sébastien pesot: feu forêt
artistic conception

fire has always presented a certain symbolic ambiguity:
from the purification of heretics burnt at the stake
and the flames of hell to the fiery passions of love.
at once fascinating and dangerous, fire can signal both
celebration and revolt. feu forêt ( a word play between
" forest fire " and " will-o'- wisp ") here plays with
the notion of fire using four different means: a video
installation, a large- scale computer graphic, and two
mixed-media pieces.

the installation comprises a projection on which the
viewer is invited to witness the burning of a perfectly
symmetrical tree: a christmas tree, to be precise. this
absurd and somewhat sad spectacle, which is also
transcendently beautiful and cathartic, serves as an
archetypal representation of duration, an analogue of
the only verifiable metaphysical hypothesis: that
lighting a flame leads inevitably to its extinction.
this knowledge, and the underlying element of danger,
may account for the fascination that fire holds for us.

the computer graphic is an extension of the video
installation, a large- scale image incorporating flames
and fire motifs based on photographs taken during the
shoot. these photographic images, like the images in
movement and sound, are material with which new images
are sculpted and which sometimes shed their original
references. the processing of the original photographs,
in other words, uses fire and light as patterns that
can lead to abstraction.

the first mixed media piece consists of a wooden board
onto which ten small lcd screens are integrated. a fir
tree lying on a plywood sheet was set on fire so as to
leave black traces of its burnt branches. ten holes
have been perforated in the plywood in order to show
videos which display a single fir tree burning. their
gleam and their sparks give them an air of bright
christmas ornaments. the plywood sheet keeps the fixed
trace of a tree reduced in ashes whereas the video
screens keep traces of a live event. the second mixed
media piece consists of a collage of multiple computer
graphics which, once assembled, form a mosaic of 120
centimeters by 180, inside which is cut the shape of a
fir tree. the mosaic is affixed on a board of plywood.
the dichotomy between the aspect of the photo paper
which has a "finished" look, and the texture and real
color of the wood, creates a contrast which brings us
back to the multiple transformations of a tree, the
progress of its original state, to that of a work of
art. burning christmas trees evokes the origins of a
sacred ritual. it was the sacred fire, stolen from the
gods and passed on to man through the burning of the
tree of knowledge, which gave rise to the cult of the
holy tree. man thenceforth learned how to use fire, how
to forge tools and weapons that gave him power over his
environment and stripped him of his symbiotic
"innocence" in relation to mother nature. which
provoked the anger of the gods and led to his expulsion
from paradise. humans thus attempted to symbolically
appease the gods by placing sacrificial offerings on a
tree before setting it afire.

this myth accounts for the various rituals surrounding
the christmas tree, its decorations and the gifts
placed alongside it. the trees in the feu forêt
installation, however, bear no offerings. why? perhaps
because the popular ritual has been short-circuited,
because the trees found by the artist on roadsides have
not completed their ritualistic path, and so the artist
took it upon himself to complete the cycle-to return
the sacred trees to the gods! one thing is certain,
however: the aesthetic pleasure and metaphysical
delight are much greater observing the trees being
devoured by flames than observing the perfectly
decorated trees that adorn the living room of
respectable families.

one of the most interesting problematics addressed by
this project relates to the various temporal relationships
that stem from the interaction of these images with their
videographic counterparts. the flame and the act of burning
are by the very essence temporal events, of limited duration
and in constant flux. these same characteristics are found
in the video image. the photographic image, on the other hand,
while referring back to the notion of temporality, does so
by freezing the time consumed. the frozen image thus takes
man beyond his natural relationship with temporality, with
time passing. with the power of this technological simulacrum,
which appears to halt the flow of time, man can act like a god,
halting his own degeneration, his inevitable extinction …
and allow him to burn christmas trees.

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sébastien pesot
 _ feu forêt
 _ exhibition
 _ conception
 _ portfolio