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RACHEL DE JOODE ON HER TRANSCENDENT SCULPTURES AND NOT BEING AN ARTIST

One could describe Rachel de Joode’s sculptures as illusions. They are displaying a version of reality that doesn’t actually exist, a surface that can be seen but not felt – because it’s just a photograph showing clay, skin, or dust, but never the material itself. The Berlin-based Dutch creative takes pictures of these substances to first digitalise them, then print them, and ultimately mould them into sculptures. Like that, de Joode creates three-dimensional objects with a two-dimensional surface, analogue figures with digital fronts. Whether her objects fit with our ideas of what is authentic and aesthetically pleasing doesn’t really matter to de Joode. She wants to display a new form of naturalness that is a product of the artificial and the physical, the organic and the stiff.

After studying time-based arts at university, de Joode began by taking photographs and shooting short-films before she further developed these into her characteristic sculptures, beginning to erase any limitations between the actual object and its sheer representation. This way, she comments on the digital documentation of art as well as on our ideas of reality and illusion. In the context of her approach, de Joode spoke to Material Magazine about the possibilities of a pure perception, both of oneself and art.

You refer to your sculptures as “things” – how did this description come about?
I think it is more interesting to contextualise the art­object within our real world opposed to only seeing it as something of the art world. A sculpture labelled as a “thing” becomes equal to any other object: a banana, oxygen, a chair, ants, a sock, the internet, a plant. Art often seems to only be able to talk about or comment on something in the context of the art world. This description is an attempt to break that pattern, to decentra­lise the art-object from the art­world and all related myths and symbols.

How do you feel about others calling your work art and you an artist then?
I suffer from imposter syndrome, so I find it quite difficult to internalise the fact that I am a ‘real artist’ and make ‘art’. I am constantly afraid peo­ple will expose me as a fraud, as a pretender. Also, with all the suffering in the world, I personally find it pretty hard to admit to being an artist because it probably is one of the most narcissistic, useless, market­driven, and egocentric professi­ons. There’s little humbleness about it, especially nowadays. Still this is also the starting point of my question posed: I want to know what it’s like to be an artist.

How does this task translate into your working process?
I start with photography, that’s my way of freeing the object from its threedimensional form and materialistic body. When you take a photo of an object it turns flat. I then want to interpret this flattened object for the real­life context – after all we live in a three­dimensional world. But essentially, my work is about using photographs as sculptural elements. The last thing I do is buil­ding a mise­-en-­scène, a calculated environment, with or around those photographic sculptures.

I’ve read that you like to use the gallery space as kind of a sketching board for your sculptures. How would the perfect version of this mise-en-scène look like?
I love the stereotypical white cube setting, the more museum­-esque or gallery­esque the better, or using nature as a stage for art. What also is very important to my work is an electronic reproduction, showing it in the digital space.

As kind of a “next level gallery”?
I think my sculptures should be seen in both the virtual world and the real world. The documentation of the mise­-en-­scène and the real life experience of the work are targeted towards each other. The documentation takes the spatial installations out of their original lo­ cation and context and reinterprets them for the internet. Whereas the gallery experience is also an experience of ones body in relation to the artwork.

With their mainly skin-tone colour your sculptures also often seem to resemble the human body.
The colour is a cartoon version of my fleshy body. Its colour code is RAL NCS S1020­Y70R. You could actually refer to this colour as autobio­graphical.

So your sculptures function like a mirror image of yourself?
I am indeed very interested in my own body, my own flesh. After all, my body is like nobody else’s body. It is the only thing that truly makes me unique and it is a huge part of my work and its shapes. Although I vaguely plan the forms of my sculptures, they’re mostly process based.

Your work always seems to be about some sort of decontextualization – analogue and digital, art world and real world, material and its image – would you describe it as “natural”?
The sculptures are a hybrid, both natural and artificial. In the context of my work, both elements are living things, they resemble actors, staring in a play called “making contemporary art”, written by myself. Naturalness functions as an actor and corporality also functions as an actor within the network of art­making.

At the beginning of our conversation you said you’re interested in knowing what it’s like being an artist. If you don’t see yourself as an artist – what should we call you?
You can call me and the artworks whatever you want. In the end it’s all particles.

Taken from Material Magazine #32, The Super Natural Issue