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Bobbin made of wood and red fiber

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Alice Anderson
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200 cm (diameter)


Alice Anderson's Childhood Rituals
15 April 2011, by Natasha Hoare, Dazed Digital

This spring twisted ropes of red hair will be wrapped around London’s Freud Museum in an installation by artist Alice Anderson. Renowned for her use of this material as an autobiographical reference to a troubled childhood spent between Algeria and France, Alice’s transformation of this landmark is a response to a ritualistic set of performances started in 2010. A new series of sculptures, fetish-like figures wrapped in red hair, will be on display inside the Museum. Playing on ideas of femininity and weaving, Alice’s work seeks to confront and confound Freud’s positioning of these concepts in psychoanalytic theory.
Dazed Digital: Your Childhood Rituals, soon to be staged at the Freud Museum is a continuation of performances you have been creating since 2010. Do you see this work as a climax to these performances?
Alice Anderson: The performances made in 2010 were re-playing the rituals that I used to do in my childhood - at least as I remember them… I was alone at home waiting for the return of my mother. Probably to calm my fears and my anxieties, I used to undo threads from the seams of my clothes, and wind them around parts of my body or other objects in the house. The Power Figures, which are going to be part of what I am showing at the Freud, are the result of the childhood rituals.
DD: You take the loom of Anna Freud as your starting point for the exhibition. What is the relevance of this?
Alice Anderson: We’ve found out that Freud stated once that the activity of weaving is a cover for ‘genital deficiency’! I wanted to embrace this so-called “feminine” activity of weaving… and subvert the Freudian associations of “genital deficiency” by creating a grid made of dolls’ hair.
There is an interesting conjunction of the masculine associations of the grid, with its claims to disembodied abstraction, with the corporeal, feminine associations of the dolls hair. In the same way that the hair subverts this patriarchal ‘seat’ of psychoanalysis as it is inserted into the context of the museum, so too does it problematise the formalist ideal of self-referentiality.
The mise en scene shows a Mother Doll working at the loom making a grid for her Daughter. Dolls hair is arranged geometrically like the rationality of the grid in a manner which is entirely new in my practice.
DD: What does red hair represent to you? Something autobiographical or totemic?
Alice Anderson: Red dolls hair refers to my childhood memories. More precisely they represent the moment when I started to use hair instead of thread in my childhood rituals. Today, the dolls hair that I am using, has been modeled on my own hair. Even though the hair is not literally my own, it still makes an intimate reference to my body. It is a kind of autobiographical “material”.
Hair represents a significant cultural role and it functions as an important signifier of gender and sexuality. When I produce an “architecture” in a space made of dolls hair, I am orchestrating an intimate gesture, which I present on a large scale.
DD: Your works are intensely personal, do they feel like extensions of yourself?
Alice Anderson: Yes that is why each piece functions as a world in itself. The works are based on my own existence (my own childhood memories) but endows my enquiry with universal significance. I’m getting to the point where I see how an autobiography can be fictional. Memory functions as the ‘master of fiction’ the act of remembering generates an imaginative and fictive account of the past. The conception of recollection does not operate along a linear or objective trajectory.

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Alice Anderson: Tressed For Success
Tuesday, 5 April 2011,by Alice Jones, The Independent

