“I’m interested in technology, corporate concepts and pop-culture–that’s where my discussion about feminism starts,” says German graphic designer Anja Kaiser. Where she takes this discussion next is the really interesting bit, creating work that combines graphics, illustration, digital design, moving image, sound, and even a beach towel line.
The project in question is called Sexed Realities—To Whom Do I Owe My Body?, a beguiling visual platform of GIF animations and bold layers of typography that provide a discussion point around “different realities and truths about the body,” aiming to “trigger an interest in understanding how these constructions are produced.” When visitors access the website, they’re greeted with ambient dolphin-like noises and a spoken word reading of an essay Kaiser wrote while studying her Master’s at Amsterdam’s Sandberg Institute. The piece is read by Grace Kyne-Lilley–“I’m very glad to have her sensitive voice included”–and marks Kaiser’s first venture into working with audio.
The jarring movements, strange juxtapositions of consumer advertising visuals and politically charged snippets, computer symbols, and Miley Cyrus evoke ’90s net art. The feminist stance and bewilderingly busy layouts recall pieces like Australian collective VNS Matrix’s 1991 piece A Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century, or the 1997 work FloodNet, by collective Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT).
Kaiser says she didn’t consciously look to these sort of pieces for reference, but was certainly informed by theoretical writings around cyberspace in the’90s. “References like Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto and the texts of Jack Halberstam and Ira Livingston inspired my visual decisions,” she says.
“I set up some limitations at the beginning of this project, such as to just work in black and white, and develop GIF animations that would need quite a low resolution to run on websites like Tumblr. I also remixed the visual and corporate culture, which is attached to the topics I’m discussing in the project.
“In general I love to work with bold typography layers that merge into each other and somehow confuse hierarchies. Every element tries to communicate on the same level, and the information meshes to establish a simultaneousness like navigating online. I like to mix up bizarre references that contrast each other.”
While Kaiser teaches design at institutions like Germany’s Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design in Halle, and works on poster designs and visuals for festivals and clubs in Leipzig, she says it’s self-initiated projects like Sexed Realities, which allow her to work across multiple media and sink her teeth into political and social ideas, as well as visual ones.
“I think the connection between design and research challenges me the most,” she says. “Sexed Realities is a platform to develop products like the beach towel collection, to tackle and question existing realities that are attached to our bodies. You can interpret it as art, but it’s also fine if people just want to buy a towel and somehow get into the essay which comes with the user-manual.”