is a Black Hole
a collaborative research of the ways we remember through drawing and writing
Texts and photos: Yue Mao
Drawings: Ksenia Kopalova
This work is an experimental dialogue between two researchers, who use text and image to catalyse memory-making.

It is based on an itinerary procedure: Yue recalls an everyday life route or location, describes it in text and takes photos of it. Then she covers an area of her photo with a ‘black hole’ — which resembles the occasional glitches appearing in Google panoramas — and sends both the text and the images to Ksenia. The ‘black hole’ indicates the least relatable spots in her memory, leaving space for the creation of imagined memories. Ksenia imagines what may hide behind these black shapes. Her drawings become the ground for the next version of the text by Yue, describing the everyday life route with a mix of “facts” and “fiction”.
In this experiment, we are trying to see how this reiterative process of writing and drawing can be a catalyst for memory-making and challenge the preconceptions about what a 'truthful' representation of memory is.

This experiment is very much ‘constructed’, artificial, but isn’t memory-making also a constructed process that merges collective representations? How can we really talk about ‘reliability’ of our memories? To what extent does memory making require expertise and how is the access to the tools of memory-making limited?
On my way to the supermarket
Graffitis, cigarettes, skateboards, tattoos, raps from the stereo, and beer bottles. None of these is of my business, I just want to get my food.

This is the (dis)connection of my physical and psychological environment every Saturday. I live in the Eastern part of the city of Leipzig in Eastern Germany, giving me a chance to be an “Ossi” if I want to discriminate against myself. There are two supermarkets within my walking distance, one is considered poor people’s supermarket and is called “Penny”. Another one, whose size compared to “Penny” is like Russia vs. Germany, is called “Kaufland”, the land of buying. Since I always adore resourcefulness and abundance, I choose to buy in the land of buying, the way which cuts through two parks.
So I take my almost six-year-old IKEA blue bag, and walk down three floors of beautiful wooden stairs, here I start the march. On the way to the first park, there used to be my favourite graffiti on a building saying “No Döner for Nazis”. But it is now covered by paint, everybody inclusive for döner. The first park used to be a railway station, then the rail is dismantled, and the grass grows back. Then gentrification comes, and then shabby chic is smelled. Smelled in the cigarette and occasional weed burnt by sunset, last sip of alcohol cooled by weekend nights around the trash bins. Following the colourful sprays on the trash bin, you see their siblings and cousins also on the benches, they don’t smell anymore, since they already lay there, dried, crowded and layered for a while. Not at all in all kinds of tattooed arms, legs and sometimes chests and backs staying in or passing by the park, but you smell that vibe.

Some pass by on skateboards, swish-swoosh, like the wind in front of me, to the second park. You hear the wheels whirring on the asphalt, krrrrrrrr…. Then snap! Or crack! On your left side, here you are among the skater boys and girls. You don’t really hear words from them, a pat on the back or shoulder when they greet you, some curse when crack happens, and raps from the stereo, that probably have said things for them all. And the graffiti, sprawl from the ramps of the skatepark, to the bodies of skaters, and the prints on their shirts. Then you walk on the turn to your right side, when you smell more than one sip of alcohol, from a shabby but not chic wood shed with benches. Once in a while, you might bump into some people there, who have probably used the alcohol-smelled perfume all their life. But march on, you are almost in the land of buying, and your IKEA bag could grow once more.

I really don’t want to notice that much, I just want to get my food. Yet alas, this is what I notice, on my way to the supermarket."
Sapphire, azure. Jade, turquoise. Salty, sweet. Muddy, clear. Vast, bushy. Sparkling, gloomy. Calm, violent. Serene, lively. Unruffled, agitated.
Water can be all things and in all shapes.

Sometimes the water is extracted for drinking. Near Amsterdam, a dune area provides 15 million cubic meters of drinking water to the city, it is also the home to many plants and animals. Only walking is allowed here, so I walked. If you know the map of Amsterdam, with all the canals in the shape of rings, spreading from the inner to outer city, then just replace the built areas with greens, this is how the water in this dune flows. You would run into deers along the way, two, three, four. And water pumping facilities marked in numbers, eighty-two, eighty-three, eighty-four. And you would walk across the rings of water, first, second, third. In the centre of the ring, there is still just water, with an island in the middle. This is the last ring, but only the birds can cross.

