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Slash + Burn Live Installation



Our ancestors knew this, and practiced it in order to clear land, gain fertile soil, and raise communities. A more modern definition of ‘Slash and Burn’ may contain further complexities, and we often practice a self-destructive version of this on ourselves. Is this a necessary journey to get to where we want to be? Must we destroy, or let decay, before we can grow and develop into something more meaningful and beautiful? Is it always a choice?

Within our interactive, live installation, we visually wrestle with this concept,

elegantly placing the two opposing stages side-by-side.

all photography by Nicole Mickle

The concept for 'Slash + Burn' took shape when the Entrepreneurs Organization came to Charleston, SC and presented Sam Rueter and I with their event theme of 'rebirth'.

We immediately ran with it and began drafting and sketching.

We wanted to first take a look at the opposition to 'rebirth': destruction, particularly self-destruction. No person is exempt from this concept. Is this simply part of nature's cycle to let decay, to ruin, to fall to ash, in order for significant growth to occur?

Is this something we can even control?

Over the course of several months, we foraged and constructed an elaborate 8x8x8' installation, a 3-dimensional window, inviting the viewer to glimpse into the sacred space, in which four live models take on a full visual and metaphorical transformation.

The set was created carefully, encompassing the opposing stages: ash + ruin and growth + rebirth. One side of the cube is distressed with burnt wood, dried florals, and dead foliage. The other is embellished with lush greenery, moss and florals, representing growth and prosperity. The viewers have a 360 degree vantage point, peering into the live process from any direction.

Petaloso, a Charleston floral designer, provided us with most of our dried florals, beautiful bouquets, and custom floral skirt.

Our models begin in a state of weathered ruin, covered in clay from head to toe.

The cleansing washcloths symbolize a decisive moment to alter their circumstances.

Maybe it's a kindness provided by an outside source that initiates the change of course for these individuals, maybe it's their own internal will and strength at work.

'Rock bottom' so to speak, is perhaps simply nature's cyclical prerequisite to a complete rebirth of oneself, a necessary part of the journey.

The models' body postures start to shift, as we cultivate their potential and begin painting.


The models continue to thrive within their new perspective, and they become as lush and abundant as the natural world does, once it is nourished with the fallout from 'Slashing + Burning'.

Thank you to our stunning models, Petaloso for the florals and custom skirt, the Entrepreneur's Organization for providing us the platform, and Nicole Mickle for the incredible photos.