Be Careful What You Wish For

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Primordial figure with belly of despair where viewers can whisper a magic incantation to wake the golem. Sculpture evokes marionettes that can be breathed into life, like a voodoo cult figure.

Faced with the startling rise of political extremism around the world I have become particularly inspired by the myth of the Golem: a powerful mythical being, made by man out of the earth, and breathed into life by magic, usually to protect a community from attack.

Over the last year, this archetypal character has resonated perfectly with my feelings of disorientation as I no longer recognise our political landscape. It has felt as though only a  superhuman force will be able to sort this mess out for me. Reaching for the clay I have been experimenting with how I could make a golem, and what that would feel like.

As an archetype, the Golem represents Man’s enduring desire to ‘play god’: to create powerful beings or entities out of inanimate objects in order to protect us or fix an intractable problem. But while the myth is intrinsically hopeful in outlook it is also deeply troubling as it highlights humankind’s propensity towards ‘hubris’, an arrogant miscalculation of the unintended consequences of our creations. A warning looms: Be careful what you wish for.

I have been relishing the fact that the golem archetype is intrinsically linked to my chosen discipline of sculpting figuratively in clay, and plays to my propensity towards political activism. Having generated the work featured in this post earlier this year, I am currently returning to the shadow puppet as the focus of my month-long residency in Bermondsey with Collective Matter – the wonderful ceramic studio led by Katie Spragg and Eva Masterman. Seizing the opportunity of dedicated studio space and large kiln, I am producing a human scale golem marionette that will hopefully be exhibited in the Potting Shed gallery space curated by Collective Matter at Contemporary Sculpture Fulmer, in the coming months.  Watch this space.

 

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Golem Shadow Puppets
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Figurative gestural sculpting
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Skeletal body parts
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Golem chest

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Golem sculpture with interchangeable heads
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Mask head
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Rear View

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The Bigger Picture: ShareHaUs

At the end of last term, we were set an interdisciplinary academic unit called The Bigger Picture, in which I was teamed up with four students from other programmes: 2 Graphic Designers, 1 Architect and a Product Designer. In commemoration of  500 years of Thomas More’s Utopia, we were asked to come up with a response to two questions, one set by the course, and a second formulated by ourselves in response to a series of 6 keynote speeches by external experts from diverse backgrounds:

How can my individual area of design practice help to realise a different tomorrow?

 and

How can Flexible Space be used to bring Positive Change to a Community?

 

Over a 4 week period we were required to prepare a group presentation our ideas, live, including an engaging interactive element. Plus write an individual essay. For our interactive element, we gave each of our 50-stong audience a small ball of clay, and asked them to hold it behind their backs and then gave them 60 seconds to model an elephant without looking, just by touch. The result was a highly energized audience and a herd of delightfully wonky mini elephants. It was an exercise in the importance and pleasure of making things by hand.

Rather than me paraphrase my essay click here to have a read.  bigger-picture-group-6-team-5-joanna-pearl

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