ALICE ANDERSON: MEMORY MOVEMENT MEMORY OBJECTS REVIEW â A SIMPLE ENCHANTMENT
26 July 2015, by Laura Cumming, The Guardian
The tale is told of a certain Frenchwoman who believed that her husband and children were impostors. Madame M was convinced that her real family had been kidnapped and replaced by a group of cunning lookalikes who were trying to defraud her. Every day, her husbandâs hair looked slightly different, his moustache had grown a fraction or her childrenâs hair was newly styled.
âYou can see it in the details,â she explained.
The Capgras delusion â named after the psychiatrist who treated Madame M â is a collapse of both emotional and visual recognition. One fails to prompt the other and vice versa; though exactly how, or in which order, is not yet fully understood. But this mysterious relationship, which governs our lives, is surely at the heart of Alice Andersonâs compelling new show at the Wellcome Collection: whatâs familiar to all of us, and ought to be easily recognised, is suddenly not.
A host of objects on spotlit plinths glow in the sepulchral darkness. Each strikes the eye first as an abstract form â cone, cube or sphere, or some combination thereof â before it momentarily resolves into something recognisable. The outsize book is in fact a laptop; the heart-shaped form is a pair of scissors; the miniature radio telescope is a tiny light bulb (serendipitous connection). The transformations are more or less dramatic, but Andersonâs method is unvaryingly simple, not to say primitive: each object has been wound about, over and again, with fine copper wire.
A series of keys becomes heavy, precious, strangely Elizabethan in appearance. A hammer resembles a golden tusk. The knob of a toaster turns into a shining ear, and an old-fashioned Bakelite telephone assumes the shape of an animalâs head (Disneyâs Mickey Mouse comes to mind) so that a device for hearing looks as if it might actually be listening. The objects shift category and genre.
Anyone could do it, of course, and plenty of artists have. The wrapping of objects goes back to the dawn of modernism â think of Man Rayâs surrealist sewing machine, Christoâs wrapped buildings, Joseph Beuysâs own body, parcelled up in felt. Even the twining of objects isnât new. In 2003, Cornelia Parker wound Rodinâs statue The Kiss in a mile of string, shrouding the loversâ faces and rendering the nature of their embrace anxiously ambiguous. But Andersonâs action (at least that seems the word for it) involves weaving about the studio â while weaving about the object â with her spooling thread.
Films show her in performance, circling a vast globe like a dancer, or feeding out these all but invisible lines round canvases and sheets of paper, as if she were simultaneously drawing and casting a spell.
A ring of upright canvases at the Wellcome Collection looks like coruscating Rothkos, their surfaces glittering as if incised by the blades of ice skates. A bicycle helmet is transformed into a sleek 60s Mary Quant bob. Anderson gets a huge variety of marks and forms from her copper wire â objects are burnished or etched, acquire bulk, weight or softness, appear molten, mummified, blurred or estranged.
And anyone familiar with the work of this French-English artist (born 1972) will immediately notice the resemblance between this copper wire and Andersonâs beautiful hair, source of the early works with which she found fame. Anderson sent curtains of red hair, Rapunzel-like, down the walls of the Royal Opera House, through the windows of the Riflemaker Gallery and round the tower of Frank Gehryâs CinĂ©mathĂšque FranĂ§aise in Paris. She has fashioned hair into ropes, prisons and cots and wound it round the Freud Museum in 2011, probing at the intense claustrophobia of Freudâs former home (Housebound was the workâs title).
Objects are burnished or etched, acquire bulk, weight or softness, appear molten, mummified, blurred or estranged
One might therefore deduce that these recent weavings are in part autobiographical. And sure enough, Anderson speaks of idly winding copper wire round her video camera one day (she used to be a film-maker) until the object was preserved for posterity and yet almost unrecognisable.
This show is a pharaonic tomb of gleaming relics â the ill-considered trifles of daily life copper-bound forever. The sound of Anderson and her colleagues at work with their spools â somewhere between ping-pong and a treadle sewing machine â relays from speakers that are, in turn, muffled and bound. But you can do it too: visitors are invited to weave their way round a derelict Mustang in the opening gallery. Itâs surprising how soon the palaver turns into peaceful ritual.
