Carrie Schneider: Burning House

31 March - 12 May 2012

These striking, cinematic landscape photographs continue Schneider’s interest in representing the psychological by staging uncanny scenarios. The terror of a constantly burning house suggests prolonged duress, a state of continuous panic and high stress that never subsides. However, Schneider’s images are calm. Though the burning house is central in each image, the encompassing landscape – muted and heightened by atmospheric conditions – offers a serene counter to the blazing structure. Seen in series, the sustained fire quickly becomes the constant while the changes in the surrounding nature offer real drama. The house continues to burn while seasons change, as the plants grow and sway in the wind and rain. A continued sense of alarm becomes the new baseline, the standard.


In response to Robert Smithson’s works and writings, specifically those on entropy, Schneider conceived of Burning House to undermine the second law of thermodynamics by creating a fire that never fully destroys a house. However, the artist states, “the longer I worked on the project, I began to feel affinity to Monet and his Haystacks (or, architecturally, the Rouen Cathedral) – the work is a study of light and shadow, meditations on a gesture, repeated.” Yet behind Schneider’s beautifully composed photographs is a performative process. Understanding photography as residue of a performance, Schneider continues in the photographic tradition initiated by early land and performance artists, like Smithson (consider his Mirror Displacements) and the Cuban performance artist Ana Mendieta (Siluetas). Schneider’s photographs are records of, or memorials to, a type of pilgrimage made over and over again to build something meant solely for destruction. Creating this body of work had a huge impact, both physically and mentally, on the artist over the past two years. Schneider traveled from Brooklyn to remote north–central Wisconsin, built a wooden house, rowed it to a small island, and set it ablaze while capturing the action with her cameras. Then, she did it again. And again. This repeated chain of events has meditative possibilities punctuated by a cathartic crescendo, which the artist has transformed into a slow, steady, and beautiful burn.


There is something iconic, almost archetypal, about a house burning. The aggressive destruction of a symbol of domestic life resonates across cultures, touching on a universal fear of personal loss and helplessness. Yet, the house that stands unrelenting to the fire’s constant attack can be read as an allegory for strength and stamina against a constant destructive energy. Schneider’s series appropriates this powerful image, touching on its ability to incite panic, while creating a symbol of hope.


In addition to the 15–part photographic series on view at moniquemeloche, Schneider’s Burning House project includes a 10–minute video. moniquemeloche will host a debut screening of the video during the run of Schneider’s exhibition. The location, date, and time of the screening will be announced shortly.