Anja Kaiser talks alternative narrations of bodies + new online commission ‘By(e) Default’ in the run up to 3hd Festival

, 22 November 2017

“To some extent, [it is] a way of escaping market pressures and on the other hand the university is also just another hierarchical flag ship” admits Anja Kaiser when I ask her about the role teaching plays in her practice. “The last months I had the chance to visit a lot of art schools with very contradicting educational programs. Right now it made me quite confused and I‘m doubting my supposed role as a teacher/ content provider/ observer/ critic …”

Anja Kaiser, ‘By(e) Default’ (2017) Online screenshot. Courtesy the artist + 3hd Festival, Berlin.

The Leipzig-based artist, designer and lecturer in type and typography seems acutely aware of contradiction and collision, and, in regards to her own work, often curates these moments as a way to unravel and deconstruct corporate language and pop culture and its effect on our constructions of (female)bodies. While her formal training is in design, her work moves past genre using sound, video, writing, research and software design among many other outlets.

Kaiser is speaking to me over an email chat about her new online commission for Berlin’s 3hd Festival titled By(e) Default‘ (with sound by Petit Singe) for the group exhibition Whatever You Thought, Think Again which opens November 22 (both online and off) and is running to the 25. Kaiser will also present a talk on her long term project Sexed Realities – To Whom Do I Owe My Body?’ as part of the panel discussion Body, Technology, Politics on November 25.

Noting the support of “non-binary/ female forward networks, alternative youth culture centers [and]  micro-club scenes,” Kaiser expands on how her practice became what it is now, and her investment in feminist approach, sampling and flipping the norm upside down.

Anja Kaiser ‘Sexed Realities – To Whom Do I Owe My Body?’ Online screenshot. Courtesy the artist

** You work across so many different mediums including graphics, sound, digital, moving image among others and so many references colliding, from corporate language to pop culture. What is it about collision that provides a strategy for resistance  for you?

Anja Kaiser: Most of my projects deal with the commodification of bodies from a feminist point of view, so the feminist approach feels very natural to me. My projects compress material which accompanies my whole life, triggering my curiosity to find ways to address inherent structural oppression in various fields. Personally it wouldn’t make sense to digest my observations separately or even focus on didactic polarity – I guess this also explains why i’m not focused on one specific media or linearity. Personally I feel like collisions might manage to flip existing rational, objective dominant gestures around.

** Can you talk about the narratives in your work – text and voice; are they written by you, remixed, sincere?

AK: In analyzing the ideology of biological determinism and the limitations of deconstruction, writing became part of my practice. Sampling and collaging references like pop songs, blog posts and feminist theory helped me to bring together different ideas and voices. The translation into text affects also my visual practice and the other way around. It’s a constant process of re-translating to draw connections and at the same time oppositions, which can coexist and create paradoxes.

Anja Kaiser ‘SkyH1’ Courtesy the artist.

** Your work is both socially and politically motivated, and research seems to play a large role, with a strong relationship between theory and visceral/visual affect. What inspires your visual decisions?

AK: U-turns became very important to me, in the sense of needing to create something that allows me to establish complexity, simultaneity, implanting shifts and eclectic contrasts. Most of my visual decisions reference and recycle existing visual material – eg. for By(e) Default I’m quoting visually the pioneer interface designer Susan Kare.

** In reference to the work for 3hd, Peter Hermans writes of the attempt to trace as falling “short of understanding, it’s left in doubt, hesitating, stuttering and buffering.” Can you talk about this space of doubt and hesitation and making work within it

AK: For this work I’m looking at parametric 3d bodies mimicking heteronormative structural standards, just as algorithms are trained to observe and to detect bodies. What remains in this moments of doubt and hesitation might constitute alternative narrations of bodies, simulates a sense of possibility and questions the generalized concepts of  ‘reality’ by a bunch of  polygons.   

Anja Kaiser ‘Sexed Realities – To Whom Do I Owe My Body?’ Online screenshot. Courtesy the artist

** For the ‘Body, Technology, Politics’ panel at 3hd, it says you will be in part discussing “the limitation of deconstruction.” Could you expand briefly on your interest in ‘limitation’ and perhaps certain spaces or tools you find useful or inspiring right now in breaking down these barriers and ‘limitations.’

AK: I think showing limitations seems to me more accurate than proclaiming a pseudo-liberal concept of representation. For this panel I will talk about my project Sexed Realites – To Whom Do I Owe My Body? which aims to unravel the visible and invisible forces underlying the rendering, replication and acceleration of bodies, mapping the battlefield of power and pleasure and its effect on us in normative societies. Through various media, the work investigates the existing surfaces of projection, which observes acts of heterosexual training as well as disrupting forces. Most of these observations will collide at the market to tackle and question existing realities.

In terms of barriers: While looking at superficial gestures, I feel like there is a massive threat that structural problems and situated knowledge right now won’t get challenged.**

Anja Kaiser’s online exhibition By(e) Default’ for group exhibition Whatever You Thought, Think Again at Berlin’s 3hd Festival runs November 23 to 25, 2017.