The transformations arenât always magical. A suitcase remains a suitcase (like shrink-wrapped airport luggage, in fact), and coins just grow bigger. But there is a simple enchantment in seeing a ladder become a Mondrian and a brush a spindly Giacometti. Best of all are two tiny chairs, one sitting, the other reclining in the spotlight, which naturally invoke sunbathing figures. It takes a few moments to understand that they are old-fashioned flip-top mobiles.
How do we sense this? How does recognition occur? Anderson may not know, any more than the psychiatrist who treated Madame M, but her works go straight to this extraordinarily human capacity, isolating the moment when new perceptions meet old memories to produce a sudden understanding of what we see in our world.
ALICE ANDERSON, WELLCOME COLLECTION
24 July 2015, by Sarah Kent,The Arts Desk
A flight of golden stairs gleams seductively under the spot lights; free of architectural constraints, it serves no practical purpose other than to encourage the mind to wander and perhaps to imagine it as the stairway to heaven. The beauty, simplicity and purity of the structure promise a trouble free ascent to astral spheres; one can almost hear the strings of angelic harps twanging celestial harmonies up above.
Wound round the treads, miles of fine copper wire clarify rather than conceal the form; while evidently remaining a staircase, Alice Andersonâs Stairs, 2014, transcends its quotidian origins to become a sculpture, a physical object that gains its meaning from the realm of metaphor â through the viewerâs mental rather than physical engagement with it.
Jars, 2012, a stack of conical vases bound in copper wire, is similarly beguiling. Referring to modernist sculpture rather than to architecture, the work echoes Brancusiâs famous Endless Column, 1938, a towering stack of identical units considered the finest outdoor sculpture the of 20th century. If Brancusiâs column commemorates the Romanian soldiers who died in World War One, Andersonâs work is also about memory and the rituals we use to bind things to us.
Canoe, 2013, is the most compelling example. Cocooned in copper wire, the mummified canoe reminds one of the vessels in which the dead were sometimes buried in the past and of the belief common to many cultures that the deceased are ferried to a final resting place across infernal waters, such as the river Styx. The focused concentration required to encase the boat in wire reminds one of a funerary ritual, especially as wrapping the object removes it from the realm of the everyday and propels it into the domain of memory.
For years now, Anderson has been obsessively wrapping things, at first in auburn hair and, more recently, in copper wire. Using wire is an interesting alternative to casting mundane objects, including staircases, in plaster (as Rachel Whiteread has done since the late 1980s) or in bronze (as numerous artists including Gavin Turk and Tracey Emin have done since the 1990s). But wrapping is significantly different from casting. Rather than elevating an insignificant object, like a pipe or bin liner (Turk) or a childâs sock and mitten (Emin), into an artwork through a process which destroys the original, wrapping preserves the item while removing it from ordinary usage.
How to chose what to wrap up, though? The ancient Egyptians and Chinese were laid to rest with things that would ease their entry into the afterlife and provide comfort in the hereafter. This could mean anything from horses, carriages and slaves to jewellery, clothing, money, food and precious herbs or spices.
A coke bottle is among the items chosen by Anderson. Its distinctive shape makes it immediately recognisable and, wrapped in copper wire, it gleams with promise â a reminder of the power of global marketing that has become lodged in our collective memory bank as an icon of consumerism. The galleries are filled with things and, while the laptop, video camera and plasma screen have clearly been chosen to represent our moment in history, others â from a tagine pot, to glasses, paint tubes, a pair of binoculars, batteries, a radio, telephone, slide projector, bicycle, stethoscope, pipe, toaster and globe â could have been selected at random.
And once the mummified shapes have been identified, they donât necessarily resonate beyond the moment of recognition. This is especially true of assemblages in which bones and Apple Mac plugs or a hoover, fax machine, telephone and vinyl discs have been united by copper wire into weird hybrids. As soon as the ingredients have been identified, oneâs interest dwindles.
The Bullâs Head, famously made by Picasso in 1942 from a bicycle saddle and handle bars, remains a delight because the dual identity foisted on the objects â as bicycle parts and a head with horns â is so witty. Muffled in wire, Andersonâs elements fail to elicit a conversation between their old and new identities and so remain confused.
Some ruthless editing would improve the exhibition no end. But it is being promoted as a touchy-feely collaboration with the public. Viewers are invited to wrap up anything from a pair of high heels to a typewriter, laptop, clock, electric plug or 1967 Ford Mustang. The car may have some significance for the artist, but I canât help feeling that a Jaguar, Mini or Rolls Royce would have been a more appropriate choice than a clapped out American banger.
