Lotte Anderson and the Craft of Crowds

The artist Lotte Andersen works in video, print, sound, sculpture, and performance. Her process involves inviting individuals to build and participate in durational group works which can sometimes take the form of a club night. She has exhibited her work internationally, presenting her most recent video and sound installation How Do You Feel About Lying? at Tate Modern last summer. She constructs controlled social environments known as Capture Parties, using her acclaimed and now-defunct night MAXILLA as the primary research.

Your work is so immersive, almost intimidating. What fascinates you about that?

I think that If you actually were to sit me down and I explained to you the level of Machiavellian fascination I have with control in group dynamics. It’s creepy. Whatever I do, it seems I have some kind of interest in big and small. In obliterating that space. When I was doing the club night, you walked in and every inch of the walls was covered in black and white print. When I made video work, I didn’t make one. I made it five channel covering a 4,000 square foot space so everything is moving at 100 miles an hour.

The first piece of yours that I saw was for Drawing a Blank in Harlem. What was the idea behind that installation? 

I basically had a really bad head injury followed by a nervous breakdown. When you have a very bad concussion you can’t use computers or screens and it can make you lose your mind a bit. I got put into a lot of really intense therapy as well. So when I was asked to be in this show, I had this memory blank for months of my life — I made work that reflected on the experience. I wrote something like: “Amnesia windows look like vanity projects, but don’t say it didn’t hurt.”  I have an amnesia window where between September and January of last year. I do remember the big 

events but it’s nonlinear. 

How was that show different from Dance Therapy? 

I work in sketchbooks. I think that’s a hangover from studying fashion and when you’re going through these things it’s different than when you look at with some distance. Because I showed Dance Therapy quite a few times and after a while it was like, oh my God, this is about groups. I thought it was about fun and euphoria, and it is about those things, but I think I’m actually quite sinister because you know if you spend a lot of time in nightclubs you’re watching people and the mask that they put on and it’s creepy. I feel like Dance Therapy is the last artwork I’m ever going to make that’s unconscious.

How did you come to realize that clubs were a useful place to explore how people interact? 

I realized that in hindsight. I’ve always been highly interested in people and how they sync. I used to write this a blog when I was a teenager. I used to kind of masquerade as a fashion blogger, but really I was writing about trends in a wider sense and how you can observe those things online. I was always fascinated by counterculture just because of the environment I grew up in. I had cool, interesting parents, you know? I found this picture of my dad and he’s like in my old original Stussy on the day I’m born at the hospital and I look at it now like, ‘oh my God, these boys.’ It’s almost like I have like a downloaded like two or three generations of fuckboy culture in me. And then when I’m in these social environments I just want to watch the things that make people tick.

Is that what influenced the Maxila parties? 

I’m a very shy girl. No one knows that! I’m just lucky because I can shout on the Internet, but actually, I’m too shy to really be doing these things. When I started, Instagram was not a thing. I started my party on Facebook. I would watch how people’s attitudes on Facebook would change. Like I would watch who clicked attending. And then I’d see that if the right person clicks attending, suddenly it blows up.   

But as it grew it seemed like the parties offered something new to the culture. 

I believe very strongly that it’s really important to have these markers in time. Where people come through the doors and meet, and crazy things happen. For Maxilla It just got bigger and bigger. People started to bring their mates and then they would bring their assistants and then you end up going out with their friend and then you’re all wearing the same clothes and then hang on, now it’s like the entire fashion elite is here. And I think I was always hoping that something wonderful would come out of it. Now I can talk about it in this kind of detached way, but when it was happening, it wasn’t like that. It was like a real family feeling. 

Social media seems to have changed things, even since Maxilla.

I think we’re all a bit cynical in thinking that the internet ruined things. It’s always been the case that people follow the leader. One person nominates themselves to be Damien and put on Freeze. So there’s always that sense. The thing that is creepy is this data fucking analytics when you’re sitting watching the likes roll in because you put your tits on the Internet. The thing that I really find disgusting about influencer culture is stuff like “shop the look” culture. I’m horrified. You know, I probably sound like an old lady when I say this, but I do not want to see you in a Slayer T-shirt if you don’t listen to it. I’m really reluctant actually when I’m filming group works. I can tell who’s just performing.

Since the show in Harlem, the work has moved towards these kinds of immersive pieces.  Would you say that’s an evolution for you?

So you’ve got Dance Therapy, which is the first. And that was me really fine tuning how to do big scale immersive video installation. Words that get thrown around all the time, but when it’s done properly it’s physical, you know? I’m one of those people who goes and stands in front of the subs–I want to feel like I can hardly breathe because the bass is going through my body. I wanted to make work like that. Work that makes you feel alive. Then I got that head injury and decided on doing this big immersive print. The next show was a show at Fold gallery, a commercial gallery, and it was like I make prints. I’m in the right context where I’m going to make something that’s nice for the wall, but it’s also kind of really personal. I think after a while when you’re an artist you come to realize that there are things that you do, you know? And I was like, what do I do? Well, I make work about groups. I make slogans that are weird and personal and say more about me but they’re still hooking you. And I make work about performance.

This story appears in issue #1 of Secret, available now.