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WTFIT: Kiel Johnson

By Terri Stone

Cardboard is often artist Kiel Johnson’s medium of choice, so we weren’t surprised when the star player in his response to our WTFIT challenge was not the items in the box, but the box itself.

“When I saw the stuff in the box and the word (heat), I wanted to eliminate it,” he remembers. “I was trying to get out of it somehow. It consumed my brain for days. ‘What am I going to do with all this shit?’ Then I had the idea to burn it up. You can pretty much set anything on fire, and it’s cool.”

 

The box and its contents provided some of what Johnson needed to carry out that concept. “The paper and packaging were flammable,” Johnson says, “but how could I catch it on fire? There wasn’t a magnifying glass, and no sticks to rub together.” He even considered going someplace hot enough that spontaneous combustion would destroy everything. In the end, however, he decided to build the facsimile of a furnace.

 

In the two days that followed, he deconstructed the box, created the furnace, and used paint to evoke flames and charred objects emerging from the heat.

 

Look for more flames in Johnson’s future work. “I’m doing a series of drawings that was going to be a thick section of forest, but now I’m going to have a section of it on fire,” he says. “Being forced to work on the word heat made me think of it. It inspired me. Maybe I’ll light my studio on fire. I’ll have cardboard fire of all different sizes. It would be hilarious to get a series of beautiful photos of the entire studio on fire. I’ll be a cardboard arsonist!”

For more images of the project, see Johnson's Behance page.