[photo: untitled 8 by kim schoen. 2005. see more of kim's work here.]
i heart photograph: tell me a little bit about the larger project this image is from.
kim schoen: "a series of catastrophes and celebrations" was a firework event in the desert of california, an event that was collectively documented.
i.h.p.: the image shows fireworks meant for daytime use. how would you situate this specific project in the space between fireworks and bombs, and in a larger sense, between documentary and performance?
k.s.: the fact that they were shot off in the daytime was because i was curious to see the mechanism occurring in that moment; the similarities between the minute of explosion and the snap of the shutter at the 'decisive moment' in photography interested me. i wanted the materiality of the firework to be clearer; rather than the lights, which at night obscures the detonation; in this project the viewer gets to see that a firework is an actual explosion, with all the implications that may bring.
it was an event that i staged that was then documented. so in a sense the idea to shoot off fireworks in the daytime was the event, (rather than a performance) and the rest was documented just the way any crowd would try to take pictures of fireworks.
i.h.p.: because, as you say, this work was collectively documented, did you see yourself in a dual role as architect of the project and curator/editor? and without overdetermining the work, could you talk a little more about the "implications" in the daytime explosion and its relationship to living history?
k.s.: it would have been sad to have a fireworks show for just one person, the lonely artist. they are viewed in the collective. fireworks are usually commemorative of a military victory or nationalist celebration, and in the past the german military used to shoot them off during actual battles. but i wanted a purposeless event, fireworks only, no real event, which is why it took place at the fireworks company test site- so even the location would be germane to the fireworks themselves. i played many roles in this project—architect, curator, editor.
interview is a weekly column by nicholas grider that appears each tuesday on i heart photograph.