close up image of the Khortitsa oak tree in Zaporizhzhia, drowning on dry land, the trunk patched with concrete

Join Kandis Friesen in Waterloo Park June 17, at 2:00pm for an artist talk accompanying the installation, One thousand, One hundred. The lecture will take place in proximity to the billboard installation (west of the bandshell). Visitors are encouraged to use the Westmount Rd Entrance to the park

One thousand, one hundred is an installation in sculpture and sound, triangulating a series of trees and their monumental forms. The work is grafted onto the Ukrainian 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 hardship as a way of obfuscating colonial alliances, and Mennonite narratives hold both a beautiful relationship to diaspora 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. The 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 billboard in Waterloo Park, and virtual sound installations at two local Khortitsa oak trees: one at Conrad Grebel College and one at the MCC Ontario office. 

The billboard holds a close-up image of the the nine-hundred-year-old oak, which is slowly drowning due to the water table rise from a nearby hydroelectric dam, built during the first Stalinist five year plan in 1932. In an effort to save the tree in the 1990s, the city of Zaporizhzhia 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 infrastructure, focusing in 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’s design 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 Khortitsa oak trees, with a suggested listening time at sunrise, though you can visit at any time. Unfolding over 45’00, the ambient recording is an invitation to visit the trees as a listening session, listening to the recording and the site around the tree. Both trees feature the same field recording of an April morning sunrise at the ancient oak tree in the Khortitsa suburb of Zaporizhzhia, a time that is usually quiet except for blastingly bright birdsong. This 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. 

Instructions: To listen to the recording, download mobile app 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. 


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.