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Anja Borowicz Richardson

Anja Borowicz is a Polish-born artist working in London. She initially studied engineering which inspired her interests in performing materiality and thinking across taxonomies. In her practice, Anja uses multimodal approaches combining sculptural objects with texts, sound and movement-based technology. Engaging diagrammatic approaches, hidden modes of seduction and expanded metaphors, she stages works and installations that enhance embodied experience of the viewer. She invites participants to explore their own imaginary overlaps, empathetic states and ways of connecting with different bodies and spaces. Anja tests her own overlaps and dispersal by positioning herself as an artist-participant, working collaboratively or contributing to other artists’ projects. 

Her works and contributions include staging performative sculptures for UrbanLab (City Methodologies), setting reading for Sauna Reading Group #6, listening presentation at The Listening Academy 2021, a writing contribution to CARE(LESS). A SUPPLEMENT TO ON CARE publication by MaBiblioteque, a digital exhibition with ArtBanquet, a podcast for Fermynwoods Contemporary Art and a soundscape for a Dao-inspired workshop with lololol.net at Bangkok Biennale. Recent collaborations include a synthetic media project Smart Hans with Baltan Laboratories and Ellen Pearlman exploring the idea of a mind-reading horse and Zoom-based performances Resilient Love/Intimate Protest utilising gestures of protest, the body language of politicians and archives of hysterical motions.

Anja studied BA Sculpture (1st) at Bath Spa University, MA Fine Art (AHRC scholar) at The Slade, University College London and PhD Fine Art at Royal College of Art. Further education includes production engineering, ergonomic systems, diagrammatic thinking, listening theories, language acquisition and tai chi. She was a visiting lecturer at Royal College of Art, Liverpool Hope University, UCA Farnham, Bath Spa University and Camberwell School of Art. She received the Kenneth Armitage Young Sculptor Prize and her works were featured in Aesthetica Art Prize magazine. 

anjaborowicz.com

SCULPTING WITH OBJECT-GESTURES: AN EVERYDAY WORKING GESTURE AS AN ARTISTIC PROPOSITION AND A SPACE TO REIMAGINE MATERIAL RESONANCES 


My research investigates an idea of an ‘everyday’ working gesture as a sculptural proposition. A moment of engagement with an object (human or non-human, a massaged body or a building scaffold) becomes a site of material resonances and a space for new metaphors. I call this moment object-gesture. 

The term object-gesture is a shorthand and a contribution to thinking about physical labour and sculptural object. Thinking through material action enables my research to explore gaps and overlaps between different dimensions: material, emotional (affective) and imaginary (cognitive) so that certain relationships between subject and object are fostered or denied, and new metaphors are imagined.

The project draws on the material-semiotic approach of new materialism, aiming to account for immaterial aspects of material engagement, encompassing the notion of sensuous, feelings and passions in embodied encounters between subjects and objects.

My key approach is in mixing taxonomies, putting things together to create in-between discursive spaces and new meanings. My works draw from everyday and un-choreographed, from street encounters, archival recordings and YouTube videos. I montage films of recorded gestures, dissect phrases of instructions and sample sounds of physical impacts. I stage artworks as affective situations [Gesture Labs], where audiences are invited to respond to the visual, aural and textual materials of body labours. I have developed these labs in conversations with a neuroscientist, a voice coach and movement practitioners. 

PhD Thesis


Supervisors 

Dr Joanne Tatham, Professor Mel Jordan


BODYWORKS reIMAGINED [GestureLabs], 2020, video excerpt.

During the first GestureLab events, the participants were invited to respond to an archive of selected footage of working gestures. Their silhouettes and shadow projections were recorded by two cameras placed inside and outside the booth. There were around ten hours of material from each of the cameras that were suitable for further development.

BODYWORKS reIMAGINED is a work/documentation that assembles these imagined choreographies of body movements recorded during the event. Developed for a site-specific installation, the video offers the echoes of the original movement through secondary mimicry. 

