The Ravestijn Gallery presents the world première of Anja Niemi’s all new series The Blow; a work that talks of the need for resilience in the face of hardship, and the importance of self belief.
At first glance, Anja Niemi’s new work shows an unaccompanied woman, dressed in black and with a face that is always turned, driving to a solitary house in the desert. Here she trades her clothes for that of a boxer. The boxing paraphernalia builds upon the idea that each photograph and setting is a site of mental training and introspective battle. As with all of Niemi’s work, the narratives she constructs and then performs in as both author and character simultaneously, act as allegorical amplifiers to the conversations that lie beneath.
In one photograph, boxing gloves sit on the concrete floor just outside the bedroom with nothing but the parched land beyond. Even without hands for them to clothe, and so close to a space of comfort and safety, they are present as the agents of rejection, denial, societal pressure, anxiety and the countless number of conflicts we as humans wrestle with. Even when we are not directly contending with our rivals, we can always feel the residue of the past as well as being close to another event which would force us to pick up the gloves once more.
These everyday scenes are placed next to louder examples of Niemi’s extended metaphor; now with the gloves on, an Airstream trailer and a quintessential boxing ring are the arenas where Niemi’s character fights unseen opponents as well as another her. Who wins if we are fighting ourselves? The ideas of winning and losing seem however, less relevant here. Instead, the photographs speak of a need to fight on, an ode to picking yourself back up after being put down by others and at times, yourself.
Concealment is an idea that is prevalent in The Blow and in Niemi’s practice as a whole. It is essential that here, the woman’s face is never entirely revealed. By removing specific identities, Niemi orchestrates the dismantling of herself as a singular identity and the work becomes a vessel for universal ideas we can all relate to. The Blow offers us time and space to reflect upon ourselves and reminds us that even if the conflicts of life can lead to bruises, it is important that we always stand back up.
Anja Niemi (b. 1976, Norway) always works alone; placing herself within her own meticulous tableaux, she constructs fictional stories where she is both the author and the character. In Darlene & Me (2014), Niemi plays the parts of two identical women living against the backdrop of a sparse, bleached house in the desert. The dualism in each performative photograph speaks clearly of the internal, and often opposing, voices we are all so attune with. In this way, as with all of her work, Niemi appeals to ideas that are innate to the human condition, rather than being confined to a personal mediation. And whilst her poetic narratives are wholly imagined (although frequently inspired by film and literature), they act as an intimate space to catalyse real conversations about identity, conformity and the relationship we have with ourselves.
The Blow by Anja Niemi
14 December 2019 – 18 January 2020
The Ravestijn Gallery
1013 BV Amsterdam