Keep the Fire Burning A research residency for the past, present and future of fire. 
The friction generated between accelerating images, objects and materials as they accumulate, saturate and deteriorate will inevitably convert to some kind of heat. This energy must be conserved over time, either transformed or transferred.  
 
Ultimately, a spark will cause fire to break out in the places we least expected. 
Trained on an imageset of 720 individual frames from 30 seconds of 24fps stock video, this latent space walk is generated after 1000 steps of a GAN (generative adversarial network) training model. It took exactly 1 hour and cost $5 to train on a remote GPU. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(My CPU would have probably burst into flames.) 
 
The city. A pit stop, a bvrnout, a fier. Pistons charge, engine revs. Inflammable, combvstible. Pvdding lane in brooding flames. Its fvtvre alight. Roads, plans, then tracks, collapse. Engvlfed from brick to tippe: A city, then a hearth, now its death.  
 
Next: the new. 
(In)flammable: 
 
"Flammable and inflammable do not mean the same thing. If something is flammable it means it can be set fire to, such as a piece of wood. Inflammable means that a substance is capable of bursting into flames without the need for any ignition. Unstable liquid chemicals and certain types of fuel fall into this category. The opposite of both words is non-flammable." 
"Prometheus' creeping, larcenous journey to Mount Olympus and back, made as an indemnity for worse-brother Epimetheus' mistake, we should re-read as a smoky, smoldering affair that left ample forensic evidence - foot and fingerprints along a contorted and stammering path. Such would be the start of a techno-mythology that could serve to refine, detail, and reconstitute how technologies manually, materially, energetically, and stutteringly come into being." ... 
 
... "We live a technological reality and imaginary that continually asserts apocryphal newness, apocalyptic innovation, transcendent novelty, and ex nihilo originality. All this is mostly in support of "making" money, which, as we are all perversely (un) aware, is not really the making of any thing at all. Bringing fire back into proximity with modern technological things fractionates their deep material backward lineage and precipitates their pernicious, polluting, often carcinogenic, forward effects. Current techno-progressivism fuels little else but the furnace of market economies, whereas sincerely technical, constructive, expressive or sensual resource networks are left relatively un-stoked. 
 
Why do we refuse ourselves manageable, material explanations for all these banal protocols and simple electronic circuits, these digital mediums and communications, etcetera, which arbitrate our experiences with the world? If we appeal to a parochial legend of teleological, technological theft-gift, then it must be recast as a deferential history of burning stuff. In other words, it's probably time to start lighting things on fire." 
 
Jamie Allen, It’s Probably Time to Start Lighting Things on Fire, 2016 
Cymbals, synths, sirens, clicks, clacks and claps loop into ignition, taking one perpetual last breath before they burn up. Here and now sound becomes a texture, hot to touch, beats become heat: like sparks on flint. 
 
Match: antimony trisulfide, potassium chlorate, sulfur, powdered glass, inert fillers, and animal glue. 
 
Paper: red phosphorus, powdered glass, and adhesive such as gum arabic or urea formaldehyde. 
 
Friction between powdered glass converts stable red phosphorous to its combustible white form that reacts with potassium chlorate. This produces sufficient heat to ignite the antimony trisulfide and produce a flame that is sustained by sulfur in the match. 
 
ImageNet, the internet's canonical image database for machine learning and data training, is currently undergoing 'maintenance' after having being ethically compromised as a result of its increasingly questionable stratification of images depicting people.  
 
Although allegedly unrelated to Trevor Paglen and Kate Crawford's 'ImageNet Roulette' project bringing attention to these politically problematic classifications later in 2019, ImageNet remains unavailable for general use. While other image archives are still available, I decided instead to manually and directly save the images I was looking for from Flickr: the hosting site where most of ImageNet's images are actually sourced, and an archive produced before automatic categorisation and therefore largely free from machine-learnt ethics. 
 
Snipping and saving as many images as possible in the period of my laptop's battery life, I built my own synonym set (synset) for images of fire: a job that would previously have been the collective effort of a remote crowd-sourced community working for single pence at a time to classify data and images into online databases. Wondering what exactly my computer and its networks thinks fire looks like, I inputted my own synset into a machine learning training model, processed through a remote GPU - in the cloud but very much on the ground. 
 
This training process, which cost approximately $10, was paid for with the equivalent credit that I personally earned working on various human intelligence tasks (HITs) for the crowd-sourcing marketplace Amazon Mechanical Turk over a period of days. This 30 second latent space walk is therefore a representation of the time, money and labour that accumulated towards the human/computer generation of new, future fires. It implicates computer hardwares, battery lives, energy consumption by both humans and machines. Ultimately, it may feed back into the data-world as images of fires that could well but do not actually exist. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1020  
1950  
2490  
1000 steps 
1500 steps 
2500 steps 
 
Proposal for installtion around fireplace (with still from Susan Hiller, Belshazzar's Feast, the Writing on Your Wall, 1983) 
 
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