The question that ultimately arises is whose memory is being served? Is Anderson celebrating collective experience â as in the staircase, canoe and coke bottle â or is she focusing on personal memories? Is she hoping to create icons that resonate with our time or quirky individual pieces whose meaning remains muffled and somewhat obscure? Iâm not sure that she has decided yet.
ALICE ANDERSON'S CHILDHOOD RITUALS
October 2015, by Annabelle Gugnon, Artpress
Article in Artpress
ALICE ANDERSON AT THE WELLCOME COLLECTION REVIEW â A WEIRD, WIRED WORLD
17 July 2015, by Jonathan Jones, The Guardian
Their funeral wrappings glisten fierily in the spotlights that pick them out in a theatrically darkened space. All our yesterdays are here, the things we use and throw away, lost and found in spidery cocoons.
Alice Anderson wraps things in copper wire. It is a banal description of an art that gets some very curious and uncanny results.
This might be in a museum a thousand years in the future, dedicated to the strange artefacts of the 21st century. Why, archaeologists will ask, did the people of that time choose to mummify their old TV screens, obsolete telephones and loudspeakers? Was it a bizarre religious attempt to apologise for the culture of waste that was at that moment eating up the planet?
An electric guitar has been swathed over and over again, the thin thread, wrapped tighter and tighter, entirely containing the instrument so you can see its shape but, up close, cannot make out its strings or fretboard. In caring for it, Anderson has muffled it. This guitar will never wail another solo. Nor will the pipe she has swaddled in copper wire ever again be smoked. This is not a pipe â it is a mummy. It is a ghost.
Anderson is hardly the first artist to have wrapped up everyday objects. Wrapping is in fact a great modern tradition. Andersonâs guitar recalls the shamanistic German sculptor Joseph Beuys who wrapped a grand piano in grey felt â in both cases a musical instrument is swaddled and silenced. Wrapping is eerie, it is macabre. Rene Magritte portrayed lovers with their faces wrapped in deathly shrouds. Man Ray turned wrapping into into a recipe for sculpture as early as 1920 when he created LâEnigme dâIsidore Ducasse by covering a sewing machine with a blanket and tying it up with rope. The sewing machine is unrecognisable inside its swathing: the imagination plays darkly on what might be in there â a rock, a dog, a human torso?
So Alice Anderson is working in a tradition almost a century old when she conceals charger plugs, coins, a telescope, a kayak, spectacles and even a staircase in shrouds of wire. But her art is glutinous in the memory. The reason it works is because she takes the whole thing so stupendously seriously. This is passionate, obsessive, intensely concentrated work. The exhibition is huge. Just when you think sheâs wrapped everything there is to wrap, she discovers something else, including human bones â real or fake, it is impossible to tell through the veiling wire.
This repetitive, primitive craft of preservation feels like the work of an outsider artist with no links with the conventional art world. It is not, of course. Anderson is no marginal outsider â she has exhibited at the Venice Biennale. But like the Facteur Cheval who built a palace in his back garden or Simon Rodia who built the Watts Towers in his yard out of wire and scrap, she seems to be pursuing a personal need, a compulsive drive. There is a cult-like quality to it all, the fetishistic mystery of modern supernatural totems. A tagine and a transistor radio, wrapped in wire, both take on the black magic of witchesâ bottles or voodoo dolls.
Too much art that gets feted today is rationalistic, making an obvious political point or chewing dully over the legacy of conceptualism. Anderson though is a shaman, a tech age Beuys apprentice. She subjects ordinary stuff to a sea change, creating something rich and strange. Her art is not rational. It is incantatory and mystical. It is a weird â and wired â work of redemption. Visitors to this exhibition are invited to join in wrapping an entire 1967 Ford Mustang in copper wire. Will this collective ritual of mummification awaken the gods of mass production? Can things come to life if we love them and respect them as Anderson does?
Her spooky funeral rites for the modern world left me listening for the ghosts in all our machines.
ALICE ANDERSON'S CHILDHOOD RITUALS
15 April 2011, by Natasha Hoare, Dazed Digital
This spring twisted ropes of red hair will be wrapped around Londonâs 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, Aliceâs 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, Aliceâs work seeks to confront and confound Freudâs 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 themâŠ 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: Weâve found out that Freud stated once that the activity of weaving is a cover for âgenital deficiencyâ! I wanted to embrace this so-called âfeminineâ activity of weavingâŠ and subvert the Freudian associations of âgenital deficiencyâ by creating a grid made of dollsâ 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 âseatâ 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 âmaterialâ.
