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July/August 2022: following a long and unusual period of drought, a series of fires devastated some wooded areas of the Karst, a cross-border area between Italy and Slovenia.
The joint intervention of the Italian and Slovenian Fire Brigade, Civil Protection, Slovenian Army, Red Cross, Slovenian Forestry Institute and Forestry Company and the Italian Forest Guard was fundamental in stemming the advance of the flames and avoiding the involvement of some urban areas.

ASH MEMORIES is a virtual reality (VR) installation composed of 3D scans of some areas of the Karst, taken during the weeks following the fires.
Inside a virtual world of black memories, we walk among the remains of destroyed woods and listen to the people who have lived this terrible experience firsthand. The use of VR is therefore not passive: the user is invited to move in the area. The audio interviews are activated only when certain specific areas of the virtual space have been reached.

Each 3D scan is the restitution of a memory, virtual splinters formed by the blackened bodies of burnt trees.  Sharp memories, with angular features and shattered details, which do not want to make us forget what happened.
After all, memory never corresponds perfectly to the reality of lived experiences. Rather, it carries with it only some distinguishable signs of the past, it involves us with different senses and in this way it is capable of bringing the past to the surface of our conscience. Memory is not a simple data archive, but it is something alive that changes with us and modifies our lives.
We believe that memories of this kind, those rising as consequences after a natural disaster, find a common ground in human experiences: our minds are connected in a common sense of sorrow, because, after all, we feel as we are loosing our unique and only Home.
These common feelings are comparable to the ones rising from observing a war scenario. By sharing such evidence, we hope people to become more aware on what to expect in the future years. Increasing awareness by envisioning such scenarios is one of the possible tools (and a powerful one) we can use to move people to act towards a more eco-friendly behavior.

In ASH MEMORIES, a unique digital material which bears witness to a disastrous series of events, and which tells a story of successful cross-border cooperation. Of course, a story with its difficulties and criticalities, but which has led to the saving of part of the natural common natural heritage of Italy and Slovenia. The joint efforts of local communities, firefighters and civil protection intervening on both sides of the border have created a temporary situation where the border has ceased to exist, allowing common wooded areas and some inhabited centers to be saved.

The affected area covers a surface of just over 4,000 hectares, equal to over 7,000 football pitches. According to researchers from the Environment and Territory group of the Department of Agri-food, Environmental and Animal Sciences of the University of Udine, the first estimate of the damage caused by fires (both on the Italian and Slovenian sides) is over 3700 hectares of burnt woodland, for a volume of 194,000 cubic meters of lost biomass.
The fire has destroyed 32 percent of the forest stock in the areas affected by the fires. The recovery of the burned territories could take between 10 and 20 years.

The ongoing climate change puts us in front of risks and we must know how to face and prevent. The 2022 fires started following a long and unusual drought that left the Karst dry and vulnerable: but the Italian-Slovenian border area is just a sad example of what could also happen in other places in the world.
Implementing risk prevention measures (for example the maintenance of the undergrowth), and increasing the awareness of the population on this issue, are the challenges that this project intends to face.
ASH MEMORIES aims at increasing awareness of issues such as climate change, biodiversity protection, risk prevention. An answer that aims to build, over time, a scientific citizenship capable of facing, in a constructive and intelligent way, the changes that lie ahead at a social, political, technological and environmental level.
In this case, the “unreal” usually attributed to the virtual, represents a perfect medium to tell a true story, a story of collaboration between men and women, Italians and Slovenians, united to safeguard their common territory. 



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