Monday 10 August 2009

Lillian Wilkie

All images © Lillian Wilkie

Those of you who have been following 1000 Words on Twitter may recall that I ranked the work of Lillian Wilkie as the best in show during Free Range 2009, the graduate art and design summer exhibitions held at The Old Truman Brewery in East London. In any case, here is a selection of images from her highly accomplished series Dresden I – IX. I am thrilled to share this work with you all since Wilkie shows such great promise. I look forward to seeing how her photography evolves and where it takes her. Read on for her project synopsis:

"Dresden I – IX has evolved from a sustained investigation in to the mnemonic and narrative ability of walking. Through early experiments during London-based research projects I developed a practice of peripatetic mapping which considered historical events by self-consciously moving through the spaces in which they occurred. I was attracted to the performative aspect of walking and began to consider the consciously plotted walk as a role-play and type of intervention. Photographing along these walks developed from straight documentation, accompanied by sound recording, to a more subconscious and spontaneous method picking up on minor details and fleeting moments.

My major project focuses these ideas and methods on the German city of Dresden, exploring the multiple layers of history and experience that can be found. Dresden and its turbulent history appeared often in my research for earlier work, such as my dissertation on post-Holocaust memory, fiction and photography. In fact, much of my written work supports and informs my major project, sharing themes of trauma, loss, memory and the representation of history.

The form of Dresden I - IX, a series of nine books, is based on Heinrich Schliemann’s 19th century quest to discover the mythical city of Troy. A wealthy businessman, entrepreneur and amateur archaeologist, his belief that the works of Homer and Virgil reflected actual historic events compelled him to attempt to locate the site of Troy and unearth the lost city. His excavations at Hissarlik in Turkey in 1871 did indeed reveal nine layers of a mysterious city, each exposing traces of destruction by fire, flood and warfare. Whilst modern-day archaeologists now doubt the existence of Troy, at the time Schliemann’s discovery was considered extremely significant, especially considering the priceless treasures that were found. Each layer was named Troy I to Troy IX.

Fascinated by this concept of layering and excavation, I projected the discovery on to the equally mysterious and historical city of Dresden, a city itself comprised of multiple layers, not least since it’s rebuilding in the wake of the 1945 Allied bombing which resulted in some of the most severe firestorms recorded in the history of warfare. Continuing to use perambulation as an investigative and artistic tool, each of the nine books is based on a walk across Dresden. Through historical and local research, mainly undertaken by reading, visiting archives and institutions and talking to Dresdners, I began to locate specific sites of interest and weave a web of interrelationships and narratives between them. I connected these sites by walking from one to the other, each time considering their historical significance through the foil of a conceptual sedimentary layer. The layers (Light, Air, Snow, Water, Sand, Soil, Ruin, Ash and Fire) can correspond to the physical attributes or conditions of the area in which the walk was undertaken, or relate to the area’s history; for instance, ‘Soil’ explores the green open spaces of Dresden and how they figured in the 1945 bombings, and ‘Ash’ traces the cremated remains of victims of the firestorm as they were transported from the Altmarkt to the Heidefriedhof cemetery. To emphasize the layering of the city, my research goes beyond the bombings back to Dresden’s epoch in the seventeenth century, and in this way I see my walks as a kind of time travel, moving between locations and stories, events and disasters spanning four hundred years.

The series of books presented for my major project accompany sound recordings, prints, diaries, found objects and sketches in the cache of material gathered during this project. I hope the work will continue to be exhibited in different forms depending on, and as a response to, the gallery space in question."

Lillian Wilkie studied photographic arts at the University of Westminster from 2006-09 and is currently awaiting her grade. She has participated in several group exhibitions including at Shoreditch Town Hall, London and Paperbomb Mintlounge, Manchester and undertaken work experience at Proud Photographic Gallery and The White Cube Gallery, London.