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Fire Complex: LA billboards to show aftermath of forest fires

Fire Complex is a project by Professor Uta Kögelsberger that both observes the devastating impact of wildfires and sets about making a difference for the future.

9 February 2022

Fire Complex: LA billboards to show aftermath of forest fires

Fire Complex brings together photography and video in the public realm to raise momentum and resources for the regeneration of our forests.

The anchor piece of Fire Complex is the multi-channel video work Cull. Cull follows the gigantic task of the clear up process after the 2020 Castle Fire that burned 174000 acres of Sequoia National Forest and destroyed 14% of the world giant sequoia population. It charts the efforts of the teams responsible for cutting down the dead trees left standing that are now endangering the remaining structures and roads. In an orchestrated choreography, each tree is documented as it comes crashing to the ground like a dead carcass, sometimes falling with such force that the earth beneath it shakes.

A series of photographs presents the now dead giant sequoias on their side, enormous, charred monuments for a world that has been turned upside down. One of Kögelsberger’s billboard performances that she calls action photographs, the stumps of the now cut downs trees are layered on top of one another, bearing witness to hundreds of years of growth, with each tree erasing the history of the previous one. 

Fire Complex has been made to be seen on billboards, directly becoming an agent in the public realm. Set in stark contrast to the urban environment, where the impact of climate change often seems a remote abstract reality, the works become a timely reminder of the impact of our daily actions.

On February 1st the project will be going live in Los Angeles with the video work Cull being exhibited on a large digital screen in Downtown Los Angeles and a series of photographic works that bring the scale of the devastation to the fore across four different locations in Hollywood.

Kögelsberger , a Professor of Practice in Fine Art at Newcastle University, initiated Fire Complex after a large part of the community in Sequoia Crest, including her cabin, burned to the ground in the 2020 Castle Fire. This is a project that starts with the personal to communicate a universal emergency.

Fire Complex is aimed at raising resources and momentum towards the regeneration of the area. It involves a replanting project in collaboration with the community, Forest Services, with the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, and Cal Fire.

 You can see more of Professor Kögelsberger's images on the Fire Complex Instagram account

This project has been developed with the support of:
Faculty Research Fund, Newcastle University, UK
Buildhollywood, UK
JackArts, UK
Alchemy, USA
Standard Vision, USA
The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, USA
USDA Forest Services, USA
Cal Fire, USA.

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences