Burnt interweaves the visual story of the aftermath of the 2019 fires on Ashdown Forest with textual glimpses from the archives.
The history of this place is in part one of dispute. It owes its existence to the legal victory of the Commoners against Earl De La Warr in 1881, upholding their right to graze and cut brush in the area. Successive acts of Parliament in 1885 and 1937 created the Conservators of Ashdown Forest. As they assumed their responsibilities, however, the potential was created for further dispute between Commoners and Conservators.
Fire was a potent weapon of disgruntled locals, as well as a pastime for their children - who may have picked up the attitude from their parents. The biodiversity of the area depended in part on the clearing of the brush by Commoners, a side benefit of which was the preservation of the rarer and more delicate bog plants. Random fires kill off everything indiscriminately, but the gorse returns far more readily.
The Conservators also organise burns to keep the brush back. The irony behind this delicate balance is reflected in the indecision over the wording of the fire regulation shown in Burnt. Sometimes the clearances get out of control, and these photographs record the recovery of two areas from such blazes. At the time the devastation appeared catastrophic but the words put recent events in the context of a wider history. In fact the area has by and large bounced back surprisingly quickly.
Burnt is presented as a unique handmade artist stab-bound book. The covers are constructed of cloth and wood, into which the title is burnt in. The book block is archival matt paper.