Artist Jocelyn McGregor (Jennifer) spoke to our Curator of Interpretation, Nicola Waterman via email.
title, is so obviously completely new to me but makes a lot of sense too... because the more personal, intimate reason behind making Jennifer (the sculpture in the show) is that fear or critique of being put on display, meanwhile I've quite literally done it to myself – as in I've cast my body, my knees – they even look like they're doing some sort of morbid can-can – I’ve used pigment from the area I come from imbuing it with a personal narrative, and I've laid them all out on the rack as it were – the wooden plinth – for everyone to look at.
Sometimes I feel like being a woman does that kind of thing to you too, as in I think most women and non-binary people will be familiar with the situation where you're just doing something mundane, just trying to get by, get your shopping in, walk down the street, have a drink – and yet you feel like you're on display, your body, your outfit, your age, whatever is being scrutinised. And you end up feeling more embarrassed than the people gawping at you!
That’s a long answer…sorry. Perhaps in short I mean [that] I, like a lot of people – like a lot of women – am or started out as a reluctant performer, and perhaps moulding my own body like I do is a way of taking back ownership of my parts, taking back control.
NW: As an artist, as a woman, how do you perform ‘yourself’?
JM: I think I tend to bring humour in, whether that is when I 'perform' in person - e.g. giving an artist talk, speaking in a crit, teaching – or in the artwork itself. Quite a few of the artists I feel a particular affinity with do that too I think in one way or another, like Robert Gober or Alina Szapocnikow; and I'm a big horror movie fan, where humour often plays a large part – Hammer being a prime example. I get more expressive too, again both in person and in my work. Bizarrely, together those reactions can sometimes make it worse, because when you suddenly shift the tone to serious or personal I think it probably makes people feel uneasy, and [makes] me come across as a bit of wild card... the scary thing is I'm not sure if I wouldn't act like that alone ha, ha.
NW: I’ve noticed that horror movie directors often ‘fragment’ the body and I wonder if that’s a way of creating enough distance for us to feel safe.
JM: Yes, that's really interesting! Yes, that fragmenting of the body makes it less human, it resembles the 'consumer'/audience less, and gives a scary insight in to the fragmentation of the female body in terms of the male gaze - “are you a leg or a breast man?” - it becomes meat. And in surrealism too, that fragmenting of the female form as seen in Hans Bellmer's dolls. But I think what really interests is when women do it to themselves - in terms of horror movies there is a particularly good example in In My Skin (or Dans Ma Peau) directed by and starring Marina de Van, in short she starts to self-cannibalise, but in the run up there's a wonderful sequence in Chinese restaurant! Gotta watch it. In terms of dream theory, losing one's limbs is usually symbolic of undergoing some sort of change, like shedding a skin; and legs symbolise something holding you back.
NW: Your work is strongly informed by ‘the body’ and, specifically, your body. When you cast yourself, does it come from a place of love (for your body)?
JM: Oh, I'm not sure. Yes, maybe there's a bit of my body is a temple going on... I certainly don't hate it. I think rather than love it's more familiarity, and comfort. The fact that it's constantly changing and growing, and stuff has happened to it but it hasn't failed me. It’s my vessel, and a strong one.
NW: That’s a really empowering note to end on! Thank you Jocelyn.
“It’s my vessel, and a strong one.”
She Performs Curator of Interpretation