Alice Anderson’s Childhood Rituals

"I remember the terrible fears I used to have when I was a child left alone at home for many long hours waiting for the return of my mother."

14 April 2011 to 5 June 2011

In Alice Anderson’s art the material of dolls hair refers to the rituals she completed during her childhood. It also represents the link between mother and child.

Childhood Rituals, 2011, Alice Anderson

“I remember the terrible fears I used to have when I was a child left alone at home for many long hours waiting for the return of my mother. At that time I invented rituals for myself to calm my anxieties. These rituals consisted of undoing the threads from seams and I wound these threads around parts of my body and other objects. Later I began to use my hair instead of thread.”
Alice Anderson

Anderson explores time and memory in her art. The act of remembering is a creative process which allows her to re-imagine her childhood. Time operates as her working material and memory functions as the master of fiction.“Bergson once said that to talk about the past is to dream. I play with the dislocation of time in the same way that children construct parallel worlds. As children, we do not think logically and our conception of time certainly does not operate along a linear or objective trajectory.”

In this exhibition, Anderson uses the dolls hair in a manner which is entirely new in her practice. As a wry play on Freud’s idea that weaving is a cover for “genital deficiency”, she takes Anna Freud’s loom as a starting-point and arranges the dolls hair in lines and grids, straightening the strands into taught ropes. The masculine associations of the grid, with its formalist claims to disembodied abstraction, are destabilised by the corporeal and feminine associations of the dolls hair.

Related Resources

The catalogue for the exhibition is available in the museum shop and is published by Bookstorming. It includes essays by Catherine Grenier, Griselda Pollock and Joanna S. Walker.

Anderson studied with Christian Boltanski at L’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and completed an M.A. at Goldsmiths College in London in 2004. Recently, Anderson’s work has been shown at Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Nichido Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Riso Art Museum, Sicily; National Taiwan Museum, Taipei; Fondation Agnès b, Paris; Riflemaker, London; Busan Biennale, South Korea; Cinémathèque Française, Paris; and All Visual Arts, London.

This exhibition is made possible due to the generous support of the National Lottery through Arts Council England, with additional assistance from the Agnès b. Endowment Fund and ROH2 at the Royal Opera House, London.