Xiaowen Zhu (mockup)
The Last Wildfire (2019–) departs from my interest in migration, mobility, and identity, and extends to the theme of extreme land. In our urban age, rurality is often neglected, or even intentionally ignored. Today’s countryside, however, witnesses some of the most urgent realities, from refugee migration, trans-border conflicts, secret paths for labor workers escaping war and gang violence, to climate change and global warming. The Last Wildfire began as a photography series to investigate the aftermath of the 2018 California wildfires, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season on record on the west coast. Focusing on the natural area surrounding Idyllwild, a small, idyllic town set among tall pines and legendary rocks, nestled in the San Jacinto mountains, the project intends to create a juxtaposition between the widely advertised “peace and quiet of Idyllwild” and the deadly, destructive wildfires. Since humans have been recorded as the main cause of wildfires in California, The Last Wildfire is unlikely to be “the last one”, yet, more and more urbanists (who have succeeded financially in Los Angeles or San Francisco) set out to build their perfect retreat in the high country, while lacking considerations for infrastructures to reduce the risk of wildfires.
I consider this project to be ongoing precisely because there will be more wildfires. If our leaders, institutions and multi-national corporations turn blindly away from the threat of climate change and global warming, nature itself will force the issue.