Inspired by pseudo-scientific illustration and seven summers spent fighting wildfires in the American West, my work explores representations of non-human agencies, and human attempts to exert control over wild, disobedient forces and phenomena - inside and outside ourselves.

The fire plume is something familiar to inhabitants of the American West, yet at a certain scale it retains the power to realize our vulnerability and the potential to annihilate us. The pyrocumulus cloud evokes what Morton Paley terms the “apocalyptic sublime” – referring to the subject of Romantic landscape paintings that depicted scenes of the Biblical apocalypse and natural disasters – storms, eruptions, fires – massive, unfettered non-human agencies that threatened to eradicate human presence from the landscape.

According to Simon Morley, “the sublime experience is fundamentally transformative, about the relationship between disorder and order and the disruption of the stable coordinates of time and space.”[1] The sublime is characterized by a vastness or boundlessness – of space or information – that induces awe and has the potential to destroy the viewer. As the historical subject and focal point of discourses on the sublime, the landscape is a site where traditional and contemporary sublimities collide. This semester, I am looking at models that are applied the landscape, which negate the Romantic sublime in favor of a technological one. The result is a vast accumulation of models – scale models, maps, coordinates, datasets, aerial and satellite photographs – that seems to form boundless, interconnected networks of information.

By dissecting and re-assembling the plume, and encasing it within a picture plane, I replicate the work of totalizing modes of imaging that attempt to reduce phenomena to stable objects. The images rendered, however, are never complete, or never completely stable. I alter maps and models to subvert their claims to reproduce reality, compelling the viewer to second-guess the veracity of the data presented. The work claims the legitimacy of a model, which implies a distancing of the hand, distillation of the subjective to bits of reproducible data and its mediation through binary channels, yet it introduces irregularities and disobedience that upset the stability of the model.

 

[1] Simon Morley, “The Contemporary Sublime” in Documents of Contemporary Art: The Sublime, ed. Simon Morley (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010), 12.