cyanobacteria publications

Shadows of the Dead

International Shadows Project 1994-96
Organized by J. Lehmus and Karl Young

About this project

The idea for this project was first suggested by Karl Young [Light & Dust] from Wisconsin. We thought this Shadow project as an extension of my earlier actions with dead trees [Arbor mortis].

The main object of this project was, and is, to carry on the memory of the nuclear holocaust of August 1945. Many connected "Shadow Projects" have been organized along the years, in different countries.

My aim diverted somehow from those of the earlier projects. Instead of directly exhibiting received material as individual portrayals of individual shadows, I wanted to force the material to succumb to a poetic / conceptual process; to merge the individual in a greater, ambient collective. I invited artists from all over the world, to send small pieces of artwork, as brief symbols of shadow in its different meanings, and, by uniting these, attempted to evoke a kind of collective, symbolic shadow, in memory of the true collective shadow that was discharged in 1945.

I have seen my views as being in an analogy with the concept of "amplified art" by Paolo Barrile [see text], only I would be tempted to call my method "homeopathic" (expanded through dilution), instead of "amplified".

Outdoors installation (1994)

The small pieces received for this project totalled two and half hundred on 6 August 1994. These paper fragments were next modified by attaching them to pieces of wood (size approx. 2 x 2 inches).

I went with my wife to a cliff area in the woods, the location I had selected as the site for this action. We started working on the area at 7 PM. The sky, which previously had been clear for whole weeks, was now gathering clouds slowly.

The shadow pieces were set singly or in small combinations on the bare bedrock surface.

We became aware that the atmosphere was very oppressive; there was no wind and the sky was covered in heavy clouds. Then, suddenly, a lightning flash struck across the sky, from west to east, directly above our heads. The crashing sound was simultaneous with the passage of the lightning, which seemed to last for seconds. Water started to pour down like a gray wall, which rapidly changed to heavy hail as we made our way back through the woods.

The project was successful, most definitely so: I had offered the tiny shadows to majestic, indifferent nature.

Gallery installation (1996)

The shadow pieces remained on location until late July 1995.

The natural changes of weather and the seasons had transformed the original materials almost beyond recognition. The paper medium was more or less dissolved away by water and melting snow. The surviving paper pulp had mixed with moss and debris. I noticed rabbit teeth marks on some pieces. Photograph pieces had lost the color dye in the sunlight. A few pieces had altogether disappeared -- maybe occasional wanderers took them away.

These all are vanished shadows.

I collected the remaining pieces and stored them in a valise at my studio.

The pieces and related materials will be presented, with the shadow photocopy project and other communication works, in my exhibition at Jangva Gallery in Helsinki (31 July - 18 August, 1996).

Other documents

Outdoors: Esbo, August 1994 Gallery: Helsinki, August 1996

Communication art project documents: Copyright © 1996 J. Lehmus. All individual works Copyright © 1996 by their respective authors. All further rights to works belong to the authors and revert to the authors on publication.

SHADOW.GIF image by Reid Wood.

Title image: telecommunications link tower overlooking the outdoors installation area at 4 AM, 7 August 1994.
Photographs by Jaana Kamari & J. Lehmus.
21 June 1996