Still/ed Here is a story of displacement, told by many voices. It is an interactive participatory installation using emerging media. It started as a poetry film, a multimedia artistic expression of a personal journey through war and displacement. It quickly turned into our collective narrative about understanding our roots, our identity and what it means to be “still here” or “stilled here,” looking into those internal and external forces that make us move from one place to another. 

We, a poet, Natasha Boskic and an artist, Mary McDonald, have decided not to stop there. Over the past 152 years, Canada has welcomed people who have come looking for a safe home. Within Canada’s borders, communities have been moved against their will, or moved in search of employment, housing, access to services. The migrations of population as a result of pogroms and search for “better place” is not a new phenomenon. It has been ongoing since the beginning of the world. However, with almost 71 million currently forcibly displaced people, trying to make their home “somewhere else,” we need to think about the consequences of the fragmentations of human lives and families, and find humanity in chaos. 

We want to share our skills and experiences as artists and creators, raise awareness to this important issue by showcasing the project Still/ed Here, and, more importantly, to let the story of loss or abandonment of home and land through war, conflict, forced migration, and poverty grow and speak for itself.

Image of black and white photos edited to look like sketches of people in a square in Novi Sad, Serbia, arranged as photographs blowing along the wall backdrop of On the Margin of History
How can a village disappear?

We invite local writers and artists from each place of exhibition, in Canada or internationally, to interact with the theme of displacement as it has shaped them personally or their community through performative/onsite works. We invite the audience to share their individual stories. They are filmed, printed, and then added to the “wall” to create a collage of a collective story of the impacts of displacement. When viewed through the Augmented Reality app technology, those still photos become live videos allowing us to listen, watch and re-live the individual experiences of each contributor.

Our goal is to reach communities across Canada, urban centres as well as remote and rural, Northern and Indigenous communities, visiting every Province and Territory, ending with an exhibition in Ottawa. 

Still/ed Here is built, one story at a time.

We do this in different ways. 

Option 1

Screening of Margin and installation exhibit of Still/ed Here with Audience Participation: Curated performance event with local artists

This option provides the description of our full engagement with a local community. Our hope is that with the help and support of a local host we can collaborate and work with artists and community groups in organizing a cultural event. 

Poetry film “On the Margin of History” is accompanied by AR installation, a collection of still/hyperphoto fragments of the two voices contained within the poetry film that is projected within the installation, invoking reflection on displacement of people through time. Every time the  installation is set up, the number of the panels with AR fragments (the Wall) increases, adding the voices of the audience from the previous exhibitions up to that point. The public/visitors can watch the poetry film and engage in its fragments and individual community members’ contribution through AR app, LifePrint.

The installation can be set up in various spaces. Due to the small sizes of panels (16”x9”), the setup of the AR is flexible and can have many different configurations. In the same line, the poetry film, can be projected from a standalone projector on the wall in different sizes, or on a portable screen or LCD screen. We are open to discussing your space and set-up possibilities. 

In addition to the screening of the poetry film and exhibition installation, we offer a direct engagement with the audience. This can be done at certain times during the exhibition (in case of an exhibition over an extended period of time) or as a one-time event. itl includes conversation with the audience individually and invitation to record a video (15-seconds clip) sharing their individual stories and responses to the impacts of displacement on themselves, their community, their culture.

The goal of the event is to increase the artistic response to the issue of displacement and fragmentation of life and relationships due loss or abandonment of home. In addition to the full installation and general audience participation, local musicians, painters, poets and other artists will be invited to respond to the topic in their own artistic form. With the permission of the artists and depending on the format of their work, their creation can also become a part of the future exhibition.

This event can include Option 4.

Option 2

Screening of Margin and installation exhibit of Still/ed Here with Audience Participation 

Poetry film “On the Margin of History” is accompanied by AR installation, a collection of still/hyperphoto fragments of the two voices contained within the poetry film that is projected within the installation, invoking reflection on displacement of people through time. Every time the  installation is set up, the number of the panels with AR fragments (the Wall) increases, adding the voices of the audience from the previous exhibitions up to that point. The public/visitors can watch the poetry film and engage in its fragments and individual community members’ contribution through AR app, LifePrint.

