Isabelle Albuquerque

Orgy For 10 People In One Body 8, 2021, Human hair, coyote claws, resin, gold wedding band, courtesy Jeffrey Deitch Gallery

Isabelle Albuquerque’s work is carnal, ritualistic, one part transhumanism, another part teratophilia, a sprinkling of body horror and Hajime Sorayama. Los Angeles-based Albuquerque is a sculptor, performer, and the co-director of Osk, a collaborative studio that develops artificial and alien intelligence to create and look at art and individual experience through new human and nonhuman perspectives. Her work often takes on her own shape, as seen in Orgy for 10 People in One Body, a series in which she uses casts and 3D scans of her body to create headless human-scaled figures, something she sees as a commemoration of the corporeal in an increasingly tech-mediated world. Her process is often challenging, with the casting of her body taking up to five hours in one sitting. Myth and eroticism encircle Albuquerque’s works, and she tells us she once ate deer food for three weeks while working on “Orgy for 10 People in One Body: 5, 2020,” a sculpture that is a splicing of her body with that of a deer. Albuquerque’s pieces capture a unbridled erotic spirit that feels pagan, one we might see in a movie about witches, women dancing nude in the forest, their long hair sticking to their sweating skin, a fire gleaming in their eyes as they gasp and shriek, pure desire radiating in a way that feels of this world but otherworldly, both animal and alien, natural and supernatural. -Olivia Whittick

Orgy for 10 People in One Body: 5, 2020, Flocked resin, ebony Gaboon, wedding ring24 × 48 × 24 in

What is the scariest thing about owning a body?

If we think of our relationship to our body as one of ownership it can get scary quite fast. In an ownership model, the possession of self becomes paramount and losing this possession becomes obscene.  I’m very interested in the obscene. I’d much rather revel in a feral, obscene body than in one that is under illusions of control.  And I don’t see the body as something to be feared but rather as a site of transformation embedded with birth, death, eroticism, information and power. 

What possesses you to create?

I think of making art as taking part in a kind of call and response through time – a long back and forth song about our terrestrial experience. For example, the body as a site of transformation that I am referring to above pops its head up throughout our cultural history. In one instance, it’s the movie of a teenage boy becoming a werewolf (Teenwolf, 1985). In another, it is a mythic god in the form of a swan raping a woman who then lays eggs (Leda and The Swan, Ancient Greece). And in another, it is a nineteen year old who has gone through three horrific stillbirths (Mary Shelly) and then writes an instant literary classic about a monster born by man (Frankenstein, 1818).

Being a human and a pack animal who depends on belonging for survival can lead to such strong, driving feelings of loneliness. But experiencing all other humans through the art they are making or the art they have left behind can really nourish the place in us that desires to be a part of something that feels bigger. It’s like a long conversation with every other person since the birth of us. I think it’s a conversation that helps us survive and that keeps us in deep relationship to ourselves and everyone (past, present and future) around us.

Given the choice, would you become immortal?

No. I think life would be less charged without it’s marriage to death. 

Have you ever had any sort of supernatural or paranormal encounter?

I have what people might call supernatural or paranormal encounters, but I never think to categorize them this way. These kinds of experiences just feel like such an innately human way of processing.

Orgy For Ten People In One Body: 7, 2021, Black Locust, gold wedding band, teddy bears, 23 22/25 × 58 × 14 3/4 in

Orgy for 10 People in One Body: 6, 2020
resin, mica-laced Lexus auto body paint
18 x 18 x 65 in

Can you tell us about your involvement in Osk, and your interest in alien intelligence? 

Osk is a collaboration between myself and the artist Jon Ray. Jon has been making art and films with creative artificial intelligence that has its own agency for many years and our conversations and work around non-human ways of seeing and making have had a big influence on my thinking.

One of the things I do at Osk is build the databases to train our AI on. So for example, we first trained on the history of nude painting through images from the first cave paintings of the human figure to now. I think of myself as a kind of mother or teacher to these emerging intelligences. We’re trying to show them all of what humans know so they can show us things we don’t know. And sometimes I think of Orgy For 10 People In One Body as a kind of response to the emergence of artificial intelligence and a more bodiless existence.  It’s as if I’m making memories of what it’s like to have such a corporeal experience because this experience is so quickly becoming something much less tied to a singular physical body.

How do you think an alien would encounter your work?

It’s difficult to say as we have no idea what an alien’s sensory inputs might be like, but I hope encountering the work would feel like an orgasm.

Are we living in a culture of fear? 

I think that change is often accompanied by fear and we are definitely in a time of great change. It’s hard not to be afraid when the things that have historically comforted us – touch, shared space, togetherness- are potentially laced with a deadly disease and when the planet that is our home is changing so rapidly that fire has become a season.  I think we all sense that we have to fundamentally transform to meet this moment. The transformation can feel destabilizing because it’s a kind of death, but it’s also a kind of birth.