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Fascinated by the vocabularies of design and architecture, Chelsea College of Art graduate Joe Crowdy, one of 19 artists selected to exhibit at Jotta?s Sum of Substance, talks with us about the research and inspiration behind his sculptures and the print he created exclusively for Jotta?s Editions Space.
What medium do you work with, and what did you exhibit at Sum of Substance?
My work calls upon the diverse material vocabularies of design and architecture, not only as its subject matter, but as the means of its manifestation. Within the broad parameters of sculpture and installation I return to certain materials again and again such as tubular steel, fabric, and paper, and often use photo collage and digital printing.
At Sum of Substance I exhibited a couple of pieces from my degree show: Foyer Apparatus (assembled), a bent tubular steel and leather sculpture which draws on structures from the different spheres of iconic design and exercise and fitness, and Solution For A Pavilion IV, a silk curtain printed with a collage constructed from photographs of marble facades on buildings in Spain.
As well as these pieces, I showed a new work, Idle Programme, in which a sheet of acetate digitally printed with a diagram, originally made as a way of analysing public park play equipment, hangs over a tubular steel rail.
As part of Jotta's Editions Space I made a new digital collage – Patio Patois – which uses the forms of decorative concrete blocks found in both the 'patio-cultures' of places like Spain and California, and the suburban front gardens of this country.
What narratives informed your work for the show?
I conduct a research practice that oscillates between a study of published and canonised lineages of design and architecture, and a sort of anthropological fieldwork into the filtered residue of these histories – and their inherent ideologies – in different concrete sites of everyday life. In the broadest sense, I am interested in structures that encourage or allow users to take on a participatory role, drawing into question the boundaries between the sites and activities designated for production and consumption.
My most recent work has engaged with structures that actively communicate, or give instructions for required gestural approaches – in particular self-assembly furniture manuals and colour-coded play equipment. Another ongoing line of enquiry pivots around a questioning of the effects of the Modern delineation of spaces of hygiene and physical exercise within the parallel doctrine of open-plan living.
How do you feel your work engaged with the show's theme of value and how we measure it?
My work often questions how value is attached to different sorts of activities, different materials and production processes. I frequently return to an investigation into the roles of authenticity and imitation – exploring whether a higher value (either merit or meaning) is placed in the unique – the original version or the model – or in that which is most prevalent and therefore shared – the ubiquitous and everyday, the mass-produced. My work also questions how structures participate in different fields of value – be they formal and aesthetic, functional, or to do with communication and information – and how these value-fields can cross over.
What's coming up next for you?
An exhibition I was involved in last month in Sheffield might be touring to other cities. In terms of my work, I'm in the very early stages of planning a film based around an interview with a Spanish builder/architect focusing on his 1970s holiday chalets, and want to continue to work in an edition format since enjoying producing Patio Patois for Jotta.