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© Courtesy of Alice Anderson and Riflemaker

Time Reversal

Alice Anderson reverses time at London's Riflemaker Gallery

Three thousand metres of synthetic hair loop through the Riflemaker gallery, embracing the space both inside and out like a beauty queen’s sash. It is swallowed by the entrance, an angry auburn torrent cascading from an upstairs window, before spiderwebbing through the ground floor of the gallery only to be inhaled by the fireplace ready to charge out again one storey up.

This is certainly an exhibition about women and objectification, but it’s an overall much darker look at femininity than anything to do with tiaras and pageants. Alice Anderson’s 2009 short film ‘The Night I Became A Doll’ is the centrepiece of the installation, and explores ideas of maternal rejection.

The rickety, candle lit staircase that leads to basement screening room for the 9 minute short film emits an eerie atmosphere straight from a gothic novel, tying in well with the plot of the film itself, which could have been found in a contemporary of The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The film tells of how a young girl stops eating, speaking and moving in order to transform herself in to a doll to please her mother. The narrative itself is harsh and upon consideration, really rather cruel, and made infinitely creepier by the star - the doll.

Anderson’s work is heavily reliant on dolls and puppets, she calls upon them to reinvent her childhood by making them reenact her own distorted memories. She claims the film is autobiographical yet also believes that autobiography is a form of fiction, so whether the film is representative of actual experiences is unclear.  

On the top floor, more dolls are found. Small and foetus like, they are placed in tube-like wombs cast of cold white plaster, or discarded on plinths, alone and dejected, their backs to the audience who loom over them intrigued yet detached. They are weaved from thread the same flame red as the artist’s hair, which is also the same as the tongue that shouts mutely from the window.

Further weirdness can be found in ‘Untitled’, a series of paintings using the artist’s own blood, which again tie in perfectly with the rusty colour scheme.  

The small exhibition is intense and exploring it is much like being in a nightmare: A girl becomes a doll, blood is used as paint, foetuses made of thread, a house dripping with hair. But because it’s someone else’s nightmare, it’s really rather fun.

Alice Anderson’s Time Reversal, Riflemaker 79 Beak Street, Soho, London W1. 1 March – 24 April 2010