Speculative Cartographies; Mapping Difficult Histories (2022)

This exhibition is a compilation of artistic research undertaken within sites of difficult  history in the forested landscapes of Eastern Poland and in Kjipuktuk (Halifax, Nova Scotia) between November 2019 and November 2022. The works in this exhibition have been created by utilizing digital technologies such as ground-penetrating radar, LiDar, locative media and photogrammetry along with analogue fabrication methods, to present a series  of site-specific research.

Speculative Cartographies is an art project dedicated to uncovering knowledge archived in landscape. Canadian artists – Angela Henderson and Solomon Nagler and Zapomniane Foundation Researchers Aleksandra Janus and Aleksander Schwarz – work with different ways   of mapping this knowledge, using data produced by non-invasive archeological tools, as well     as traditional archives and subjective maps drawn from local oral histories. This  work is accompanied by reflection on the very idea – and the possibility – of a monument. Speculative cartographies extracts material traces of violence, while simultaneously revealing the connection between human conflicts and transformations of the natural environment.

Between Material and Memory (2022) 
Cotton Paper, Non-photo Blue Pencil

The interplay of subjective and collective memory when identifying sites of trauma involves a radical exchange between the personal and the objective; abstracted surveys and geographical data to immediate physical encounters with flora in the forests and remembered oral histories. These sculptures and drawings reflect on the materiality of our tools when counter-mapping, particularly the idea that the medium is the landscape.

Focussing on the interplay between the singular and the multiple, instinct and objectivity, irregularity and interruption, these works recall the flow of first hand accounts during the processes of documentation and discovery. These works transgress the arbitrary line between the art object and tool.

Installation view.

Frottage Archives (2022)
Poplar, Cotton Paper, Graphite

Contact prints, archived within wooden forms, layer and fold frottage fragments of monuments erected to settler colonial figures throughout Kjipuktuk. This collection of prints becomes a multi-directional archive that records the built environment of colonial appropriation. Presented in this exhibition, this work is juxtaposed with our research in Poland, acknowledging beyond protocols, unceded land and our own unreconciled difficult history.

Frottage Archives (2022)

Frottage Archives - detail (2022)

Five Non-Sites of Memory (2020)
Oak, Beeswax and Steel

Non-invasive technologies play an important role when investigating and mapping unmarked mass grave sites. Satellites are utilized for photos, while LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) creates 3D representations of the surface with light. Exploring the shift from macro to micro perspectives in our research materials, the landscapes of five forested research sites are transformed into handheld wooden sculptural forms.

Witness Trees (2019)
Angela Henderson
Kraft paper, Charcoal and Poplar

Charcoal rubbings of witness trees from five forested sites of trauma in Eastern Poland.
Specific trees are often identified as landmarks by witnesses when communicating the location of a forest site where murders took place during the Holocaust. Beginning with a first hand witness account, non-invasive tools can then be used to look underground. As a participant with the Zapomniane Foundation, whose intention is to demarcate these sites, I sought to identify trees that may have been old enough to witness the murders that occurred here. Using my own arm span to speculate on the age of the tree as old enough to have been witness to these crimes, I tied string around the witness trees, carrying the length between trees to create a perimeter around these sites.

Witness Trees. Pikule.

Foray (2020)
Cotton String and Fallen Branches

This work is a continuation of site-specific research that sought to identify witness trees from 5 forested sites of murder in Eastern Poland. The distances between these trees, measured via GPS, are now wrapped onto fallen branches, collected from a local forest in Halifax, Nova Scotia. While the source data remains the same, the forms offer a different representation of these sites. These works recognize ecology as a way of telling the stories of the shoah, while also provoking questions about the utility and function of artworks as counter-maps.

Witness Trees; Site Maps (2019) 
Larch, Poplar and Jute String

This work was part of a series of artistic activities undertaken with the Zapomniane Foundation to demarcate forest sites where the location of human remains have been identified by a witness’ account. Upon arriving at the site, these maps began from an attempt to locate the oldest tree in the surroundings; identifying this tree as a witness. Hypothesizing that the witness tree, by it’s age, would have been present at the time of the murders, the diameter of the tree’s trunk is marked with ink on the string. Tying the string to the first tree, I continued to walk with the string to the next witness tree, until returning to the original witness tree. Marking a perimeter around the identified site, we created an Eruv (a border) that demarcates between sacred and non-sacred space, while also providing a tool for the Zapomniane to create a means of identifying the location and characteristics of these sites. In the gallery, the string is wound and sculpted into new forms and exhibited in conjunction with a title that identifies the square metric volume of a specific site, and the name of the location where the mass grave is located.

Survey Markers; A Cartographic Tool (2021) 
Graphite and Poplar

Accompanying the structures that house the frottages are survey monuments sculpted from graphite. Created as two sets; one set contains geodetic data used to identify a mass gravesite in Chroberz, Poland, while the other set contains GPS coordinates that identify locations attributed to nation building in Canada. This work is a speculative cartographic tool that is designed to assemble and juxtapose data from sites of difficult history in Kjipuktuk and Poland.