Incendiary Ball 2008

King Billy Pine


Living in the forest areas on the edges of clearfelled coupes, Tatton experiences a unique perspective of the way humans effect the natural world.

In this cleared coupe in SW Tasmania a stand of the protected Killy Billy pine was discovered. The stand of 250 year old trees had largely been destroyed in the process of extracting eucalyptus trees for sawlogs and woodchips.

On careful reading of the Forest practices code that outlines which trees and species are protected, the wording states that King Billy Pine is only protected where the stand is ‘of significance’.

Realising that there was no legal reason for the forest industry to preserve the King Billy trees, the artist set to work building a sculpture in acknowledgement of human interactions in this previously untouched land.

The incendiary ball is the ping pong type ball or capsule that has a powder in it and as it leaves the ignition machine that is installed in the helicopter it is injected with glycol which causes a reaction and ignites the ball 30-60 seconds after leaving the helicopter. The forest coupe was due to be burnt by helicopter as the artist worked in the coupe. The King Billy logs were cut into firewood and assembled onto a stick frame forming this spherical mass of expanding energy.

It was only a matter of days until the helicopters came. The skies filled with red smoke that drifted north over Hobart. The artist has never returned to where the King Billys once stood…

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