Gardens open daily 10.30am - 4.30pm | Book garden tickets

World Refugee Day: Gathered By Matthew Benington

Matthew Benington is an artist and lecturer who produced the Apocryphal Archive, a research project and creative body of work on aquatinted steel plates. Developed over ten years, the work stems from the experience and family photographs of Benington’s grandmother, who fled Germany as a young woman in fear of the advancing Russian army. 

The project was further developed by Benington’s research into geographically and historically diverse incidents of forced displacement, and his use of photographs that either record the dislocation or record lives before deracination as the basis for artworks. 

Matthew’s grandparents, Christel and Michael Benington met on a tennis court in Northern Ireland as young adults. She sought new horizons after the destruction of her hometown of Bublitz and the families’ year-long 300-mile displacement on foot in the Winter of 1944/1945, before their internment in a Russian labour camp. 

Readings, films and travel across Ukraine and Eastern Europe gave Matthew a wider context to Christel’s story;

 When Christel shared this information with us I was 19 and I immersed myself in the writings of Guenther Grass and Primo Levi, alongside the films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders… My privilege was striking and I wanted to embed a record of her working-middle class home into durational material. There were few photographic images of the millions of people crossing Eastern Europe from 1944-5, This makes sense when we think about the motivations for photographs as recordings of family and togetherness. Intended as a monument to the displaced.

Matthew Benington 

The form of the work references the now virtually defunct photographic negative drying cabinet. Each cabinet combines images carried by Christel when she left her family home to walk across Poland and Germany with images of Flüchtlinge (refugees from Germany and Poland) from the same area of Pomerania. 

The cabinets show a place that doesn’t exist anymore, and many people who are no longer here, some deprived of their life prematurely. Their proximity as a gathering of sculptures is an analogy for the unlikely circumstances which kept them together during their displacement.

Today marks World Refugee Day, a day that celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution, and this year focuses on the right to seek safety. 

Every person on this planet has a right to seek safety – whoever they are, wherever they come from and whenever they are forced to flee.

UN Refugee Agency

We’re proud to have Gathered at Tremenheere, which can be found along the wooded pathway leading towards the ticket shed. This piece has significant meaning today, asking us to support the displaced people of Ukraine in any way we can. We were delighted to raise funds in our recent charity day, and you can still donate via DEC’s Humanitarian Appeal here.