Sarah Pickering’s Explosions, Fires, and Public Order is a visually arresting glimpse into the secret world of civil defense by one of today’s up-and-coming artists.
It begins with Public Order, a project exploring the Metropolitan Police Public Order Training Centre, a simulated urban environment where officers rehearse responses to civic unrest. The Explosions series documents the tactical use of controlled explosions by the British military to add realistic stress to training exercises. The Fire Series and Incident, Pickering’s most recent work, were produced while she was an artist-in-residence at the UK Fire Training College. There, she photographed blazes set inside elaborately constructed home interiors, as well as the stark, charred remnants of fake urban settings.
Pickering’s projects reflect an aspect of the current zeitgeist: terrorism and omnipresent anxiety. “My work explores the idea of imagined threat and response, and looks at fear and planning for the unexpected, merging fact and fiction, fantasy and reality,” she states. The images in Explosions, Fires, and Public Order have a transcendent formal beauty; a disquieting reminder of the delicate balance between order and chaos.
Explosions, Fires, and Public Order is made possible, in part, by Lannan Foundation. The book is copublished with the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago, where a related exhibition will open in Spring 2010.