Ode to Fire

The real and unreal are examined in a series of outdoor installations. Each movement is an offering back to the timeless and unchanging element fire. The ode structure is co-opted to mark the lyric and poetic condition. Fire is not suffering, but I would like it to know it is not forgotten, that it will be alright either way. I sing several songs and improvise melodies for the fire, but mostly I sing a Dutch lullaby that I sang to my baby while nursing.

 

The video shown at each installation was created on May 9th, 2020 as a Facebook Live Stream. When I entered this project, I committed to working with what I had and what I had was this 2-hour-long video. There are six Dads in the foundation of my work with fire. In the video, you can recognize the half-way point when Dad #2 walks in at the top of the screen in a white t-shirt. And, you know what it is about to end when you hear Dad #6 sing a French lullaby, and Dad #1 keeps laughing.

Lullaby No. 11, 8 September, 2020, 7:25 – 9:25 P.M., Lake Berryessa Recreation Area, California

2-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on netting, 4 speakers

The landscape was burned from the LNU Lightening Complex Fire and it was so different than when I swam in the reservoir three weeks earlier, though it was just as hot. Ash fell on the installation from some nearby fire, maybe LNU was still burning.

Lullaby No. 10, 6 September, 2020, 7:29 – 9:29 P.M., Ben Lomond, California

2-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on netting, 4 speakers

The CZU Lightening Complex Fire burned nearby and it was hot—114° was the high of the day. The air was dense with smoke and dry. A Ben Lomond resident permitted the installation on their property on the edge of the CZU fire. The resident’s home still stood, though it was surrounded by objects blacked and disintegrated by fire. The electricity was cut off to the area and it was very dark and quiet while packing up.

No. 9, 5 September, 2020, 7:30 – 9:30 P.M., Three Mile Beach, California

2-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on cliff, 2 speakers

I wasn’t sure where I was going until I turned south on Highway 1 at Pacifica. An old boyfriend had me film his surf session from the cliffs years ago and this was my first time climbing down to the beach—with a 30-pound installation on my back. There were many burn areas nearby from the where the CZU Lightening Complex Fire made it to the Pacific Ocean. This was a beautiful spot and I camped on the beach after the installation. This was the first time projecting on a screen not made of fibers.

Lullaby No. 8, 4 September, 2020, 7:31 – 9:31 P.M., Winters, California
2-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on cotton, 4 speakers

Roads built up around agricultural production lead to this site. I agreed to drive 10 minutes to the west, take the first right turn and drive 10 minutes to the north. A text message came in and I pulled off to read it. When I looked up, the large turnaround area said it was ready for fire and I never went north. I began singing lullabies to the fire in earnest during this installation.

Lullaby No. 7, 3 September, 2020, 7:33 – 9:33 P.M., Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, California
2-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on cotton, 4 speakers

A location near here caught my attention earlier in the day during a bike ride. The location was near a stand of eucalyptus and was blocked by low marsh waters. I was prepared for biting insects, heat and cold, but not walking through mud. The screen was tied to a truss under the train line and a large rock. This was the first full play of the Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California video.

Lullaby No. 5, 26 August, 2020, 7:45 – 8:45 P.M., Davis, California
1-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on cotton sheet, 2 speakers

The large fire ring was surrounded by cement benches and would accommodate many people. Before the pandemic, I imagined bringing a group of friends here to enjoy a fire. People passing by wondered aloud what movie was playing. A stranger helped pack up.

Lullaby No. 4, 25 August, 2020, 7:46 – 8:46 P.M., Davis, California
1-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on cotton sheet, 4 speakers

I did not know where I was headed when I pulled away from my apartment. Highway 80 was drawing me close to it, but it didn’t seem safe to install a fire anywhere near drivers going over the speed limit. A bit frustrated, I sped on a country road and turned into an almond grove access road that was not blocked. There were very large piles of cut trees nearby.

Lullaby No. 3, 22 August, 2020, 7:49 – 8:49 P.M., North San Juan, California

1-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on cotton sheet, 4 speakers

The proximity of fire and burnable materials in the Sierra Foothills is arresting. I was snowed in for 11 days at this elevation in March and I would have died without fire. The time-lapse documentation of this installation is too beautiful, I always feel a little bit disappointed in myself for seeing it that way. I sat near the middle of this seasonal lake to watch the installation. The screen was tied to two pine trees. 

Lullaby No. 2, 21 August, 2020, 7:51 – 8:51 P.M., North San Juan, California
1-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on cotton sheet, 4 speakers

This fire was held at my second home in the Sierra Foothills, near where the trash is burned in the morning. The screen got beautifully marked by being dragged in the fine, orange dirt.

Lullaby No. 1, 19 August, 2020, 7:55 – 8:55 P.M., Davis, California

1-hour single-channel video projection of Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California on cotton sheet, 4 speakers

The ultimate home fire—executed in such a safe manner—this installation was in a stand of trees outside my campus apartment where Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California was videoed. The last fire I had here was put out by Fire Chief Paul’s crew person and I would lose my apartment if I made another fire. Several residents joined me and talked about the new phase of the project. People agreed they could see Donald Duck in the burning wood.

Silent Fire No. 6, 9 May, 2020, 8:07 – 10:07 P.M., Davis, California
Facebook Live video download