The city’s waterfront watchers and public art debaters have a new subject to discuss. An interactive 28 x 40 foot stainless steel sculpture opens at Pier 14 today. It’s titled "Soma," and was made by the Flaming Lotus Girls, a local art collective best known for creating large-scale fire sculptures of angels, demons, and serpents at Burning Man. "Soma" was first unveiled at Burning Man in 2009, and is being installed on the waterfront through a collaboration between the Port of San Francisco and the Black Rock Arts Foundation. 

The piece isn’t named after the neighborhood, by the way – it's meant to represent the cell body of a neuron, which is called a soma. For the urban version, the group replaced its flaming parts with LEDs, which viewers can interact with through buttons "that will activate a simulation of the trans-synaptic action,” it imitates, the creators told me. 

Pouneh Mortazavi from the Flaming Lotus Girls said the piece also represents a connection between technology and art in San Francisco. She pointed out that it’s located on the best viewing platform for The Bay Lights, another art project that uses LEDs to decorate the waterfront. And she said the group is thrilled to finally exhibit something in their hometown.

Of course, in San Francisco, part of that local experience will be hearing everyone's opinions. If our recent piece on The Bay Lights is any indication, public art is a subject we can debate for hours. Love it or hate it, Soma will be at Pier 14 for at least a year, and possibly two. That might be just long enough for it grow on the haters. Kind of like The Bay Lights did on me. 

What do you think about Soma? Tell us in the comments.

Photo by Joe Dacanay

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