Sometimes the water fills the hole up after the land is sunk from mining. For all the lakes around Leipzig, that is the case. I pick my favourite lake by the colour of the water. Most parts along the lake are bushes and trees, with some cleared areas in between where you can access water. There is also a beach area if you don’t mind so much sharing open space with too many others. I usually mind. So on a lucky day, I can find a small clearance just for myself, lie down, swim naked, read a book naked or covered, as I wish. On a less lucky day, I have to share the space or go deeper into less popular areas. Then the bushes get higher, the lake bottom muddier. As I go into the water, I could smell the soggy mud and feel my feet sinking into the soil. So would I grow roots here like one of those bushes?

Sometimes the water is just water. We take a cab to the other side of a Greek island, the unpopulated side with no ferry port, very few houses and restaurants, and most importantly, an uninterrupted coast. Rocks on the Greek islands are surprisingly grey, exposed directly under the sun with very little vegetation. I adopt the Leipziger style to step naked into the water. The waves come one after another, tapping salty water all over me, and strips of seaweed come along. Do I swim against the wave? Then I’d be fed more salty water, but I can also have fun clapping with the wave. Or do I let the wave carry me wherever it goes? Then I’d be stranded soon, then I could go back to the strand.
Sapphire, azure. Jade, turquoise. Salty, sweet. Muddy, clear. Vast, bushy. Sparkling, gloomy. Calm, violent. Serene, lively. Unruffled, agitated.
Water can be all things and in all shapes.

I flutter my wings, trying to get rid of the morning dews. Then I take off. It is a peaceful short morning ride, just enough to stretch my neck and arms. Then I land on this island, half of it is covered in bushes, and the other half bare soil, which seems to be just taking a breath out of the water from time to time. There are also some strange things that I can’t understand there: a stone pillar, like a chimney but solid; a tall metal horizontal bar, sometimes I see people hang on it to get fit while I’m chilling on top of it; some short wooden sticks a bit far on the edge, like an unfinished fence, also great to chill on. How strange the things people make!

After a whole summer of growth, the bushes definitely got thicker, and some reeds are as tall as me. This certainly makes the entry to the water much harder than what I am used to. I try to clear the reed to see if it is sensible to still try entering from here, but all I can see are layers and layers of reed. As if when you try to brush away your hair bang from in front of your eyes, but the wind keeps blowing it back. After I don’t know how long, I finally realize that I’m not moving forward. My feet are already too deep into the soil, and roots have grown from them, grown into the other reeds. So I am brushing away my hair bang, and I am my own wind to blow it back. I will wait here for you next summer then.

But the water doesn’t carry me back to the strand, nor horizontally into the sea. It lifts me up, possibly because there is an extra density of salt inside. It lifts me up on a piece of the island, also a grey rocky one. On there, my arms start to feel itchy. When I flutter them and try to shake off the itch, I suddenly take off. As I fly, another piece of the island starts to enter my horizon, then I quickly hop on it. It would become a nice short morning ride when I am used to it. But before I can try again, a metal chimney starts to grow from my feet, into the rock. So I just got wings, but can’t fly anymore. How can I make my life useful then? Guess I would have to learn how to produce energy and be a proper wind turbine. How strange the things people become, and I will wait here for you next summer then.
The winter has arrived.

I am sitting at home, on my lounge chair by my table with a piece of sheep rug and two pillows, one in velvet cover and another in cotton. Cream white, light grey, sage green. Two more pillows, also one velvet and one cotton, are on the couch at the other side of the room, with another piece of sheep rug, a wool scarf and two blankets. Cream white, wine red, charcoal grey, beige, burnt orange, turquoise green. Velvet curtains are dropping from the ceiling. Mustard yellow. I am wrapping myself with thermal underwear and a thick bathrobe with a velvet finish. Orange-red, sage green. A table runner is running on the table, with dozens of red zebras running on a dessert. Sand beige, watermelon red. A yoga mat is running on the floor, in muted blue.

