Joss Carter: The Ravenous, The Salvation, The Misery
Joss Carter comes with two caveats: 1. EXPLICIT CONTENT. MATURE AUDIENCE'S ONLY. 2. NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED OR KILLED FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF THIS PRODUCTION. ALL ANIMALS HAVE BEEN ETHICALLY SOURCED. Caveats that act as a prelude to what you might expect from the the contemporary movement and performance artist, teacher and choreographer who includes taxidermy and hand poke tattooing as hobbies. Having worked with BalletBoyz, Russell Maliphant and the Gary Clarke Company among others Carter’s aesthete seems to have been cultivated and solidified - instantly undeniable in his presence face-to-face, aggressively present in his performances style and already evident in one of his early productions ‘The Ravenous Flight of Misanthropy (2012)’. Designed and choreographed by Carter, as with much of his work, it’s described as “Riddled with crimes of passion and sacrificial guilt”. Inspired by author Margaret Atwood’s poem ‘Eating the Birds’, on a clean white surface, anchored by a tree stump and branches, the stage edges seem to disappear into infinity as joss commits his passionate crimes and appears to wrestle with sacrificial guilt. The image, the movement, the styling indicative of an artists who dissects, ruminates and falls deeply into their craft.
In 2014’s ‘Salvation’ Joss Carter explores religious fanaticism, though he doesn’t seem to be taking cues from the obvious contemporaneous hype surrounding Islamic extremism, instead A Clodhopper found the piece mirrored Antonin Artaud’s ‘The Monk’, the French gothic novel based on ‘The Monk’ by Matthew Lewis. In it a senior clergyman is slowly seduced by the devil posing as a women, and ends with the protagonists entrails being picked out of his stomach on a rock. Pretty dark hey, well you could be forgiven for thinking “so is Joss Carter” as he focuses on human suffering centred on spiritual ideology in ‘Salvation’ using an untypical blend of dance and performance. The darkness seems to be a theme that runs through his work coupled with a knack for visually striking pieces that explore the disturbing and the ugly. Though Joss says there is a brightness to his work “The darker themes come from a more humanitarian perspective - more an abstract of human existence and the things that happen in the world and the things that have happened in the history. But there is a lightness to it, the performance is an opportunity to express and that gives me a freedom and a lightness performing them. It is easy as an artist to focus on an absurd, provocative or grotesque theme because people feed off provocation. I am here to provoke and challenge, but there is a huge awareness, to make the audience aware of things that have happened in the world and in history.”
Despite the reassurance the darkness is omnipresent in his work, especially with improvised solo performance piece ‘Misery Flesh’ (2015). In it, wearing nothing but a skinned pig head Joss pulls sharp focus on the the male of the species “I made the pig face because I do taxidermy, with misery flesh I wanted to show the grotesque nature of men. The glorification and the grotesqueness of the male species or the bastardisation of the man. Whether that be body dysmorphia, a clinical depression, the idea of being uncomfortable in their body so from an aesthetic point of view they have to change themselves because at the end of the day they feel disgusted with their body, their image how they look or how they feel. It has a lot to do with shame. And when I perform it, because I put this mark, as a form of art, gives me a second skin, a mask so I can kind of put one side of me away and bring out this other beast.” Another element to Joss Carter is his sexuality; an energy perceptible in his performance, when you meet him in person and a theme explored explicitly in ‘Misery Flesh’ “As a straight man there’s always a social prejudice or some kind of barrier of being a very open, society has a large role to play. But as a straight man there’s always a curiosity of exploration. And within Misery Flesh I can express myself, the piece allows me to really challenge myself and push myself with my sexuality and an audience. It’s an outlet.” Taking a cue from three of his works, a potent mix of the Ravenous, the Salvation and the Misery sum up Joss Carter perfectly.