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Evening Reception

November 27, 2022

5:00 PM - LATE

NSCAD University Port Campus, Marginal Road, Halifax, NS, Canada

In Person Only

Artist Talks: Sydney Wreaks, Angela Henderson, Ola Janus and Solomon Nagler

Speculative Cartographies: Mapping sites of Difficult History, and  Difficult Histories Database Exhibitions. Port Loggia Gallery & Treaty Space Gallery

Speculative Cartographies: Mapping Sites of Difficult History
Phytograms, Solomon Nagler. Materials: Celluloid, Forest Flora

Speculative Cartographies is an exhibition of studio research undertaken in five mass grave sites in Eastern Poland, identified by the Zapomniane Foundation.Present in the exhibition are archival materials and experimental cartographic methodologies undertaken in the forests where data has indicated the approximate locations of these mass graves. Direct excavation is prohibited by Jewish Halacha (religious law), therefore all data about these sites are collected using non-invasive technologies such as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar), along with archival research and oral histories.

Speculative cartographies is an art project dedicated to drawing out knowledge archived in landscape. Working with different ways of mapping that use data produced by non-invasive archeological tools, as well as traditional archives and subjective maps drawn from local oral histories, the works in this exhibition all engage in alternative approaches to memorialization.


Material traces of violence recorded in the landscape simultaneously reveal connections between human conflicts and transformations of the natural environment.

Solomon Nagler is a filmmaker and installation artist working with 16mm celluloid to engage with experimental architecture in galleries and in public space. His research projects include the Situated Cinema Project ( 2011-2015) and Speculative Cartographies (2019), a research-creation project which was exhibited at Biennale Warszawa in collaboration with Angela Henderson, Alexander Schwarz and Aleksandra Janus. He has also collaborated with Henderson on genizah (2017) presented in Berlin at Institut für Alles Mögliche, and in Winnipeg genizah; hulls (2018) at Poolside Gallery.  These series of works document the light and deteriorating materials stored in the Chevra Nosim genizah; a book graveyard that is hidden in the only surviving synagogue in Lublin, Poland. He co-edited Sculpting Cinema (2018), a book which examines the evolution of the cinematic language of expanded cinema as conceptualized through architecture, gallery spaces and public art projects.  He is also co-editor of the forthcoming Landscape of Moving Image; Prairie Artists Cinema (2020), documenting artists’ practices and independent film histories from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Nagler’s previous SSHRC funded research project “Tracing The City: Art and the Public”  (2011 -2015) was focused on Interventions of Art in Public Space

Angela Henderson is the PI of a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant entitled Collaborative Design for Unstructured Play: Developing Local Economies through Innovation in Materials and Technology.  This research brings together graduate students and elementary students in a collaborative design project that explores play as critical practice. She is also a co-applicant on a collaborative SSHRC New Frontiers in Research grant with Dalhousie University entitled, A Tactical Urbanism Approach to Assessing the Value of Accessible Spaces. (expected date of completion 2022). Exploring the intersections of public space and social justice issues, her recent pedagogical work explores urban space through experimental mapping, working with Masters of Design students in a course entitled, Mapping the Margins. This course engages students working across disciplines in design; graphic, industrial and UI/UX, to create counter-maps of abandoned public spaces in collaboration with community groups. Site Repair (2014 - 2017) is a counter monument that was funded by the Nova Sculpture Association. The work questions how a colonial figure can be represented in the public space of unceded Mi'kmaq territory by returning a defunct monument to street level by repurposing the existing materials.

Aleksandra Janus - ethnographer and museologist, PhD candidate at the Faculty of History (Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland), researcher and activist. In her research she focuses on the politics of heritage, commemorative strategies related to traumatic historical events, social and cultural memory related to ‘difficult heritage’ (S. MacDonald) and local, vernacular memory practices. She is a head of Open Culture Studio at Centrum Cyfrowe - a think&do tank based in Warsaw, curator of ‘Laboratorium muzeum’ (Museum Lab) - educational programme for heritage professionals, member of Research Center for Memory Cultures at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, lecturer at the SWPS University in Warsaw, Faculty of Artes Liberales at the University of Warsaw and the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology in Warsaw. Her research examines ‘non-sites of memory’ as material witnesses and the effect that uncommemorated places of violence have on the process of identity-building in local communities.

Aleksander Schwarz - member of the Rabbinical Commission for Cemeteries (Office of the Chief Rabbi of Poland), where he works as an expert on Jewish law (Halacha) specializing in cemeteries and burials. Responsible for defining historical boundaries of cemeteries and their burial zones and identifying mass graves of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, using forensic analysis and non-invasive methods such as GPR (ground penetrating radar), LIDAR analysis, aerial photos interpretation and synchronization of archival maps.  He is a co-founder of Zapomniane Foundation dedicated to commemorating unmarked graves and killing sites related to the so-called ‘Holocaust by bullets’ - a process of mass killings happening outside the infrastructure of the camps, in the villages of Eastern Europe. In cooperation with the Matzevah Foundation (USA) in September 2017 he carried out a ‘practice as research’ project called ‘30 matzevot’, making experimental interventions in 30 unmarked sites of the Holocaust.

Difficult Histories Database
Photos taken from DHD workshop 2022. Captured by Natalie Goulet.

The purpose of Difficult Histories Database (DHD)  is to act as an open-access, free, and digitally accessible archive of sites of difficult knowledge and history in and around the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), in Mi’kma’ki. 

This database connects users with articles, academic literature, site specific field notes, and artist interventions that respond to settler-colonial structures of violence, occupation, displacement, and genocide, which have become mundanely entangled in public urban spaces and Canadian history. DHD can be used as a counter-mapping tool that tries to unsettle colonial histories reflected by street names, place names, “permanent” monuments, National Historic Sites, and environmental sites.

This database is meant to particularise how these colonial and settler-colonial forces have planted root and changed overtime in “Halifax” Kjipuktuk, the ancestral and unceded lands of the Mi’kmaq peoples. This territory is covered by the Treaties of Peace and Friendship which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik peoples first signed with the British Crown in 1725.

Sydney Wreaks is an Interdisciplinary visual artist of Kanien’keháka and euro-settler decent, currently living as an uninvited guest in Mi’gma’gi. They graduated with a BFA from NSCAD University in 2020, and are a 2023 MAED candidate. Their art practice moves between working within beading, painting, field notes/archiving, text based works, and are currently taking on projects including curating & Community based practices. Presently they have been using art as a way to challenge colonial ways of understanding histories and relationship to place & community. They are currently working with Counter-Memory Activism, a part of the Difficult Histories Database.

Lucy Boyd is completing a degree in History and Early Modern Studies at the University of King’s College. She was born and raised on unceded Algonquin Anishinaabe territory (Ottawa), and brings her lifelong passion for history and social justice to the Difficult Histories Database. Lucy is grateful for all of the insights, conversations, and opportunities provided by the members of Counter-Memory Activism group, and welcomes the chance to further reflect on the stories, past and present, in her community.

Sage Sidley is the digital web designer on this project. She is a white settler originally from Kmarkn territory of the Sinixt People (Rossland, BC) and a recent graduate from NSCAD's MFA program in fine and media arts situated in K'jipuktuk (Halifax, NS). In 2016, she earned a BFA at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. She has attended artist residencies in Berlin, Brooklyn, Inverness, and Halifax. She has held solo and group exhibitions in numerous public galleries throughout Southwestern British Columbia and select galleries in Nova Scotia. She is currently an individual course instructor at NSCAD University and a part of the Counter Memory Activism research cluster.

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