In my work I court the impossible; I hold tight to a teetering edge. I am fascinated by what philosopher Drew Leder calls the null point—the place between—neither in nor out of the body’s acuity. I attempt to suspend time and extend the tipping point, the moment right before collapse, dangling, almost falling, almost overflowing. By reconfiguring the elements of setting, object and gesture in both performance and installation, I create familiar scenes unsettlingly skewed, evoking devotion, intimacy, peril or longing.
I find inspiration in my immediate surroundings: the place, its history, the people there and the remnants on hand. In fact, I am wooed by mundane, seemingly ordinary things and common, repetitive tasks. I sculpt space and material to create heightened sites for routine but exacting gestures, often nudging oversized sculptural garments or objects or into ephemerality. In the piece, Prospect, for example, the space is defined by three tons of dirt in perfect minimalist mounds, and the rhythmic tick tock of a cuckoo clock. As the performer, dressed in a shade of saffron shared by inmates and monks, I set to sifting a single pile of dirt for five hours without interruption. The soil sculptures are made impermanent, almost insubstantial, by this act of displacement. The transformation of the physical material during the performance serves as both motive and metaphor for the transformation of my mental and emotional state. I conjure a kind of quiet alchemy by imprinting the space, moment by moment, hour after hour, with simple, ceaseless effort: sifting, licking, kissing, laughing. In my work, in every way, I seek the magic of being made wholly vulnerable and inexorably connected.
Laurel Jay Carpenter is a visual art performer, investigating longing, devotion and intimacy in her durational live works. She has exhibited extensively in New York City at venues including Exit Art, The Knitting Factory, Performance Space 122, Judson Church House, the ISE, SOHO20 and Microscope Galleries, and Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. Laurel has been a fellow and invited artist at the International Performance Art Festival in Cleveland, The Performance Studies International Conference and the MacDowell Colony. Internationally, Laurel has presented work at the NMAC Foundation in southern Spain; with Wooloo Productions and the Hebbel Theatre in Berlin, Germany; at Schloss Salem Palace in southern Germany; at the Bergen International, Between Sky + Sea and Kunstbanken Hedmark Performance Festivals in Norway; at the Festival of Ephemeral Art in Sokolowsko, Poland; at The International Festival of Contemporary Art in Terni, Italy; and as part of the 2007 Venice Biennale.
Laurel is honored to have been part of the Independent Performance Group (2004-2007), founded and facilitated by Marina Abramović, as an early incarnation of her Institute in support of the next generation of durational performers. Currently, Laurel collaborates regularly with Norwegian artist Terese Longva and US dance artist/scholar Robert Bingham, and has just begun a new creative partnership with German composer/performer Philippe Wozniak. After 11 years of service, Laurel recently resigned her tenured position as Associate Professor of Art at Alfred University in New York to embark as a PhD candidate at Northumbria University.