Letters from the Landscape

– mins
Bits ‘n Pieces, Homecoming Centre


Craig McClenaghan


Letters from the Landscape is an experimental mapping project, explored across multiple scales of place and time, in which landscape and artefact are interchangeable and recorded in fragments, imprints and residues.  


A series of hand-made paper sheets were cast over the surface of a 2.5-billion-year-old rock at the Nooitgedacht archaeological site in South Africa’s arid Northern Cape. Paper pulp, made from plants and water gathered from the site, was cast over the rock surface where, with gentle hand-applied pressure, the marks from 300-million-year-old glaciers and 1500-year-old engraved art were imprinted to form a palimpsest of landscape and time. 


Much like evidence on natural surfaces, the presence of water (required in the paper-making process) evaporates to leave no trace except the paper itself, the properties of which, through the process of drying, become vulnerable to the impacts of bending, folding, imprinting, tearing, even burning… visceral tactics of drawing, which the paper itself ‘remembers’. 


Forced into the hand-made paper sheets, a series of startling infographics around the global commercial paper-making industry’s impact on freshwater supply. The paper is altered with new marks remembered; the landscape is over-written. 


Traces of the ‘original’ landscape exist in this topographic atlas only in fragments, whispers and suggestions; and while the delicacy of the installation echoes the fragility of natural ecosystems on which all life depends, it also suggests that we urgently reconcile with the reality of climate change by prioritizing our collective responsibility to landscape.


Letters from the Landscape was featured at the 18th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Laboratory of the Future, in the Curator’s Special Project, Mnemonic, curated by Lesley Lokko. 



Project Team: Craig McClenaghan, Hashim Tarmahomed, Wihan Hendrikz, Hugh Fraser


Collaborators: Dr David Morris, Rena Maghundu, Phumani Paper, eiletz ortigas | architects, Naadira Patel, Zen Marie


With additional support: Graduate School of Architecture, African Futures Institute, William Kentridge, Michael Hall, South African Heritage Resources Agency

Reimagining Heritage, Archives and Museums: Today/Tomorrow Convening Cape Town February 2024
Reimagining Heritage, Archives and Museums: Today/Tomorrow Convening Cape Town February 2024

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