Inextinguishable Fire - Cassils - Spill Festival
Cassils’ work Inextinguishable Fire speaks to the radical unrepresentability of certain forms of trauma and violence. How can we enact empathy when our own situation is so removed from the atrocities of torture and war? Inextinguishable Fire articulates the space where this overlap occurs. This performance for the camera feature Cassils engaged in a treacherous fire stunt. The final film makes the stunt’s theatrics as visible as its ostensible risk. Using techniques borrowed from Hollywood stunts, Cassils experiences the very real human terror of being lit on fire. The 14 second full body burn is extended to 14 minutes of slow motion flame, shot at 1000 frames per second. Slowing the burn down demands the viewer to spend time in a world reduced to fleeting headlines on our twitter and facebook feeds. The title of the piece references Harun Farocki’s 1969 film of the same name, which is all about how impossible it is to effectively depict the horror of napalm on film. Cassils gesture of self-immolation speaks to both the desire for and the impossibility of knowing such horror even while decisively aiming to approach it. Though the stunt is a simulation of violence it still presents real danger. This possibly volatile situation (and the attempt to control it) is captured to create an image where danger, empathy for those experiencing violence and the privilege of removal from such circumstance operate simultaneously in one transparent performance.