Hair represents a significant cultural role and it functions as an important signifier of gender and sexuality. When I produce an âarchitectureâ 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. Iâm getting to the point where I see how an autobiography can be fictional. Memory functions as the âmaster of fictionâ 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: 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 â 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 faĂ§ade 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, doppelgĂ€ngers 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 â 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'OrĂ©al 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 â played by a girl â 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 faĂ§ade 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 â right in the middle of Sigmund Freud's famous couch.
Elsewhere, the building will be filled with all manner of strange objects â 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 â absent or otherwise â have been a constant of Anderson's work ever since her first film, Ma MĂšre, 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 â from whom she inherited the hair â 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.
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 Grynâs 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, Andersonâs 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 fatherâs hands before herself destroying Barbie dolls in the likenesses of her parents. This is like video artist Matthew Barney meets minimal surrealist Robert Gober â 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 TussaudsâŠ
'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.'
RECORDING THE PRESENT
October 2015, by Annabelle Gugnon and and Juliette de Gonet, Artpress
Interview carried out by Annabelle Gugnon and Juliette de Gonet
ESPACE: What exactly is your artistic agenda? And what was the
idea behind the DATA space exhibition at Espace Louis Vuitton
ALICE ANDERSON: The digital revolution is probably going to turn out as decisive for
the mechanisms of human memory as the invention of writing was. This revolution is a
fascinating process, and I keep tabs on it by recording its objects and crystallizing its
At a point in history when our planet is going virtual and memory is going digital, I feel
a need to record space and objects in 3D. In artistic terms I'm particularly concerned
with memorizing by creating a new physical relationship with things and space using
copper wire. It's a paradox: the more my everyday existence fills up with digital data
about the things around me, the greater my need to come to grips with their material,
physical data. This kind of memorization is a necessity. It's my way of recording the
present. I think we're living through a revolution whose extent we're not aware of yet.
For the DATA space exhibition at Espace Louis Vuitton Paris, I wanted to record the
data of the venue. I started out with the measurements of certain parts of the building.
A number of wooden slats from the floor were reassembled into new geometrical
figuresâcirclesârepresenting the diagrams of the measurements after they had been
recorded with the wire in 3D (âFloor Boards Diagramsâ 2015). The skylights in the
rotunda were recreated in steel then weaved with copper wire (âSkylights Dataâ 2015)
and together they form a movement. They distorted under the countless microtensions
exerted on the steel by the wire. The elevator became a simple parallelepiped
presented with its cables (âElevator and Cablesâ 2015). Some of the lighting tracks form
an infinitely modular vertical ensemble (âLighting Tracksâ 2015). Lids neon tubes are
linked by the tension of their interweavings (âConnexionsâ 2015).
All these data are recorded using copper wire woven around the objects in the course
of a "performance." I experience my body through movement and the wire is an
extension of my body. I repeat the action, but it's never the same. I push this repetition
to the limit, as if it were an absolute. I should point out that the gesture with the wire is
universal. Everyone is capable of doing it: of creating their own movements, inventing
their own âchoreographyâ and rhythm, and stamping their identity on the chosen object
or the building.As setting up relations with individuals is a core part of my art , I feel it's
vital that I should invite the public to take part, not only in the performances but also, in
choosing what is to be archived or not. Over the years the input from the participants
and the cultures I encounter will form an archive. An archive of the world, built up out
of their choices, their visionsâŠ
ESPACE: This archive is going to be a copper memory. Can you tell
us how you came to choose copper as a material?
ALICE ANDERSON: Copper's unpredictable: you can never really, totally, tell what's
going to happen. Often you see the underlying material move and distort under the
pressure of the wire. Sometimes when I get to my studio in the morning I notice that
the shape of the object has changed since the day before. In âElevatorâ here at the
Espace, you have the impression from a distance that it's a solid mass. But when you go
closer you realize it's only wire. And this wire means you can tackle incredibly large
shapes. We say "hanging by a thread" to suggest fragility, whereas in fact my thread
barely visible copper wireâis incredibly strong. Strong enough to deform metal,
fiberglass, and to protect stone.
