There's also a relationship, if a slightly ambiguous one, between the sculpted forms that rest on the objects and the human body.
The body is really present, without actually making a figure. I was in Chicago recently, and I went to the Charles Ray show. I loved it. I thought it was very beautiful how much it just focused on the figure, these very Classical looking figurative sculptures that had so much subtle humanity and humor and presence.
For me, the body is where the mystery of the making is for me. I said yesterday to a writer friend of mine that I don’t really believe in ideas. Ideas just seem like a dime a dozen—there’s a lack of magic. I wasn’t ever interested in linear narratives, either. My art has to escape the confinement of making sense, which is not only a drag but a means of oppression. So part of that is to let it come out of my body, and be about the body, which is where one’s vulnerability and awkwardness and humanity is.
Another reason that I like Christian metaphors—God is actually born as a baby and eats and farts and shits and dies and doubts in himself. The centrality of the body, in that, has always been really moving to me.
Given your interest in the body, have you thought about branching out into performance? I read that you considered making wearable ceramics for your show at the Hepworth Wakefield, in 2013, and ultimately decided not to.
I think that might happen eventually. It just has to be super-integral, necessary to the work. I have made these wearable ceramics, and the furniture wears them very effectively. An additional figure wearing them just didn’t seem that necessary at the time.
Also there’s a problem of language, when you have a human figure in there. It goes back to Charlie Ray. What is it doing, to put a literal figure in the room? It’s just a different mode altogether. I’m interested in a space that’s contemplative, that’s not literal.
As you suggest, performance can be implied in the work—the furniture is wearing the ceramics. And using furniture in your art, to begin with, is a way of making a kind of stage set for all sorts of human activity.
Absolutely, there’s a lot of theatricality in my work—and especially in this one show at the Hepworth Wakefield, where I very consciously amped it up. It was such a theatrical looking space, because it had no right angles. That was when I thought about making the ceramics wearable, but it all seemed a little gratuitous when you could just imply it and have this contemplative moment. It’s such a blessing to have a contemplative moment now and then.
I’ve also been thinking about the idea of a soundtrack, although that word, for art, seems so extraneous. I’ve been learning how to play the violin—there’s a lot of music in my house, music’s always been important to me, and it’s all over the art world. It would be a really great thing to get that right—I just don’t know what it would look like.
Speaking of your house, and of furniture: domesticity is a major theme of your art, and one that can be read in many different ways—as a feminist gesture, for instance, or as a reference to some personal experience, or a reaction to the sterility of the white cube.
I am a feminist, of course. And I’m a mother. So that is going to be there. But I think it’s mainly about intimacy and dialogue with the things around me. In Berlin it was art supplies, because I didn’t have a truck or my own furniture to take out of my house. When I drank a lot of beer I made work out of the beer cans and bottles. Then when I switched to coffee I made a lot of drawings from coffee cups.
I use things that have this tactile, intimate relationship to all of us. Not eccentric fancy things—just things that make you think, “I know what my butt feels like in a chair, I have one in my house, I can relate to this.”
It’s about reading meaning into all the things around us. It’s against purity. That’s one of the main reasons I started using this stuff around me—it compromises an aesthetic realm that’s distinct from that of your life. A chair is never going to be as beautiful as a Caravaggio, but I want to bring all of the highfalutin’ ideals of the Caravaggio down into the muck where we live.