Photographic seascapes made from plastic waste from Schleswig-Holstein, washed up and collected on the island of Föhr, show not only the primal power of the sea’s seemingly endless depths. They also provide new perspectives and a chance to question how you deal with nature. With “Flute” Liss Cortman seeks not to point fingers at others, but to strengthen an awareness of new perspectives and reflections on the human relationship with nature. In a conversation she guides you through her exhibition.
KIELerleben: How did you get into photography?
Lis Cortman: At age 13 I inherited darkroom equipment from my grandfather and that was, so to speak, the transition phase. Since then I have learned to see differently and always have a camera with me to express myself visually. Then I took an advanced art course in school and tried to implement every project as photography. From 1998 to 2001 I studied photography, film and television in Scotland and have been a freelance photographer and artist since 2007.
KIELerleben: Where did the idea for the exhibition come from?
Liss Cortman: The trigger was actually the first lockdown. I come from southern Schleswig-Holstein and I was not allowed to go to sea. There is no water within a ten kilometer radius in the Segeberg district, so I started making blurry shells out of everyday objects during the lockdown. For example, from sheets and cleaning rags. When I was allowed back into the ocean, it was very clear that a lot of plastic waste had flown away. At first I just collected it and then at home I noticed that the garbage has created the condition of the sea.
KIELerleben: What was the reaction of others when you started taking trash with you to the Föhr?
Liss Cortman: Different. In fact, I’ve had to hear comments like, “What is this about? We’d rather look at the sea, it’s not so bad! The question is always whether one should ignore the first signs, knowing that it is worse in other parts of the world. People like to close their eyes.
KIELerleben: And the reactions to the exhibition?
Liss Cortman: Some visitors are genuinely surprised at how little they actually saw this devastation. Some people really get caught when they are drawn to the deceptive beauty of art. But that’s exactly what I’m playing. I didn’t want to photograph a muddy beach, I wanted to make the approach. And if I can use it to set something in motion, in whatever form it may be, a lot has already happened.
Nail Experience: How is the picture made?
Lis Cortman: All images are in microformat, so never bigger than A4. As with some motifs, a plexiglass pane serves as a horizon line and provides a characteristic reflection. They are exposed to either sunlight or studio lights. There was a whole lot of garbage collected on the fohr and all the photos were taken there. One of the motifs also has a label with the French inscription “Humane” (dt. Human). Overall, it once said: “Not fit for human consumption” – very symbolic.
EXPERIENCE KIEL: The shiny foil of a helium balloon can be found on some of the training pieces. What’s so special about it?
Lis Cortman: On the beach, the balloon seemed completely imperceptible, almost like an algae. Luminous particles shine only when the Sun shines on it at a certain angle. Interestingly, the balloon has changed its meaning so much. At some point it was abandoned for a joyous occasion and as it moved away from people it became an environmental disaster. And this waste was taken from nature and now it is again something different. Really interesting change.
KIELerleben: How’s the sea for you?
Liss Cortman: There are very different creatures and influences in the ocean. And that is what I want to express through my exhibition. It begins with this veneration of nature, expressed by golden picture frames, showing the dejected people with their eyes closed and the primal power emerging in the depths.
KIELerleben: To what extent can art transfer something to the mind that other forms of representation cannot?
Lis Cortman: There are already countless reports and photographs on the topic of marine pollution. We are so immersed in it that we are literally numb. I could now picture a plastic bottle on the beach and sadly it wouldn’t do anything anymore. It is shocking but true. Hopefully my pictures will encourage you to stop and take a closer look.
KIELerleben: If you had to summarize your art in a few words, what would it be?
Lis Cortman: My works of art are ideas that have become figurative. I see something, a sign, that excites me and then I think about it. And then my chain comes into existence.
KIELerleben: What should visitors take with them from the exhibition?
Liss Cortman: Inquiry and openness to other perspectives. You have to be honest with yourself and let yourself be moved.
until the exhibition 12. September At Home 3 in Anscherpark on Friday and Saturday from 4 pm to 7 pm and on Sundays from 12 pm to 6 pm. admission is free. more information http://www.ocean-summit.de.
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