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Annina Roescheisen’s first solo show in New York is currently on view at 90 Stanton Sreet. The German-born, multi-media artist began her career as an academic, focusing on philosophy and art history. After moving to France, she began a formal studio practice in 2012 creating video art and photography. Whitewall spoke with the artist about her new exhibition, “What are you fishing for?” up through November 29 at Elliott Levenglick Gallery.
WHITEWALL: You began working as an artist in 2012. How did your academic background ultimately lead you into the direction of creating art?
ANNINA ROESCHEISEN: I have always been interested the art world and in creating but did not dare to produce my own work. After acquiring a master’s degree in History of Art (specializing in Medieval Art), Philosophy, and Folklore at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and gaining work experience at Sotheby’s, I moved to Paris. Here, I worked for other artists, before I met owner of acte2galerie Ranaud Bergonzo who gave me the final push to start creating my own work. Things moved forward very fast from then on and everything suddenly made sense to me: My love for the medieval times, alchemy, symbolism, literature, poems, and music all came together at once.
WW: You work in a variety of medium—photography, sculpture, video, and installation. Since beginning your practice as an artist, did it always feel comfortable to work in a variety of mediums?
AR: I definitely like to “play” with different media, as one medium nourishes the other. I feel a lot of artists allow themselves to only work in one medium and as a result feel frustrated later on. They create unnecessary boundaries. I want my art and the medium I choose to be accessible to everyone. It feels adventurous to be able to challenge myself as much as I can, without the typical security of reproducing the same scheme over and over again.
WW: What was the starting point for “What Are You Fishing For?”
AR: The starting point was an initial thought about a fisher: the blue depth of the waters, which the fisher stares at for hours, the silence, the loneliness, and the moment in which one faces oneself, one’s thoughts, and one’s feelings. Blue is the color of the soul. Then I plunged back into Ernest Hemingway’s The Old man and the Sea. It is difficult for me to explain my process of writing as it just spills out at certain moments—a process can takes months, in which I collect my thoughts like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. From the first image onwards, a second person came into my head, which made me want to tell a deeper story about life and death, about the Renaissance, about two figures who live a separate intense moment of life, but are at the same time bonded to each other. The story is about affective dependencies, about equality between man and woman, about hope and reconciliation, about forgiveness. Like in an ancient medieval painting, there is a story in a story in a story.
WW: The video, What Are You Fishing For? is a visual narrative with elements of human nature, so how did your background in philosophy and folklore play a role in this body of work?
AR: In my work, What Are You Fishing For? philosophy and folklore are a kind of frame work, an indirect inspiration. In folklore, as an example, I emphasized my studies on fairytales: their meanings, their symbolic and moral changes throughout the centuries, etc. The atmosphere of the What are you Fishing for?”piece can plunge you into a Grimm fairytale moment. In philosophy, I love the work of Dante Alighieri, La Vita Nouva in particular, as well as philosophical concepts and views on aesthetics (Hegel, Kafka, Wittgenstein, etc.).
WW: Another one of your works, La Pieta, is currently showing in Geneva. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this work?
AR: Yes, at Frank Pages Gallery through December 19. The main inspiration was definitely Michelangelo’s Pièta. Not seen in a religious context, the image beautifully depicts a mother holding her dying child in her arms. It’s so full of emotion and depth. From there on, elements popped up in my head and led me to my version of the Pietà: I wanted to create this depth and give the whole story a further symbolism and my own artistic language.
La Pietà was my first piece of video art and it underlines my thinking of painting in motion. In 5 stages, it shows the development of different topics: becoming a woman, the relation of a mother and her child, growing up, saying goodbye to your childhood while keeping and seeking for this inner, pure treasure of child’s knowledge. It is about child abuse (the symbolism of a Teddy), about life and death, about letting go, about Voyeurism (bloating animals staged in the back that watch you, keeping silent the events that happened), etc.
WW: Next summer, you’re working on something with Xavier Veilhan—what can you tell us about this project?
AR: I am playing in a performance group with four other artists on stage (David Artaud, François Valenza, Marine Varoquier, Florian Sumi). The piece is called Systema Occam. Xavier Veilhan collaborated with Eliane Radigue on this beautiful performance piece, which is interpreted by the harpist Rhodri Davies. We already started performing in 2013 in Marseille at Le Corbusier. Xavier Veilhan was invited by Ora Ito to set up a huge exhibition at the roof of the Corbusier. That’s when we performed Systema Occam the first time, followed by dates in New York at FIAF, and Paris at the Museum Delacroix and at the line up of “New Settings” held by the Foundation Hermès. The next scheduled date in 2016 will be in Nantes, France.