French-Algerian artist Alice Anderson’s compelling artwork and installations are tactile, complex, and evince a delicate beauty. As a painfully anxious child who struggled to speak, Anderson found relief in ritualistic activities -- namely winding fibers (from her clothing as well as her own hair) around objects. It’s a thread, quite literally, that runs throughout her work.
Anderson’s materials of choice -- copper thread and doll’s hair -- evoke both metallic strength and wispy fragility. She uses colors that mirror her own tawny locks, weaving threads that both bind and unravel, while painstakingly exposing and exploring her anxieties, memories and passage from a scared child to an assured woman. In an e-mail interview with The Huffington Post, she writes "The day I was able to transform my childhood’s memories into collective memories" was the day she became an artist.
In her 2011 project Childhood Rituals staged at the Freud Museum, she bound the exterior of Freud’s London home with spools of hair. Could there be a more fitting place to take up themes of childhood anxiety? As a child grasps hold of its mother for security, the doll’s hair clings to the solidity of a site grounded in history. Or perhaps it is the other way around -- the threads hold in place the bricks and mortars of memory.
In her new series Binding the Studio, Anderson has wound copper threads around the entire contents of her studio. Today marks the opening of this series at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Anderson will be present, constructing her bound sculptures on the spot, all the while invoking “shamanic dances through compulsive and repetitive movements.” In October she will present From Dance to Sculpture, a Frieze week world premiere where her 'mummified wound objects' will be on display and she and a group of performers will ritualistically wind doll’s hair and copper wire through a labyrinth of metal rods.
We spoke to the brilliant artist about her unique materials and how she "preserves" objects through her winding process. Scroll down for a slideshow.
HP: What do you mean by art as "ceremony"?
AA: My performances ... make sculpture live in front of an audience. When you see 30 or 40 people making the same repetitive movements with thread or red fiber around an object, then you draw parallels with what can be called a ceremony. This aspect of my artistic practice can also be associated to ‘ritual’. There is nothing mystical about it. It has more to do with the idea that the repetitive and intuitive movements are expressions of life itself.
HP: How do you decide which objects to bind?
AA: My aims is to create forms from already existing forms. I mentally project what an object could become and start to wind around it. In that gesture there is something to do with satisfaction, reparation, protection, and preservation.
HP: Can you talk a bit about the performance aspect of the upcoming show?
AA: [For the past] couple of months I’ve extended this practice to objects. I started to bind the entire content of my studio in London. At the Whitechapel Gallery, myself with a large group of performers will be binding hundred of my books and sketchbooks from my studio producing sculptures as totems. At Riflemaker, performances will be more intimate. The gallery will become a sort of factory. We will be winding around musical instruments, non-stop, during an entire week.
HP: In the press release it states that by doing these actions (such as invoking shamanic dances), it "preserves" the objects. Can you talk a bit about this preservation?
AA: Recently, James Putnam made parallels with ancient Egypt, describing my wound objects as "curiosities," which appear to be mummified according to Egyptian’s embalming process in order to achieve immortality. Like a time capsule they are preserved and made safe, representing a fixed moment suspended in eternity.