Interview: Anne-Katrin Spiess
Luca Curci talks with Anne-Katrin Spiess during ALCHEMIC BODY 2021, at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space
Anne-Katrin Spiess, (b. 1968, Lugano, Switzerland) creates site-specific installations and performances that often address ecological concerns. Her works have been exhibited at Wave Hill, Bronx, NY; Exit Art, New York, NY; Abingdon Art Center, Jenkintown; PA, Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, ME amongst others. Recent exhibitions include Arte Laguna Exhibition, the Arsenale, Venice, Italy, forthcoming 2021; ART SAFIENTAL, Safiental, Switzerland, 2020; Guemgang Nature Art Biennale, Republic of Korea, 2020; Composed to Decompose, Unison Arts Center, New Paltz, NY, 2020. She has been an artist in residence at Labverde Art Immersion Program, Amazon, Brazil and Connemara Foundation, Dallas, TX. Spiess’ work has been published internationally and is held in private collections. She earned her BFA from Parsons School of Design, New York, NY. Spiess lives and works in New York, NY.
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
Anne-Katrin Spiess – The series that has occupied most of my efforts in the past two years is titled Death by Plastic. The project explores our broken systems of production, consumption and reclamation. By taking a lens to the global plastic crisis, Death by Plastic aims to bring awareness to issues of the afterlife of everyday products to help us reduce our reliance specifically on single-use plastics and to help instigate changes in materials and designs for the future of packaging. In tandem with this ongoing series I have been working on several projects in the deserts of the American Southwest. My piece BODY/ROCK, included in the Alchemic Body exhibition was inspired by time spent in these landscapes.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
AKS – I have always had an interest in art and design from a young age. My mother has been a staunch supporter of several charities focused on “saving the planet” and thanks to her from an early age I acquired an acute sense of how the planet has been mismanaged and abused by humans. My father was a landscape designer and architect who worked very intuitively with the land. I inherited his love of both structures and the natural environment, and I studied architecture briefly in school before moving on to Fine Arts. I eventually realized that I needed to work in and with the land. As my practice in nature grew so did my concern for the environment. As a result, much of my work focuses on relationships between humans and the natural world.
LC – Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
AKS – I mainly produce two types of work: at the core of my work have been the temporary installations and the performance work I do in and with the land, mostly in deserts and very remote landscapes. The actual works are hardly ever seen by other humans. The second type of work have a social action/interactive component, and those projects welcome and often rely on collaboration and input.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
AKS – Being an artist now in some ways is easier than ever, we have so many tools and technologies right at our fingertips. But we are also more distracted than ever and it is difficult to carve time out to focus on creative work, especially when we are so inundated with images of other people’s work constantly via all forms of media. There are also more people making art than ever, and sometimes it can feel difficult to get your work out there.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? In which way did it inspire you?
AKS – My work was not directly inspired by the exhibition theme, but it very much reflects an interest in alchemy. The study of base metals and materials is a reminder that we are all composed of the same elements. This notion binds us to our environment and the planet and acknowledging this fact has effects our actions which are reflected in our engagement with the world around us.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition? How is it connected to the theme of the entire festival?
AKS – In this video, I wear a dress made from images of my freckled skin, which camouflage with the desert earth. This place has imprinted itself on me. The physical and metaphysical landscapes have interwoven into a sculpture that collapses subject and object. This piece makes the link between nature and culture explicit by featuring a site where figure and ground merge, where the earth and the body become one.