Joseph Popper ‘Caught in the act’

Caught in the Act Chelsea Futurespace March 2009
Not afraid to fail , not too worried about success! If it was not for our dreams and aspirations And if it was not for our dreams and aspirations we would find it hard to override the mundane. Joseph Popper challenges these flights of fancies and puts into action and performance something that could be but in fact rarely is.
Deliberate irrationality , immediacy and playful humour are consistent and central elements in Popper’s work. Victor Hugo’s words: “ to entrust is sometimes to abandon” appropriately describe Joseph Poppers approach. (Les Miserables,1862). He is an emerging artist working on the theme of “pure possibility” a term coined by Husserl’s writings on the imagination, ‘the realm of as-if’, {Husserl, Ideas 1913}.
Elementary to Poppers work is his interests in the universal ambition for human mobility through machinery. Recent work has taken the form of flying machines and other contraptions designed to achieve the improbable and launch himself off the ground. His actions and experiments are based on his imaginative designs and storyboards for a situation which he then enacts to camera in one take – giving himself one chance only to directly confront the physical and practical limitations of that initial sketches.
“There is a great history of grand aspirations and also great failures with a rich source of fantastic imagery to be inspired by… Looking at documentation while still a student at Chelsea I realised that the most exiting part for me is the spark in the image rather than the actual realisation of the object itself. Appreciating the work of artists like Panamarnko , Roman Signer and Michael Sailsdorfer help me locate my own art practise and the desire of performing to camera or photographically constructing and realising the image relates to those early experiences”
Joseph explores the pursuit of possibility not actually intending to make a working contraption but he works in the manner of a conceptual ‘bricoleur’ using low tech inventions as a prop for realising imagery that sparks exitement. He achieves this with a sense of irrationality and complete abandon into absurd situation devised and orchestrated to video and camera. Notions of the pathetic and the mad inventor combine with an open admission that the objects he makes are fallible and not foolproof.
JP “There is a significant relationship in my practice between that which is thoroughly composed, and what is left open to chance in a “doodly squat” manner. The interplay between these aspects is most prominent in my videos: where an honest and humorous fallibility emerges from a confident pose. The inherent failure of my designs is a most important admission – for the shift in tone lends the un-realised idea and aspiration a renewed sense of buoyancy.”

About the work for Caught in the Act

A Rolling Start (Video)

Consistent in his doodly squat manner, Popper continues to push for grand aspirations within futile and irrational situations. The video “A Rolling Start” witnesses Popper taking to the streets of South London in a red cardboard car. This latest prop sees a side step away from a pseudo-scientific pose, towards the pose of the dreamer.
While the street scene unfolds the artist quietly emerges into shot, laced up in roller skates, frantic and unstable in his efforts to push himself inside the car body forwards along his route. As the real cars seemingly hound Popper out of shot, they also reaffirm the ridiculousness of his parody. Despite the very real struggle evident in the work, the image Popper creates is so unconvincing it becomes almost detached from reality.
In “Shooting Star” Popper continues to explore the potential of photography to capture remarkable instants.The image arose out of an interest in the dependency of space travel onits documantation: where by default the only audience is the camera. The photograph depicts the artist posing as a lone astronaut within a lunar setting playing golf with the ‘stars’. No one but the camera is witness to the whimsical trajectory of the flare the golf ball leaves in its wake.
The image conjures a link between wishful thinking and flashes of imagination, with infinity and the incomprehensible. A kind of reversal takes place and what is made possible may be imperfect but is all the better for it and necessarily so. The image achieved by Popper enables our imagination to expand upon the grand aspiration that his action addresses.
Balancing in between the spaces of fiction and reality, Joseph Popper contrasts dsign with immediacy and success with failure, drawing the viewer in to take a flight of fancy and a playful journey. In his work we are also reminded of the importance of play – which may, in fact , be the highest expression of our humanity. In psychological terms, play allows our brains to maintain and even perhaps renew the neural connections that embody our human potential to adapt and to meet any possible set of environmental conditions. We play not only because we are, we play the way we are and the ways we could be. Hence play is our connection to pure possibility and the realm of as-if.
Written by Christina Eberhart

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