Blue fire spilling down the mountain, 2015-2018
Unique silver gelatin prints, attacked with sulphur
Digital video with sound 9’18”
This series consist of a video and photographs shot on the flanks of Kawa Ijen, a stratovolcano in eastern Java, Indonesia. An environment where the relationship between man and nature feels exceptionally uncanny.
The deep caldera of this volcano is widely known for its sulphur mining. Local workers risk their lives breathing toxic fumes while going inside the crater for several times a night. By making this strenuous journey they merely gain a minimum wage. Strangely enough, this ancient industry has somewhat inexplicably become a tourist attraction of sorts. Although at night, a wondrous natural phenomenon, called the blue fire, can be observed. This giant blue flame, which is the result of a chemical reaction between sulphur and air, arises from this almost alien landscape.
The video piece gradually juxtaposes these two contrasting worlds of exploitation and wonder. In the beginning, the viewer is left in the dark, but slowly he is carried along through this toxic landscape. After every fade, a new aspect of this bizarre, almost artificial looking world appears. Thick toxic smoke, barely being revealed by gloomy headlamps, is interspersed with yellow coagulated masses of sulphur. This looks like an otherworldly, apocalyptic scene where the boundaries between past, present and future fade. Furthermore, the landscape is being lit by camera flashes, as some of the tourists want to register the spectacle. This gives the experience an even more bitter aftertaste.
The second part of the work consist of a series of black and white silver gelatin prints made at the edge of the crater. During the printing process the artist literally ignites a reaction between the photographic chemistry on one hand and the different applications that sulphur is mined for on the other hand. Besides little explosions in the image, you can see that different parts of the landscape are being burned and corroded. This results in powerful landscapes that evoke both beauty and destruction.