ALICE ANDERSON | BIOPHILIA

KÖNIG BERLIN
26 NOVEMBER 2022 – 8 JANUARY 2023

KÖNIG GALERIE is pleased to present BIOPHILIA, the first solo exhibition in Germany by the London-based artist, Alice Anderson. The core of Anderson’s work is dance and performance, and the paintings and sculptures that form BIOPHILIA were brought into being through careful, meditative movement practices, always initiated at the intersection of Anderson’s body and other technological objects – VR masks, USB hubs, keyboards, remotes, and drones.

Anderson believes strongly in the vitality and cultural significance of the relationship between humans and non-humans, which she reanimates through her performances. While deeply ritualistic in their origins, Anderson’s actions are also forward-looking, a means of remembering the relation with those entities she employs by first covering them with paint to create her vibrant abstract pictures, and then “memorising” them in thin copper-coloured wire. These two work groups – abstract gouache paintings and copper ensconced sculptures – form a circle, with Anderson’s expressive dance, its centre.

Anderson calls her paintings GEOMETRIC DANCES, which are always made through the imprint of a technological object and the artist’s body on fabric placed on the floor. In the DIGITAL GODDESSES series, Anderson coats her recycled item in paint and then presses her body against it, while dancing across the surface of her painting. In other modes, Anderson ritualises drones to drop paint in random formations. What is recorded on the painted support is the evidence of a human/non-human interaction, its impressions forming concrete outlines that register the gestures that first created them. This performance enacts the very concept of the exhibition’s title – Biophilia – which, as a theory, maintains that humans have an innate tendency to seek out connections with other forms of life, in nature, and elsewhere in objects in the world. Even more than this ingrained desire for connection is Anderson’s espousal of Animism, which holds that there is a life in all things in the world, between humans and non-humans, but also between non-humans and other non-humans. This element is crucial to Anderson’s practice, for it places her role as artist not as a mere creator, but as one who, like a shaman, re-enacts the lifeforce of the object world and conjures its presence as a means of shaping the work that she co-creates with her non-human “beings”.

Anderson maintains that “from birth we are all animists until the western world asks us to stop. Being animist (objects, stones) or ‘new animist’ (animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, viruses, animate forces of rivers, seas, winds, clouds) is being aware that everything is alive and responsive. The practice involves slowing down, paying attention, naming the beings (and use appropriate pronouns such as ki and kin) and trusting what our own body already knows to connect with the environment.”

Anderson’s selection of copper coloured wire – an eco-friendly thread symbolising cerebral and technological connections as well as the origins of the internet – as a material for weaving around her objects, which is performed methodically, endlessly, obsessively, is both ritualistic in its origins and incredibly timely. In the archaeology of underwater electric cables, copper remains the contemporary conduit par excellence. Embedded in this non-human agent is an entire history of electricity and the global expansion and hegemony that it engendered. According to Anderson, one cannot see copper as a pure object of detached contemplation: it is always connected to its uses. Anderson calls her copper-coloured, woven sculptures, SPIRITUAL MACHINES, in reference to a 1999 book by computer scientist and artificial intelligence pioneer, Ray Kurzweil (The Age of Spiritual Machines). There, Kurzweil attempts to answer a seemingly unanswerable paradox: How did one intelligence (human) create another (computer, non-human) that is capable of an intellect that challenges its very creators in the form of AI (artificial intelligence)? Anderson is less interested in the proofs of such a question than its basis: A theory whose very foundation depends on the existence of the life and perspicacity of non-human agents.

For Anderson, it is not enough to merely acknowledge the real animistic energy that connects humans and non-humans; rather, her dance is a way of rehabilitating it, paying tribute to it through performance, remembering it, keeping it alive. Perhaps the division between honouring something and remembering it is itself an artificial one, imposed by a culture of amnesia? Anderson’s BIOPHILIA recalls the haunting final words of W.B. Yeats’ poem, “Among School Children”: “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

© Images Roman März