A spindly figure walks across a strange, barren landscape.

Still from Fire Underground, 2019. Courtesy of Nick Crockett

Film Screening: Fire Underground


Join us for a screening of artist Nick Crockett's Fire Underground, a feature-length fantasy animation presenting an alternative history of coal. After the film, stay for a discussion with the artist, Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Director of Science and Research, Stephen Tonsor, and Steve Lyons, art historian and curator, Not An Alternative and The Natural History Museum.

This screening is free and open to the public.

About the Film

Fire Underground is a panoramic fan-fiction of a 300-million-year history that pitches myths of forgotten forests, crawling proto-reptiles, and chthonic infernos against labor history, natural history, and Appalachian folk culture.

Although it is exhibited as video, the project was made with a game engine. Several scenes were built with game-like logic, featuring semi-autonomous non-player characters, ragdoll physics, and deterministic, clock-like simulation. Inspired by craft traditions like model railroading and miniature wargaming, most characters and props were made out of physical materials like clay, cardboard, aluminum foil, and insulation foam and captured with photogrammetry.

The project features an original soundtrack by Sarah Louise Henson.

This project was made possible with support from the Carnegie Mellon School of Art, the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art at the Frontier, and a Carnegie Mellon Graduate Education GuSH Research Grant.

This project would not have been possible without kind support and advice from Matteo Bittanti, Peter Burr, Erin Cosgrove, Jim Duesing, Jamison Edgar, Steve Gurysh, Sarah Louise Henson, Shohei Katayama, Golan Levin, Erin Mallea, Michael Neumann, Tom Hughes, Rich Pell, Joy Poulard-Cruz, Eddo Stern, Shaun Slifer, Angela Washko, and the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum.