Rachel de Joode is a Berlin-based sculptor who specializes in still lifes made from materials like a stack of Kraft singles, an oozing banana, a wooden club piercing a pile of white bread, wigs, people and a giant inflatable chicken foot. Her most recent work “Life is Very Long” is a part sculpture, part performance piece composed of tennis gravel, styrofoam and 60 frozen Dr. Oetker pizzas. She draws inspiration from history, philosophy, space travel and obscure scientific facts, which may help to explain why she classified the sculpture “A Peanut, Half a Horse, a Chicken Foot, a Burning Cigarette and a Black Hole” as “magic-surreal inflatable neo-dada”. If that doesn’t clear things up, perhaps this explanation will shed some light:
“The elements displayed have individually symbolic meanings: the peanut metaphors evolution, primates and a mental condition, half a wild horse is a metaphor for amputation, restrainment and magic shows (box sawing trick). The burning cigarette is a metaphor for fire (the element), smoke (blurred vision) and the dawning of the end, the chicken foot is a voodoo charm which is symbolically used for the “scratching” of the vision of the future. The black disk is representing a black hole which is a symbol for the mighty unknown. Together these ingredients form an inflatable perspective of the future human condition, revealing the dawning of the end of the post-modern world.”
You studied time-based arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. What are time-based arts?
It means art which is somehow related or dependent on time—like film, web-based art or performance. Nevertheless, this department is a kind of free art meets conceptual art department. You could basically use every type of media you wanted, the focus was more on your idea, on your concept.
How do you select the materials for your sculptures? Is it an intuitive process or is there a lot of trial and error?
I choose objects which I find iconographic for the current human condition, objects which relate to the everyday, like pizzas, or computers, or coffee mugs, or remote controls. These objects are just “there” somehow. I am not constantly on the lookout. It’s more about opening your eyes. Like when I think of using a telephone in one of my works, all of a sudden I notice all these great telephones everywhere. In the end it’s either/or. Sometimes I have an image in my head and then I need to find a certain object. Sometimes the object comes to me and I get inspired to do something with it.
When I start to assemble an installation or still life I think a lot about the texture and the colors. Colors really work on the emotions and so you can do a lot with this. Mostly I color-code the objects or arrange them tone-on-tone. Setting up a still-life is like making a sculptural collage. It’s cutting and pasting, somehow it’s the same as photoshopping.
I have a table with objects (ingredients) lined up and then I just try to put them together until it works. I never use all the objects that I picked out in front. Then the hardest part is having things sit and stand together. Things always fall over. I scream and condemn the objects. Gravity is my worst enemy when I make an installation!
For “A Peanut, Half a Horse, a Chicken Foot, a Burning Cigarette and a Black Hole,” how did you fabricate the inflatables? Why use inflatable objects as opposed to another sculptural form?
In 2010, I was invited by the Oslo-based artists Sverre Strandberg and Anna Daniell to make an inflatable piece. They organized and curated the show “Giant Ball”, an exhibition of inflatable art pieces held in Oslo’s football stadium.
It was very natural to design this still-life. The piece was produced in Korea. The concept, design and the high-res images I delivered for the print on the inflatable material are mine. The curation and production are Sverre Strandberg and Anna Daniell.
The cool thing about it is that I could make something like “Half a Horse” which would be very hard to make in reality! The sculpture definitely turned out great and it is so small to carry around, which is a big bonus! I just need to built the structure which it stands on.
You’ve said work addresses “the nature of humanity and questions who we are and why we’re here.” Has your work led you closer to answering these questions? What have you discovered about our humanity through your work?
Actually, I think I will never find out. It’s so ridiculous! It is really so ridiculous that we are alive. It confuses me a lot. I guess we need to simply do some funny and nice things, things we want to do and do them right enough to also be able to enjoy them. People are very strange, what they do, how they live, what they want from life. The only realization I made is that we are all very similar. All humans want things, they desire things.
All images courtesy of Rachel de Joode.
This article was originally published on Cool Hunting.