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The sacred and inspired threads of Alice Anderson

Author: Marc Pottier, Art Curator based in Rio de Janeiro
Article published October 1st, 2020
Original Article

[Discover the Marcel-Duchamp Prize 2020] Alice Anderson’s work is essentially performative. Her ritualistic choreographies aspire to a reappropriation of our relationship with the ‘data management’ governed world. Her ‘Spiritual Machines’ generate pastel drawings, wire motifs and sculptures in steel or copper. The Franco-British artist is one of four finalists of the Marcel Duchamp Prize exhibited at the Centre Pompidou from October 19th.


Danses performances Transitional ceremony 2019 © Alice Anderson

Bodily experiences, drawings or weaving in motion, repetitive gestures or short films… everything is performative in the work of Alice Anderson, born in Alfortville in 1972 into a family with three generations of dancers. The artist lives between London and Paris since 2001, when she is not at the Calder studio or with her Kogis friends in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. Her reference connections are multiple, either sourced from ancestral practices or from designers, either inhabited by sculptures or by choreographies. The Japanese-American designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) defined the essence of sculpture as the perception of space, the continuity of our existence. For him everything is sculpture.


Lost Gesture, performance, 2019 © Alice Anderson

Alice’s dazzling work continues this dynamic fusion between « sculpture-life » and the dance that Noguchi had so well combined with his dancer and choreographer accomplice Martha Graham (1894-1991).



Nuhé Temple, performance 2018 © Alice Anderson – Art-Brussels

« Dance, dance, or we’re all lost! Alice makes hers these statement-words by Pina Bausch (1940-2009). This great choreographer continued: « There is a moment when words stop and everything becomes language ». The titles of her recent cycles express this quest: ‘Routes of a body’, ‘Architecture data’, ‘Memorised objects’, ‘Dance performances’ or ‘Transitional Dances’ which incorporate as much choreography as sculptures, paintings or drawings.


Over the course of this extremely coherent work, it is always the body and the dance-performance that are its soul. This dynamic of living sculptures also brings to mind the dance-constructions of the American-Italian choreographer Simone Forti (1935) who claims: “For me, dance has always been a way of exploring nature. I draw my material from the forms of nature. Much more than that, I identify with what I see, I acquire its quality, its nature, or its spirit. It is an animistic process. »


Every thing is connected Lift 2, Ladder 6, 2017 © Alice Anderson

From 1999, the graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 2001 and Goldsmiths College in London in 2004 was noted for the videos she made until 2009, a time when she began to create sculptures involving the intervention of her own body: « These were short videos which already corresponded to research into how memory works. Over time, it had become a kind of « video diary » through objects, » she explains. « Because I was already back then questioning and at the same time being fascinated by the digital world, which was developing faster and faster. I was interested in the way memory works, which changed irreversibly in the digital age, since our daily memory is externalized, shared and becomes, in part, instantly collective. ».


Power Cables 2018 © Alice Anderson

Alice has never had a slightest doubt about her vocation and her artistic body. Very early on, she imagined rituals and/or bodily performances. Little by little, her desire to think about her relationship with the universe made her look at the changes brought about by contemporary civilization, the triumph of the digitization and the virtualization of the world. Artificial intelligence, the empowerment of algorithms, digital connections, robotisation… have led her to develop an incredible weaving technique made of repetitive gestures, slowly danced using a copper thread.

Copper, this pinkish-orange metal already found in Minoan, Mycenaean and Phoenician cultures with remarkable capacities for malleability and resistance to corrosion, becomes the preferred tool for memorizing the technological objects that she metamorphoses in her work.


Statuette 23 ‘Spiritual Machines’ series, Photo © Alice Anderson

No longer counting the hours until she forgets herself, her rite, alone or accompanied by other dancers, engulfs and gradually makes all kinds of objects disappear. These are alarm clocks, phones, computers, cars… but also architectures which vanish under this thread, which symbolises her connections and memories, both cerebral and technological. These performance works are for « learning from your own algorithm, your own neurological and memory system in order to tame it… even if it is always the objects that dictate the actions.” She adds.


This weaving gesture is found at the heart of the cosmogony of the Kogis, a Colombian tribe from the Sierra Nevada Alice Anderson has visited several times. Their rituals strongly marked her. In harmony with the environment, they permanently reweave with a cotton thread the links between the spiritual world and the material world. Anderson performed the dance “La Puerta al Cielo” at the sacred site Nabusimake, which symbolises the passage between the earthly and the spiritual. Jackson Pollock had perceived this same restorative energy in the Navajo Indians, just like Joseph Beuys with the Tatars. Performance matters more than results for Alice Anderson. It is also « a pretext to help one reflect on crucial questions about the meaning and future of humanity, » she confides to Singulars.


Minimal Gestures 8, Photo © Alice Anderson

It is difficult to shed light in a few lines on the different directions Alice Anderson’s work has taken. Let’s mention her spontaneous rhythmic and repetitive drawings ‘Lost gestures’, a prelude to a dance bordering with trance or hypnotism, which reminds us of the performances of the Serbian artist Marina Abramovic. These gestures, a sort of endurance competition, have the pulse of her body.

Her ‘Rituals of the Shapes’ redraw the spatial dimension of the places where she intervenes. For example at the Calder studio where after having embodied and painted the architecture of the room, she folded and crumpled the painting to transform it into a sculpture. This in-situ dance is the core of her creative process. The final visual recording is meant to be the result of the loss of awareness of her gesture. The latter becomes, alone, drawing or sculpture-dance.


There not exist sign, Lost Gestures performance, coloured pencils on paper, 2019 © Alice Anderson

We should also mention her ‘Sun drawings’ which follow the shadows cast on the architectures of the places where she is located. The light reveals the shapes that she emphasises in her drawings. The resulting work allows her to “measure infinity and the depth of existence.” We wish Alice Anderson the best of luck for the 2020 Marcel Duchamp Prize. With so many talents combined, she deserves to win hands down.