Artspace: The Death of Lambs

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By Anika Syeda

Ryerson Artspace held the opening reception Thursday for Ryerson student Meagan Christou’s exhibition Lamentations, giving guests “an opportunity to reflect on their own mortality.”

Christou — who recently finished her fourth year as an image arts student — received an opportunity to exhibit her work at Ryerson Artspace for winning Best in Show as a fourth-year exhibitor during Maximum Exposure [ME].

Her installment features a film projection, traditional photography and an accompanying booklet detailing the motivation and message behind the art.

Christou’s inspiration for the piece came from a “major milestone” in her experience as an artist at her rural family home in Peterborough, Ont. After an ice storm during Easter 2015, she found three of her neighbour’s lambs lying dead in the snow. They were subsequently photographed, cremated and filmed.

The room was dimly lit in order to accommodate the projection of a continuously looping reel of 16mm film depicting the cremation of three lambs. The film degrades further with every loop, viewable through a glass box behind the projector. This projector light shone through a block of ice, melting slowly over the course of several hours, onto a blank white wall.

“The ice references the frozen lamb and it melts over time,” said Jesse Marcelo Sarkis, an education coordinator at Ryerson Artspace.

As it melted, the projection became brighter and illuminated three framed photographs of the individual lambs cushioned in snow, frozen to death. Their ashes and bones lay trapped beneath the photo frame’s sheet of glass.

“It’s like life and you try to understand something like death being projected with poor resolution through this ice block,” Sarkis said. “The only time you’d see a clear image of what death is, is when the ice is gone. When the ice is gone, your life is over.“

The small booklets, written by Christou, describe the inspiration and interpretation of the exhibition through simple narrative and bible passages.

“The last book in the bible is called Revelations and in a way this piece is my confrontations with end time and death,” She said. “I’m not afraid of death and I’m certainly not afraid of life but it is that space between death and life that everyone questions.”

Ryerson Artspace director Robyn Cumming recalls the installment as it was originally designed at Christou’s ME appearance, featuring the projection directly upon the photographs due to lack of space.

“It was kind of unorthodox in terms of not being traditional photos on a wall,” Cumming said of the piece featuring both photo and video. “It was beautiful in terms of showing what students were making in the program and branching out, using different technologies.”

With more room in the Ryerson Artspace, the photography and projection shining through the ice stood alone and distinct.

The recurring element of cycles in this installation was repeatedly discussed between the artist and her audience milling about the gallery.

Sarkis said he felt these cycles — what he describes as “a fundamental portion of Lamentations” —were an accurate translation of Christou’s emotional experiences with life and death.

“It’s all these cycles working together: the film, the ice, the resolution of death being projected through the ice.”

Meagan Christou’s Lamentations will be shown at Ryerson Artspace gallery until Sept 27.

Correction: Christou’s piece was featured in Maximum Exposure, not Mass Exodus. The lambs came from Christou’s neighbour. A previous version of the story said a friend of Christou’s was involved with the piece. We have since learned that this is not the case. The Eyeopener regrets the errors.

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