Anna M. Szaflarski
Helen Major / A Documentary Account


Helen Major is a non-fictional narrative written in the voice of the artist and bridges between art, journalism, and private investigation. The documented adventure begins in August 2009 when A. M. Szaflarski placed ads in the classifieds of the Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers. The ads placed varied from week to week but essentially were a call for information about ‘secret locations’ in Vancouver and were intended to function as a platform for a series of interviews. The ads were ambiguous and there were few responses. Only one person persistently expressed her interest; a woman that called herself Helen Major. The direction of the project takes an unexpected turn when Helen misses all of her scheduled appointments with Szarflarski, and forces the artist into a detective’s role. The narrative takes the reader along with the artist as her story surprisingly delves into issues dealing with the infamous Vancouver-Downtown-Eastside, including the crimes of serial killer Robert Pickton. Within the book, Szarflarski goes back and forth from taking on the role of detective and artist, exploring as well as exposing herself to the boundaries of private and public space, and issues of exploitation.

This publication was originally published for the opening of Szarflarski’s exhibition at Antisocial gallery in 2009.

ABotM seal of approval

Published by AKV Berlin Publishing
6×9 in, 46 pages, 2009
open edition
$20CAD or 20 euro

Available from the artist and AKV Berlin

Anna M. Szarflarski bio:

Currently practicing in Toronto, I have also studied and made work in Berlin and Vancouver. I graduated from Emily Carr University in 2008, for which I produced my first book, Documents of Suspicious Non-Events; a project that introduced themes of non-fictional adventure accounts into my practice. In 2007 during my year as a guest student at the KunstHochSchule Berlin-Weissensee, I was fortunate enough to form with three other artists the artist publication group, AKV Berlin.

My projects are often concept specific, calling on various mediums such as photography, video, printed matter, tape recording, etc. Throughout my works one may find a common thread in my interest in working with embedded narrative, working with strangers, social realms, and uncovering hidden histories. It is essential that I am physically involved with my projects, either be it in meeting with people and interviewing them, or in climbing fences, or investigating unknown spaces and buildings.

Based in Berlin, AKV Berlin Publishing celebrated its second anniversary this January. As an artist collective and publishing group, AKV has been creating, editing, and printing artist books that have for the most part focused on the physical and social aspects of urban spaces and the themes of alternative histories. The main members of this collective include Kevin Kemter, Max Stocklosa, Vincent Grunwald, and Anna Szaflarski, but the group has also produced works from other artists and its publishing catalogue now includes 22 titles that range in from from zines, catalogues, and larger concept-based artist publications.