Claudia Comte at the Alligator Head Foundation

Photo by Retts Wood, Jamaica, 2019.
Photo by Retts Wood, Jamaica, 2019.
Photo by Retts Wood, Jamaica, 2019.
AHF Jamaica

In March 2019, the Swiss visual artist Claudia Comte embarked on a 6-week residency part of the collaborative interdisciplinary residency programme between TBA21–Academy and Alligator Head Foundation in their facilities in Port Antonio, Jamaica. A commission driven by the production of a new series of chainsaw carved sculptures made from endemic Jamaican wood, whose abstracted forms are to be partly derived from marine life.  

Comte produced two series of sculptures: a group of sculptures based on coral forms and another on abstracted forms. This latter group of sculptures is a continuation of a much larger signature project titled Sculpture Objects. Initiated in 2012, Sculpture Objects are subtly recognisable chainsaw carved forms that demonstrate Comte's continued interest in injecting humour and fortuity into the analogues of modernist tradition. An unapologetically anthropomorphic perspective is imbued into these wooden abstracted shapes in an effort to create an empathic connection to the autochthonous material from which these sculptures originate. No trees were felled for this project, as all were sourced naturally.

In this series, Comte turned to the preservation of the world's oceans as a personal focus — the artistic output being abstracted sculptural forms gleaned from coral and other marine life. Comte's long-time collaborator and musician Egon Elliut joined her at the residency to gather field recordings from underwater life and of forests in Jamaica. The sound composed in Jamaica plays a significant role in the production. Another important part of this residency was the beginning of collaboration and research with the marine biologist David Gruber as well as Coral Morphologic, an art-science duo formed by marine biologist Colin Foord and musician J.D. McKay.

Beyond the residency, the research and production conducted in Jamaica will be exhibited at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid in 2021.

Alligator Head Foundation (AHF) is a Jamaican-based project initiated by TBA21–Academy, focusing on the intersection of science, art, and community. With a collaborative approach to protecting fish stocks, restoring habitats, and regenerating local economies, AHF supports the local communities in Portland that depend on fishing as a livelihood. It assists with education and training, empowering community members with the tools needed to move toward a more sustainable livelihood that is not centered exclusively on fishing but is built increasingly around recreational activities, particularly the diving program. 

Along with managing the East Portland Fish Sanctuary, AHF is dedicated to supporting cultural production, and the commissioning of ambitious projects that raise ecological, economic, and social issues to the general public, and the local community. As such, the Foundation has continuously functioned as an artists' residency for projects supported by TBA21–Academy, including the work of Joan Jonas and Susanne M. Winterling. 
Claudia Comte is known for her immersive environments which bring together sculpture, painting, digital technologies and interactive installation. The works are often activated by performers or audiences.

She has been engaged with TBA21–Academy since 2018 as one of the fellows on the first expedition of the second cycle of The Current: Spheric Ocean, led by Chus Martínez, as well as the subsequent Convening in Venice, for which she created a  performance entitled The Day that Wood and Matter Wanted to Become Salt Water with music by Egon Elliut and dance by Cecilia Bengolea. A selection of her work is part of the TBA21 collection. 

Comte studied at the Ecole Cantonale d'Art de Lausanne (ECAL) and the Haute Ecole Pédagogique, Visual Arts. Her recent exhibitions include: The Morphing Scallops, Gladstone Gallery, New York (2019), I Have Grown Taller from Standing with Trees, Copenhagen Contemporary (2019), Electric Burst (Lines and Zigzags), Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis (2018) and Curves and Zigzags, Desert X, Palm Springs (2017).