An interview with artist Bojo Lawrence, whose immersive multi-media installation Decomposition Stages III and IV investigates immortality through sound, video and the restrained melt of illuminated wax sculptures. (click to read artist bio)

Julia Greenway (Curator, Interstitial Theatre) Can you begin by describing the original intentions behind Decomposition Stages III and IV? What is the conceptual narrative that you were interested in exploring?

Bojo Lawrence Well, I’m getting into my middle age, even though I don’t really like to admit that. I’ve recently relocated to Seattle and it has been a slow transition for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, where it’s going, what I’m even doing with it. I know its dark, but I’ve really been thinking about my own mortality.

I also haven’t made as much of my own work as I would like in several years. I felt I needed to invest in something outside of myself. Allow the ideas and emotions that I was experiencing to come out of me, get them out of my system. Primarily, I was interested in investigating our cultures relationship to death and our own mortality. Death is an intense subject matter; I needed to find a solution in making the concept accessible to my audience. That’s where the illuminating pods and audio come into play, ideally as the viewer you are intrigued, the work appears playful and fun. Overtime the environment falls away; it dies in front of you. The ideas of fragility, decomposition, and death are present even in a stimulating or seemly welcoming environment.

JG Do you have reservation in dealing with the concept of death? Can you talk more about how are you able to make the conceptual nature of this work more accessible?

BL Not really, as I said before these are the ideas that I am interested in exploring right now. I’m not going to hold myself back because it may get too depressing or dark. The illuminated pods are the primary source in intriguing my audience. They are brightly colored glowing wax globes, reminiscent of disco. The decomposition process is not happening to a human or other natural form. The globes are a catalyst for talking about death. This approach a more latent, the ideas are there, but I’m not forcing them. It’s not like I’m making people sit down and watch Saw 4. I’d like to think that this work is subtler than that.

JG How would this piece change if the sculptures didn’t decompose? Why is this element so important?

BL I can’t really answer that, it wouldn’t even be the same project, the work would have no conceptual value. The breakdown of the sculptures is essentially the replication of decomposition. Without that physical element in the piece, I don’t know what the piece would be. In order to deal with decomposition the work itself has to decompose.

JG How does audio and video lend to the experience of the installation?

BL It creates an immersive experience. I wanted to create an installation that really sucked the viewer in and allowed them to experience the process with as many senses as possible. The video will be cropped in really close on a few sculptures, almost like your looking through a microscope. It will be an opportunity to view the process in a different way. It’s interesting, because you are already standing right there watching the sculptures decompose. It becomes a symbol of detachment, when you view the process in video form it is like your not even seeing it. It’s so much easier to detach ourselves from something we see on a video as apposed to something that is happening right in front of us.

The audio element was done in collaboration with Sean Curley. I actually really had nothing to do with it. I wanted the audio to function as the soundtrack for the decomposition process. Sean and I talked a lot about what the audio should be, eventually I wanted to leave it open to Sean’s own interpretation of the process.

Earlier in life I was also a musician and I probably could have done the audio myself, but it would have been too forced for me. Having Sean collaborate on this allowed the audio element to be interpreted differently. Sean is an amazing musician and his involvement with this project allowed it to have a lot more depth. I am really lucky and appreciative that he was willing to collaborate on this project.

JG Can you talk about your process and how the final sculptural installation evolved?

BL I consistently have this problem where I have overly ambitious ideas. Originally for this project I wanted to have something like 300 decomposition gelatin sculptures. I knew that wouldn’t happen and I knew that this project would change. I began making molds and working with the gelatin, but it shrinks a lot and wasn’t holding its shape. I had to scrap it; there was no way for me to make it work. I didn’t anticipate working with wax. It got to the point where I just had to follow what worked. Its all part of the process, you have to give yourself that time for experimentation and find the solution that best works for you. Overall, I am happy with the end result, I didn’t have to sacrifice my concept to reach a final product.

JG I feel that illuminating the “dyeing” sculptures with brightly color lights is reminiscent of commercialism. It appears to be referencing the instability of our culture. Is this an intentional choice and can you elaborate on these ideas in your work?

BL I think that is a great interpretation, although that was not an intentional choice for me. It makes me feel good about the work, that you saw something that I didn’t even have in mind. You’re right in a sense, these are manufactured pieces, they are all the same, and they are in essence, interchangeable parts. In a lot of ways it is referencing commercialism.

JG Along those same lines, you had originally talked about displaying the sculptures in an organic pattern. You have since changed that idea and they are now being displayed in a grid formation. Now you have 30 plus sculptures all the same shape and size displayed in a gird. This idea alone brings up so many analogies for me: communism, militarism, commercialism, and on top of all that these symbols die.

BL Yes, I agree with you. This installation has evolved in a way that I never really intended. I changed the display method because in my mind it worked better visually. I didn’t want this work to be too naturalistic or folksy, I don’t want to make those acute decisions. Displaying them in a natural environment felt too contrived.

Decomposition is the natural break down of everything that exists on this planet. It is a natural process that exists to maintain order and discipline. Not all of the sculptures will be dying some will “survive,” its more or a less an evolution. I want to recreate a natural process with this work. I wanted to take a natural cycle that already exists and re-contextualize it, so we could think about it differently.

I recognize that there are lots of different ways that the viewer may experience this installation. For me it’s a sign of success if a viewer can have an interpretation of the work that I never intended or even considered.

JG Can you describe the final experience of this piece? What will the audience be viewing once the decomposition has been completed? What do you hope people will take away from this experience?

BL The viewer will be left with a secondary pattern, an evolution from the original installation. Half of the sculptures will be gone and there will be collection of wax and water gathered on the floor where these pods once existed.

I hope that my audience can feel excited and perhaps self-important. Maybe beginning to consider that there are natural forces in place greater than. Most importantly I would like to give the viewer a chance to escape, to consider stepping outside of themselves.

JG If you had not limitations (money/space/time) what would you want this project to be?

BL I can’t answer that question. I have no idea what this project would be, it would be something completely different and there would probably be robots.

JG Alright, realistically what is next for you?

BL I am undecided about that. I am leaning towards performance work, but I am still interested in working with gelatin and edible materials. I have nothing specific planned, but there are a lot of ideas kicking around in there.

Conceptually, I would like to move away from ideas of mortality. Although, if expressing my ideas of mortality comes out as 36 decomposing colored globes, which make the whole space feel like a disco club, I can feel pretty good about that.


Bojo Lawrence is originally from Tennessee. He received his BFA in Installation from Florida Sate University in 1996, and has spent the last nine years living in Brooklyn, NY. Always focused on developing his craft, Bojo continues an installation-focused practice incorporating new media with traditional sculptural techniques. In 2011 Bojo participated in Art Machine at The Hole Gallery, New York, and is a current employee at Artech Fine Arts Services when he is not working in his Seattle studio.

Sean Curley’s new album further establishes him as one of the Northwest’s most interesting guitarists. Building on the foundation of his previous solo-guitar full-lengths—Sean Patrick Curley and Empire State Observatories—Curley parlays his fascination with looping, which he’s been doing for nearly 30 years, to explore the instrument’s textural parameters, hypnotic capabilities, and emotional range.With a keenly cinematic vision, Curley has crafted a record that takes you both inward with poignant meditativeness and outward to vividly alien realms. He keeps you guessing throughout, with the only constant being striking musical inventiveness.