 * 30 feet, and up to 20 feet high. The creature itself is 6 * 6 feet, and 12 feet high (including appendages like horns).


It offers a physical play fight challenge. After climbing onto the arena, the visitors will find the creature slowly coming alive (when active). It will then offer an opportunity to be challenged. Should the citizen do so, it will offer a cycle of ‘attacks’ – none of which will hurt visitors, but will try to prevent them from besting the monster in time. After completing several steps in order through trial and error, the beast yields, and the shrine offers a memorandum token as a reward.


The piece will be personal and immediate, adapting to the actions of each citizen. In the performance, you are invited to confront your ‘inner beast’. It allow you to experience your body in a 1-v-1 arena, engaging something much larger than you, inviting your improvisational skills and making you feel powerful. People can discuss tactics with each other, or recount their battle. It is not so much a display of aggression as it is like a round of wrestling or dance battle. A playful challenge.

What is the philosophy of your piece?

I hope to offer people something absent in default life: fighting an actual monster. Citizens can project anything they want onto it: a challenging person in their life, their own self, or simply the outside world. It is meant to be fun, but also a vessel for externalising inner struggle. 

The archetype of the beast has forever been a metaphor for human struggle with their primal needs, desires, aggression, physicality. Fantasy, videogames and fairytales are still a mediated experience. I’m taking it into the realm of the physical, larger-than-life. Seeing “Facing the Fearbeast” by Tigre Mashaal-Lively in 2022 was like that: very primal. My piece is not meant as a direct tribute to them, but it was inspiring. This has a smaller scale, but is interactive, which always adds something. 

Embodiment of inner struggles is often more helpful than analysis. I want to facilitate this to people on playa. Even without struggle, the experience will offer something unique to take along. 

Is this an existing artwork or a proposed concept?

  • Proposed Concept
  • In Progress
  • Existing Artwork

Estimated Total Budget*


Estimated Funding Request*


Is there anything else you think we should know? 

This project has been brewing in my mind for a long time, and is now taking shape due to many things in my life coming together. My experience in animation, games, woodworking, drawing, performance and more. My trust in creating this project comes not only from my own skills, but also the help of several friends that have already had projects at Burning Man, ranging from steel and wood to electronics. I can’t wait to make this happen.


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