There are works, too, that actually speak of the material: the âCut-Out Piecesâ. I make
them by cutting up copper mesh. There are times when I want to weave and times
when I want to cut up. So then I cut, I cut all day. I cut up an entire sheet, but when I
put the pieces back together they automatically reconnect themselves as a sculptural
shape. They re-link to the point where the shape holds together all on its own. The
mesh has very sharp edges, and because I work barehanded on my sculptures I cut
myself. When I've finished my hands are shredded.
I chose copper for its properties. First of all, conductivity. which enables connections.
Here I'm thinking in particular of the way neurotransmitters work in the human brain.
Another crucial property is luminosity: During a performance the copper gives off
shiny, hypnotic reflections. The copper I use has been treated against rust, so it doesn't
Copper gives off very positive vibrations. The reason why I light my objects the way I
do has nothing to do with aesthetics. I want to set up waves of luminosity that
transcend color and call attention to reflection. The light is seeking for a gaze. The
performance generates music: small objects give rise to very rapid movements, so when
you're encircling an object with your wire, the bobbin has to be in small containerâa
glass, maybe, or a teapotâotherwise it jumps about, or gets away from you, or sticks,
which stops the movement. As a rule the speed sends it flying and the back-and-forth
gets a rhythm going. When there are several of us performing you get an amazing
concert from all those bobbins, each in its own container. Actually, with small objects
you hear the bobbin and with the big ones it's different, you hear the wire. The objects
guide the body movements. Sometimes they take you to extremes, pushing you beyond
yourself. For example, for âFord Mustangâ 2015, it was impossible to pass the bobbin
directly to the person opposite; you had to throw it under the car. It was very physical.
For the canoe in âCanoeâ 2013 the bobbins weren't placed on the floor, and
interchange between people took the place of the sounds. Viewers often speak of a
dance. A dance with the invisible, because you don't see the wire immediately.
ESPACE: What brought you to this particular world?
ALICE ANDERSON: I'd been making short films for years, in connection with my
research into the functioning of memory. As time went by this turned into a kind of
"video diary." Then I met Marcela IriartĂ©, who was set designer. She was always bringing
me surprising objects, and without realizing I found myself wondering about what these
objects were for, and how they had evolved, and the questions they raised. Their part in
the films kept expanding until they were taking over from the characters and becoming
the actual subjects. Very quickly I felt a need to interact physically with these "objectssubjects",
but my films offered little scope for this. I realized I was no longer interested
in making images dance, and started thinking about working differently with these
objects. In my studio I took them apart and put them back together again, and during
one of these dismantling sessions I came across an alarm clock with a bobbin of copper
wire inside it. That was the trigger. This was also when I decided to immerse myself in
the memory processes that are being changed irreversibly by the digital era. Our
everyday memory is being externalized, and shared, and part of it is becoming instantly
There was another important step, too: my first solo exhibition, at the Freud Museum
in London. The curator, Joanna Walker had invited me to show objects from my films. I
worked on them from 2010 onwards, and the exhibition took place early in 2011.
During the preparations we were visiting the museum and discovered a room that was
going to be restored. Inside was Anna Freud's loom. I thought the room was
magnificent, and I was so taken by the loom that all I could see was the threads, the
lines, the grid, the geometry. Instantly everything I'd done so far became mere juvenilia. I
remember going back to my studio in a troubled state, unable to get that loom out of
my head. Instinctively I grabbed a bobbin of copper wire and without nostalgia or
whatsoever I began to wind it around my video camera. I see now that that was when I
developed my own weaving technique, with its repetitious movements. For the Freud
Museum I used these movements on a grand scale and the result was âHouseboundâ
2011, a sculpture created through incredible performances. There were several of us,
climbing onto the roof and back down again with the building's volumes dictating our
When I began, there in the studio, the first item to be "recorded" was my video
camera. I spent an entire day winding wire around it, and didn't even notice the time
passing. Repetition takes time into another dimension. In the evening I left the camera
there, and when I went back the next morning it looked to me as if it had been
"mummified." That was my first reaction, but you could also have said "woven". Then I
set about making other objects: practically everything in my studio went the same way. I
called this body of work Weaving In The Studio. It was a very satisfying task for me, as if
I'd achieved something I absolutely had to do. Later I moved on to larger-scale pieces,
among them a dismantled door whose manual code panels interested me. I asked
some friends to help me; they came for a weekend and I saw the exceptional solidarity
engendered by the process. The energy of their bodies around the door made me
realize how powerful movement is. It occurred to me later that this get-together was
like a ceremony, a sharing an exchange and a special kind of fraternal relations that art
ESPACE: Do you keep all these woven objects in your studio?
