Wittener Kammermusiktage 2018 Chelsea Leventhal, Psychoanalysis of Fire. © WDR/Claus Langer

Psychoanalysis of Fire | Chelsea Leventhal

Psychoanalysis of Fire is a multi-sensory, multi-channel sound and light installation. The installation consists of six loudspeakers, each of which is equipped with an infrared light source and thus emits sound, light and heat simultaneously. Together, these speaker elements create a “virtual”, inverted campfire that surrounds the visitors. The surround-sound electro-acoustic composition reproduced by the speaker elements is derived from audio recordings of, among other things, sparklers, fireworks, fireplace, frying pan, and matches, as well as instrumentalists imitating the sounds of a slowly dying campfire on double bass, trumpet, and flute.

As visitors listen to the composition and feel the warmth on their skin, they are immersed in a virtual construction of something that evokes deeply contradictory feelings in today’s society: fire is associated with risk danger and destruction, but equally with a sense of well-being and emotional and social warmth.

The title of the installation is based on the book La Psychanalyse de feu (1938) by Gaston Bachelard. Bachelard considers fire as a source of fear and fascination, a symbol of life and death, something both intimate and universal, and – perhaps the most fundamental aspect – as the “first object of reverie, symbol of rest”. The installation refers to the anthropological context and social dimensions of fire and flame, ultimately revealing them not only as a chemical process but also as a psychosensory construction.