Breaking Blocks, Building Beauty

TempleCraft adam clarke

Creating Art out of Minecraft


How can you recreate an artistic structure in the world of Minecraft? Adam Clarke explains how he recreated Burning Man artist David Best’s 75 foot wooden Temple.

I was recently commissioned by Artichoke and The Space, in collaboration with CultureTech, to be part of an extraordinary project that took me to Derry-Londonderry.  I was asked to produce a Minecraft replica of the Temple, a 75 foot wooden structure built by Burning Man artist, David Best, not just in terms of a physical model but in terms of its emotive and artistic intention. The Temple in Derry-Londonderry was commissioned by Artichoke, The Space and CultureTech, created by Best and built by a team of volunteers from across the local community.

David Best’s Temple in Derry-Londonderry

David Best’s Temple was originally conceived as a way of reframing the cultural symbol of bonfires in the city and bringing a space of reconciliation to a historically divided city. It then became a space where people from all walks of life came to lay remembrance to those who had passed away and leave their memories, both painful and joyful, and their wishes for the future.

Over the seven days it was open, over 60,000 people visited The Temple. They created a space filled with messages, pictures, mementos and tributes. Then, on Saturday 21st March, this beautiful, emotionally charged space was ceremonially torched and burned to the ashes, as an act, according to Best, of release and moving forward.  He created a beautiful space for people to let go of the past and although the structure does not remain, the memory  holds an emotional power that has the potential to take the individual and community forward.

Recreating a Large Scale Art Project on Minecraft

So how does Minecraft fit in to this large scale public art project? Surely Minecraft is just a video game? Well, I believe it is much, much more. So, when I was approached with this unique and inspiring possibility, I immediately said yes because I wanted to explore the idea of creating a meaningful space, similar in beauty and resonance as Best’s real-world Temple, a place where Minecraft players of all ages could come together leave messages, symbolic objects and mementos in the same act of letting go of the past, honouring the lost and letting in the future. And, just like the real Temple, we would burn that down.

The challenging thing about this project is also the most amazing thing about having this opportunity. I was tasked with bringing together a team to create something that was serious and emotional within Minecraft, engaging to a gaming and non gaming community and that would have to succeed in taking Minecraft beyond being seen as simply as a video game and into being explored as a serious space for engaging very real and personal subjects.

The way we achieved this was by emulating some of the beauty and creativity employed by David Best in our virtual build. Best states that the space he creates has to be “so beautiful that you give up the thing that has been troubling you your whole life”. Indeed a challenge for a space that is essentially made of blocks.

In order to achieve this, I reached out to BlockWorks, a very talented group of Minecraft builders , who immediately saw the potential of the project and quickly took on the challenge of working together to recreate David Best’s Temple. We were given early designs, architectural plans and planning drawings to assist the builders in creating a larger-than-life scale model of the Temple, that combined the essence of the design and craft along with the intentional atmosphere of the space. It was not intended to be an exact copy but it needed to be a close echo.

burn templecraft adam clarke

Minecraft already creates a space where people can share ideas in community. This is one of the really interesting and unique facets of it. With only a few weeks to create this digital version of the Temple in Derry Londonderry, the commission was a tough one but the great thing about Minecraft is that you can can bring together people from around the world to collaborate on a digital project very easily and very quickly. The success of this project proved to me that we could collaborate across countries, organisations, artists, art forms and communities to create something meaningful and very beautiful. It was a challenging but also very rewarding to bring together such a disparate group of people I’ve never met before in a virtual space, where we were able to create a meaningful art experience.

Moving from a Creative to a Reflective Space

The unusual thing we were doing here was that we were moving away from the creative space into a reflective space that is is open to everybody around the world. We had over five hundred people visit during the three of four days that the server was live and I believe there would have been more, had the lead up to the project been longer (it was conceived, created and put out into the world within three weeks). The individual and shared experiences were as varied as the visitors. Some left mundane messages for friends to pick up. Some renamed flowers in remembrance of loved ones. Some visited and spent time in the Temple, creating incredibly moving tributes to those they grieved. Then, on the same day as the Temple was due to burn, the Minecraft Temple was also burned, with an in-game gathering of people from around the world, some just to observe and others who had previously come here to lay remembrance and gathered to watch that be turned to flame.

Just as Best’s temple was built in Derry-Londonderry involving the community in its creation and in its celebration, so TempleCraft (as it came to be known) brought together a large community of people who meet online every day, every week to share and play Minecraft.  I really enjoyed seeing the similarities in the way these two different types of communities produced work and responded to the created space. landscape that we had created. Although the two different Temples were divided by the titles of Real and Virtual, one of the most interesting things that I noticed was that in fact both of these temples were real in terms of their creative process and also in the way that they acted as spaces for the sharing and letting go of memories and lost loved ones, and welcoming in a future. Although the space was different and the audience different, the intention and experience was shared.

This ability of Minecraft to nurture collaboration was also echoed by the workshops that I did with David Best in schools during my week in Derry-LondonDerry. We worked together to engage students in considering the Temple space and then creating their own Temples, to contain their own stories. This was an added dimension to the project and again shows another way in which Minecraft can be used to enable collaboration and community engagement.

So what happens next?

As far as our Minecraft Temple goes, it was sent to flames a few hours before the Derry Temple burned down, taking with it all the objects left to rest in our virtual space. However, whereas the Temple in Derry no longer exists except in ashes and memory, because of the digital nature of Minecraft, the actual Temple and artefacts remain held on the server, so that’s where the similarities between the two objects diverge.

Whilst the messages, mementos and virtual space that held these will not exist again, the legacy of this project remains because we created a replica of the temple build that will be available to download for anybody. People can come and explore this space, see how it is built and look to this artefact to inspire their own learning and teaching and encourage people to think about the potential of video games and virtual spaces that people playing in today and wonder: what else can we achieve in the spaces and how else can we make a difference in the world?

Industry Experts article written by:

Adam Clarke The Common People

Adam Clark

The Common People

Gaming, Art and the Creative Industries

Adam Clarke is an artist who uses Minecraft, games, traditional art and technology to inspire and entertain, working globally with institutions, museums, schools and companies to find groundbreaking ways to interact with a young game playing demographic. He has worked across the UK providing workshops, experiential events and talks to inspire and engage and also produces a daily YouTube Channel “Everyday Minecraft”.

Image Credits. Adam Clarke, The Common People and blockworksmc.com.

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