In his new series Buried Sunshines Burn, Charrière reveals Los Angeles as a spatial anomaly: a place built not only by hydrocarbons, but on top of them, with 5000 active oil wells hidden throughout the city. Employing heliography, one of photography’s oldest techniques, first developed by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce in 1822, Charrière uses a light-sensitive emulsion incorporating naturally occurring tar collected from the La Brea, McKittrick, and Carpinteria Tar Pits in Califorina, Charrière to create photographic imprints on highly polished stainless-steel plates of local oil fields, shot from a bird’s eye perspective. The series surveys some of the state’s largest reserves, including the immense Kern River Oil Field in the San Joaquin Valley, the Placerita and Aliso Canyon Oil Fields in Santa Clarita, and the giant Inglewood Oil Field situated in the heart of LA.
Charrière’s film Controlled Burn invites viewers on a cosmic journey through deep time, soaring through an aerial landscape of imploding fireworks. Shot with a first-person drone, this disorienting voyage takes place in open pit coal mines, decommissioned oil rigs, and rusting cooling towers. Amid whirling smoke and fire, implosions are intercut by flashing images of primordial unfurling ferns and fluttering moths—beings that evolved during the carboniferous geological period. Appearing at subliminal speed, Charrière offers these organisms as both spirit guides and living tokens for the vitality of fossil fuels and as markers for how the agency of coal, oil, and tar has come to haunt our contemporary imagination. Linking celebratory pyrotechnics with architectures of extraction, explosive momentum, and technological obsolescence, Controlled Burn stages the fantasy of a dramatic return to sources of energy via implosion.
Also featured in the exhibition are two monumental obsidian sculptures, Thickens, pools, flows, rushes, slows. Made from large pieces of volcanic glass–cooled magma which has erupted from the Earth’s core–the works are punctuated by polished concave disks. Charrière draws on this material as an ancient means of divination, believed by both Mayan and Aztec civilizations to unlock doors to other times and realms. With obsidian being a readily available resource in Mesoamerica, the hardness of the glass also made it one of the earliest materials to be traded across vast distances. In the present, the dark vitality of the obsidian is eerily reminiscent of our technological black mirrors, themselves questionable portals beyond the present.