From Yalálag: An Interview with Citlali Fabián

From Yalálag: An Interview with Citlali Fabián

How to represent oneself to the world is a fundamental question in the history of photography. By analyzing her own traditions and through her distinctive images, Citlali Fabián addresses issues of cultural identity using classic photographic techniques. She is part of a young generation of photographers exploring and pushing on the possibilities of the medium, willing to experiment and to produce pictures that are unique and original. I met the artist during her time living in Rochester, New York where she kindly invited me to write an introductory text for her solo exhibition Mestiza at Centro Cultural San Pablo in Oaxaca City this past March. This invitation initiated the following conversation pursuing my interest to learn more about her creative process and her ideas about identity and photography.

Citlali FabianClaudia Pretelin: During the past few years, there has been a revival of the daguerreotype and the production of wet-collodion plates among younger photographers interested in making artistic use of early photographic processes. What led to your interest in daguerreotypes, wet-collodion plates, and even Polaroids?

Citlali Fabián: Something vital for me is for my work to be distinctive. In the digital era I wanted to offer this alternative that, I believe, creates a closer and more intimate connection with it. This interest was born from a personal search, from experimentation, from using a digital camera, and from realizing that it was not part of my creative process. My creative process is slower and this kind of photography requires me to take the time to make it, to be a little more selective when you see behind the lens.

 

“I’m interested in documenting any cultural transformation, not only in Yalálag, but also in other places where Yalaltecos have migrated and replicated their traditions.”

CP: In the series I am from Yalálag, you photograph the everyday life of your community. In today’s globalized world, how do Yalaltecos keep their local traditions and how do you choose which traditions to document?

CF: These traditions are part of everyday life. It is impossible to be isolated from the outside world and changes are inevitable. However, I think we’ve assimilated these changes and transformed them within our community. For example, we have “The Dance of Santa Claus” and “The Dance of Superheroes” [Performative dances by Yalaltecos to celebrate patron saint days in which performers embrace the image of superheroes such as Captain America, Wolverine and Santa Claus] which are satirical enactments of American figures in a traditional celebration from Yalálag. I’m interested in documenting any cultural transformation, not only in Yalálag, but also in other places where Yalaltecos have migrated and replicated their traditions. This is a long-term project.
Yalálag, Oaxaca. Credit Citlali FabiánCP: Other photographs taken in Yalálag, such as Lola Álvarez Bravo’s come to mind when thinking about your community. Does this work have influenced you or do you think that you have an inside look that gives a different perspective of Yalálag?

CF: Lola Álvarez Bravo’s images are not so well know in my community. The most well know is “Burial in Yalálag”. While I was studying photography they became a reference for me. Perhaps what interested me the most about her trip to Yalálag were the small texts I read about her experience. In those texts she describes what she saw in Yalálag. Even with the time gap between our images, what she describes is completely familiar to what I remember from Yalálag. Perhaps the images by Julio de la Fuente are more familiar to Yalaltecos. These photographs were taken before Lola’s with a more anthropological point of view.

CP: How did you come up with the idea of Mestiza?

CF: I came up with the idea of Mestiza while I was living in Mexico City. At the time, I was enrolled in the Master’s program at UNAM and I was directing my research project towards the production of wet-collodion plates. I was interested in studying the technical and historical aspects of this process. Prior to this, I had worked with self-portraiture. However, due to technical difficulties it was not possible to continue with self-portraits. I had this idea to make representations of Zapotec deities, to represent elements that were part of my identity. I also began to make portraits that allowed me to develop a relationship with and an immediate reaction from the people that posed in front of my camera.From the series Mestiza

CP: How did the project evolve as you created the portraits of your subjects?

