March 10 - April 16, 2022
Saturday, March 12, 2022
Taking as a starting point a small coastal diamond mining town in South Africa, once owned and operated by De Beers, DIGGERS’ VALENTINE explores the inconsistencies and accumulations of collected accounts of place. Rather than being a description of a town or its history, instead it is about how we try to access it: opening a new tab, logging into a database, taking a photograph, reaching for a numbered box on a shelf in the back room of a library, storing something in a coat pocket.
A day’s drive west from my hometown, Kleinzee is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Namaqua National Park. One of the first photos I found online of Kleinzee is an image of a pickaxe and shovel painted as a red x on a large boulder, an emblem of early mining in the area. An x can be the sign of a treasure, or a specific geographic location which holds some kind of promise. On paper an x marks an answer or the erasure of one. It can be acknowledgement of receipt, or a signal of bureaucratic refusal. I discovered in archival research that in efforts to stop smuggling, it used to be standard procedure to x-ray employees of South African diamond mines as they left the facilities.
DIGGERS’ VALENTINE is made up of the drawing series ex, engravings on paper and cotton titled Paradise Jobs, the text Stones that look like rubies, and the coat and its documents, which are untitled. Each of the works can be understood as a book, whether drawn, engraved, sewn, or compiled. In the construction of the body of work, seriality is also meant to maintain the possibility of addition. Most of the work is in the format of a series of pages or items which have no real closure. The drawings, engravings, text, and coat, are entries in an ongoing collection.
Hannah Azar Strauss is an artist and cultural worker living in Tiohtiá:ke/Mooniyang/Montréal. In her practice she explores the cultivation of history through language and gesture. She received her MFA from Concordia University, where she also taught writing and printmaking. She currently coordinates education and research projects at the artist-run centre Ada X, and teaches at Vanier College.