In Jewish folklore there is the myth of the golem. An allegory of life in regards to the human race in the same vein as our position to the divine. A lesser being wrought into existence via ritual to act in servitude, protection and praise for the gift of life. The most famous being the golem of Prague, supposedly brought into existence by Rabbi Loew as a protector of the city’s Jewish population and a servant of the tenants of the faith, during the 16th Century. Constructed out of mud from the river, the beast was “decommissioned” after a destructive rampage until such a time as he was needed to come to the aid of the people once more. Becoming a post-life being, a pre-robotics automaton and a forewarning about our imperfect experimentations into the construction of life.
Tom Volkaert’s sculptural forms have always enacted themselves as post-life in this vein. Some function almost as totemic signals for the deities of lost civilisations with ideologies that are both foreign and fascinating to a western observer. Others feel like petrified beings of a world beyond ours that resemble and distort our recognisable hallmarks of biological life. Like digging through the layers of some “other” plane’s sedimentary deposits, the artist frames fictional artefacts of his own design into structures that feel like they have been dredged from the annals of folklore and myth. The hands of the artist at play to sculpt, twist and manipulate raw material into forms that commune between one another in a dance of an unfamiliar kind. The artist is the constructor of his golems, a breather of life into automatons. If H.R. Giger was an artist of biomechanical futures and horrors, Volkaert is a prequel out of time with history, producing works in reference to the organic and constructed through the materials of clay and concrete.
Humour acts as a crucial component to Volkaert’s practice constructing the aforementioned dance into an act of play over a sombre ritual procession. Volkaerts visual language, immortalised as myth, becomes emboldened in celebratory noise. In much the same way the 1999 sci-fi comedy “Galaxy Quest” is a celebratory take on Star Trek fandom through the guise of humour, Volkaert ceramic and concrete machinations are doing something similar with sci-fi and horror tropes such as John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” Horror/B movie elements, characters and monstrous forms are given gracious treatment and are transmitted onto the dance-floor to enact their choreographed lives as post-life beings of anthemic meaning. Instead of being decommissioned in the form of the Prague Golem, Volkaert’s sculptures simply enact the static dance.
Utilising his materials possibility and metaphorical history as the literal body of life, the artist transcends depiction and becomes a handler of beings. Physical marks, leftover from his physical process on his materials, leave an artist’s signature like that of the director. Mud becomes clay that becomes skin that becomes a form of motional agency through Volkaert’s work and the dance goes on and on until the artist as conductor stops the music.