Art In the Lenses

Artist Lucy Soutter to Explore the ‘Photographicness’  of Contemporary Art in Concordia Lecture

The cover of Lucy Soutter’s latest book “Why Art Photography?”

It’s likely you’ve heard this cynical idiom that exists within the art world and other disciplines: “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” It might apply to your fresh-faced economics professor, but it certainly doesn’t apply to British artist Lucy Soutter.

Guest speaker for the upcoming Speaking of Photography lecture at Concordia, Soutter is an artist, art historian, critic and university lecturer with a BA from Harvard and a PhD from Yale who has been an important player in the expansive world of contemporary art for decades.

“I started out as a photographer,” she said. “Later I trained in art history specifically because I wanted to teach in art schools, which I now do, and I also work as a critic. So I’m pretty deeply invested in photography on a number of different levels.”

Her latest book, Why Art Photography?, opens a dialogue on key issues currently at the heart of contemporary photography, and speculates on the future of the craft. Her book also provides a helpful introduction to art photography for students and amateur shutterbugs hoping to make it as photographers.

“The book came out of teaching done in the last 15 years, and one thing I wanted to do was provide a bridge to some of the more complex, challenging theories that circulate around contemporary art,” Soutter said.

The last chapter of her book, titled “Beyond Photography,” will be the basis of her talk at Concordia, taking place this Friday as a part of Speaking of Photography, an ongoing, annual series lectures organized by the Department of Art History.

“[‘Beyond Photography’] summed up a lot about the increasingly important place of photography within contemporary art more broadly,” Soutter said.

The lecture will focus on the expansion of photography within other interdisciplinary art practices and how it relates to other contemporary art such as painting, sculpture and video, as well as question what’s next for the medium.

Soutter says contemporary photography is highly versatile, with many artists such as Walead Beshty, Rachel Harrison and Clifford Owens breaking new ground within the field.

“Some of the artists I’m going to be discussing [in the lecture], who combine photography with aspects of performance, moving image, sculpture, installation, et cetera are regarded as being leading figures in contemporary art more broadly,” said Soutter.

“I think it’s interesting to look at the ways that their work is grounded in photography, to explore how the ‘photographicness’ of their work might be contributing to its larger meaning.”

Soutter expressed her excitement for speaking about contemporary photography at Concordia and is eager to open discussion among fine arts students.

“It seemed like a good topic for a talk because I had found some exciting new artworks I wanted to talk about,” she said.

“I have some fresh things to say about the area, including some thoughts I have had since finishing the book, and it’s the subject of my next research project.”

“Beyond Photography: Persistence of the Photographic in Contemporary Art” // Jan. 17 // EV-1.605 (1515 Ste. Catherine St. W.) // 6:30 p.m. // Free admission