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Karen Ostrom
Brooklyn, NY

ARTIST STATEMENT: My current practice with photography and video has developed out of a much larger photographic practice involving a series of tableaus about a fictional utopian/dystopian fishing village called Holiday in Hope, where I play ‘template’ characters (‘boy’ and ‘girl’) as a means to discuss socio and economic issues within the dynamics of a seaside industrial economy and what it means to construct a society born of idealism. Although still growing this project, I’m using it more effectively as a launching off point for related but also independent works in video, animation and installation that explore abstract and linear narrative structures based on the factory worker, labor, automation and gesture, and the idea of interconnectedness.

One of the primary characters in the village is the Glovemaker maker of the handglove, a morphed hand and latex glove. The handglove has become its own series of works, including tableaus, installations and animations. I am currently working on a cycloramic installation consisting of a series of animated fingerglove looping projections (variation of the handglove). Created for projection within a darkened room, the twenty or more animations are variations of V-etude#1 (see documentation video).

In an attempt to look more closely at some of the issues addressed in two of my cycloramic installations as well as to find a way of showing the work beyond the gallery experience, I reinterpreted them as animations. Smoking Gun was made for the project room at MOCCA in Toronto for the CONTACT Photography Festival in 2007. It was 5’ x 140’ and put the viewer amidst a stampede of sawhorses and the two characters playing a version of ‘Cowboys & Indians’. Big Game, 2005 was an installation based on a photograph taken by an unidentified photographer in Africa during the 30s of a showdown between a hunter and a lion and put the viewer in the precarious place of the original (unidentified) photographer. The animation enabled me to integrate the original photograph into my tableau version.

Although un-related to the core project, the video The End exemplifies and underscores my interest in narrative structures and is another direction I am taking my work in video. The End is the closing credits to a movie never made, however the credits play out 'in order of appearance' providing clues to the imagined cinematic experience.


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The result of a yearlong collaboration between Ostrom and Toronto composer Shannon Graham, “Patent Pending” presented a unique collaboration of original live music and multiple projections, and was presented at the 918 Bathurst Art Centre. Installation & Animation: Karen Ostrom Composition: Shannon Graham, Ben Dietschi, Caitlin Smith Violin: Véronique Mathieu Trumpet: Lina Allemano Piano/Toy Piano: Stephanie Chua Bass: Jesse Dietschi Below is the text from the Writer as she narrates the story: This is not a Love Story It’s the being of two minds where the factories hum in a relative calm Where action meets inaction it writes itself it rights itself it can’t rite itself its a total re-write Ideas are planted Sewn Into the minutes of each day The salt breeze brings changes Everything it touches She knows he’s there He sometimes watches her wondering about his head and where it came from and if he lost his head, would he also lose his mind? She wonders too, watching him She wonders if the confusion comes from having so many heads She thinks about death Is there work after death? There are just so many bodies needing to get a head She wonders how one can change their mind without changing their head It keeps the factories running Through the eye of the needle she can see the future It’s always the same Through the eye she sees the present There is a present in the future There is future in the present presence It hung in the air like a suggestion A little more salt breeze an idea begins to form to crystallize as if from a dream Confusion & Clarity embrace She always wanted to tell him this He didn’t want to know Is this not a Love Story?? The factories keep running….they’re never idle He wonders if it were his decisions or his dreams Their 2 minds getting to the heart of the matter He dreams of death He dreams of another change of mind The silence between them having no meaning

The Card Players is one piece in a series of animated tintypes that are set to play on a tablet and set within the conventions of museum display by being matted and framed and hung on the wall as a traditional picture. The characters come alive with their animated movement and subtitled text to their conversation. Using a real 19th Century tintype, I photoshopped my own characters (all played by me) from a fictional narrative that concerns itself with labor, war time gossip, and domestic affairs, all of which seem to repeat - much as in the way the piece loops. Neither hopeful nor pessimistic, the work is meant to reflect on some of the ways in which change may be an illusion. Text is written by playwright Joy Tomasko


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