CF: This process allowed me to start a collaborative conversation. I talked to my models, close friends of mine, about how they felt seeing themselves in these pieces. I got similar responses. There was certain skepticism about these images. Some did not recognize themselves in those images but felt a certain echo from the past. Something from the past was connecting with us through these portraits. I remember the first time I asked someone to pose for this project; it was my close friend and also an artist, Gabriela Zubillaga. I had previously helped her to document some sculptural and performance pieces. We had established a close friendship and a photographic connection. In that session she appears like a goddess, wearing a peñacho de Totomostle [a headdress made out of corn]. It was like seeing Mayahuel [The Aztec Goddess of the Maguey] in front of me. The project was developing in front of my eyes, guiding me to continue. Then I started to work more with corn as a key element in my photographs. I called my close friends and family and together we developed these representations of our identity as a way of acknowledging and unifying our roots.

CP: What images have you lost along the way? Maybe something that you’ve witnessed but you didn’t have your camera to capture it?

CF: More than not having the camera in my hand, there are certain moments in which emotionally I can’t make an image. The moments that I remember the most are when my grandparents died. From those moments I only keep images and memories in my mind.

Citlali Fabián is a visual artist from Yalálag, a small town in Oaxaca, southern Mexico. She holds a B.A. in Photography from the Universidad Veracruzana and a Certificate in Photographic Preservation and Collection Management from the George Eastman Museum. Her ongoing work Mestiza was featured on The New York Times’ Lens blog and her most recent project addresses the image of the American flag in the landscape of residential neighborhoods in the United States.

If you want to check out more of her work follow her on Instagram and/or her website.

 

 

 

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Focus 45: Claudia Pretelin, From the Kodak Girl to the Kodak Snapshot: Kodak Advertising 1920–1940

Early Kodak advertising is mostly associated with the iconic image of the Kodak Girl. Then in the 1930s, Eastman Kodak Company turned their advertising campaigns over to the New York advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. How did this change affect the public image of Kodak? Claudia Pretelin, art historian, will explore this era of Kodak advertising and how it created the basis for the so-called snapshot aesthetic. GEM-2017-Focus45-July-Eflyer

Claudia Pretelin holds a BA in communications and received her MA and PhD in art history from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). For ten years, she worked as a personal assistant to the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. In 2011, she was awarded a fellowship from the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) in support of her continuing research in Kodak advertising at the George Eastman Museum. She has worked for different museums, foundations, and photo collections in Mexico City, including the Fotoseptiembre Festival in 1999 and the International Biennial of Photography in 2000. She is currently exhibitions associate at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center in Rochester, New York.

Event Details

Saturday, July 22, 2017
12 p.m.
Curtis Theatre
George Eastman Museum

This Month in the History of Photography

This Month in the History of Photography

The following events occurred this month in the History of Photography:

“When another hundred years have rolled around and the achievements of nineteenth century scientist have been sifted and weighed George Eastman will probably be place alongside of Daguerre. Daguerre is like the man who cut away the underbrush on the edge of the forest. Eastman swung his axe into the wood, made the clearing and tilled the soil and reaped the harvest.”

This fragment was taken from the first authorized newspaper biography of the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, titled “George Eastman. The man behind the Kodak” published on November 3, 1912 by the New York Sun. The article accounts the many achievements of Eastman and draws a profile of one of the most notable men in Rochester describing him not only as an entrepreneur but a philanthropist.

On November 3, 1903, American photographer Walker Evans was born in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1926, Evans travelled to Paris as an aspiring writer and there he encountered the images of Eugène Atget and August Sander. In 1927, back in the United States, he pursued photography as his own way to tell stories. Commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, Evans captured with his 8x10in view camera some of the most representative images in the history of photography that document the effects of the Great Depression. By 1938, he had his first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, becoming the first photographer to achieve this distinction. His documentary style inspired generations of photographers and his images have been widely exhibited and published around the world.

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Walker Evans, Posters covering a building near Lynchburg to advertise a Downie Bros. circus, 1936. U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540 USA.

