Inextinguishable Fire engages spectators with the construction of images of violence and war in the media. Presented as both a live performance and a video, it juxtaposes the immediacy, urgency and ephemerality of live performance against constructed acts for camera in order to challenge the documentary truth factor of images.
Inextinguishable Fire was initially created as a performance for camera in Los Angeles using stunt techniques borrowed from Hollywood films.
Shot on digital video at 1000 frames per second, Cassils’ fourteen-second live burn was extended to fourteen minutes of slow motion flame. Slowing the burn down required the viewer to spend time in a world reduced to the fleeting headlines of Twitter and Facebook feeds. When screened on a continuous loop, the video references continuous cycles of political uprising and apathy, life and death, ignition and extinguishment. The title of the work references Harun Farocki’s eponymous 1969 film, which reflects on the impossibility of effectively representing the horror of napalm on film.
“When we show you pictures of napalm victims, you’ll shut your eyes. You’ll close your eyes to the pictures. Then you’ll close them to the memory. And then you’ll close your eyes to the facts. – Harun Farocki, 1969
Cassils began to interrogate issues of violence and representation after they attend the United Stuntman’s Association’s International Student School in 2005. During this period, they produced Simulation in Training, an experimental documentary that investigates the theatre of war present in mass media in the United States.
Although Inextinguishable Fire is simulation of violence, it still presents real danger. In capturing this volatile situation, Cassils creates an artwork where immanent physical danger, empathy for those experiencing violence, and the privilege of distance from such circumstances operate simultaneously in one transparent performance.