Ten Questions: Jason Dodge

“Since I was a child, poetry has been the important source of a connection to the written world,” says Jason Dodge, whose solo exhibition opened Friday at galleri Andersen’s in Copenhagen.

Jason Dodge.

A solo exhibition featuring US artist Jason Dodge is currently on view at gallery Andersen’s in Copenhagen. Dodge’s exhibitions are based on simple interventions and objects that form part of a more wide-ranging allegorical equation that is often evocatively enigmatic. Here, the gallery space is always one element among several that join up to form a web of associations and potential narrative threads that run the length and breadth of the exhibition space and back and forth in time. The exhibition in Copenhagen includes a pair of alternative portraits of the artist’s grandmother and grandmother created by means of simple interventions into the gallery’s internal architecture. Dodge has removed basic elements such as heating and light – a radiator in the office (the grandmother) and all lights in the gallery’s main space (the grandfather). These are subtle adjustments were you only gradually sense what is missing from the space – and where you are also, in a wider sense, reminded of the ties that link us to past generations.

Jason Dodge was born in 1969 in Newton, Pennsylvania and has lived and worked in Berlin since 2003. The Copenhagen exhibition marks Dodge’s first solo exhibition in Denmark.

How are the preparations going?

Everything is fine, as it was meant to be.

What is the exhibition about? What are we going to see?

The work is about generations, from portraits of my ancestors, to sleeping children. It is a funny question in this case, “what will we see” because the portraits are made by removing something from the gallery as opposed to bringing something in.

Poetry seems to play an important part in your artistic production. Later this month you and Dieter Roelstraete will talk about poetry at Charlottenborg here in Copenhagen. What role does poetry take up in your work?

I am a terrible reader, I get distracted reading more than a page, even when I am exited about what I am reading. Poetry saved me, something I could read!! Since I was a child, poetry has been the important source of a connection to the written world. Now I know some of the poets I admire, and it brings such an amazing richness to my thinking.

How would you describe your working method?

I try to always find new ways to work, I will go through periods where I try things I have never tried. I am interested in seeing as feeling and thinking, which can be a confusing way to work. I think this is the key to my recent obsession with the work of Pierre Bonnard, he was the master of seeing as feeling, amazing!!

Your works often play with notions of visibility – and invisibility. Only because of the title does the beholder learn what she/he can’t see in Emeralds Inside an Owl, 2009 (emeralds inserted into the body of an owl). The same goes for Poison Hemlock in an Alto Flute, 2009. Is it a game of trust, or what does this strategy mean to you?

We don’t know what most things are, or where they have been, or what is in them. Who is heartbroken, who is carrying a weapon, how much electricity, how deep is that pipe, who wore that, what country are the inhabitants connected to through that satellite dish. As the world is this, I think it is an interesting way to approach sculpture.

You have been living in Berlin for many years. Does this city still provide a good working environment?

Having a family in Berlin is a dream, a provincial life in a major city – there is plenty of time there, a slowness and grayness that can make people nuts but I love it. Berlin suits the way I like to work.

When and why did you become an artist?

My father is an artist, I guess I thought it is just what one did.

How do you see your role as an artist today?

To make things that I really mean, that say something about being alive and a person, and always challenging myself, sounds silly in this context, I know, but that is it.

Can you mention any current art projects or other practices that inspire you?

I really liked Sergej Jensen’s show at Galerie Neu in Berlin.

What would you change in the world of art?

I wouldn’t change something. We, collectively mark our time, inclusion and exclusion rarely stays the same. It is amazing to see how many artists are able to live from being artists, how is that anything but good?