Interview: Jody Oberfelder
Luca Curci talks with Jody Oberfelder during THE BODY LANGUAGE 2022, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Jody Oberfelder Projects creates art that connects to and illuminates everyday life. Whether on a proscenium stage, in a film, or an installation, the audience’s experience is changed from passive voyeurism into intimate engagement. The company’s performances serve up tangible, visceral experiences of presence, allowing the opportunity for the audience to insert themselves into contemporary dance in a fun and accessible way. Jody Oberfelder Projects’ live art performances function as a living organism, inclusive and collective, wherein each participant’s experience is woven into their own life’s narrative and shared humanity. Jody Oberfelder Projects premiered with a solo performance at NYC PS 122 in 1986. JOP’s first ensemble performance premiered at Dia Art Foundation, now known as Joyce SoHo, in 1898. These successful and pioneering debuts blossomed into over three and a half decades of performances, commissions, festivals, on-site performances, films and more. Some of our highlights have included Life Traveler performed in Philadelphia, London, Munich, Germany; Berlin, and on the streets of NYC. Object Place Walking, presented at the Walking New Movements conference in Plymouth, UK created a visceral experience and alternative site for the audience, performed on stage and in public spaces. Other highlights include Object Place for Astor Place, a historical and alternative ‘guided tour’ in collaboration with the NYC Department of Transportation; Things, performed at South Bank’s Flowstate in Brisbane, Australia; On the Move Shortly, performed at St. Pancras Station in London, England; Castle Walk, performed in Braga, Portugal; and The Brain Piece, performed at the International Nontechnology Summit, Dance Place, and New York Live Arts.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Jody Oberfelder – Art is a conversation. Art is energy. Art is movement. Art is a chance for perceptual change. Art is an experience, a chance to dilate and see the granular, or see vastness. Art is about personal connection. It’s taken me several decades to respect that I am my own artist and take pride in being out of the box. I live in the space of my real emotions, intellect, and imagination, and strive to communicate as many translations as possible on what it means to be human. It is important to me that other people are on the receiving end and can enter the art experience on their own terms. My question is always, Is it didactic? Or is the art breathing and a two-way street?
LC – What are you currently working on?
JO – I have the live stage piece Rube G. that will be performed once the right venue comes up. This will be a movement piece inspired by a Rube Goldberg Machine. Sheer play. For now, I’ve immersed myself in Site-Specific Walking pieces. My newest choreography actively addresses the context of culture and community within a place. We will perform at the Victoria and Albert Museum on April 23 and in Brooklyn on June 3,4,5, 2022, and in Munich in May 2023. Along the guided tour, we ask questions of ownership. How do you belong to a place? What it is to be on this land: where are your feet standing? What kind of imprint do we make as we walk, as we live? What are the monuments representing our culture, and how are we momentary monuments standing here? Our work takes these questions inside our bodies, and on this physical level, we become a part of history. Most importantly, the choreography and work nurture a sense of how we humans keep the continuum going. The choreography will grow out of the place.
LC – Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
JO – Absolutely. The input is part of a crucial dialogue.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
JO – I didn’t start till later in my life. There was no real art in my childhood, and I was never the kind of artist to stay within the lines. I went to a conservatory for dance for a few years and found I was not moldable material. I’ve always made my own kind of work and have not fit into a particular clique. I have great respect for my colleagues as we’re all putting our art out there. In the beginning, I was raw and unruly, and my physical language was fierce. Now my art is growing to connect with life and the people in it. I might have not found my ilk until after singing in a rock band, and after trying out styles. It wasn’t till I had kids that I realize how much art and art-making are connected to life. For me the meaning in my work came from a real place, not all heavy emotional, but philosophical. I make art out of life. I like humour and lightheartedness, though my work is not shallow. I like a sense of play. This has stayed consistent. I trust my imagination.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it your medium of expression?
JO – I look to express connections, between people, places, and ideas. I offer visceral experiences of presence, allowing the opportunity for people to insert themselves into the work, honouring their own humanity.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
JO – The body is a powerful medium. All of the art is connected by our humanity.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the exhibition’s theme?
JO – Body and language go hand in hand. Our instincts are connected to our animal natures. We communicate with our whole selves.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
JO – A fascinating array of artists I see the groupings as random yet inevitable.