Anna Witt, born in 1981 in Germany, lives and works in Vienna. Her artistic practice is performative, participatory, and political. She creates situations that reflect interpersonal relationships and power structures as well as conventions of speaking and acting.
Passers-by in public spaces, or specifically selected people and groups, are drawn into her experimental arrangements, usually in a directly physical way.
The tasks range from repeated imitation of specifically coded gestures to the development of complex choreographies, and give the participants opportunities for individual articulation and authorship.
Through the pandemic, isolation became a shared experience that led to a new understanding of the body in its collective isolation. The new video by Anna Witt is about this experience of physical distance and psychological closeness. It was created during the contact ban, in a collaborative work process with a group of women of different ages from Feldbach and Graz, who exchanged knowledge with each other every two weeks in virtual meetings and critically negotiated their own positioning on the basis of different parts and organs of the body. The film is a collage of moving, living bodies, which are capable of an almost “somatic” solidarity despite contact prohibitions.
In the three-channel video Unboxing the Future, Anna Witt prompts a framework of discussion around automation, artificial intelligence and possible post-work utopian ideals with a group of workers in the Japanese city of Toyota in Aichi Prefecture, both assembly-line workers and engineers and developers. The major employer in the city is the Toyota car company. Its main manufacturing facilities are here, and 50% of its workers are robots.
The dialogue revolves around personal experiences, philosophical concerns and hopes for the future, and probes at the real life social structures and working systems and models that will be brought into question. In the video the discussions are intercut with the group’s assembly-line workers smoothly miming the movements they perform at work and footage of symbiotic robotic arms at work on cars. In a hierarchical inversion, the blue-collar workers teach the white-collar workers the movements to then perform in formation. These body movements are a crucial part of Witt’s working method that create a direct physical understanding of the topic. In an extension of the group’s discourse on adapting after labour, the possible realities of leisure time and new forms of creativity are explored with musical instruments and a playful exercise deconstructing and rebuilding work uniforms.
Anna Witt has followed a group of young people in Leipzig while developing a manifesto for a potential youth movement. The young adults have spent several months realizing this project in close cooperation with the artist. In their conversations, they discuss their personal ideas of social utopias and are expressing express their own feelings about the prevailing systems. By questioning and deconstructing consisting norms and values of our society, they are follow their ideas of these concepts and their meanings to articulate the youth movement’s inherent purpose. According to their own imagination and sensations, they translate their manifesto into physical forms of expression and performative interventions in the public space.
The video project CARE is about two geriatric nurses in Japan. A group of amateur dancers developed a piece of choreography based on the work routines and experiences of two young Indonesian nurses working in dementia care. The dancers, influenced by Butoh and improvisational dance, were in some cases already around eighty themselves. They performed their personal interpretation of the care work as an intervention in the public space of the Maebashi city center, which is feeling the effects of an aging and shrinking population. On a textual level, the nurses explain what motivated them to leave Indonesia and look for work abroad. We learn of a massively aging society, in which the care of the elderly is a task traditionally performed by daughters and daughters-in-law, and the sensitive relationship between the workers and their elderly patients. The dancers in the video CARE interpret the personal experiences and movements of the Indonesian nurses, whose existence in society remains largely invisible. Closeness, physical contact, self- surrender, allowing oneself to be carried, empowerment, and disempowerment are important themes of interpersonal relations, which always concern the dignity of the individual and are thus politically charged.