Kota Ezawa: Mobilizing Conscience

© Kota Ezawa

Art + Protest

Presented by the Goethe-Institut Toronto with the Japan Foundation

“Kota Ezawa: Mobilizing Conscience” is a Core Exhibition of the CONTACT Photography Festival

In-person opening reception with virtual artist talk and Q&A on 6 May 2022 at 5:30pm EST live at the new Goethe Community Space. Register here.

This exhibition of two video works in dialogue by German-Japanese artist Kota Ezawa traces the legacies and divergences of “photographs as instruments of protest,” “the representation of pain and suffering” (Susan Sontag) and “beating the establishment at their own games” (John Lennon) through art, popular culture, and spectacle.

Exploring the appropriation and mediation of current events and images, Ezawa’s work reduces complex visual information to its essential elements, questioning the photographic record’s validity as a mediator of experiences, and confronting the viewer with the historic and cultural distance between themselves and the figures who feature prominently in public memory. Ezawa meticulously recreates, frame-by-frame, animated sequences from television, cinema, and art history using basic digital drawing and animation software. His practice encompasses light-boxes, videos, and works on paper that distill found images into his signature pared-down, flattened style.

Kota Ezawa, born 1969 in Cologne, is a Japanese-German artist and Professor of Film and Fine Arts at California College of the Arts. Ezawa studied at the Art Academy Düsseldorf with Nam June Paik and holds an MFA from Stanford. Solo shows include Hayward Gallery Projects Space, London; Vancouver Art Gallery; group exhibitions Whitney Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Ezawa was a resident at Goethe-Institut Villa Kamogawa, Japan; his work is in collections from MoMA to Musée D’Art Contemporain de Montréal. Monographs include The Crime of Art and The History of Photography Remix.

The exhibition runs from 27 April to 26 May 2022 in the Goethe Community Space @ Goethe-Institut Toronto, 100 University Ave, North Tower, 2nd fl.

Visitation hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11am-5pm EST

Works presented:

Kota Ezawa: Lennon Sontag Beuys (2004)
Single channel video with sound, 2:10 min. on continuous loop

The artist animates documentary footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 Amsterdam “bed-in” for peace, a 2001 lecture delivered by the late media philosopher Susan Sontag at Columbia University, and Joseph Beuys’ 1974 lecture at the New School for Social Research in New York.

Kota Ezawa: National Anthem (2018)
Single channel video with sound, 1:48 min. on continuous loop

A powerful meditation on protest and patriotism, solidarity and hope, first exhibited at the 2019 Whitney Biennial, National Anthem depicts professional NFL athletes “taking a knee” during The Star-Spangled Banner to protest police brutality and the oppression of people of color.

Courtesy of Kota Ezawa/Murray Guy, New York/Galerie Beckers, Frankfurt

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Program & Media Contact:
Jutta Brendemühl
Program Curator
Goethe-Institut Toronto