Lilly Koltun’s upcoming Studio Sixty Six exhibition, Distraction (6 – 17 August) appropriates photographs and video of violent...
Lilly Koltun’s upcoming Studio Sixty Six exhibition, Distraction (6 – 17 August) appropriates photographs and video of violent tragedies from our past and present to ask “what is truth in the media anyways?” The show may shock, or may seduce us into asking some tough questions about how we think about today’s gun and police culture. As Koltun says, “They [i.e. the media] are setting up a narrative that touches the people’s buttons… What happens to the way we record and remember these things? I am interested in creating art that has a lot of visual strength in this regard.”
Many of the pieces in Distraction will make us think about the indexical nature and so-called “truth-value” of photographs and video. She uses archival images and media to contrast with contemporary and dramatic imagery in order to undercut this “truth-value” that the media often lays claim to in its representation of the use of guns.
Koltun has a very deep understanding of photographic media, and this relates back to her 30+ years of experience as a curator, academic, and arts administrator in major cultural institutions, like Library and Archives Canada (LAC). After working with and learning about the collection of photography at LAC, Koltun became interested in the variety of media and technologies involved in making photographs—right around the time when studying photography in academia was really lifting off in the 1970s. This is something that she came back to when she recently pursued a BFA at the University of Ottawa. The BFA program challenged her to use her past to create something new and that was inventive. She says:
“In the end, you can see that when I started doing art, [my past] never left me, it’s clearly an important part of what I do. Although, I do not necessarily take still photographs a lot, which is what my knowledge area was,…I do video a lot more…I discovered that what I wanted to say needed more duration.”
Koltun’s interest in video as an art medium began in her first semester of the BFA program at the University of Ottawa with Professor Catherine Richards. For example, her early work explored cellphones and a Xerox machine as media. She also developed an interest in performance as a part of her artistic practice while she was in the BFA program.
Koltun considers her work to be performative and interactive—so be prepared to become a part of her artworks once you step into the Distraction exhibition space. Her work “sets up a scenario to draw [you] in so that [you] question [your] context—where [you] live.” Interactivity is also a way for people to examine their own participation and collusion in the sub-cultures that she is critiquing with her work. She wants us to come in to her work and unexpectedly discover that we have been a part of her work all along:
“The issues that I want to deal with are life and death. They are about how we live our lives, what our ethics are, what our morals are, and what things we are willing to die for—and these are very heavy issues! And people do not want to deal with them, they don’t want to find themselves thinking about these things, so I want to draw them in at a level where they feel tempted to participate. It’s like a game. It’s only after you have played that you realize you may have colluded in something serious.”
At some point in the exhibition, you will be invited to examine your own role in the culture that has produced passive reactions to historical and contemporary violence and brutality, and examine how your perceptions are being shaped by the news media. In Distraction, we are presented with “Guns fired; inquests held; juries convened; riot gear donned; rifles slung and cocked — how long has police action generated reaction? The past is prologue everywhere — London, Russia, Monte Carlo, New York State, Chicago, Utah. L. Koltun grabs and skins imagery from today and from a hundred years ago, forces new game plays to expose the bleeding bones of the loyalty and love we have for shooting that shapeshifts to entertain us. She walks us to the edge of seductive horror, where the camera is indulgence, the strong fear the weak, and distraction is injustice.”
Vernissage: 6 August 2015 at 6pm.
Show Duration: 6 – 17 August 2015
(Article by Danuta Sierhuis)