Archival familial photographs projected onto farm structures
series of 12
Observed on treaty 4 territory; the traditional lands of the Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Lakota and Nakoda, and homeland of the Métis/Michif Nation. These buildings stand on the Byblow Family Farm, quarter section 25 near Parkerview, Saskatchewan.
Presented in solo exhibition, Vyshyvani Kazky, Embroidered Stories at Zalucky Contemporary. It is one of the core exhibitions of the CONTACT Photography Festival.
Future Projections is a collaboration with my mother that documents an intervention with our familial archive. We orchestrated this site-specific work in the summer of 2018 on the farm where she was raised. This impulse came from wanting images to extend the album, the frame, across time. An act of generational return, this series re-considers derelict farming structures that scatter Saskatchewan to shed light on the complex histories of settler-colonial relations. The personal and familial becoming the political.
In order to see shadow, there must be light. To live in shadow, eternal delight. I recall this Ukrainian proverb as I await the right amount of shadow for the light particles coming from my pocket projector to liberate an image of my triple-great grandparents, Maria and Tymko, from the archive. It illuminates the oldest structure standing on my mother’s farm, where she was raised alongside ten siblings. It is made of wood logs held together by a mixture of mud and grass. No longer in use, its emptiness becomes a vessel for re-storying.
In order to see shadow, there must be light. To live in shadow, eternal plight. I re-articulate the ignorance-as-bliss aphorism as I reflect on the latent historiography of people on these lands. My ancestors emigrated in the early 1900’s fleeing the state-led Soviet Collectivization Project which deemed them as kulaks, or tight-fisted farmers. Lenin’s government claimed that Ukrainian farmers were unwilling to compromise their ways of life to collectively join the future of idyllic communist society. It would be Stalin’s decree that would enforce the liquidation of kulaks. Hedging instead on equally disillusioning propaganda authored by the Crown’s colonial project, my ancestors packed their lives to seek free land, to follow promises of utopic opulence. These false hopes were built on stolen Indigenous lands, something that was not imparted pre-arrival, yet settlers largely continued to be complicit in thereafter.
I gaze up at the image of Tymko before me. In Ukraine, he was the proud maker of sheepskin coats, one of which he fashions here on top of a pair of English-style woollen trousers. His conscious efforts to assimilate, to not be seen as an ‘othered’ settler, I can imagine, are born from fear of the continuation of this discrimination. A fear of that discrimination being passed onto his children, and children’s children, being passed down to me. Like an onion of adversity that could make me melt in tears, my Baba’s words echo: you can’t build happiness on someone else’s mountain.