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Land of grief, 2022

Birchbark, pine needles, moss, dead leaves, soil

Created for the exhibition “Sandarmokh – Where the Trees Have Faces” (Studio Hrdinů, Prague, 2022) the installation attempts to interpret the images of victims of political purges. The exhibition commemorated the work of historian Yuri Dmitriev, who followed the traces of 1930s Soviet repression in Sandarmokh (Republic of Karelia, Russia). Along with archive materials, the exhibition featured the works of contemporary Russian and Ukrainian artists- reflecting on current day threats to civil society.

Birch bark and pine needles were used to create free-hanging masks of men and women with material reference to the landscape of Karelia. The nature in the project acts as a binding medium for people scattered over time and place. It unites those living on neighboring territories divided by the assumed state boundaries. It also unites those living today with those already gone. The installation introduces parallels between the past and the present and the need to restore the connections and relations damaged by historical bias.


The characters behind the masks relate to the victims of the slaughter in Sandarmokh, as well as to those living today who share collective generational trauma. The models for the masks had been chosen by Russian residents at the time of creation, who were willing to express their disapproval of the state’s aggression against its own citizens. For some of them, family history is linked to the history of the victims of Soviet repression.

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