Environmental Sculptures Connecting The Human and Animal World: LTTS interviews Jim Carter

Content note: This piece contains discussion of a dream of dismembering.


Louder Than The Storm interviews Jim Carter, an environmental sculptor, who explores the deep connections between the human and animal world. Concerned with justice and our shared emotional bond with the non-human and inanimate world, Jim’s sculptures bring us closer to how we can become more empathetic and move towards healing ourselves and the environment.


How did you become a sculptor and why are you particularly interested in environmental issues?

From an early age I have experienced anxiety connected with the suffering of living things, and not only their everyday struggle to survive but the stress imposed on animal life by humankind. I was very young when I watched the salmon leaping upriver to their spawning grounds. I remember my companion shouting encouragement that they be caught by the net, but I just felt a sense of dread and an inherent injustice.


This combination of wonder and vulnerability I experience in animals has been a powerful and guiding emotion. I arrived at sculpture because, more than anything else, it satisfies my desire to be in and of the animal and the earth, to be close to the magic but also in relationship with suffering. To understand and articulate the whole was always important to me, to get inside the material and the elemental. Sculpture is the communicating vessel in both directions.


This combination of wonder and vulnerability I experience in animals has been a powerful and guiding emotion.

I run the hollow wind (2)


You use natural materials to create your sculptures, why is this important for your work?

Organic materials express the most intimate and personal of narratives. I want to liberate the eternal, cyclic stories that dwell within them, something lost or silent to us that perhaps is petitioning to be heard. So often, an animal is deprived of meaning or justice, but for me its remains are a living symbol that I work with to commemorate or perpetuate the magic of an animal, to imagine an alternative fate for the land.


I work with the transcendent properties of the materials to create something I would consider apotropaic or redeeming. To put it another way, I think of my sculpture as animistic, expressing something of the permeability and fluidity that is critical for us to experience at this time in relation to other forms of life. Through the processes of death, deconstruction and alchemical reinvention, I want the human psyche to feel these edges of the animal that speak through the material.



Of night fires


How does your art try to foster a relationship between the human and the animal?

Though I feel this sense of wonder at the sanctity of animal life, it has become remote to our senses and divorced from our collective natural ways of being and expression. I guess there is much repetition in my work of certain ideas and beliefs, of ways back into relationship with the land. Through a somewhat predominant narrative of death and rebirth, of magical realism and stories of shapeshifting and interspecies communion, I can express what I feel are routes towards the source.


Animals remind us of our own power and vulnerability, they bring revelation and healing, a sense of a shared fate, and through them we can remake and reclaim a more empathic identity in a time of crisis.


Animals remind us of our own power and vulnerability, they bring revelation and healing, a sense of a shared fate, and through them we can remake and reclaim a more empathic identity in a time of crisis.


I run the hollow wind (3)


Your sculptures capture such powerful emotions and experiences.


Why do you think these expressions are important for creating a conversation about the environment?

I think strong emotions such as grief, revelation, pain or anger are alchemical and transformative, with the power to reawaken our sense of solidarity with and empathy for other forms of life. Through deep experience that comes in particular through encounters with the wild and in the presence of the animal, we are invited to surrender the closed and destructive qualities of the ego. I think it is not too much to hope that such experiences, which for me have a quality of the liminal and the numinous, is a way into right and deeper relations with the world.


Through deep experience that comes in particular through encounters with the wild and in the presence of the animal, we are invited to surrender the closed and destructive qualities of the ego.

I run the hollow wind (1)


What is the inspiration behind the ‘I run the hollow wind’ collection of sculptures?

A few years ago I had a powerful dream in which my body was ritually dismembered and the various parts - arms, legs and torso - buried in different corners of a ploughed field. I interpreted the dream shamanically, in that I had to be deconstructed in order to enter the underworld of the animals. The fox and the rook are for me spirit figures from that realm and with them I have formed a kind of alliance to express the magic and the plight of all things. They came to me as vessels of suffering, you could say, with all the fervour of the night and the darkness of the soil.


In this work, which aligned with my growing awareness of the Extinction Rebellion movement, animals arrive with complex purposes and strange gifts: they are witnesses, destroyers, idols, and sacrifices; dwellers in the remote quarters of the human spirit.



I run the hollow wind (4)


How does your artwork inspire a message of hope and positivity in the climate conversation?

Even though I work with symbols and narratives that can recuperate and restore, I can only do this by entering the suffering of the world. For me, this includes occupying a territory that is Other. So I think through art of a certain nature we are reminded that there is a rich, interior community accessible through alchemy, ritual and sacrifice, a deeper reality of restorative cycles and patterns. I guess I advocate a descent into the underworld where hope and positivity comes by way of the dark night, of living in and accepting loss, and travelling into the unknown. This has always been fertile ground for the flourishing and flowering of the human spirit.



For the old fires still burn and the night is blooming


You can find more of Jim’s work at his website.


Jim was interviewed by Events and Outreach Lead, Mattie O'Callaghan.

#JIM_CARTER #MATTIE_OCALLAGHAN

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