Standing in solitude, deep within the woods, is often a scene associated with peacefulness and tranquility; time for the mind to rest. For Jack Carvosso, it is a place to think, for work to take shape. His latest project, Sorry I Was Miles Away, begins with a log that is hanging, as if by some unknowable force of nature, between two large trees.
Much like a magic show, a series of performative events is about to occur during which time we will be transported from the forest to the hills, from a pub to an attic. We will chuckle and smirk at the acts taking place, but when we look closer, a story will unravel that explores the finitude of our existence, and our psychological experience of it.
James Brown corresponded with Carvosso to talk more about his work, and the balance between humour and seriousness that he has struck.
James Brown: How did the project take shape?
Jack Carvosso: It began like any other normal project would - with me digging around in the dirt, skimming stones, pretending to be an archaeological researcher, and making a sculpture out of my dead dog’s ashes. It wasn’t until I read Sigmund Freud’s The Joke and It’s Relation to the Unconscious and Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture that all of this began to make sense.
JB: While the images are obviously staged scenes, they appear to occur out of a process of traveling. Was that the case?
JC: I wanted a project that would take my practice out of the studio – but even more so, out of London. Photography can take you places and make you do strange things, the whole nature of taking pictures is very performative. If I wanted to go to forest, to scale a fell in the Lake District or simply visit a beach then I could, because I had a reason to.
JB: What strikes me first of all about the images is the humour of them, yet they conjure up so much more in the mind as stories begin to unfold. Did you ever worry about the images being considered one-dimensional?
JC: Yes, but I soon got over it. I want people to laugh, and I want them to smirk, it may only be from the surface but at least I have their attention. But as you say, there is logic camouflaged in the nonsensical acts. Despite my work being informed by jokes and the idea of play, this is not to say they should be associated as being “non-serious”. For humour cannot only be employed as an inventive tool but also a function to explore “serious” concepts.
JB: There seems to be a balance between those scenes that appear, if only momentarily, to have been constructions conducted by nature itself and those that have been created through obvious human intervention. Do you think the former of these speak as much to the finitude of nature as they do to that of humanity?
JC: Temporality has been a key aspect throughout this work where I attempt to focus on the finitude of human action and existence. We can foresee the end of these precarious sculptures where we can consider the sentiment of mortality. I attempt to project a human presence onto the images, in which comes to an end as quickly and as abruptly as the balanced objects themselves. I aim to comment on our position in time, and as I have mentioned before: once the log falls, when the cards collapse and the wet footprints disappear, all will continue, undisturbed by their presence and fade back into reality.
JB: The titles of your images – Log Regaining Glory as a Tree, Indian Rug in 12 Poses – play as much of a part in determining the narrative at work as the images themselves. Do they emerge after you have taken the images, or do titles inspire the creation of images?
JC: Creating the titles became intrinsic to the spontaneity of making the work. Log Regaining Glory as a Tree came to mind after I “rescued” a broken branch from the moss of the forest floor, and couldn’t help but consider him with a consciousness (the mind turns when spending quite some hours in solitude). He was revived into an afterlife, and that’s when I realised those were the happiest days of his living life.
JB: What inspired the personification of the natural world through the titling?
JC: The personification of objects is easily spotted when a child is in a state of play; it’s how they make sense of the world. Everything we do has evolved from this formative element in human culture. I wanted my images to trace back to this way of learning and communicating for them to further reference notions of passing time.
JB: I remember when I saw the work exhibited, the hang was quite eclectic, with some images hung high up the wall and others closely grouped together. Is there a formalized sequence to the images?
JC: It took me quite some time to figure out a sequence, but I had a certain idea of how I wanted the images to be presented. The card stack had to be small, like an effortless snapshot made during the waiting time between meals. The Tightrope Artist had to be up high to simulate the daring plunge if it were to fall, while others such as Sculpture Determined By The Lowest I Can Limbo was hung at the height that I could actually limbo. The installation was designed for a corner, for I wanted the audience to be literally surrounded by imagery.
JB: Something that sticks with me when looking at the images is the solitude nature of each photograph. There are no human lives to be seen, and the only trace of you as the photographer is the reflected tiny flash from the camera in one image. How would you describe your presence in relation to the work?
JC: I was the only, and will forever be the only person to witness the performances and sculptures in their physical state. Photography notifies us that these occurrences took place, however there is no indication for how long. Some lasted hours, others seconds. The images urge you to look beyond the still shot, and in doing so I hope you realize that I exist in the images just as much as any of the performative objects. The images are an extension of my being.
You can see more of Carvosso’s work on his website here.@jamesbrownphoto
— James Brown