Rachel de Joode is a Dutch artist living in Berlin. Recently, she’s produced a prolific number of sculptural works that break down common perception through the use of unique materials, concepts, and execution. Her work is patently of our time, drawing on themes of technology, isolation, and highly saturated levels of information exchange. But her commentary remains singular, even in the face of some fairly evident influences. De Joode is also the co-founder and art director of META magazine.
We asked the artist a few questions about what she’s been up to lately and the various processes surrounding her sculpture-making. You can find her thoughtful answers after the jump.
All images courtesy of the artist.
Up to the last year or so I’ve been mostly using (digital) photography/the Internet as a medium for the viewer to experience my work, which is (prior to being photographed) mainly sculptural/3-dimensional.
I.e. I would build something in my studio- an installation, sculpture, or sculptural collage- and photograph this in the studio set up as a modern still life or as something referring to product photography.
Recently, I’ve lost interest in this method of flattening and I got excited by creating things in the physical world and presenting 3-dimensional art-objects in an exhibition.
In current times this is, of course, a contradiction, since the photograph (the documentation) of this ‘real’ art object is viewed many more times than the (real/physical) object itself. The relation of the sensual object to its environment is something which I am interested in, and want to explore.
Coming back to your question: this relation to body and space can best be translated in sculpture, since sculpture is a 3-dimensional medium. Sculpture is somehow the most ‘real’ of arts.
You recently completed a residency program at the Utica Sculpture Space in upstate New York. How’d that go?
Regarding any crafts, I am an autodidact. I studied time-based arts at the Rietveld, the focus here was more on conceptual development, not so much on techniques.
These two months at Sculpture Space were especially nice to learn and explore different crafts and methods of producing sculpture. I learned to weld and use the table-saw! Also, I learned a lot from the other residents- how other people work, their developments, the different ways of seeing.
I had a really good time. It was great to be all the way out in Utica, which is somewhat isolated. You can concentrate and relax. It was great to have the time and space to work hard and not worry about cash-flow, since it was a funded residency.
I produced about 13 sculptures for 4 different shows, it was a productive time.
Are there any historical/antiquated symbols that you do resonate with? If so, what are they?
Hmmm, I actually believe that I do ‘resonate’ with historical or antiquated symbols, I don’t necessarily want to make a separation between the now and the past.
It might be true that I refer more often to ‘now-symbols’ because we live now. But a lot of things that I use or point out are also timeless, like, for example, hair, or the use of food or planetary symbols.
My work evolves around the matrix of everyday life in our current time. The object’s ability to transfer and to measure our ‘humanness’ is a central interest of mine. What I mean with “our humanness” is the human condition- the thing itself which makes us humans; what defines us as human beings. Questions like ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘What does it mean to be human today?’ are recurring points of departure.
The idea that all of us are by nature unwillingly thrown in the abyss of our lives on this planet is fascinating to me, even more bewildering is that it actually seems to be that most of us can simply cope with the idea of life. (don’t you find it strange to be alive?)
Coming from this: essential to my work is the senselessness of our life/our world and the banalities of the real world. The symbols I use to illustrate this notion can be from any time, but are mainly contemporary.
What are the benefits of combining different artistic formats into one work (i.e. performance pieces presented simultaneously with specific installations)?
The medium serves the message. And, therefore, when a topic is best translated through a performance, then the work should be a performance. When the topic is best translated through a photograph, then it should be a photograph. It’s all rather fluid.
With performance you can play with time, with sensual space, with the body. With sculpture you can play with 3-dimensionality. With photography you can play with capturing. When you present different pieces in different formats you can put together different intentions, making the presentation one whole experience, like in a way you make a music piece with different instruments.
You currently have a show at Oliver Francis Gallery in Dallas. Writing for a local paper, a reviewer said that the “exhibit suggests a real chasm between the work and its intent, at least as described in the printed list of works at the front of the gallery…” — But what’s so wrong with providing a verbal context for art? It’s not like you forced people to look at the catalog. Is there a way to talk about one’s own work without coming off as an asshole/bullshitter, and is this type of thing on your mind when working on META, your online arts publication?