Gesture Lab 1 MIRRORING & ENACTING (documentation), participatory public installation, London, 2019. Commissioned by Artillery.
Gesture Lab 1 MIRRORING & ENACTING (documentation), inside view.
Gesture Lab 1 MIRRORING & ENACTING (documentation), outside view.
GestureLab 1 MIRRORING & ENACTING (documentation), outside view.
Gesture Lab 3 BODYWORKS REIMAGINED (documentation), video installation, CRATE St James, London, 2019.
Gesture Lab 2 BODYWORKS or WORK IN THE HEAD (sample visual material), 2019.
Gesture Lab 2 BODYWORKS or WORK IN THE HEAD (sample instructions), 2019.
Gesture Lab 2 BODYWORKS or WORK IN THE HEAD (sample visual material), 2019.
Gesture Lab 2 BODYWORKS or WORK IN THE HEAD (documentation), London, 2019.Workshop facilitated for OPENLAB programme at Chisenhale Dance Space, invited by A de la Fe.

___Our physical and haptic engagement is shifting – gestural movements at work and play are becoming smaller, our material encounters are increasingly digital. Yet the same mirror neurons are activated when performing a gesture, and when watching others perform, move and engage. These empathic mirroring connections with other bodies expand our own embodied awareness, our ‘techniques of the body’. Can we extend these embodied techniques through artificial stimulation of different sensual modalities?___

The idea of Gesture Labs was developed in conversations with a neuroscientist. For the first GL, we presented selected footage of working gestures and asked visitors to mimic a range of movements. Participants' response to stimuli of different modalities was measured in a purpose build booth. Their gestic responses were viewed live [shadow projection] and recorded for further study. 

___The brief for the participant was simple: in the privacy of the booth, she will watch a selection of different body labours on a small monitor whilst mimicking the movements to the best of her ability. She consents explicitly to her gestures being filmed from the inside of the booth (and implicitly to her shadow being watched from the outside). Thus she enters into a relationship with three screens: 

(1) the monitor for her sole viewing in the private darkened setting, (2) the eye of the camera that diligently and greedily records her (re)actions; and (3) the plastic skin that captures her projected shadow, her flattened abstraction reflected back onto her and exposed to those that watch outside. The watching is watched and watches himself back.____

Further Gesture Labs included expanded multimodal inputs, from the archives of recorded body labours to dissected phrases of instructions and extractions of gestic echoes. In addition to gestic movement, I explored the aural aspects and the idea of sounding-out and listening-in to the effort.


Overlaid Bodies, 2018, video excerpt.
Instruction in Utterances [multi-vocal], 2020, sound.
KNEADING MALLEABLES [laptop performance], 2019, sound.
KNEADING MALLEABLES [teleprompter text], 2019, video excerpt.

The transcriptions explore the modalities of object-gesture events — textual, aural and visual dimensions — and their metaphoric associations. The material comes from my collection of images and videos of body labour, taken in public and semi-public spaces, on construction sites or in hairdressing salons. I would record soundscapes of ‘gestic echoes’ and gather ‘textual extractions’ from instructional manuals. These collections were enhanced by samples from online archives (British Pathe films, BBC Sound and Internet Archive) and social media (YouTube tutorials or ASMR resources) or performed as scores by volunteer readers.

SPACE OF MAINTENANCE: Telescoping Arm, 2022, visualisation using motion tracking data and 3d graphic softwareThe cleaning arm, the aluminium pole and the bottom of the pool. The extended object-hand conflates the body and the action, a gently moving space that cuts across the air and the water.
SPACE OF CONDUCTING: Disciplined Body, 2022, modelled from video documentation using photogrammetry and 3D graphic softwareThe gestures of a dolphin trainer perform a dance that directs a marine body. The glistening space of signals situated inside the captive industry.
SPACE OF A HAIRCUT: Between the Acromion and the Neurocranium, 2022, visualisation using photogrammetry software A gesture of haircutting carves out a space between my hair and the arm of the hairdresser. A speculative model to perform a gestic dance, an instructional score to reimagine the action.