Treblinka: Archaeological Investigations & Artistic Responses

centre-of-archaeology-logo_tcm44-72700Treblinka: Archaeological Investigations & Artistic Responses (2016), eds. Caroline Sturdy Colls & Michael Branthwaite, Stoke: Centre of Archaeology Special Issue, ISBN 9781534632295

Between 800,000 and 1 million people lost their lives at Treblinka extermination camp during the Holocaust. A further 10,00 perished in the nearby labour camp as a result of the Nazi death through work policy and ad hoc executions. Since 2007 both camps have been the subject of forensic archaeological research by Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls, to reveal new insights into the nature and extent of Nazi persecution.

This book presents the major findings, which included the discovery of the gas chambers, personal effects of victims, and mass graves. It also includes artistic response to these findings, curated by Michael Branthwaite and commissioned as part of the international exhibition Finding Treblinka. Featuring new artworks by Michael Branthwaite, Dave Griffiths, Janine Goldsworthy, Hilary Jack and Jenny Steele, this opened at the Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom in Treblinka, Poland in August 2015 and the Wiener Library in London, UK in June 2016.

Finding Treblinka: London

Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide, 6 July – 15 September 2016

The Wiener Library’s new exhibition will explore the Nazi labour and extermination camps of Treblinka using the ground-breaking research of Staffordshire University archaeologist Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls and artistic responses to the topic curated by Michael Branthwaite.

For the first time in the UK, this archaeological work will be adapted and displayed along with specially commissioned artworks by Michael Branthwaite, Janine Goldsworthy, Dave Griffiths, Hilary Jack and Jenny Steele.

Through the team’s unique, predominantly non-invasive approach, a more accurate picture of the camps has emerged. At the same time, religious and ethical considerations surrounding their investigation have been respected. This work allowed the old gas chambers, mass graves and a large number of objects to be located. The innovative exhibition includes highlights from the Library’s collections, such as a contemporary map of Treblinka, Nazi documentation and testimony from survivors. It examines the history and architecture of the camps and the forensic archaeological process that helped reveal the camp’s history. The exhibition also explores the application of art as a means to provide access to scientific and historic data.

Towards a new concept of the Art School

The Precarious University/Chorlton Arts Festival, Sunday 22 May, 2016

The symposium aimed to form a critical discourse on the art school’s history and potential, and construct a radically open and popular concept of the art school for the 21st century within the unique surroundings of the Smallest Sculpture Park in the World, in a Chorlton back garden. The Precarious University is a collaboration between and Levenshulme Contemporary Art Centre, and the symposium was attended by artists, students and members of Islington Mill Art Academy and School of the Damned.  The resulting dialogue between participants is transcribed, in abridged form, here.

With: Andy Broadey, Jasmir Creed, David Daly, Dave Griffiths, Claire Hignett, Ahmed Hassan, Jane Lawson, Giles Marshall, Nathanial Mason, Richard Miles, Bob Nancollis, Dr Amanda Ravetz and Lisa Risbec.

BEEF at Film Material


Featuring:  Matt Davies (Expo Leeds/ Kitev Oberhausen / Spike Island / Schmalfilmtage Dresden), Laura Phillips (Cortoformo / Annexinema / Spike Island / KARST, Vicky Smith (Alchemy FF / London SFF / Arnolfini / Tate Britain / London Film Makers Co-Op), Alexander Stevenson (KARST / Bristol Biennial / GoMA / Grand Union). This event is part of Rogue21 series in 2016 – celebrating 21 years of Rogue Studios in Manchester.

Review by Mary Stark: Following a week long residency in September 2015, with Manchester’s Film Material visiting BEEF in Bristol, this year three artists from Bristol Experimental and Expanded Film (BEEF) took part in a micro-residency in Manchester from 11 -15 April.  Matt Davies, Laura Phillips and Alexander Stevenson were based in Rogue Project Space before it opened for an event on Friday 15 April with film installation, performance and screenings from Matt, Laura and Alex, as well as Vicky Smith and Film Material’s Mary Stark.


Matt Davies showed a three projector 16mm film performance using film loops and sounds created from recording the transformers inside film projectors. Imagery included found macro footage of plants photosynthesising and at one point he burned film live in the projector.


Alexander Stevenson showed a 16mm film interpreting  The Mechanical and Chemical Processes of 16mm Film though dance. During his time in Manchester, Alex worked on a foley soundtrack to accompany the film before showing it for the first time at the event on Friday.


 Laura Phillips installed a 16mm cyanotype loop made by exposing filmstrips with fabric in windows around Rogue Studios. Threading across the ceiling,  the installation held a sculptural presence in the event space.33-frames-e1428821548138BEEF screened a 16mm film by Vicky Smith made by a bike being ridden along and across a length of clear film leader.


Mary Stark tested out new developments of a 16mm film performance, Film as Fabric, before showing it at Sound is Sound is Sound at The Albany in Deptford the following night. She experimented with new developments involving the audience being measured with film. Thanks to John Lynch of Manifest for these excellent photos documenting the performance.


During the week Film Material and BEEF also held an artist show and tell evening to share their practices. It was a pleasure to host the artists from BEEF, with this exchange marking the beginning of fruitful filmic relationships between artist filmmakers from Manchester and Bristol. Look out for more information about upcoming events at BEEF and with Film Material in Manchester as the two collectives forge further communal cinematic creations!

Photo credits: Mary Stark and John Lynch

BEEF: Bristol

BEEFBristol Experimental & Expanded Film, 7-11 September
Along with other Film Material artists I visited Bristol for a week in BEEF’s artist’s film lab and project space. The week included a reading group, show & tell about recent practice, a 16mm film workshop & a final screening & performance event. During the residency I tested a new process – using the darkroom to contact print onto 35mm archival microfilm, which I then sprocketed by hand and ran through the Micromatic projector. Many thanks to Louisa Fairclough, Kim Knowles, Vicky Smith and BEEF artists for hosting our visit.
Film Material artists Annie Carpenter, Clara Casian, Matt Denniss, Dave Griffiths & James Snazell got together with BEEF for a residency week in Bristol.  BEEF’s Kim Knowles led a reading group, looking at New Materialist texts, and in Tuesday’s show & tell Film Material presented recent work, along with talks & screenings by Vicky Smith, Alexander Stevenson and Shirley Pegna. Vicky ran a 16mm film workshop, and we attended the expanded cinema event by Rose Kallal at CUBE Microplex.

Annie Carpenter developed ideas for her October voyage on a tall ship with The Arctic Circle residency. Clara Casian experimented with 35mm found slides, whilst Matt Denniss edited new video work and James Snazell trialled 16mm film performance ideas. The week culminated in a BEEF event where the group showed results, along with multi-projector performance Oxide (ii)+(iii) by Ben Gwilliam, made using iron rusting, 16mm and Super 8 film and magnetic sound. Many thanks to Louisa Fairclough, Kim Knowles and Vicky Smith for hosting our visit.