Cath Keay’s interest in and connections with architecture have informed her practice for a number of years. With a background in traditional sculpture techniques, carving, casting, molding – procedures she has adapted to accommodate whichever materials and circumstances she encounters, she has in the past recruited such unexpected collaborators as hives of bees into her work, whose instinctive drive for order reshaped architectural models made from beeswax. Elsewhere she has made ceramic sculpture derived from the words uttered by a patient suffering schizophrenia; the elongated ceramic forms spelling out the words are legible only from the underside. For her residency at Culturia, she has shifted her focus to Berlin’s architecture; a project researching the legacy of public and private buildings by expressionist architect Bruno Taut and such contemporaries as Erich Mendelssohn. Her focus has been on the public housing projects of Taut’s, several of which still exist. Berlin remains, throughout its historical traumas and symbolism, a very human city, man-made to the extent that its ‘mountains’ are piles of rubble cleared from war devastation.
Keay’s practice has a sympathy with the vernacular and the everyday. In this way she works in a similar tradition to someone like Jeremy Deller, whose work with communities and individuals, and with the things that are made quite outside the realms of fine art or mainstream art circles is very much concerned with a treatment of history from the grassroots upwards.
In the text accompanying her exhibition at Lage Egal (www.lage-berlin.de), Keay has expressed an interest in unbuilt buildings, speculative fantasies of architects. There is an elusive point of divergence between the idea and material; impossible to determine, since the impossible or absurd of one era may well come into its own at some future time. But while ever an idea cannot be made real, it occupies a position as a kind of extension of the metaphysical. Many architects have sketched out, sometimes in great detail, schemes which could only exist in a fantastic world of limitless resources and complete lack of constraint. These ‘dream cities’ seem like cues for parallel universes. They offer up alternative realities which (perhaps thankfully in some cases) were never realised.
Text by Matthew Crookes