A Pyramid Arises from the Desert
By Monique A. LeBleu
On a warm, dusky evening, a man-made pyramid looms above the Joshua Trees of the Yucca Valley desert landscape. Low rumble subsonic tones emanate from within the bones of the structure. Sixteen feet in total height and framed at the base by a 32-foot circle, two adjoined arches shine with softly glowing symbols in cool blue, green, and purple under the evening starlight—the 1:44 Inter-dimensional Space Time Portal—a TransPortal—(https://burningman.org/event/2022-art-installations/) is poised to arrive.
Two months already in the making to construct, designer Harlan Emil and his crew fastidiously make 11th hour finishing touches to its construction, along with last-minute lighting and live and recorded sound tweaks, in order to meet the goal: to finish, and then a near immediate complete disassemble and pack up the very next day for transportation to this year’s 2022 Burning Man Festival (https://burningman.org/).
Decorated in the interior with a stacked stone and night sky print on the walls and ceiling, a floor of sand-colored carpet, and dozens of plush throw pillows, up to fifteen participants can stand, sit, or recline during their experience while others can situate themselves on the exterior—together accessing the subsonic sound and energy.
Soon to be mobile, the Portal awaits its trek across neighboring California deserts to greet another part of the earth’s sky in Nevada and its temporary earthly inhabitants. Situated on two large flatbed trucks, along Emil’s very first design, “11:11 Diamond Portal”, the team spent a day’s journey to their new 100’ by 100’ Burning Man camp site this year, “Portal to the New Earth.”
The 11:11 Diamond Portal or “Heart Star Diamond Portal” is a 3-dimensional diamond shape that contains a circular cut-out within. The design casts an interlocking heart-shaped shadow which changes shape like a sun dial.
Emil, who has a BFA in environmental design from Parsons School of Design, studied physics at Emory University and electrical engineering at Georgia Tech and University of Miami, began making these climbable structures, starting with the 11:11 Diamond Portal, “using sacred geometry, color, and sound.”
Photo: Monique A. LeBleu
“I thought of the shape in 1984 while studying [at Parsons] and learning about the golden ratio,” he said. “And then I made a little paper model. I started going to burning man in 1999 and seeing all these interactive art structures. So in 2003, I’m like, ‘I know I’m gonna build that for burning man in 2004!’”
Now at Burning Man, this year makes it Emil’s 21st event year and 18th design year. Although a participant in Burning Man since 1999, he began creating his interactive installations five years later and has since created dozens of Portals that have withstood time, transportation, and the elements.
Because of the temporary nature of Burning Man and the entire city structure—leave nothing behind—the key to his designs is that they can be easily disassembled, transported, installed, and then removed, and are structurally strong, effective, geometrically pleasing, beautiful art. This also makes them sometimes available for other festivals, such as Lucidity, Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis, Desert Daze, or privately commissioned events, where feasible.
According to Emil’s website, (https://portaltothenewearth.com/) his Portals are installations of spaces designed to “facilitate an evolution of consciousness, as well as focusing on the design of future ecologically integrated human environments” using sacred geometry, colors, and sound vibrations. In that, they are to harmonize a “participant’s multidimensional vibrational energy body with the evolution of the Earth’s geometric grid to facilitate an evolution of consciousness.”
As with all of his sacred geometry structures, participants can interact with them through climbing, sitting, standing, entering, or laying on or within them, where the energy the portals generate, combined with their sound vibrations, is quite tangible.
Early TransPortals were built in Taos, New Mexico, which Emil said “always felt was a significant thing because Taos has a certain energy. And bringing it all the way from Taos to the Playa [Black Rock City] was bringing that energy from Taos’ high plateau mountain, which is over 7,000 feet and it’s in the middle of the continent.”
He then moved to California in 2010, and after meeting Garth Bowles at an event he began hosting at Garth’s Boulder Gardens Sanctuary in 2014, he moved to Yucca Valley.
Photo: Brent Busboom
“Garth’s been here for 40 years. He has a square mile behind Rim Rock that he allows people to come to. And there’s an amphitheater and people host various events there,” he said. “So I started hosting an event and, with Garth, we came up with the name ‘Portal to the New Earth’ and that’s now my umbrella name.”
