Between 1946 and 1985, Enver Hoxha was the leader of the People’s Republic of Albania. After rigging the elections in 1946, he quickly gave himself complete control of the entire country. However, unlike most communist countries in the region, instead of becoming allies with Russia, Hoxha aligned himself with Chairman Mao of China. During his leadership, Hoxha became increasingly paranoid, fearing foreign invasion from both the West and the USSR. And in 1972, Hoxha even went as far as to cut ties with Mao over Richard Nixon’s visit to China. Eventually Hoxha’s hostility towards other countries led to the complete isolation of Albania from the rest of the world, and the enactment of a massive defense program.
The integral component of this defense program was the pillbox bunker. In 1958, Hoxha tested the first prototype of this bunker, which, when above ground, resembles a mushroom with slotted windows for one to shoot out of. The pillbox bunker became the main component of Hoxha’s defense system. Between 1967 and his death in 1985, Enver Hoxha built over 700,000 bunkers throughout Albania, with one third of the population serving in the military.
After the death of Enver Hoxha, and the collapse of the eastern bloc, Albainia has opened itself up to the rest of the world by joining NATO and applying to be a member of the European union. However, built from reinforced concrete, these bunkers remain a near indestructible reminder of their former leaders paranoid isolationism. Without the financial means to remove all of the bunkers, Albanians have been forced to live with these remnants from their past.
Situated on the Black Sea in the Ukraine, the Artek International Children’s Camp was established in 1925 by the soviet government under Lenin. The camp hosted The Young Pioneers, which was a communist party youth group similar to Boy Scouts. However, not only did the Young Pioneers learn pioneering and camping skills, but they were also taught how to be ‘good’ communist citizens. Catering to the children of the communist party elite as well as those who excelled at school, it was considered an honor to be selected to attend Artek. Artek functions year round, and at the height of its operation, 27,000 children would stay at the camp each year. By 1969, Artek had over 150 buildings on a 3.2 square kilometer patch of land. These buildings included medical buildings, schools, a film studio, three swimming pools, a stadium that can seat 7000 people, and playgrounds for various activities. Well over 1 million children have attended Artek.
At one time, the Artek International Young Pioneers’ Camp was synonymous with the Soviet effort to create a new society, and is now one of the few remaining institutions from that era. I am interested in the historical significance, as well as the contradictions that are imbedded in this site. With unkempt statues of Lenin, and 1960s Soviet architecture, Artek still has children playing against the picturesque backdrop of the Crimean peninsula. Ultimately, Artek may be the closest the Soviet Union was able to come to Marx’s utopian vision.
The Long Wait
On April 4th 1949, Canada and eleven other nations signed the North Atlantic Treaty to jointly stand against the Eastern Bloc. With the signing of this treaty, Canada joined its first peacetime military alliance. In 1951, Canadian troops and their families started being stationed in West Germany. The German NATO operation was Canada’s longest military operation. Armed with tactical nuclear weapons, these troops stood as the first line of defence against a Soviet invasion into Western Europe. The Canadian soldiers continued to operate in West Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In this project I traveled to the former sites of the twelve Canadian NATO bases in Germany. These locations are in various forms of re/use and abandonment. Much like small cities, these bases had most of the amenities that the soldiers and there families would need, including schools, gymnasiums, theatres, bowling alleys, churches, bars, pool halls, ice rinks and stores.
Built on the dichotomies of East versus West, communism versus capitalism, atheism versus Christianity and good versus evil, the Cold War was a conflict that placed us on the brink of destruction. These images not only show the effects of time, politics and economics on these places, but also reveal the beauty surrounding these sites, which were veiled in secrecy. However, what is most illuminating about these photographs is that, although these bases were on the front lines of the Cold War conflict, the soldiers were still able to live out and enjoy their lives while waiting for a conflict that would never materialize.
The Diefenbunker series examines the tension inherent when architecture’s original function is negated for a new purpose. ‘The Diefenbunker’ was a nuclear fallout shelter built for the Prime Minister of Canada in the late 1950’s. After being decommissioned in 1994 this massive underground structure has been turned into a museum. With equipment brought in to fill the gaps of what was taken by the military when they left, the lines between reality and construction are blurred. The Diefenbunker is left with residual tension between its intended use as a fallout shelter and its new function as a museum.
In the series CFB Chilliwack, I survey the effects that economics play on communities and the flexible intent of military housing. Canadian Forces Base Chilliwack was closed after the Cold War following a decrease in military spending. The military housing is being transformed from its cold, ridged functionality into more liveable, residential housing. Blending one idea of utility with a new idea of home. However, these revised structures fail to escape their original intentions of cheap functional living spaces.
Self Portrait with Rifle
In this project I constructed a pinhole camera, where the exposure was created by shooting a hole with a pellet rifle. The resulting hole then exposes the large format negative in the light tight camera. Facing the camera, the act of shooting the rifle also initiated the recording of the image—a self portrait of me shooting the rifle. In the process of the shoot, the projectile from the rifle also pierced the film and the image of myself, creating a void in the image where the gun would be. The resulting image is a record of its own creation.
In this piece I explore the contradiction between the destructive act of firing a gun with the creative act of making an image. While referencing the famous performance of Chris Burden Shoot, I examine the way which photography alludes to death by creating an image of a moment that can never be relived. Also while conceiving of this project, I was thinking of the aggressive language surrounding the making of a photograph; one always ‘takes’ or ‘shoots’ a photo.