Jenny Lewis mainly works with photography, moving image, performance and installation. The protagonist of her practise is her body, which she uses through performance to camera and live performance, creating sculptural compositions choreographing body and object in reaction to space.
You have a sculpture and photography background and you are working with a lot of different mediums, but in all of these you use yourself as the protagonist. How is it that you came to work in the performative arts?
Using myself within the work to start off with was a practical tool as I was always there when I was photographing. Using self-timers or cable release to set off the camera enabled me to be expressive with my body within the photographs and take away an element of control. Through my need to explore the work away from the wall-based practice of a photograph led a natural progression into sculpture, moving imagery and the performative aspect of using myself.
In your performances the body seems to be deprived of an identity, and reduced to the state of an object/form. How do you feel bodies and objects interact with the space surrounding them? How do they influence each other?
In the earlier works the titles of the photographs were of the object I was either imitating or interacting with. Taking the importance away of myself and in doing so depersonalizing the body. This was also part of the process of the image making as the images were composed to be a picture without me in them, which is similar to the way I construct the work now, creating a space for me to then place myself into.
How do you deal with the process of depersonalization that your body, apparently, goes through, in order to become an object in your performances?
In the performances the body takes on the shapes of objects generally through costume or contortion. Repeating patterns and shapes as the figure plays out the constraints of this. In this way the body becomes an object or a means to create movement.
Oscar Schlemmer , the head of the theater workshop at Bauhaus, worked on the relationship between the body and the surroundings, often transforming bodies into geometrical shapes. His costumes for Slat Dance and Treppenwitz literary transformed the performers into living sculptures, interacting with the set design itself. At first sight, your work can be strongly connected to the Bauhaus aesthetics. In which way do you believe Schlemmer´s approach resembles yours?
I did in fact come to Berlin with the intention of finding out more about Oscar Schlemmer. There are definite cross overs in the work and his use of the human body as an artistic medium. Much of the performances I do use simples gestures to activate the costume and/or surroundings, as do the costumes themselves and choice of objects.
Rorschach believed that from a psychological point of view asymmetricity is rejected by most humans whereas symmetry supplies the necessary information for a stronger interpretation of different scenes and pictures. This opposition also appears clearly in your work. Why is it so significant to you to play with this contradiction?
With the installation “Roschach” the symmetrical images made up of body and object are composed to create sculptural forms of symmetry as photographs. Using the photographic images as the key, the film records the performance using simple gestures to move between poses of the photographic images.
How does your artistic process usually work?
My work is generally site specific, responding to a space, constructing an environment much like that of composing a photograph. The process influenced through research and continual investigation of my own practice.
What is the project you have been working on here at GlogauAir and how do you believe Berlin influenced your work?
During my time in Glogauair I have been concentrated on striping my practice back. From the interaction between body object and the significance of this, towards its most minimal point, allowing the forms or gestures of the body to be that in their own right. Revisiting old imager to understand and breakdown my understanding of compostion or the way in which I compose to reconstruct space and deconstruct the poses. The time in Berlin has allowed me to research art and in particular dance both as viewer and participant, with this knowledge to progress with into my next body of work.
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