The installation can be set up in various spaces. Due to the small sizes of panels (16”x9”), the setup of the AR is flexible and can have many different configurations. In the same line, the poetry film, can be projected from a standalone projector on the wall in different sizes, or on a portable screen or LCD screen. We are open to discussing your space and set-up possibilities. 

In addition to the screening of the poetry film and exhibition installation, we offer a direct engagement with the audience. This can be done at  certain times during the exhibition (in case of an exhibition over an extended period of time) or as a one-time event. It includes conversation with the audience individually and invitation to record a video (15-seconds clip) sharing their individual stories and responses to the impacts of displacement on themselves, their community, their culture.

Option 3

Screening of Margin and installation exhibit of Still/ed Here 

Poetry film “On the Margin of History” is accompanied by AR installation, a collection of still/hyperphoto fragments of the two voices contained within the poetry film that is projected within the installation, invoking reflection on displacement of people through time. Every time the  installation is set up, the number of the panels with AR fragments (the Wall) increases, adding the voices of the audience from the previous exhibitions up to that point. The public/visitors can watch the poetry film and engage in its fragments and individual community members’ contribution through AR app, LifePrint.

The installation can be set up in various spaces. Due to the small sizes of panels (16”x9”), the setup of the AR is flexible and can have many different configurations. In the same line, the poetry film, can be projected from a standalone projector on the wall in different sizes, or on a portable screen or LCD screen. We are open to discussing your space and set-up possibilities. 

Option 4

Presentation/Workshop

We offer 90-120 minutes presentations and workshops where we explore the use of current technologies for personal creative expression. We talk about poetry writing as an individual and collaborative process and the way how text can be presented in different media. All recommended tools are mobile apps that are either free or have minimal cost. We use Still/ed Here as an example of multimodal storytelling.

Here, we can dance until we drop dead tired…

It began with a poetry film….

Media artist Mary McDonald and poet Natasha Boškić began their collaboration with On the Margin of History. On the Margin of History is a poetry film and Augmented Reality (AR) installation created in collaboration with poet Mohamad Kebbewar. Both the Film and AR installation have been widely exhibited in Canada and internationally.

image of Novi Sad superimposed with Toronto city scene arranged as a photograph blowing along the backdrop wall and woods from of On the Margin of History.

Background

Within the installation Still/ed Here, is the AR installation and poetry film, On the Margin of History.

Poets Natasha Boškić and Mohamad Kebbewar were excited to work together since their countries, Serbia and Syria, experienced similar fates. When weaving their verses together, their lines overlapped, their words chased each other. Their voices echoed with the same emptiness, recognizing a human soul can be peeled, layer by layer, revealed through art. They connected with artist, Mary McDonald whose interests lie in posing poetry narrative against and within layers of sound, silence, image, video, to create a poetry film and Augmented Reality (AR) installation. 

On the Margin of History Poetry Film

On the Margin of History is witness of the destruction of ancient history and sharp demographic change in Aleppo (Syria), Mohamad Kebbewar’s home town, a city of six million people that lost ninety percent of its residents over the course of six years. It is witness of the breakdown of former Yugoslavia, Natasha Boškić’s homeland, culminating in the NATO bombing of Serbia where silence was the only response to events that left people shocked and in disbelief. It’s a transdisciplinary project that considers the tensions between personal voice and the possibilities of the digital visuals, done by Mary McDonald, to suggest and reinforce false narratives and/or to create understandings through metaphor, playing with all levels of our perception. Text is digitally exploded, creating reverberating echoes of lost words, lost truths. It attempts to reframe our consciousness, to find empathy and closeness, humanity in chaos.

image of an archway in Aleppo, Serbia superimposed on the wall background of the poetry film

The “Margin” tells the true cost of war – fragmented layers of sound and image within the poetry film and AR exhibit reproduce a sense of displacement and erasure, exposing the reverberating loss of destruction of people and place, family, heritage, traditions, cultures. There brief fragments of poem and film, preserved as a mosaic of stills, when viewed with Augmented Reality app they become short video clips, enhancing the experience of surreal.

two young girls interacting with the AR installation

Still/ed Here

Even when we choose to leave the past behind, it never leaves us. Artistic creation is a kind of healing and letting go of war and decomposition of life.