Robert Mapplethorpe was born on November 4, 1946 in New York. In 1963, he enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he studied drawing, painting and sculpture. Mapplethorpe first took up the camera in the early 1970s when a friend loaned him a Polaroid SX-70. As a photographer, he worked for Andy Warhol´s Interview magazine and had his first solo show exhibition in New York in 1976. His intentionally provocative work in portraiture and figure studies often explores nudity and sexuality in a highly stylized way and he remains as one of the most influential photographers of the late twentieth century.

On November 9, 1924 photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank was born in Zürich to a Swiss mother and a German father. In 1947 not long after the war ended, Frank departed to the United States. In New York, he landed a job as a photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. By 1955, after being awarded a Guggenheim grant, Frank travelled through the United States with his 35mm Leica. During this period, the photographer shoot around 27,000 pictures but only 83 of those images were published in The Americans, one of the most influential books in the history of photographyBy the 1960s Frank turned his interest into film and since then he has produced a significant amount of independent free essay films including Cocksucker Blues, a documentary about the Rolling Stones tour in the United States in the early 70s.

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“Cycling around the world” Photographs by MM. William L. Satchleben and Thomas G. Allen. November 15, 1890.

On November 15, 1890, two years after the introduction of the Kodak Camera No.1, the Penny Illustrated Paper published an article titled “Cycling around the world” with photographs by the American Tourist Cyclists, M M. William L. Satchleben and Thomas G. Allen. Both photographers traveled to France and photographed the scenery of their trip. The Penny Illustrated published the letter sent by Satchleben and Allen in full-page narrating their adventures in the European country and illustrating them with some “Kodak Views.” It is not uncommon to find these kinds of articles in the early days of Kodak. The Eastman company invested part of their advertising campaigns into promoting their products among cyclists including cases to attach their camera to the bicycles.

Este mes en la historia de la fotografía.

Este mes en la historia de la fotografía.

Los siguientes eventos tuvieron lugar este mes en la historia de la fotografía:

Annie Leibovitz nació el 2 de octubre de 1949 en Waterbury, Connecticut. En 1968 inició estudios de pintura en el Instituto de Arte de San Francisco en donde descubrió la fotografía, medio que la sedujo por su inmediatez. En 1973 se convirtió en la jefa del departamento de fotografía de la revista Rolling Stone y se ha dicho que su obra ayudó a definir el estilo y apariencia de la revista. En 1983 se unió a Vanity Fair y produjo algunas de las más memorables portadas para la revista. En 1991 su trabajo se exhibió en el International Center of Photography en Nueva York y de acuerdo a William Hartshorn entonces director del ICP, esta exposición fue designada como una de las más populares en la historia del lugar. Muchas de sus imágenes han sido llamadas íconos de nuestro tiempo, incluyendo la fotografía que tomó de John Lennon y Yoko Ono para la portada de Rolling Stone y la controversial imagen de Demi Moore para la portada de Vanity Fair.

Stephen Shore nació el 8 de octubre de 1947. Sus inicios en fotografía se remontan a la edad de seis años cuando un tío le regaló un set de fotografía Kodak. A la edad de nueve años adquirió su primer cámara 35 mm y para cuando cumplió once años ya estaba convencido de que se convertiría en fotógrafo. En 1960 cuando Shore tenía apenas 17 años, conoció a Andy Warhol. De acuerdo al fotógrafo, este encuentro fue un momento crucial en su vida el cual marcó algunos de los intereses estéticos de Shore. Para 1971, Shore contaba con una exposición en el Museo Metropolitano de Arte en Nueva York convirtiéndose en el fotógrafo vivo más joven en tener una muestra individual en el MET.

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Dorothea Lange, Resettlement Administration photographer, in California. 1936. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540

Dorothea Lange falleció el 11 de octubre de 1965 en San Francisco, California a la edad de 70 años. Cuando los doctores le informaron que sólo contaba con algunos meses de vida, la fotógrafa aún pensaba en fotografiar a su familia, realizar un documental con imágenes acerca de la Farm Security Administration y documentar la sindicalización de obreros migrantes en California. Ninguno de estos proyectos se verían completados. El último proyecto en el que colaboró fue para una retrospectiva de su obra en el Museo de Arte Moderno de Nueva York. Lange trabajó de cerca con John Szarkowsi, curador del departamento de fotografía del MoMa, en la toma decisiones sobre el contenido y organización de las fotografías. La exposición se inauguró el 15 de enero de 1966, después del fallecimiento de la fotógrafa.

