empathy

A Bone To Pick With Jodie Carey

"Over the years, certain materials have become part of my sculptural vocabulary – blood, bone, plaster, ash. I worked on reducing many of these materials synonymous with my practice to their simplest form; a powder or dust." —Jodie Carey

Upon entering Tieranatomische Theater in Berlin, you’re greeted with a warm starkness. There is nothing there. Two staircases wrap down from the second story like painstakingly stacked wooden books. I found stark cordoned off rooms. Without previous knowledge, I would have not known that Jodie Carey’s artwork was there. It was invisible. 

Jodie Careys latest exhibition 'Shroud' at Tieranatomisches Theater Berlin. Photo: Benjamin Busch

The floor was peculiarly bone white and the empty atmosphere contained an air of sacredness—but where were Carey's hands in all of this? I soon learnt the reason: the floor was actual bone, 250 kilograms of the stuff, ground to whispered dust. What lied beneath? Was there something being purposely covered with this shroud? Perhaps the ancient, blood stained wood of a martyr? I was sure something magnificent lied below. And with white ropes blockading further advances into the dusty corridors to experience the artwork with the rest of my senses, it was up to my imagination to do the dirty work. I also needed Carey to brush off the dust from this mystery. Currently living and working in London, our e-mail correspondence brought about the revelations.

The Artist Is Present In Absence 

"Goldsmiths taught me to ask fundamental questions of myself, which I still rely on in the studio today. I was taught to take responsibility for the object I was making. Not to dictate meaning but to encourage, and coerce meaning from objects," Carey explained. And with this explanation, the image of the powdered bone ashes began to acquire a new gravity in my mind. She continues: "For the past few years I have been working hard to push my practice forward, striving to break down the conventions that had become part of my practice. I felt I wanted to escape the confines and limitations of producing forms instantly recognizable as belonging to this world (chandeliers, cakes, flower arrangements) to focus more intently on the materials, allowing them to speak eloquently and poetically without interruption."

As I went though her responses, and re-imagining myself inside the Tieranatomische Theater, I now wish I had been there: the moment as the ashes began to shroud the floor underneath. The poetry of the process – the subtlety and speed with which she must have sprinkled these ashes on the floor. Suddenly, the artist's absence that I originally felt became more of an invisible presence. And an intentional one. "Being an artist is a way-of-life; it’s not a 9 to 5. I make no distinction between what I do and who I am. Being an artist isn’t just about what you make – it’s about how you think," Carey would include in our correspondence.

Visitor Helena Nagelmaa reflecting above a bone dust sea. Photo: Chris Phillips

And what did I think? For one, that the floor was covered with death. There was no denial. Like a reflection of what was to come to us all. Covered with this sacred white dirt of our life form. This dirt was pristine, clean of sins and no possibility of hell; like a future memory I saw my end. By this point I had undoubtedly been shrouded by the artist's intentions, as it would be revealed by the artist herself: "I want to explore how the very nature of stripping back – through reduction in color, saturation and form – allows for a counter–process in which additional meanings can be built in, opening up dialogue and discussion through context, cultural history and the viewers own imagination and knowledge."

We are all built from the pieces of Carey’s work. We are the flesh around her statement. I was included in the most personal way possible. This work was the rib of Adam; I was this work. The ropes and barriers kept me from the exclusive membership of death. I guess it just wasn’t my time.

Jodie Carey [Price range of works €1,000- €30,000]

Interview edited for publication. Article by Tristan Boisvert