10 Questions to ...

Lives & Works

Anna Witt

Anna Witt, Allt kan hända/Everything can happen
Performance, Hallonbergen, Stockholm
Photo: Mikaela Krestesen

1. What are you working on at the moment?
I've just completed a number of larger projects, for example »Breaking New«, a performance I did as part of the Emscherkunst public art triennial in the Ruhr district, Germany. I developed the project together with Swedish designer Uglycute. Up next will be a project with artist Hannes Zebedin. It's interesting for me to be doing all these collaborations recently, as I've barely ever done it before.

2. What does your schedule look like?
In recent years I've realized projects in various locations, which meant a lot of travelling. The working conditions vary a lot depending on each situation. For example, as I conduct this interview I am sitting in a café in Taipei with a waiter yelling very loudly into a walkie-talkie right next to me. Working in diverse contexts is at once fascinating and problematic, because often there is not really sufficient time. I work with a lot of very different people, often outside of the art context, which I find really satisfying.

3. Do you work in a studio? What does your work space look like?
My working space in Vienna is a table in my apartment with 6 harddrives and a stack of notes, contracts, invoices and sketches. It's not a particularly comfortable space, but because I've been travelling so much I'm not bothered by it at the moment. But it's not like all my projects take place in exciting big urban centres. Last year I lived and worked in a holiday apartment in Marxloh in Duisburg, Germany for a month, and also spent quite a bit of time in a suburban shopping mall in Stockholm.

4. What do you get outsourced or find ready-made, and what do you make yourself?
A large part of my work involves thinking and observation and the implementation is often very spontaneous and experimental. I enjoy working without a complicated organisational process or huge means. I do almost everything myself from shooting to post-production. Recently I've also started working with designers to make the displays for my works, which I've been finding really productive. A sound technician could also be helpful of course, but for so many of my works the spontenaeity is so critical for the result that a big technical effort would just interfere.

5. What does the internet mean to you in relation to your work / practice as an artist?
I use the internet for research of course, but often I find that not very inspiring. Much more important to me is spending time at a site and talking to people. The actual production has a lot more to do with an exchange of experiences than with research.

6. What advice have you been given that you found really useful or helpful for you as an artist?
That one shouldn't try to do too much, and turn some things down so you can concentrate better. It's difficult to measure in advance what amount will end up being overwhelming. I'm still trying to learn this, I find it very difficult to say no. The most pragmatic advice I got during my studies was to get dental insurance. This came up as a side-topic during a discussion on Walter Benjamin. Practical tips regarding everyday life as an artist are completely lacking at the art academies.

7. What can you imagine yourself doing if you ever stopped making art?
I've often wondered whether it might be more effective to work in actual politics. But I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't enjoy that. With art you have the possibility of playing with ideas and models that don’t need to be functional or rational. I would miss this kind of intellectual freedom in other fields.

8. What are the pros and cons of working as an artist in Vienna?    
Vienna is a comfortable city for artists. There are good institutions, relatively solid and democratic funding structures and life is reasonably affordable. The art academy has a good reputation that attracts young artists from all over, and some of them end up sticking around, like me for example. It's not particularly impressive to say you live in Vienna, as is the case with many other cities. There is no big hype about the city, which I think is a good thing, because it allows room for other themes. But I've still considered leaving. Vienna can be a little boring and a bit locked into certain traditions. I would prefer a wider range of approaches or attitudes to work, which exist but are underrepresented in Vienna.

9. What is the most absurd thing you've ever heard or read about your art?
There was this article on a Spanish art blog recently. When I followed the link I was taken to a text on my work, illustrated with a picture of the London bomber with an ax and bloodstained hands. The author had stretched the pictorial thread a little far there, I think.

10. Which show have you seen recently that you really liked and why?
I really liked Mika Rottenberg's exhibition at Magasin 3 in Stockholm. The way her video installations were orchestrated in the space was really great. They were neither formally dry nor too loaded, which is rare among video artists, and was especially interesting to me. Of the recent major exhibitions, the triennial at the Palais de Tokyo last year really stood out for me. The curatorial concept was not as inflated as usual and there was just a lot of really good work.

ANNA WITT, born in 1981 in Wasserburg am Inn, Germany. Lives in Vienna. Recent exhibitions includeManifest, (solo) Marabouparken, Sweden; An I for an Eye, ACF, New York; Risc Society, MOCA Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei; Fremd&Eigen, Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck; BC21 Award, 21 Haus, Vienna (2013); Birth, (solo) Janco Dada Museum, Ein Hod, Israel; Over the Rainbow, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (2012)