En octubre 27 de 1972, la revista LIFE publicó en su portada una fotografía de Edwin Land en la cual demuestra su nuevo invento la SX-70. Una cámara que podía doblarse al tamaño de una cigarrera y la cual cabía en el bolsillo de un abrigo. La revista tituló el artículo “Un genio y su cámara mágica” y muestra a Land rodeado de niños sosteniendo el modelo SX-70. Esta cámara fue el primer aparato autofocus, motorizado, con sistema plegable y visor réflex que produjo impresiones instantáneas a color. Para 1973, el modelo SX-70 se vendió una proporción de cinco mil por día.

This Month in the History of Photography

This Month in the History of Photography

The following events occurred this month in the History of Photography:

Annie Leibovitz was born on October 2, 1949, in Waterbury, Connecticut. In 1968, she went to study painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. There she discovered photography and was seduced by the immediacy of the medium. In 1973, she became Rolling Stone’s chief photographer and it’s been said that her work helped to define the look and style of the magazine. In 1983, she joined Vanity Fair and created some of the most memorable covers for the magazine. In 1991, her work was exhibited at the International Center of Photography in New York and according to William Hartshorn, then Deputy Director of the ICP, this exhibition was designated as one of the most popular in the history of the venue. Many of her images have been called icons of our time, including the photograph she took of John Lennon and Yoko Ono for the cover of Rolling Stone and the controversial image of Demi Moore for the cover of Vanity Fair.

Stephen Shore was born on October 8, 1947. When he was six years old an uncle gave him a Kodak darkroom set and that initiated him into photography. At nine, he got his first 35mm camera and by the time he was 11 years old he was convinced that he would be a photographer. In the 1960s, he met Andy Warhol when Shore was only 17 years old. Shore has said that meeting Andy Warhol was a turning point in his life and surely marked some of the photographer’s aesthetic interests. By 1971, he had exhibited his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York becoming the youngest living photographer to have a solo exhibition at the MET.

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Dorothea Lange, Resettlement Administration photographer, in California. 1936.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540

Dorothea Lange died on October 11, 1965, in San Francisco, California, at age 70. When Lange’s doctors told her she only had months to live, the photographer was still thinking about photographing her family to make a documentary about the Farm Security Administration photographs and to document the unionization of migrants workers in California. None of those projects would be completed. The last project she was involved with was a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Lange and John Szarkowsi, head of the Museum’s Department of Photography, collaborated closely on the decisions of content and the organization of the photographs. The exhibition opened in January 15, 1966, after the death of the photographer.

On October 27, 1972, LIFE magazine published a photograph of Edwin Land where he demonstrates his new invention, the SX-70. A camera that could be folded down to the size if a cigar case and could fit in a coat pocket. The magazine titled the piece, “A Genius and his Magic Camera” and it shows Land surrounded by children holding the SX-70 model. This camera was the first automated, motorized, folding, single lens reflex camera to produce self-developing instant color prints. By 1973, the SX-70 model was sold at the rate of five thousand a day.

153: Entrevista con Lodoe Laura

153: Entrevista con Lodoe Laura

“El acto de resistencia tiene dos caras. Es humano y también es el acto del arte.

Sólo el acto de resistencia resiste a la muerte, sea bajo la forma de obra de arte, sea bajo la forma de la lucha de los hombres.”

