– An exhibition about resistance
You are currently presenting your first solo show in Norway at Fotogalleriet. Could you tell us a bit about the body of work you are presenting in the exhibition?
The exhibition surveys my photographic practice spanning editorials and artistic work. It goes back to images of my native town, Stakhanov, a post-industrial city where I grew up, which has a layered history from Soviet times, to arrive to last year, when I had to flee the country because of the aggressive Russian invasion and occupation. It is an exhibition about resistance, dedicated to the Ukrainian people and our struggle for independence, which involves artistic freedom of expression, including the freedom to depict the contradictions of societal development, liberation from gender roles, and rethinking structures of power and education. I use a lot of color in my work, and it is essential to present another side of Ukraine to remember what we are fighting for.
The title of the show is 4:59, which refers to the minute before the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine- could you elaborate on this title?
Although the world knew, some a few hours before, some a few days earlier, some for longer, that our sovereign space in Ukraine would come under heavy military attack from Russian imperial forces, there is still a moment, a minute, when that spell becomes visible. Entire history and traumas come to mind in flux when that aggression is turning into reality. The exhibition is trying to capture that moment of recollection.
4:59 is the last minute and has become a symbol. The title indicates this sudden threat of losing freedom and self-determination, forcing shifts in the signification of memories, places, people, and representation. On some levels, I hope people can empathize with this universal, devastating feeling.
In the show you are among other things presenting grand-scale photographs as wallpapers on the exhibition space walls. How have you worked with the exhibition space in this show?
As an artist and a photographer working with commissions and my artistic practice, I have worked with massive formats when exhibiting my work in huge halls like train stations while also working on the limited space of the page for magazines and books. I wanted to bring these different scales to the exhibition in a kunsthalle, a white cube, and another space for me. I also wanted to maintain the role images play in intimacy for everyone as we all have had pictures in our rooms as teenagers, and that’s why there is a different treatment of pictures in the exhibition, some framed, some used in a bedroom sort of situation so that people can feel at home and close to what I’m presenting. Trauma also makes images travel differently, mixes them up, and reconstructs memory, which I have tried to actively use in the exhibition space.
February 27th there will be an event in connection with the exhibition. What is on the agenda this evening?
I will be talking about my work with Marta Kuzma, Professor and former Dean of Yale School of Art, at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts library. I’m excited about it as I’m not sure how much people know in Norway about the particularity of the Ukrainian art and photography scene and Kharkiv, where I had my first professional experiences while also inspired by the Kharkiv School of Photography and Boris Mikhailov for example, which were moving my thought process. Still, Mikhailov was also the subject of the first retrospective in Ukraine curated by Marta Kuzma in 1996 in Kyiv, where I was active in the 2000s. The Ukrainian art scene flourished in the 1990s and the subsequent decades while gaining independence and reclaiming its history. It is crucial to bring attention to the many Ukrainian artists who paved the way for that, as I will share thoughts and background about my work.
THE EXHIBITION 4:59 BY JULIE POLY IS ON SHOW AT FOTOGALLERIET TILL 05.03. ON MONDAY 27 FEBRUARY, 6:00—7:30PM, THE ARTIST JULIE POLY WILL BE IN CONVERSATION WITH MARTA KUZMA, PROFESSOR AT THE YALE SCHOOL OF ART. THE EVENT WILL TAKE PLACE AT THE ACADEMY OF FINE ART, OSLO NATIONAL ACADEMY OF THE ARTS. THE PUBLIC EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO ALL. ON FRIDAY FEBRUARY 24TH, THE EXHIBITION AT FOTOGALLERIET WILL BE OPEN UNTIL MIDNIGHT, COMMEMORATING THE DATE OF THE FULL SCALE INVASION OF UKRAINE IN 2022.