The Pyrocene, our “age of fire,” is defined by the burning of both living landscapes and lithic ones—by the spectacle of wildfires but also the combustion of coal, petroleum, and other fossilized plant matter. It is marked by a distinctive visual pyroculture: torrents of sensationalized images; a catastrophist, anthropocentric “burning aesthetics” that do not convey the complex sources of the crisis. In Northern California, the site of many of the Pyrocene’s signal burn events, these sources include carbon emissions, but also misguided housing policy, land management, and infrastructure privatization, as well as the genocidal suppression of Indigenous cultural burn traditions and the implementation of settler property regimes. Northern California’s wildfire crisis emerges at the intersection of perilous climate futures and violent settler-colonial histories.
The di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art is partnering with the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center to develop Towards an Archaeology of the Future, a multi-year project inviting artists to respond to the wildfire crisis. Organized by Gavin Kroeber, research for the project will unfold through a cycle of convenings in fire landscapes, bringing artists together with Indigenous land stewards, fire ecologists, survivor communities, landscape architects, scholars, healers, and environmental justice activists. Returning to burn zones over the course of several years, participants will inhabit these spaces in the long tail of disaster, as resurgent fire ecologies transform the land and speculative real estate re-colonizes it. This research process will emphasize fieldwork and in-situ knowledge exchanges, laying ground for site-specific art projects in 2025 and beyond.