Gilles Deleuze

 El 27 febrero de 2009, el tercer día de Losar (palabra tibetana para designar el año nuevo), un joven monje de nombre Tapey se auto-inmoló. En forma de protesta contra las políticas del gobierno Chino en Tibet, Tapey corrió a la calle y encendió con fuego su túnica impregnada de gasolina. En llamas, levantó la bandera del Tibet con una fotografía del Dalai Lama al centro. En ese momento, la policía militar china le disparó.

153 es la exposición de la artista Lodoe Laura en el Ryerson Artspace, la cual aborda los hechos ocurridos ese día en febrero y las muertes subsecuentes de 150 tibetanos que han elegido el camino de la auto-inmolación, siguiendo los pasos de Tapey. Recopilando fotografías de aquellos que sacrificaron sus vidas en acto de protesta contra el violento dominio chino en el Tíbet, Laura hace estas muertes visibles para el público occidental a través de una serie de imágenes impresas en incienso. En esta obra la joven Tibetana-Canadiense e hija de un refugiado, nos previene de olvidarlos y hace hincapié en la importancia de la obra de arte como un acto de resistencia.

Me puse en contacto con Lodoe Laura para conocer más acerca de su trabajo y el proceso que siguió para crear 153. La siguiente conversación se llevó a cabo vía correo electrónico.

Claudia Pretelin: ¿Cuéntame cómo te interesaste por el arte? ¿Cómo comenzó todo?

Lodoe Laura: Inicialmente me interesé por la fotografía documental y el fotoperiodismo, pero por medio de mis estudios en la School of Image Arts de la Universidad Ryerson, mi trabajo dio un giro conceptual. Así que además de hacer fotografía, también trabajo video, instalación y escultura.

CP: ¿Cómo elijes los temas que quieres explorar?

LL: Exploro temas de cruces culturales, memoria colectiva y la intersección de prácticas políticas y culturales. Algunas veces mi obra es muy política y trato de trabajar a través de la representación de conflicto y comunidad. Otra veces, mi obra puede ser muy personal. Por ejemplo, el último proyecto que hice fue un video de mi padre enseñándome el alfabeto Tibetano. Escojo hacer obra sobre lo que estoy reflexionando y uso la práctica artística para comunicar esas reflexiones y temas que creo que son importantes.

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Cortesía de la artista Lodoe Laura

CP: ¿Qué tipo de proceso sigues para crear tu obra?

 LL: Comienzo con una idea, la cual por lo general inicia a partir de conversaciones, experiencias o de alguna lectura. Paso tiempo investigando aquello en lo que estoy interesada y busco otros artistas que hayan respondido de una forma similar a esos eventos o experiencias, ya sean poetas, escritores o artistas visuales. De esta manera, el proceso se va desarrollando, cambiando y la obra va tomando forma. Trabajo con varios medios, los cuales me permiten experimentar con libertad y utilizar el medio adecuado para el tema al que me dirijo. A menudo utilizo materiales poco convencionales o utilizo materiales de manera poco convencional. 153 son fotografías impresas a mano con incienso y antes he trabajo con otros materiales como arena coloreada y concreto.

 CP: ¿Cómo utilizas nuevas tecnologías y redes sociales en tu obra?

LL: Para la exposición 153 las imágenes provienen de distintos activistas y grupos de exiliados. Puede ser muy complicado encontrar fotografías o información de las auto-inmolaciones ocurridas en Tibet desde occidente. Esto debido en gran parte al bloqueo de información por parte del gobierno chino dentro de Tibet. Comentar o mostrar imágenes de la gente que se ha auto-inmolado en protesta del clima sociopolítico dentro de Tibet es en directa oposición a la narrativa que las autoridades intentan presentar: Shangri-la un paraíso del Himalaya; una idealizada tierra utópica y mítica. Lejos de esto, las acciones de los auto inmolados son sólo algunas de las muchas formas que los tibetanos están socavando esa narrativa desde dentro. Debo darle reconocimiento a Woeser, autora, activista, y blogger dentro de Tibet quien valientemente escribe sobre los auto-inmolados y tanto su blog como su más reciente libro Tibet on Fire, fueron fuentes primarias de información para obtener nombres, fechas e imágenes.

