"...She belongs to that breed which loves mankind but forgets that mankind consists of individual persons..."

Adam Czerniakow
The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow

Mine the Mountain

Introduction

Mine the Mountain comprises a number of exhibitions dealing with themes of the past, the present, family history, memory and the anonymous individual in history. The works shown draw upon my experiences at sites of historic trauma, places such as Auschwitz- Birkenau, Belzec, Majdanek; Ypres and Verdun and explore the notion of both the 'Dark Tourist' and a tourism of the self.

Background

The journey into my own past and that of my ancestors began following a visit to Poland in October 2006, during which time I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. I have no connections with the camp or indeed with the Holocaust, and yet, after visiting Auschwitz and other camps, such as Majdanek, Belzec and Natzweiler-Struthof, I began to search for my own past – a search which has enabled me, in some small way, to resolve what I can only describe as my confrontation with History at the site of the infamous death camp.

One of the many difficulties facing the visitor at Auschwitz-Birkenau, apart from the sheer, overwhelming, tangible horror of the place is the enormous numbers by which one is confronted. How can one imagine 1.1 million dead? How can one, amongst that mountain of disappeared people, find the individual to whom one might, in some small way, relate? After all, with the exception of a relative few who wrote about their experiences (Anne Frank, Primo Levi, Filip Muller and so on) all that remains of millions of people are mountains of shoes, mountains of ash, lists of names, or maybe nothing at all.

So having stood upon the Ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and having walked away, I wanted to explore my relationship – as an individual – with the past, with History itself, and so began to mine my own past; the mountain of anonymous people I call my ancestors.