Mine the Mountain by Nicholas Hedges @ Surface Gallery

I went to Auschwitz two years ago because the holocaust was as distant to me as fiction. I wanted to remember those who died not merely as numbers but as real people. Nicholas Hedges similarly visited ‘dark tourist’ sites in order to connect with those individuals and achieve self discovery of his own past.

‘Mine the Mountain’ is founded upon postcards. He perceives them to be “a conversation in as much as they’re a connection between two places, one that’s unfamiliar and one that’s known.” This then, inspires his journey from the vividly coloured postcards of War memorial sites to his own past and those who he never knew.

His starting point is to represent his distance from the holocaust survivors. They are simply numbers below the places where they died, on postcards, imposed onto an aerial of Bergen Belsen. We need to connect with the people that these numbers represent. ‘A well staring at the sky’, a collage of black and white post cards depicting the victims of the holocaust emphasise the fragility of distant memories, when juxtaposed with ‘Broken Toys’, a vividly coloured collage of his family holidays in Dorset.

We can connect with the past through place. ‘If I was a place’ combines maps he drew in childhood, to maps of the World War Trenches and the aerial views of Bergen Belsen. Through intertwining his own perception of place in the past, with the holocaust victims’ sense of place, he discovers who they are.

The exhibition is cyclic; it begins with numbers and ends with words, rather than people. Postcards containing diary entries from soldiers fighting in Ypres adorn. The final one is entitled ‘It’s A Fine Day’ (I’m not going to lie, that made me emotional). But, it reminded me of the reason we still remember the holocaust, and why Hedges and I both wanted to explore the past.

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