VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University), 2014, BFA Sculpture
Caroline Joy Dahlberg is a performer and sensory choreographer. She has exhibited work in Richmond, VA, Boston, MA, and Chicago, IL. Her work focuses on the human body, drawing from her interest in cognitive psychology and queer feminist theory. As such, her early sculptural work focused on wearables and performance. Her material choices were influenced by the DIY house show culture in Richmond, VA. She became infatuated with the aesthetic of residential basements and living rooms transformed into installation spaces by using whatever materials were on hand. While living in Boston, MA Dahlberg worked in the box office of a children’s puppet theater, an experience which influenced her work to adopt the vocabulary of theater and a playful tone. Under this influence, her sculptures become props and installation becomes set design. Her current practice uses writing as a way of making metaphors, drawing from poetry and contemporary fables.
My objects have lumpy bodies. They are endearing and ham-fisted, soft and fleshy, and empathetically pathetic. Their textures have the quality of something wet and internal, emphasizing the skin that contains organs that contain liquid. They propose that selves are inherently split in two: our social selves (the who of who we are) and our physical selves (the proprioception with which we feel our embodiment). The costuming of self-image holds in our bodily materials like a metaphoric skin, with sagging or bulging areas that call attention to the fact that our physical selves are consistently in flux. When communicating with another person, this costuming acts as a barrier. Our physiological drives and affects are limited to the vocabulary of how our identities should behave.
My work uses theatricality as a method of playing out proposed alternatives for how we could interact with one another, similarly to how fetish subcultures use role-play to transgress normative scripts. Casts of characters and objects mimic familiar forms, rendering them equal parts humorous and uncanny. A human that becomes a creature then becomes a human again reveals parts that are often unseen while in transition. Objects fall apart and back together, demonstrating their instability. The performer makes eye contact and approaches, creating tension in the room. Walking into one of these installations feels like walking in on someone in the middle of something: in the act of becoming, act of decomposing, shifting several levels of containment to keep together. There is a particular anxiety to watching liquid dripping out of its container and onto the floor. With this lack of structure, intimacy becomes a comfort. By dissolving barriers and binaries, we can imagine ourselves entangled with other bodies and environments. By proposing kinesthetic engagements with visceral materials, I am looking for a way to directly access empathetic connections. My work looks to establish closeness that imagines itself breaching thin fabric walls, and getting under your skin. Recently I have used writing to frame metaphors of intimacy that zoom into the molecular and out into social ecology, describing how bodily and environmental materials merge together, losing themselves in one another.
This suggestion of merging as intimacy is comforting and terrifying, simultaneously representing the closeness of another and the loss of self. This form of intimacy is valuable in how it grounds us into the world and allows us to form meaningful connections with other people. For my future works, I am looking to expand the feeling of one-on-one intimacy to a broader transmission of affect. Drawing pathways through the identifiable, allowing overlap and excess, making space for two bodies to touch.
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