Emil, who played bass guitar for the band “The Kind” in the 1980s, created a Quasar Wave Transducer using two live bass guitar strings, which emits “subtle low-frequency purring vibrations in the range of human brain waves.” The sound is his signature and often a fixture in the TransPortals.
“Two guitar strings create subsonic notes that are feeding back through an amplifier,” said Emil. “And the idea is to get them to a point where they go into their most chaotic and random. Where they build up and die down and make this soothing, big cat, purring sound.”
Another portal installation, the “1:44 Alcyone Portal,” whose central geometries were taken from the “Sapphire Portal” built for Burning Man in 2007, is currently housed and enjoyed by locals in Yucca Valley at Emil’s home. The Portal uses a surround sound system where Emil uses recordings to similar effect by local music artist, and veteran of the Joshua Tree Music Festival, Hans, from his 33 Bowls Tibetan singing bowl recordings.
Photo: Harlan Emili Gruber
The idea for this year’s project is in collaboration with South African Intuitive Healer, Maraya, (https://www.maraya.co.za/), who designed the symbols that adorn and guide the TransPortal and whose live and recorded vocals accompanied it as well.
“In order to be able to travel through time and space within consciousness, you need an activated vehicle of light,” said Maraya in a YouTube interview by Emil. “This vehicle is found within the patterns of the heart and the 1:44 Inter-dimensional Space Time Portal is a physical manifestation of it.”
Emil received an Honorarium Art Grant in 2020 to bring the 1:44 Inter-dimensional Space Time Portal to Burning Man 2020 prior to the event being canceled due to the pandemic. But receiving an Honorarium for this year, along with crowdfunding ( https://fundrazr.com/144ISTPortal?) and fundraising through the sale of a pendant replica of the Portal, they were able bring their vision together for this year’s Burning Man.
Although both a New Age and a Biblical reference, the number 1:44 for the Portal is also a time reference.
“It’s a clock [map at Burning Man.] And I started with 11:11 for my first piece. And then I went to 12:12, 1:11, 2:22, then to 12:21, ” said Emil. “12:21 was in 2012, and because of December 21st, 2012,” said Emil of his TransPortal naming concept…in 2012, we went back to 11:11, and then starting in 2014, we did 11:44, 11:55. And in 2016, I moved to 1:44, which is the very far corner of the Playa.”
“Burning Man’s getting more and more crowded. And the deep Playa is getting more and more filled up with lots of art, art cars, and people. And I want my thing to be remote. So 1:44 ends up being the most remote spot in the Playa, plus it’s also towards the sunrise. So when anyone’s walking towards the sunrise and also when this door [or the Pyramid] faces East, you don’t see any other art installations in front of it because we’re at the most eastern part of the Playa.”
With many of his Portals built in Taos, only a few were built in California.
“This is the first one we’ve built here [in Yucca Valley],” said Emil. “I like people here. I like it here. And it’s close to other festivals I do [like] Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis, Lucidity, or Desert Daze.”
However, construction and transportation demands of the projects does not always equal additional appearances at other festivals. It’s difficult to get to the festivals and to bring projects there, according to Emil, where the funding either comes from grants, such as what Burning Man can offer (https://burningman.org/programs/burning-man-arts/grants/brc-honoraria/), or by using crowdfunding sites or other private fundraising.
But while plans are in place to return the 1:44 Inter-dimensional Space Time Portal back to its Yucca Valley home—an event that would have transpired by the time of this article—, Emil has no active plans for its future participation in any festivals, at least for the year.
With a desire to focus on developing ecologically sustainable human habitations, and currently hosting interviews on his You Tube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUjo5QEbpuGtIPu_P-bioMA) and on his podcast (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/portal-to-the-new-earth/id1623932545), Emil is equally focused on completing his book, “Portal to the New Earth: Sound, Sacred Geometry and Grid Energies for Personal and Planetary Transformation” which promises to be “lavishly illustrated with photos and diagrams” and a “feast for the mind as well as the eyes.”