ALICE ANDERSON: Right now my studio looks like a cave. It's packed with stuff. There
are also a whole lot of works at the Wellcome Collection in London, whose curator,
Kate Forde, had invited me to present my first objects and to elaborate a exceptional
project with the public for my solo exhibition Memory Movement, Memory Objects in
2015. I keep these works arranged on shelves. I also keep the names of my
collaborators, of the people who donated the original items, and of collectors who had
brought object along to be mummified. Right from the start they all know that their
names will always be associated with the artwork. But only if they want that: - there are
some who prefer to remain anonymous.
These are the traces of an act, of a movement that has its own meaning for each
person. Everything is the same color, and you've got a grouping that speaks of a
particular moment or period, which the participants, donors, and collectors have
decided to "flag, to mark"
The performances are open to all. It's important to experiment, and this is why I
founded the Traveling Studio, a mobile space aimed at setting up connections between
different cultures and communities. Each of these woven objects is a ritual object; the
relevance of the object lies in the fact of being charged with meaning. We're creating an
archive of objects in the hope that one day, it will be of use to somebody, that it will
serve as a reference point. Above all, though, it's an archive of gestures and moments in
ESPACE: For you gesture is paramount. It implies drawing,
choreography, and sound as well. One has the impression of a total
ALICE ANDERSON: The Saatchi Gallery was preparing a sculpture exhibition and they
commissioned a project from me. At the time I was thinking about preserving
geometrical shapes, and I wove a sphere that I titled â181 Kilometersâ 2015. The sphere
is one of the most difficult shapes of all. I created a two-meter volume and walked 181
kilometers around it: at the start I walked, I circled, I got giddy, but after an hour or two
my body adapted and I found myself lost in thought. This sculpture really interested me
because it wasn't just my hands moving around the object, but my whole body. I would
stop at night, but hardly at all during the day. If you take a break, the body adopts a
different rhythm. Strength and endurance are what counts. At the beginning of a
performance you've always got something else on your mindâa phone call to make,
something like thatâbut after a few hours the repetition of the gesture takes over and
everyday stuff loses its grip on you. Getting something done in the present momentâ
those are the priorities. There's an exhilarating sense of disconnection.
Copper sends out very positive vibrations through its propertiesâand its color, which
suggests the strange intensity of fire. When you're doing a performance there's no
fatigue; on the contrary, you discover a strength deep inside yourself. In the same way
that iPads and other screens give off a light that stimulates the brain, the gleam of
copper triggers energy. Energy is also what the performances are about. It all starts with
direct contact with the floor. I almost always perform barefoot. When I invite the public
to take part, there are people who don't want to go barefoot; I respect their wishes,
but when they try it they're always convinced and don't want to put their shoes back
on. These performances are rituals fueled by exchange and a common goal. Form is the
origin of movement. Just as when I'm drawing with copper wire, it's the sheet of paper
on the floor that dictates the result. There's an immediacy that generates meaning.
ESPACE: Is there a connection between these objects and Marcel
ALICE ANDERSON: Obviously the everyday object has a tradition all its own in the
history of contemporary art. In this respect Duchamp is the founding fatherâin the
sense of the infrathin, that imperceptible dimension of things that combines the sensory
and the intellectual. I wove a window (âSash Windowâ, 2013) which recently set me
thinking about Duchamp's âFresh Windowâ (1920/1964). I've established a typology for
my "mummified" objects: Woven Objects; Movement Objects; and Architectures for the
performances that take a place as their subject. There are also Abstract Objects,
Recognizable Objects whose shapes you can identify immediately, and Distorted
Objects which have been deformed by tension. Not to mention the Endless Objects,
whose shape is constantly changing, and the Lost Objects, so called because they're in
an in-between state: this is when someone comes to the studio, starts weaving an
object, and expressly asks that no one else be allowed to continue the piece in their
absence. If that person doesn't come back, the object is lost. It's left hanging between
two worlds. So the task is to transfer this world of ours into a memory where it can
exist for all eternity