Saturday, October 26th, 2019 | 4:00pm at Sursock Museum

What if a body is too hot for this world? 

In 1997, the American television program Unsolved Mysteries dramatized a case of spontaneous human combustion, in which a woman inexplicably burst into flames. Now dismissed as fiction rather than medical condition, spontaneous human combustion haunts the imagination: what might cause a person to burn from within? Some researchers have controversially suggested rage and climate change. 

On 14 April 2018, LGBT rights lawyer and environmental activist David S. Buckel self-immolated in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, leaving behind a statement that read, “Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather…my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

By 2050, the Earth’s warming will subject many inhabitants around the world to life-threatening heat waves.

A myth of fire: might spontaneous human combustion be a symbol for political heat, when life ignites as a response to the political and material conditions of rising temperature on the planet? 

“Flamer” is often used as a denigrating name for flamboyant gay men, but to spontaneously combust is precisely to become a flamer, to burn more brilliantly than the world permits.

Zach Blas is an artist, filmmaker, and writer whose practice spans technical investigation, theoretical research, conceptualism, performance, and science fiction. Recent works have addressed biometric capture, time travel, policing as mysticism, the crystal balls of Silicon Valley, psychedelia and nootropics, dildos, and spontaneous human combustion. He has exhibited, lectured, and held screenings internationally, recently at the Walker Art Center; 2018 Gwangju Biennale; Matadero, Madrid; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; 68th Berlin International Film Festival; Art in General, Brooklyn; Gasworks, London; and e-flux, New York. Blas is a 2018-20 UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellow and a 2019 Mercator Fellow in “Configurations of Film” at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt. He is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London.

This event is part of Home Works 8: A Forum on Cultural Practices.