The writer questioned whether the act of ascribing meaning to an artwork is something that the artist (or curator) should do.
Well, I think it’s ok when people don’t get my work. I don’t justify the work, or educate through description. I simply like descriptions. Descriptions have a comic-balloon like quality. I think it’s fun to read the (literal) intention of the artist, and this is precisely what I wrote in this particular print out which accompanied the show.
“Statue Being Unveiled: Myself Standing Upside Down in 2 Dimensions”
Description: A 7-foot tall cutout photo, mounted and placed in a clay base. This faux statue depicts the artist standing upside down, posing as if to be an unveiled statue.
Material: clay, print, plastic, wood
This description is maybe not that what everyone sees or associates with the work, yet I don’t think it eliminates ways of seeing. It’s more like ingredients listed on a pack of cookies- you can also choose to not read it.
You can choose not to read the hand-out, it’s not as if the descriptions are written directly ON the art-piece….
Any review is a good review. Nevertheless, let me quote Jennifer Chan’s text here:
Since Marcel Duchamp submitted an upturned urinal as a “Fountain” into a salon show in 1917, the evaluation of art grew to rest on the intellectual appeal of selecting an object. An artist would isolate or arrange it with other objects, and call it art. The rise of installation throughout the Sixties marked a shift in the judgment of taste – from authored uniqueness to the assemblage and contextualization of objects within any space. Artists take over the role of object-curation for the cause of creating meaningful and memorable cultural experiences for the gallery-going public. Thus, selection and modification of existing things takes precedence over the finesse of handcraft.
I.e. after Duchamp you can’t question whether the artist should provide the context.
Also, I haven’t read any relevant art critiques attacking any artist on the use of descriptions. So in regard to this particular local critique, it doesn’t really bother me so much. Ok, she didn’t like the hand-out and maybe she didn’t like each work….ok, well, so what….
Maybe my love for curiosities and off-the-road information overlaps [with] both my work, as well as [with] META.
But with META, we show things which inspired us (META is a collective run with 3 others), things which feed our curiosity. This is, in the end, something different than creating art. So I don’t really think of META as a contextual extension of my art-practice. I feature things I am interested in, and so, one is able to find parallels to my work. But this is not the set-up.
What was the impetus for opening up your own auction house, De Joode & Kamutzki?
This project was started with me contemplating about curating a show. Then I thought: ‘well, why another show, there are 10,000 shows in Berlin constantly’. Apart from this abundance of exhibitions I am often bothered by the lack of interest in the art-object itself at openings. People mainly come to network and to get drunk. Which is no problem, but I wanted to do something which is celebrating art in it’s most profound way. I teamed up with Maria Kamutzki and we decided that we wanted to trigger people to buy art out of love, fascination and admiration. Because art is something essential. This led to us opening an auction-house. We’ve held 2 successful auctions so far. The next one is planned for the beginning of 2013.
Which visual artists inspire you?
This is something which is in constant motion. Sometimes I look into the work of a certain artist and I am totally into it. Then, I kind of forget about a particular artist for a year, then I revive a certain artist……so, I find this question rather hard to answer. Nevertheless, as for ‘the now’, I am into: Elmgreen Dragset, Ryan Trecartin & Lizzie Fitch, Frans West, Shana Moulton, Kate Steciw, Mika Rottenberg, Werner Herzog, Aleksandra Domonovic, Cyprien Gaillard, Virginia Poundstone……..
Which non-visual artists inspire you?
Philosophy: Graham Harman, Baudrillard
Space: The Mars Rover Mission
T. S. Eliot
Can you talk a little bit about the Berlin arts scene? Pros? Cons?
Con: the overwhelming amount of post-grads exploring the Berlin scene and the lack of a serious art-economy. Berlin feels sometimes too much like a playground (which is obviously also a pro)
Pro: There is somehow always something interesting to do. (This is actually both a pro and a con. A con because it’s also somehow ‘social pressure’ of being present)
What’s next for you?
I will be in Mexico City from October ’til December. In October, my work will be on the Art Fair in LA. In November it’ll be on the Art Fair in Chicago. I will give a lecture in Mexico. There is a solo show planned in the beginning of 2013 in NYC.