Christina McPhee

Flaming Debt

Flaming Debt was a series of photomontages compiling performance, wildfires, and debt. I started these performance-montages during and after the autumn fires in southern California in the fall of 2007. I stopped making them in late 2009. I was trying to get rid of credit cards. I decided to make a practice of doing a performance of cutting up credit cards only when I could pay one off. Then the fires began in California—forest fires engulfing the island-hills and mountain ranges around LA. I associated the fires with the personal instability of accumulated debt, as if like the chapparal, it gets thick on the steep slope and only takes a careless moment to trigger wildness, the firestorm. Hypersaturated superheated, ready for the match. Cutting up the cards fueled the digital cut up of the images of the performance, cutting up the images of my hands cutting up the cards, the scissors. Fireworks and bonfires strayed into the composition, from the Saint John’s Saints Day fireworks at midsummer night in Copenhagen— fireworks from the era of burning witches—bonfire of vanities, rule of a baptism by fire. I tried to make it a rule to only make ‘flaming debt’ images when I might pay off a debt. But, as debts have their way of accumulation and conflagration, I figured out how to cut up one card by stashing the debt on another. Now I recycle the performance debts into increasingly recidivist carnevalesques.

This body of work was never shown as a group. One made it to the NADA Fair. After that, although some were
consigned to the gallery, none sold. How perfect that at the moment of the Wall Street crash, and my micro-flameout of a lost house and a lost teaching job, that apparently nobody with the scratch to collect them turned up.

Christina McPhee





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