One thousand, one hundred is an installation in sculpture, installation, and sound, triangulating a series of trees and their monumental forms. The work is grafted onto the Ukrainian / Russian Empire Mennonite practice of visiting the ancient Khortitsa oak tree in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, and planting its acorns in the diaspora: a slowly growing and dispersed installation of oaks around the world. Like many immigrant-settler communities, Ukrainian Mennonites often emphasize historic oppression as a way of obfuscating colonial alliances, and Mennonite narratives hold a beautiful relationship to diasporic memorial and a deep denial of complicity with empire, whether Russian or British/Canadian; the planting of these acorns is a poetic and material gesture that holds these things close together. This installation triangulates these trees-as-monuments in southern Ontario and southern Ukraine, marking the diasporic oaks through disrupting the narratives that accompany them. The acts of visiting and listening are central to the work.
The installation is comprised of a sculptural billboard in Waterloo Park, and virtual sound installations at two Khortitsa oak trees growing in the region: one at Conrad Grebel University College and one at MCC Ontario.
The sculptural billboard holds a close-up image of the the nine-hundred-year-old oak in Zaporizhzhia, slowly drowning due to the water table rise from a nearby hydroelectric dam, built during the first Stalinist Five Year Plan in 1932. In a 1990s effort to save the tree, the city erected metal poles, flags, and ropes, evoking a ships masts, creating the strange image of an ancient tree dressed up as a ship, slowly drowning on dry land. The billboard’s photograph crops out this monumental scaffolding, and focuses instead on the wire wrapped around its branches, and the concrete pushed into its broken limbs — attempts at holding its disintegrating body together, into some kind of maintained whole. The billboard looks onto Laurel Creek, part of the Grand River watershed, echoing the ancient tree’s location on a creek that feeds into the Dnipro River, both waterways constructed through controls and contours of settlement. The billboard’s sculptural form draws on the dam’s structure, designed by constructivist architects Kolli and Vesnin, and built with expertise from Canada and US engineers, who had just built massive colonial dam projects in Turtle Island before traveling to southern Ukraine.
The sound installation is virtually installed at two local trees grown from Khortitsa acorns, accessible at any time through the app echoes.xyz. Both trees feature the same ambient recording: an April morning sunrise at the ancient oak tree in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. The recording begins at 5:30 am, with dozens of birds and their songs and signals sounding alongside the active hum of traffic, with trucks already on the road after the nightly 5am curfew, the war conditioning daily rhythms in subtle and constant ways. Unfolding over 45’00, the installation is an invitation to visit the trees, to listen to both the recording and the sounds surrounding the trees, attuned to the site and the sounds that are present and absent.
Instructions: To listen to the recording, download mobile app Echoes.xyz. Search for the project One thousand, one hundred and open it at one of the sites. Put on your headphones. The track will automatically play when you are within thirty metres of either tree, so you can find somewhere to sit, or move around within the circle shown on Echoes. Although you can visit any time during the day, a sunrise visit is recommended. You can download the project in advance, or use data on your mobile phone in order for the audio to play.
Conrad Grebel University College
Accessibility: The oak tree is accessible by a hard gravel path that begins in the parking lot, with no curb. There is a bench next to the tree, and an accessible washroom inside the main entrance (8am-5pm weekdays).
Accessibility: The oak tree is in a small landscaped area along the parking lot throughway. There is a short stone wall beside the tree for sitting. The circle for this recording is wide, and the sound can be accessed in the parking lot and the area around the bike path. There is an accessible washroom in the Thrift Store (10am-5pm Monday-Saturday).
Accessibility: Most walkways in the park are packed dirt, and the path from the Bandshell to the billboard is on grass. There are accessible parking spaces and washrooms close-by.
Image: Kandis Friesen, photograph from the series One thousand, one hundred (2016-ongoing).
Kandis Friesen works with diasporic language, dispersed translations, and disintegrating archival forms. Her recent work in video, sculpture, writing, and sound is anchored in the dispersed monumental, composing between the solidity of official memory and the dispersal of intimate, unofficial forms. She often works in modes of grafting and re-publication (making something public, again), amplifying specific histories and the structures which hold and transmit them. Her work is exhibited internationally, with recent projects and screenings at Galerie im Turm (Berlin, DE), Plug In ICA (Winnipeg, Treaty 1 territory, CA), Chicago Architecture Biennial (Zhigaagong/Chicago, US), Jihlava International Film Festival (Jihlava, CZ), and Le Festival International du Film sur l’Art (Tiohtià:ke/ Mooniyang/Montreal, CA), among others. Friesen holds an MFA in Art Theory & Practice from Northwestern University and lives in Berlin, Germany.
Sound & Sculptural Installation, Text, and Design: Kandis Friesen
Audio Recording: Maryna Svyrydova