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Cortesía de la artista Lodoe Laura

CP: ¿Puedes contarnos específicamente sobre los materiales utilizados en el proceso de creación de 153?

LL: El carbón es utilizado en un ritual de oración budista tibetano llamado Sang, humo de ofrenda ritual similar al incienso. La primera parte del proyecto consistió en ir a varios monasterios y casas de la comunidad exiliada donde recolecté el carbón y las cenizas de incienso de la ofrenda Sang. Debido a su uso como ritual de oración, recopilar esto significó para mí una forma de recolectar las oraciones de la comunidad.Después, con mi padre molí, sequé y tamicé la mezcla hasta hacerla un fino polvo. Una vez que acumulé un archivo de fotografías de los auto inmolados en mi computadora, comencé a analizarlas. Debido a la falta de información desde dentro del Tibet, el número depende de acuerdo a la fuente, pero por medio de mi investigación, 153 fue la lista más completa que pude compilar.

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Cortesía de la artista Lodoe Laura
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Cortesía de la artista Lodoe Laura

La mayoría de las imágenes que los grupos activistas pudieron recuperar fueron de teléfonos celulares y con muy baja resolución, así que convertí cada imagen en archivos Bitmap –que lo que hacen es que convierten imágenes fotográficas a color en imágenes hechas sólo a puntos blanco y negro. Posteriormente las imprimí en acetato el cual utilicé para imprimir en las pantallas de serigrafía en el cuarto oscuro.

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Cortesía de la artista Lodoe Laura

Una vez que las pantallas quedaron listas, regresé al incienso que recolecté de la comunidad de exiliados. Mezclé el fino polvo del carbón con tinta tradicional haciendo goma para crear tinta hecha a mano. Utilizando la pantalla como negativo y presionando el carbón y la goma a través de la pantalla hice un positivo en papel. Esto creó las imágenes finales de los auto- inmolados las cuales están expuestas en el Artspace. Si miras de cerca cada imagen, especialmente las que muestran mucho más negro, puedes ver el granulado y la textura del carbón y las cenizas del incienso. Dado el uso como ritual de oración, para mí es una representación no sólo de la protesta de los inmolados, sino una representación de la oraciones de la comunidad de exiliados. Por esta razón, es importante que la textura quede aún visible en las impresiones finales.

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Cortesía de la artista Lodoe Laura

CP: Y también hay un video que acompaña las impresiones.

LL: El video que hice es una base de datos con las fechas de las auto-inmolaciones. La impresión de las imágenes a mano fue un proceso muy lento y de intensa labor, quería hacer algo que contrastara con la repetición lenta de las imágenes impresas. Este video muestra las fechas de cada auto-inmolación en sucesión rápida. Cambia rápidamente de luz extrema a oscuridad extrema. Debido a la rápida sucesión entre ambas, los ojos no tienen tiempo de ajustarse al cambio. Esto pretende crear el efecto perturbador de una imagen posterior, de esta manera las fechas son visibles incluso después de que el observador deja de mirar. Inicialmente me topé con esta idea después de ver la pieza de Alfredo Jaar, Geometry of Conscience en el Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos. El arte de protesta política será necesariamente insuficiente. Mi trabajo existe sólo como un hilo en una conversación más grande y compleja que se está llevando a cabo en la sociedad tibetana acerca de la auto-inmolación, las protestas y lo que significa que estas acciones se lleven a cabo.

CP: Leí que estás planeando graduarte este año. ¿Qué sigue para Lodoe Laura?

 LL: Una de mis metas ahora que tendré más tiempo es mejorar mi habilidad para aprender el lenguaje tibetano. Estoy asistiendo a uno de mis profesores favoritos, Clare Samuel, en algunas de sus clases y estoy interesada en enseñar en el futuro. Estoy buscando programas de posgrado en Canadá y en el extranjero. He estado en Toronto por siete años y aunque está comenzando a sentirse como mi hogar, tengo la esperanza de un cambio y un nuevo reto.