A pot of asparagus fern is standing in a metal pot, which has companied me for a long time from the Netherlands to Germany. Grass green, matte black. On my coffee table, some maple leaves are lying around, I picked them up on a deep autumn morning after a dentist visit. Bright red, wine red, blood red. I am looking at a wild bunch of flowers on my table, in a clay pot, chrysanthemum, iris, gypsophila, maple, some I adopted after a protest and vigil last weekend, just to take care of the memories a little longer. Blood red, sun yellow, golden yellow, sand beige, soil brown, pure white, deep green.

A set of two tables put together almost two meters long of a surface, oak. A small foldable tablet is next to the yoga mat, bamboo. A coffee table with storage, where I store my make-up and jewellery. Birch, bamboo, amber marble. Behind my lounge chair is my bookshelf, holding a manageable amount of weight because of too much moving. Birch. All of them are standing on maple flooring in a rich honey tone. Warm light is shedding from the ceiling through some rice paper in a lantern shape. I don’t know how to describe the shades of the wood now, I just know they are all bathed under the light.
Those are my colours and textures in winter.

The night has arrived.
The winter has arrived.

What if all my colours and textures fade in winter? Then what do I still see, hear, smell, and touch?

A gust of wind goes through the window, and I hear some crisp sounds from above, something like wind chimes. Followed by some muffled sound of liquid dropping on the wooden floor, in rather slow motions. Then the wind rests, one or two drops of liquid continue to fall, but not for long. I never recall having any wind chimes, for I would not be able to bear the uncontrollable sound. So I look up to check what is going on. The glasses and mugs that I have not cleaned since New Year have flown up to the ceiling, having their own fest in a crowd. Some last drops of wine are now on the floor, spreading some sort of sticky, smokey, and slightly fruity smell.

Then another gust of wind is pushing the window frame again. This time stronger, making the windows and doors bump into the frames. And it also invites some sounds of birds and flapping leaves in. I look into a broken mirror leaning against the wall, it has been left broken there for a long time. Since the pandemic, I do not really need a mirror anymore to check out my outfits, so I kept part of the mirror frame, carved a hole into the wall behind the mirror, and made it a window. It looks out to some mountainous views, with an Eifel Tower sticking on top of a peak. How weird, I thought the window shows the views I treasure the most in my memories, but I only had a look at the Eifel Tower once, and I did not care much at all. Maybe it is actually just a normal electricity pylon?

Alas, what a windy day it is. I have to move to the other side of the flat to close more bumping windows. In this flat windows seem to spread automatically, as if they are infectious. Another new window appears on the other side, but this one does not seem to present what is in my memories. It is completely realistic. The block building on the other side of the street. Looking at the rough cement fassade on the flats, I cannot touch but I can feel how rough they are. The wind is stirring up some white smoke on the ground, I cannot tell what smell it stirs up too, somewhat dusty, somewhat fresh, somewhat melancholic. Electricity cords are placed on top of the building as if a spider’s net or Medussa’s hair is covering it.

It was not Eifel Tower, it was a normal electricity pylon. Transmissing very expensive and precious energy in the winter of 2022 and 2023. In just silence, complete silence.

The night has arrived.
research behind the project
research behind the project
critical reflection in ILLUSTRATion
research behind the project
research behind the project
making photos of a 'Google hole'
drawing from a photo
merging a photo with a drawing
The project started off from an exploration of Google panorama glitches and their possible life within the physical space. I was wondering if there could be a physical 'hole' that connect digital places: what if some of the 'Google glitches' could be found somewhere for real?
How can a physical object be a monument to a digital mistake?
Can an object embody absence?
How can I produce
the insufficiency of knowledge?
Can a pencil drawing represent materiality on par with a physical object?
going back to drawing
creating a glitching panorama shot of a physical 'Google hole'
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