How to Trap a Demon
Richard and Dolly Mass Gallery at SUNY Purchase
Curated by Meghana Karnik
October 5-November 16, 2023

Tamar Ettun: How to Trap A Demon is an exhibition conjuring the aerial spirit demon, Lilit (Lilith), whose story traces back to ancient Sumerian, Akkadian, and Judaic mythology. In medical-magical traditions from the 2nd-7th century, Lilit appeared on incantation bowls, a healing technology used to protect against demons, who were thought to cause illness, pain, and loss. Just as scientific treatment is accepted today, artist-healers of the time would create spells, drawings, and talismanic objects to bind demons (most often, Lilit). Tamar Ettun revives these rituals by creating demon traps of various scales and materials — clay, iron, textiles, in performance and video — but also proposes a conceptual shift, told from Lilit’s perspective as the healer. The exhibition parts with the historical gender binarism that associates Lilith’s archetype with unchecked violence and manipulation; here, Lilit mediates the inner demons and renegade instincts that are deliberately silenced. Asking us to consider whose stories, memories, and experiences are occluded in the process of demonization, How to Trap A Demon builds on the artist’s research into the insidious side of empathy, empathy fatigue, trauma-healing modalities, and astrology as storytelling.

Exhibition text
Wall labels

Lilit from Tamar Ettun on Vimeo.

Photos by Yann Chashanovski

Special Thanks:
Many collaborators have supported the creation of work in How To Trap A Demon. Thank you to Greg Wharmby, John O’Shea, Sara Crowe and Celeste Joyce at SUNY Purchase; Chinati Foundation, for a residency filled with wildlife in the midst of the pandemic; The California Studio at UC Davis for a space to dye in the botanical garden; BAX (Brooklyn Arts Exchange) for a meditative parent-artist residency;The Watermill Center and Artis for ongoing support; Pioneer Works for the sails;Helen Toomer and Stoneleaf Retreat for a magical space filled with magical humans; Marble House Project for hosting the artist during the Pisces Full Moon;Zac Ward of Salem Art for the casting Lilit in iron at midnight; Ayana Evans, Maia Karo, ESHÉ ALL DAY HUES, & Tonya Michelle for contributing their voices to naming demons in Wave Cave; Nicoline Franziska for design and photography onTexts from Lilit; Maya Pindyck for the thoughtful feedback on Texts from Lilit;Meghana Karnik who looked Lilit in the eyes and cared for her with generosity and grace; Jeff Rubin who shot, edited, gave notes, and supported the artist in countless ways; and Maxi, who made it much harder to work but gave it all meaning.