153

Lodoe Laura

Del 1 al 25 de septiembre de 2016

Ryerson Artspace

Gladstone Hotel 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto.

Lodoe Laura es una artista multidisciplinaria que vive y trabaja en Toronto, Canadá. En 2015, fue acreedora de una beca de fotografía de Magnum, actualmente está terminando el programa de fotografía en la Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts. Su trabajo ha sido reconocido con la beca AIMIA½AGO y este año fue ganadora del premio Flash Forward Award otorgado por la Fundación Magenta

Si quieres ver más de su trabajo síguela en Tumblr y/o en su website

Claudia Pretelin es una escritora de la ciudad de México que actualmente reside en Rochester, Nueva York. Terminó la carrera de comunicación y recibió un título de maestría y un doctorado en historia del arte en la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

153: Interview with Lodoe Laura

153: Interview with Lodoe Laura

“The act of resistance has two faces. It is human and it is also the act of art.

Only the act of resistance resists death, either as a work of art or as human struggle.”

Gilles Deleuze

On February 27, 2009, the third day of Losar (the Tibetan word for New Year), a young monk by the name of Tapey set himself on fire. In an act of protest against China’s Tibet policies, Tapey ran into the streets and lit his gasoline-soaked robes. While in flames, he raised a Tibetan flag with a photograph of the Dalai Lama. Then he was shot by Chinese military police.

153, Lodoe Laura’s solo show at the Ryerson Artspace, addresses the events that occurred that day in February and the subsequent deaths of more than 150 Tibetans that have chosen the path of self-immolation, following the steps of Tapey. Collecting images of those who sacrificed their lives as desperate acts of protest against the Chinese violent rule in Tibet, Laura makes them visible to Western audiences through a series of hand printed in incense images. In this body of work the young Tibetan-Canadian daughter of a refugee prevents us from forgetting them and stresses the importance of art as an act of resistance.

I reached out to Lodoe Laura to learn more about her work and the process she followed to create 153. The following is a conversation that took place over email.

Claudia Pretelin: What got you into art? How did it all start?

Lodoe Laura: Initially, I was interested in documentary photography and photojournalism, but through my studies at the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University, my work has shifted to be more conceptually based. So in addition to photography, I also work in video, installation, and sculpture.

CP: How do you choose the topics you want to explore?

LL: I explore themes of cultural crossover, collective memory, and the intersection of cultural and political practice. At times my work is highly political and I am trying to work through the representation of conflict and of community. Then, other times it can be highly personal. For example, the last work I made was a two-channel video piece of my dad teaching me the Tibetan alphabet. I choose to make work about what I’m thinking about, and I use my artistic practice to communicate my thoughts and things that I feel are important.

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Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

CP: What sort of processes do you use to create your work?

LL: It starts with an idea. Usually it comes from conversations, experiences, or from my reading. Then, I spend time researching whatever it is I’m interested in. I look at other artists of many media – poets, writers, visual artists, and performers – who may have responded to similar events or experiences. Then, the process develops and changes as the work starts to form. I work across many media, which allows me the freedom to experiment and to use the right method for the topic I am addressing. Oftentimes, I use unconventional materials or I use traditional materials unconventionally. 153 are photographs hand printed in incense, and I’ve worked before with colored sand and concrete as materials.

CP: How do you employ new technologies and social media for your work?

LL: For 153, the images are sourced from different activist and exile groups. It can be very difficult to find photographs or information on the Tibetan self-immolations in the West. This is due in large part to the Chinese government’s communications crackdown inside Tibet. Discussing or displaying images of the people that have set themselves on fire in protest of the sociopolitical climate inside Tibet is in direct opposition to the narrative authorities attempt to present – that is, as a Shangri-la paradise in the Himalayas; an idealized, mythical, utopian land. It is far from it, and the actions of the self-immolators are just one of many ways Tibetans inside Tibet are undermining that narrative. Therefore, activist and advocacy groups in exile collecting and publishing online the photographs, dates, and stories of the self-immolated, is an act of resistance to the presented narrative. I do want to recognize Woeser, who is an author, activist, and blogger inside Tibet. She bravely posts about the self-immolations and her blog and most recent book, Tibet on Fire, were primary sources for information – names, dates, and images.

