The installation piece Fire In Place is an exploration into our attempts to tame and control of fire and nature. The installation consists of a 40′ x 5′ x 6′ cave-like structure. After stooping down to enter the installation, the visitor is met with the strong, yet familiar and welcoming, smell of woodsmoke. The structure is filled with the sound of crackling fire inviting the visitor to explore further to the far end of the piece. At the end of the cave are two video monitors. The monitors are covered in gauze and surrounded by a rough circle of stones. The lower monitor reveals a close-up of a campfire, the upper displays that same fire, strangely warped and manipulated.
Fire has always played an important role in my art, both as inspiration and as medium. I have utilized fire visually in my still image and video work, and physically in my performance/sculpture pieces. Fire is recognized by many, if not most, cultures in the world as the original creator/destroyer. It is simultaneously viewed as purifier, life-giver, and the harbinger of evil. I find working with these dichotomies both interesting and challenging. As my work is primarily based in new technology, fire presents the thrill of pure, unadulterated chaos that I find lacking in much of the digital aesthetic.
In this piece, as in my earlier work with fire, I examine the inherent power in images of nature. How far can something be removed from the source and still retain the essence of that source? What is the importance, if any, in the physicality of an object or in the authenticity of an image? What is Benjamin’s aura and can it be distilled?
This piece was originally shown in 1996 at the now defunct International Gallery in Minneapolis. The piece was again shown as part of an artist in residency at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1998.