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2 portrait busts, Antoni sculpture
2 portrait busts, Antoni sculpture

Janine Antoni. Lick and Lather, 1993. Chocolate and soap, 24 x 16 x 13 in.

Is it possible to touch something with sight, to feel something deeply in a total state of awareness? For Janine Antoni, creative process takes on a psychological disposition. She creates objects with an intense admiration of life, in which her body is your vehicle, a fulcrum of perception, in which senses are enabled through corporeal textures. Phenomenologically speaking, Antoni would like you to feel her body and to understand where your body is in relation to gestures frozen into forms of loving care. To speak with Antoni about her work and the root of sculptural presence is to be present and aware in one’s own body and mind. She does not see the body as a mere vehicle for the mind; instead, she hopes the body feels before the mind takes over. Listening to her, I felt more in tune with the dance of what it really means to appreciate sculpture.

Joshua Reiman: What are your current obsessions? 

Janine Antoni: My current obsession is improvisational dance, and it has transformed my way of creating sculpture. I am interested in what comes to me in the moment. Committing to being open to that has allowed things to flow out of me in a way that I could not achieve in the studio alone. Dance pushes me into a whole new territory. 

My obsession has always been the body, and I have always had some physical activity that inspires my sculpture. For instance, I learned to walk on a tightrope and became obsessed with balance. I did it every day, waiting to learn something that I could bring back to my sculpture. Then before I knew it, the tightrope itself became part of the work. 

sculpture on stool

Janine Antoni. to return, 2014. Polyurethane resin, 24 x 24 x 35

JR: When you are dancing, what are you finding out about the body, and how does that relate to an object that you have made? 

JA: I’ve been exploring forms of somatic movement for seven years now. This has been fun and enlightening, and I surprise myself again and again. As I move, I receive visions of potential artworks. It is very curious, as though my ideas are lodged in my body, and through movement, they come out. 

JR: That sounds like a spiritual meditation, although instead of trying to block out life, you are accepting it. 

JA: Yes, I watch, I wait, and then I see how things resolve themselves. When I move, I have revelations: I don’t know if this will sound like a revelation to you, but my ankle is actually connected to my cheek. When we walk around the world, we are not really aware of this. We are usually in our heads, and our bodies are just vehicles to move our thinking minds. I was not walking around the world in an embodied way. So, dance has been a way to integrate my body with my experience of the world. This was something I had been trying to do with the work since the beginning, where the edges of my body are more permeable and the distinction between my inside and my outside world merge. I want to make sculptures that describe that kind of embodiment. 

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