Now, interested in a collective Canadian and global exploration of displacement through a participatory, interactive AR installation, Still/ed Here has been born. 

Still/ed Here is a multiplicity of the narratives of Canada about displacement and fragmentation of human relationships, created by community participation. This project draws from personal narratives on the experience of loss or abandonment of home and land due to various reasons: war, conflict, forced migration, poverty.

We are left to question what is real, whose voices are telling the stories, whose writing is “on the wall”. Still/ed Here invites community intervention through co-creation of the  collective story.

image of stained glass window with reflection of bird flying in the lower right panel of the window arranged as a photograph blowing along the wall backdrop of On the Margin of History

Our Goal

There are numerous stories we can tell. We would like to start with Canada’s Pacific coast and Vancouver. From there, we will travel East. Communities across Canada will be invited to participate in and host the exhibits — reaching both Canadian urban centres as well as remote and rural, Northern and Indigenous communities, ending with an exhibition in Ottawa, telling a big narrative of Canada of the movement of its population, through immigration, emigration and migration. Permanent Canadian exhibition will be explored.

Contact us to find out how you can bring Still/ed Here to your community.


Credits

Still/ed Here

a story of displacement told by many voices, a participatory AR installation, a collaboration of Natasha Boškić and Mary McDonald.


Image of a narrow arched passageway with broken roof in Aleppo, Syria, with the word existence across the middle, arranged as a photograph curling off the wall backdrop of On the Margin of History.

On the Margin of History

Poem written and narrated by Mohamad Kebbewar and Natasha Boškić
Poem arranged and edited by Natasha Boškić
Photographs of Serbia, Natasha Boškić
Photographs of Syria, sounds of bombing, Mohamad Kebbewar
Creative Concept, Artist and Filmmaker, Mary McDonald

Meet the artists behind On the Margin of History

Natasha Boskic

Natasha Boskic, Poet

Natasha Boškić is originally from Serbia. She moved to Canada with her two children in 1999. A long history of family storytelling, folk tales and legends as well as her personal life experience and current times have shaped and directed her writing. Interested in technology as a new landscape for literary expression, she experiments with new media. Her poetry and narratives have been published in a number of literary journals, anthologies and special publications  in Canada and Serbia. 

onlywords.ca

Mohamad Kebbewar

Mohamad Kebbewar, Poet

Mohamad Kebbewar is one of the poets of the collaboration, On the Margin of History. Mohamad Kebbewar was born and raised in Aleppo. His poetry deals with the destruction of his ancient birthplace–Aleppo and the impact of the war on civil society. His poetry has appeared in Prism International, Iconoclast, and The Nashwaak Review. He recently published a poetry chapbook, The Soap of Aleppo, by JackPine Press. 

mohamad.kebbewar@gmail.com
Follow Mohamad

Mary Mcdonald, Artist

Mary McDonald is a Canadian writer and multimedia artist. McDonald is passionate about exploiting digital technology to bring text and multimedia art into community, historic and natural spaces in ways that consider word through sound, image, and movement. McDonald’s multidisciplinary practice encompasses text, photography, poetryfilm, music and sound, AR (augmented reality) installation, and community participatory arts projects. Her poetry films and AR installations have been exhibited in Canada and internationally

marymcdonald.ca 

On the Margin of History and Still/ed Here have been exhibited in Canada and internationally, and awarded first prize at the Canadian Surrey Art Gallery. The poetryfilm is part of the poetryfilm touring screening, Uprooted, an international collection of poetryfilms focusing on the refugee crisis curated by UK poet/artists Sarah Tremlett and Lucy English.