Relics of Lumen: A galactic mosaic of the Black Star Collection

Images of galaxies, astronauts, and displaced people dance across the media wall in the Ryerson Image Centre creating a celestial mosaic composed of major events of the 20th century. Up close, you can see the Apollo 11 mission marking humanity’s first steps on the moon, a child crying in a warzone, and visuals of Earth from outer space flashing by in mere seconds. The tiny images merge to form a large visual of an astronaut floating through space. Even the accompanying sounds consist of clips of speeches, instruments, and gunfire. Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof, the creative mind behind the short film, Relics of Lumen, used 5,000 photos from Ryerson’s Black Star Collection to form this “otherworldly environment.”

Pruska-Oldenhof began her journey as an experimental filmmaker during her undergrad as a Ryerson media arts student. She was particularly inspired by her experimental film processes class taught by Bruce Elder, an award-winning Canadian experimental filmmaker.

“It was that particular course that showed me this vast palette that’s possible to film, this whole photochemical process that normally we don’t see in cinemas,” said the School of Image Arts assistant professor. “At that point I just thought, ‘This is exactly what I want to do.’”  

Through this program, she became familiar with various forms of image making, from photography, to film, to digital imaging.

As the daughter of two musicians, Pruska-Oldenhof did not want to follow in her parents’ footsteps. Her entire childhood was immersed in music, but she initially dreamt of becoming a painter. “This is where my interest in rhythm, movement, and even colour and tonal qualities comes in. It’s almost this strange amalgam of music and painting, that way I kind of arrived at experimental cinema,” she explained.

Her interest in movement is present in Relics of Lumen. In addition to the constant action in the video, the viewer must also move around the space and even go outside to get the full experience of the piece as a whole.

Ryerson students are familiar with the colourful lights that appear on the side of the RIC at night. Relics of Lumen complements this spectacle by including NASA images with similar colours. The film is particularly eye-catching because it is the only installation in the Black Star Collection that uses colour.

Image arts curator, Gaëlle Morel, said she enjoys the piece because it is dynamic and visually interesting. “I think it’s brilliant that [Pruska-Oldenhof] is so comfortable and savvy working with different technologies.”

Pruska-Oldenhof also decided to include children in her piece, because childhood is a vital transition period in our lives.

“The root of our imagination when we are most free is when we are young kids,” she said. “It’s that imagination and creativity that permitted us to travel to another planet and into distant galaxies, to invent these technologies, but it also permits us to make art.”

The exhibit runs from Jan. 20 to April 10. Pruska-Oldenhof will hold a talk about her piece on Feb. 24.

Images by Amanda Skrabucha