Lamentations: Explorations of life and death

Meagan Christou rubs her hand against a block of ice. A projection of flames struggles to pierce through the opaque centre as she tries to melt down the frost before her opening reception begins. The installation, Lamentations, is
displayed at Ryerson Artspace. It includes a film looper projecting through a block of ice onto a white wall. Three framed photographs of dead lambs hang on a separate wall. It’s twenty-four-year-old Christou’s first solo exhibition since graduating from Ryerson University’s photography studies program, but she’s not nervous.

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“It’s not as overwhelming anymore,” said Christou. “It’s just [the] finicky details.”

Originally used as her fourth-year winter thesis, Christou first began the project during Christmas of 2014, when several of her friend’s lambs had died in
her hometown of Peterborough, Ont. Christou took three of the lambs and photographed them in the snow.

“I think that there are things out there that are integral to our essence and I wanted to explore that. And for me it was talking about, not life, because I’ve experienced a little bit of life, but talking about that leap between death and life, and that continuation happening in a cycle,” said Christou.

She created a funeral pyre for the lambs and burned them, filming the cremation. At the time of her project, Christou was fascinated with how vital water was to life, and ice was to death. She said that ice fractals embodied the feeling she had about the jump between life and death, so she incorporated it into her project.

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Since graduating, Christou has moved back to Peterborough, Ont., and has been writing and sculpting to “constantly [try] to stay busy” in order to distract herself from no longer being at Ryerson.

“I had to block them from my news feed, you know the Ryerson photography class [of] 2016, because I was jealous,” Christou said with a laugh.

Christou became interested in photography after she travelled to England as part of her politics program at Queen’s University. She studied, travelled, and took photographs everywhere. Christou ended up dropping out of the program. She went home, took a year off, and took photography more seriously.

“I had started taking photos with goals in mind,” said Christou. She had enjoyed art history at Queen’s and believed she had a good eye for photography, so she applied to Ryerson  and was accepted.

Christou’s friend, Meghan Sangster, whom she met while at Queen’s, says that it’s been interesting watching her friend grow as an artist.

“She’s continued to push beyond the bounds that are placed on her and work with things that make her happy,” said Sangster.

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Christou hopes to film and create more pieces soon, as well as continue writing. She wishes to pay off her student debt, but also thinks she’ll do a master’s in fine arts eventually.

“I have a sinking suspicion that I need more,” Christou laughed.

Photos by Karen Chan