Anna Uddenberg talks hostesses, art and the elusive ‘It’.

CMS: I hear your degree show involves hostesses, sounds interesting. Take us through it.

AU: I cast five girls to act as hostesses throughout Truly Yours, but to give you the full picture I need to explain a little about the piece. The installation had the feel of a sensational, glamorous event like a Hollywood gala premier and I used props such as ropes and stands, red carpets and spotlights to give this impression. They worked as markers creating a scene, a stage that subconsciously encouraged spectators to behave a certain way, and how they behaved was really the point of Truly Yours. They knew it was a stage, but they still reacted to the props. And especially to the girls. When I cast the hostesses, I called the casting “Looking for ‘It’”. The 40 girls who auditioned had to interpret what the magic ‘It’ in a girl, the little extra something which makes them more interesting, lovable, wanted could be. Their role in Truly Yours was to interact with and entertain the visitors, to be as magnetic and popular as possible, making the visitors feel the centre of the universe. They worked as professional best friends, but then a fascinating thing started to happen. The visitors started to act back. One of the hostesses said afterwards that she really didn’t have to do much at all. The role of entertainer got reversed. The show also of course kicked up questions about being paid to make someone feel special.

CMS: What else made up the installation?

AU: A sculpture of a giant hand with perfectly polished nails and a three metre long blonde wig blowing in artificial wind, dance music and VIP wrist bands.

CMS: Your hostesses looked very glamorous. Do you think the way one dresses tells a story about the person?

AU: Yes, I think so. Everyone makes assumption based on appearance. Sometimes they’re completely wrong, when I was in Asia recently everyone thought I was from Russia! It’s fun to express yourself through clothes. If you’re interested in your look and want to reflect your mode, your way of being, you need to update all the time because you’re a constantly changing person. Wearing clothes that aren’t natural to you can make you feel quite uncomfortable. I was part of an experiment once in a seminar at the Institute. I had to switch clothes with another student to see how it affected the rest of the group as well as us and it was so weird. I couldn’t even talk while wearing her clothes. It was very powerful. Not just uncomfortable, it’s actually impossible to behave completely yourself when you don’t have the things you want about you. We were supposed to discuss the performance whilst we were doing it, but I felt trapped in her identity and I just couldn’t. The rest of the group were kind of repulsed, a bit disgusted by the whole thing.

CMS: Do you use yourself, your identity or character as inspiration?

AU: Yeah, in a way I do. Recently I did a performance series entitled Girlfriend Experience based on homogenous or less personal characters, dream girls according to professional girlfriends ads. I wanted to make myself into a product, easy to handle for the users, like a mirror perhaps. It turned out to be pretty hard, [chuckles] quite schizophrenic.

CMS: What is your favourite style era?

AU: It’s switching all the time, but a year ago I wanted to look like a housewife on the French Riviera in the late 70s, trapped in a LSD psychosis. Maybe Pucci meets 90s rave meets French Riviera. It’s fun to play with image.

CMS: Who do you take inspiration from and respect from history and modern life?

AU: Right now I’m really in love with Belladonna, I saw an interview with her the other day on YouTube and she is magic!

CMS: Do you think there is such a thing as true originality?

AU: I think there is good timing, high ambition and lots of work. You are seldom the only one in the world doing something, and that’s a good thing, right? Originality, genuineness and authenticity have no value in themselves. These things are highly fetishised in our culture, but at the same time copies often give value to the original. I’ve heard that in China copying something is the same as honouring it. Looking at copies or interpretations of genuineness might be interesting for that reason. In Truly Yours I wanted the girls to act truly pers-onal and genuine towards the audience, but what that really is up for inter-pretation!

CMS: Is Truly Yours a positive or negative comment?

AU: Neither, it was an exploration of the self really. The props I used are often found in parties and galas. They’re markers which automatically facilitate networking because that’s what we’ve always been told in our culture. But how genuine can a person be in a clearly staged environment? How much of the true you is there, and how much of you is being managed? Having said that, and despite everyone being in unspoken agreement to behave a certain way, it was still a version of reality

Artist Anna Uddenberg