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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs work seeks to confront and confound Freud‚Äôs 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‚Ä¶ 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‚Äôve found out that Freud stated once that the activity of weaving is a cover for ‚Äėgenital deficiency‚Äô! I wanted to embrace this so-called ‚Äúfeminine‚ÄĚ activity of weaving‚Ä¶ and subvert the Freudian associations of ‚Äúgenital deficiency‚ÄĚ by creating a grid made of dolls‚Äô 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 ‚Äėseat‚Äô 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 ‚Äúmaterial‚ÄĚ.
Hair represents a significant cultural role and it functions as an important signifier of gender and sexuality. When I produce an ‚Äúarchitecture‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôm getting to the point where I see how an autobiography can be fictional. Memory functions as the ‚Äėmaster of fiction‚Äô 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.
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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs hands before herself destroying Barbie dolls in the likenesses of her parents. This is like video artist Matthew Barney meets minimal surrealist Robert Gober ‚ÄĒ only the miniature female version.
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‚Ä¶
'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.'