CP: Can you tell us more specifically about the materials and the process to create 153?

LL: Charcoal is used in a Tibetan Buddhist prayer ritual called Sang – a smoke offering ritual similar to incense. The first part of my project involved going to several monasteries and homes of the exile community where I collected their charcoal and incense ash from the Sang offering. Because of its use in prayer ritual, collecting this was, for me, a way of

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Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

collecting the prayers of the community. Then, with my father, I milled, dried, and sifted the mixture so that it was a fine powder. Once I amassed an archive of photographs of the self-immolators on my computer, I started going through and looking at them. Because of the lack of free flowing information from inside Tibet, this number varies depending on your source, but through my research 153 was the most complete list I could compile.

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Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura
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Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

Most of the images the activists were able to recover were from cell phones, and were of a very low resolution. So I turned each image into Bitmap files – what this did was turn the images from full color photographs into an image made only up of black or white dots. Then, I printed them onto transparency film, which was used to print onto silk-screens in the darkroom.

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Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

Once the silk-screens were made, I went back to the incense I collected from the exile community. I mixed the fine charcoal powder with traditional ink making gum medium to create handmade ink. Then, using the screen as a negative, the charcoal and gum were pushed through to make a positive image on paper. This created the final positive images of the self-immolated, which are displayed at the Artspace. If you look closely at each image, and especially one of the heavily black images, you can see the granules and texture of the charcoal and incense ash. Because of its use in prayer ritual it was, for me, a representation not only of the burning protest, it was also a representation of the prayers of the exile community. So for this reason it was important that the texture was still visible in the final prints.

      

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Courtesy of artist Lodoe Laura

CP: And there is also a video along with the prints.

LL: I made a video, which is a database of the dates of the self-immolations. The hand printing of the prints was a very slow, labor-intensive process, and I wanted to make something that contrasted the slow repetition of the hand printed images. This video displays the dates of each self-immolation in rapid succession. It flips quickly between extreme light and extreme dark. Because it switches so quickly between the two, your eyes don’t have time to adjust to either. This is intended to create the unsettling effect of an after-image, so the dates are visible even after you’ve stopped looking. I first came across the idea of an after-image after viewing Alfredo Jaar’s Geometry of Conscience at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. Art about political protest will necessarily be insufficient. My work exists only as one thread in a larger, complex conversation that is being held in Tibetan society about self-­immolation, protest, and what it means when these actions are taken.

CP: I read that you are planning to graduate this year. What’s next for Lodoe Laura?

LL: One of my goals now that I’ll have more time is to improve my Tibetan language skills. I’m assisting one of my favorite professors, Clare Samuel, in some of her undergraduate classes, and am interested in teaching in the future. I’m looking into graduate programs in Canada and abroad. I’ve been in Toronto for seven years, and even though it’s starting to feel like home, I’m hoping for a change and new challenge.

153

Lodoe Laura

Exhibition Run: September 1st- 25th, 2016

Ryerson Artspace

Gladstone Hotel 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto.

Lodoe Laura is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Toronto, Canada. She was a recipient of a Magnum Photo scholarship in 2015, and is completing her BFA in Photography at Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts. Her work has been recognized with the AIMIA AGO Scholarship Prize, and most recently was a winner of The Magenta Foundation’s 2016 Flash Forward Award.

If you want to check out more of her work follow her on Tumblr and/or her website

Claudia Pretelin is a writer from Mexico City and currently resides in Rochester, New York. She holds a B.A. in Communications and received her M.A. and a Ph.D. in Art History from The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).