Heat Signature examines relations between American national myths, religious beliefs, and quests for power and control. The work juxtaposes a design for the Great Seal of the United States that was unsuccessfully proposed to Congress by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin in 1776 with a FLIR Systems Inc. military-grade thermal camera. Testimonies by a drone sensor operator, a criminal defense attorney, and a media scholar—voices that reflect on the new temperature-based visual regime—are presented in three audio-recorded interviews.
In this installation, Jefferson and Franklin’s rejected design—which depicts the biblical story of the exodus of Israelites from Egypt wherein America serves as the “New Zion”—is brought to life with an infrared camera and electric heaters. Temperature shifts translate into a black-and-white video feed from the thermal camera; as the heaters turn on and off, the image of the seal, which is embedded in the ceiling unseen to the eye, heats and cools, appearing as a ghostly live transmission and then fading away.