Jenny Dunseath was born in Warwickshire, England and lives and works in London.
Dunseath studied at the RA and is currently a Lecturer in Fine Art: Sculpture at Norwich University College of the Arts
A conversation between Jenny Dunseath and Amy Budd on 30th January 2011
Amy Budd: The materials you’ve worked with in Site Construction have a particularly industrial aesthetic, whilst also being quite playful in your use of colour and textiles. So rather than recalling a ‘construction site’, as the title suggests, the sculptures are more reminiscent of a children’s playground. Could you say more about your use of materials here, and the effects they produce in the space?
Jenny Dunseath: The use of materials is paramount to the context of the work and it’s citing within a sculptural tradition. The bare steel references scaffolding, but the manipulation of it; the bending and joining, breaks down this notion and brings it into the realm of climbing frames and early 60’s sculpture. Steel and polystyrene are material opposites and using the polystyrene as a base is contradicting its material nature, as we understand it; the easily manipulated ‘rice cake’ quality of polystyrene pierced by bare cold steel tubing. The prefabricated polystyrene cylinders are sourced from builders merchants are I believe, used in the casting process for the foundations of buildings. This context is instrumental to their use in my work. The surface of the naked polystyrene is worn and dirty; clean it is too perfect and has no relation to its original use. Colours reference exaggerated health and safety colours infused with the hyper real promotional colours of billboards and are used to assert the different functions that parts play in the total structure. Luminous green Ripstop nylon and garish coloured jackets clad the polystyrene cylinders to provide blocks colour whilst simultaneously maintaining simple forms. The impermeable, industrial and hardwearing nature of Ripstop nylon acknowledges outdoor activities and protection. The use of ‘standard brand’ grey talks about the floor and accentuates the ground level. The animations reiterate a similar language - footage of a cement mixer is paralleled with brash dizzying images to clash and disorientate. So your question, which recognises the implied nature of the title, perhaps should be substantiated. Site Construction, is a nod to Krauss’ 1979 essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field” but it also a wink to website constructions (e.g. ‘site under construction’). Fundamentally the work attempts to take on the dichotomy of construction and development.
AB: The animations certainly make for uncomfortable viewing, especially when viewed at such an awkward angle. Are these ‘awkward’ or negative affects something you intend to produce in your work? Or perhaps these are just consequences of your interest in construction and development.
JD: Sadistically the awkward and negative affects are entirely intentional. The playful and simple nature of the animations is taken to the extreme to make nauseating, mesmerizing and annoying films that jump between enticing you, and repelling you, whilst looming above you. The animations are placed above you in the centre of the space to put the viewer in and amongst the sculptures. Hindered by frames and girders, physical negotiation is essential and the films provide a sensory overload. This acknowledged physicality again returns us to the traditional role of sculpture requiring us to move around it and alter our everyday egocentric positioning, as Barry Martin would say. My work has consistently dealt with duality and the presentation of opposites; construction/destruction; development/regression. It secures development for the next piece of work.
AB: You mentioned that the animated films repeat a similar language to the sculptures. Do you usually include film/video work in your sculptural installations?
JD: I have always used film in my practice but haven’t always shown it. I originally used film like a sketchbook or camera - as another method of understanding. I began to use animations in my work because of their paradoxical nature, the use of a still image to imply movement. This came about from a dilemma I had whilst attempting to resolve still aluminium cast objects. The object I was left with had no resonance and did not reflect the importance of the process of making. Combining cast objects in another process like animation exemplified process making it over the top and ridiculous.
AB:You’ve said previously (based on notes made on a visit to your studio) that “As soon as I reach a comfort point in the making of a piece of work, by which I mean that I begin to understand it, know how it might look, understand what I will do next, then I loose interest”. Does Site Construction at OUTPOST then mark the end or conclusion of your current interests in the materials, forms and themes exhibited here?
JD: I prefer the possibilities within making than concluding and resolving. Site Construction is resolved for what I set out to do. I lost interest in it when I knew what I had to do; resolving edges, defining colours etc, and so I started a new body of work whilst finishing this. The materials and forms may be revisited but in a different guise. Here they fulfil the need for a prefabricated aesthetic and the possibility that it could be mass produced, made by anyone anywhere, which is a diametrically opposed to my previous body of work that explored the affect of the handmade on Kobro-esq forms. The theme is always the same - questioning the relationship between architecture and sculpture, in whatever guise that may be; building sites, buildings, shelter etc. it stems from the all basic traditional terms of sculpture: monument, architecture, site, pedestal, space, and public. The duality and presentation of opposites, that I mentioned before, directly informs my process of making. If something doesn’t work, I’ll try the opposite. I can see the problems with this, but this constant dissatisfaction is what drives me to make more work. It’s an addictive thing. I’ve got a lot more to do.