Today Alice Anderson's long red hair is held back from her face by two thick black clips, from which it ripples down her back, almost to her waist. An artist's hairstyle wouldn't normally merit comment, but for Anderson hair is not just a theme of her work, it forms the very building blocks of it. She's sent auburn curtains of it tumbling down the walls of the Royal Opera House and wound it around the towers of Frank Gehry's Cinematheque Francaise in Paris. Her installations choke whole galleries with burnished webs and plaits, flowing out of the fireplaces and cascading from the windows to the street below. Her smaller sculptures are made from the same material – bobbins wound with tresses rather than thread, ginger spider's webs and delicate human forms and nests spun from hair.
For her next three exhibitions, the 33-year-old artist will bind the façade of the Freud Museum with ropes of hair, fill the new All Visual Arts gallery with a giant, 4m-high cotton reel, wound with hair, and lead Latitude festival-goers deep into the woods with tangled hair trails on which they'll run across wax dolls, doppelgängers of their creator, sporting miniature versions of her fiery mane.
So it should come as no surprise that her tiny studio, at the end of an eerie corridor of lock-ups on Battersea's Lavender Hill, is filled, from top to bottom, with hair. It's not real hair, of course. Anderson ships it in by the boxload from a doll factory in China. She had a hard time at first explaining what a French/Algerian/ British artist living in London needed with mile upon mile of the stuff, and why it had to match her own hair colour, but they've reached an understanding now. "It's not too far off, is it?" she says, diving into a box headfirst to compare the synthetic bundle to a handful of her own hair.
It's not. In fact, it's scarily realistic, which provokes a visceral reaction in viewers. "People hate it or they love it," says Anderson. "Your brain recognises something real but then it thinks, 'that can't be possible'. What I like is that there is a real physical attraction – or repulsion. It's like my little capsules there," she gestures at a coffee table covered in what look like ginger fur balls. "It's like, 'Oof, what is that?' You don't know if you want to touch it or not."
For sure, these are no glossy L'Oréal locks. The hair is either tangled and scarily unbridled or, in her new works, twisted into prison bars or restricting ropes. As a material, it's rich in associations, calling to mind everyone from Lizzie Siddal to Louise Bourgeois via Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel. Anderson, inspired by Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch, prefers a darker narrative: she doesn't so much tell fairy tales, she twists them. Her 2007 film, Bluebeard, which showed at Tate Modern, had the princess sporting a blue beard and the prince – played by a girl – attached to his domineering mother by a cord. "I'm kind of against fairy tales. The story of a prince and a princess? Ridiculous," says Anderson. "For me, it's nonsense. On the other hand, anything to do with childhood, I use. I use a lot of toys."
Dolls are the other signature of Anderson's work, from an eerie death mask of her own face trapped in a bell jar to a film in which she turns into a wax doll. Anderson had the doll made by a sculptor at Madame Tussauds over two months of sittings which turned into an extended therapy session. "By the end I was saying very intimate things to this girl I didn't know," she says, unpacking a tiny 50cm clone in a red and blue dress from an old hat box. "It was bizarre, like going to the shrink. I swear I was ill for two weeks and all the time this doll was taking shape and getting stronger."
Appropriately enough, the doll is now the star of her upcoming show at the Freud Museum. Her first solo exhibition, it moves away from the free-flowing waterfalls of hair of previous installations to a more controlled, and controlling, set-up. Thousands of metres of hair, twisted into ropes, will creep over and grip the brickwork of the Freud family home in Hampstead, north London, like poison ivy. It's the first time the museum has allowed an artist to use the façade as part of an artwork. "They probably regret it now," laughs Anderson. "This is my fourth proposal. The others were too mad to get permission. I'm a bit like a child. I'm trying to push boundaries all the time." In a further act of irreverence, Anderson plans to place her scale model of the house, complete with hair creepers, at the heart of the museum – right in the middle of Sigmund Freud's famous couch.
Elsewhere, the building will be filled with all manner of strange objects – prone figures, fetishistically bound in thread, and barely-there spiders' webs lurking in the stairwells. The centrepiece will be the loom belonging to Anna Freud, the youngest daughter of the psychoanalyst, who lived in the house until she died in 1982. Perched amongst its bars will be a "mother" doll, spinning out skeins of red hair to trap a "daughter" doll into the corner of the room.
The idea of the exhibition comes, explains Anderson, from her childhood bad habit of picking at threads on her clothes and winding them around her wrist or other objects. "It was when I was alone, waiting for my mother to return, because she was constantly out of the house," she says. "It's a way of calming anxiety. Time is more bearable if you're doing it." As her nerves worsened, Anderson began to play with her own hair in the same way. The 4m-high bobbin, wound with glossy red hair, which fills a room at the newly opened AVA gallery in King's Cross, refers to the same absent-mother ritual.
Mothers – absent or otherwise – have been a constant of Anderson's work ever since her first film, Ma Mère, a quirky series of 20 mini-arguments between mother and daughter (both played by Anderson). Born in London to a French/Algerian mother and an English father – from whom she inherited the hair – Anderson returned to France aged three when her parents separated. For years, according to the artist, she was forbidden to talk about her father or even to speak English. When she was just 14 years old, her mother sent her to work as an au pair in New York.

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Source: independent.co.uk

Alice Anderson and her looking glass
12, January, 2009, by Ben Lewis, Evening Standard

It is rare to find such precision and originality in the work of a contemporary artist as one does in the fragmented fairytales of Alice Anderson. The 33-year-old London-based French artist, who is instantly recognisable with her long red hair, has shown her films in the Tate and the Pompidou and last year held simultaneous exhibitions at a trio of national French museums, in which she laid out more than 3,000 metres of autobiographical red hair through all three spaces in a gigantic installation called Rapunzel.
In David Gryn’s temporary Knightsbridge gallery, she works to a more modest scale but to no less amazing effect. Upstairs there are a series of maquettes as delicate as they are extreme. A tiny self-portrait of a doll with long red hair lies face down at the bottom of a phallic cylinder of white leather punctured by hundreds of tiny white pins. At the base of another transparent glass cone lies another half-visible naked doll, shrouded in ghostly white cotton wool, on a bed of white quilt. Around the walls are drawings in blood, some of which are of medical instruments, while others appear abstractly sexual. Like her fellow French female artists Sophie Calle and Annette Messager, Anderson’s work is saturated in psychoanalytic reflections and carries an aura of unflinching self-examination. Her themes? The vulnerability and violence in the feminine psyche.
Downstairs you can see the latest of her short films of self-written fairy stories; the story of a girl searching for her name, who becomes a life-size doll in her father’s hands before herself destroying Barbie dolls in the likenesses of her parents. This is like video artist Matthew Barney meets minimal surrealist Robert Gober — only the miniature female version.

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Source: thisislondon.co.uk

In The studio with Alice Anderson
Thursday 25th February, 2010,by Helen Sumpter, Time Out

Flame-haired, French-born artist Alice Anderson makes sculptures, films and installations that relate to her own body, based on fictionalised memories of troubled childhood family relationships. Her exhibition 'Alice Anderson's Time Reversal', at Riflemaker Gallery from Mar 1-Apr 24 2010, includes two installations made with hundreds of metres of red doll's hair (the colour of the artist's own) and a new film 'The Night I Became a Doll' - a psychological narrative which explores notions of time and reality. Her studio is in Battersea.
Are there specific fairytale references in your use of hair, as in Rupunzel?
'There are, but only in the role of the witch, who has imprisoned Rapunzel in the tower and climbs up her long hair to feed her. Her hair functions like an umbilical cord, with the witch in this dual role as both jailer and mother figure. I'm not interested in the fairytale need for a charming prince to come to her rescue.'
Red hair is very striking. How do you feel about being ginger?
'I didn't really like it as a child but I feel fine about it now. It's interesting though how people either love it or hate it and that it has such powerful associations, such as being a witch or a prostitute.'

What about the spookily realistic doll of you, made by Madame Tussauds…
'She appears in the film and there will be a silicon mask of the doll's face, which is of course also my face, at Riflemaker. If I wear it you can see that it's the same face underneath. It suggests that there are layers of personalities, just as the film itself suggests layers of possible meanings.'

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Source: timeout.com