Exploring balance – UNC Mirror


Anja Marais: Exploring balance
Southern Florida artist’s work displayed in Northern Colorado gallery
By Trevor Reid
On October 4, 2015

Mark Harro | The Mirror
“The Ballast” installation, a project that uses different pieces to encompass the story of a woman’s struggle to find balance.

When thinking of mythology, most people picture ancient writers. Anja Marais, a South African artist now featured at the Mariani Gallery in Guggenheim Hall, is breaking that stereotype.

Building a mythos through her exhibit “The Ballast,” Marais constructs a tale of the human struggle to find balance. Using photographs from her short film “Cathedral,” Marais ties together the works in her exhibit to present various aspects of this myth to viewers.

The story of a woman struggling to find both stability on the waters of time and freedom from the rocks of her past, “The Ballast” invites viewers to explore this constant struggle faced by humanity.

Q: What inspired this exhibit?

A: My life. (Marais laughs) The title of this exhibit is called “The Ballast” and when I worked on this project, I was thinking about how I will maintain my own balance in life. And when I work in my studio, I don’t just make one painting. I usually work on a whole project.So the whole project is based on questions I have about my life because I found the more personal my work becomes, the more universal it is as well. The ballast is when you have a ship, and you want to keep it buoyant – when it’s empty, you have to fill up the new cargo ships of the day with water and it keeps its equilibrium with the water level. Whereas the old school, they fill it up with rocks. And that way, it stays steady. So as they try to stay steady, they have to empty out rocks or put in more rocks, or take out water or add more water.

As I made this project, I started asking the question, “How do you stay in balance? And when do you know when to empty yourself? And when is it time to fill yourself to stay stable?” This is my way of working through those questions. I also believe the reason why I make art is not necessarily the interpretation I feel people should have for the work. I want them to come with their own ideas and read their own thing in it.

Q: I noticed a similarity in all of the works. Did you start on one of these pieces and expand it into the exhibit?

A: I started with the film, which is called a pixilation animation. That’s when you do a stop-animation without dolls, so you use live humans and an actual environment. For this film, which is about seven minutes, I took between 8,000 and 9,000 photographs. And then I time-lapsed it, and then you have a stop animation. So I have 8,000 to 9,000 photographs that I then recycled back into photographic mixed media collages, and then you have this coherency about it so the works have a similar dialogue towards each other.

Q: How long have you been creating art?

A: Since I could think. Since I could remember, I was making art, and I always wanted to be an artist. My poor dad, who was a science and biology teacher, tried everything in his power for me not to become an artist, but I was adamant.

He always said, “No, it’s something you can do as a hobby.” But that’s all I wanted to be and here I am, I’m still doing it, and it’s the only thing I ever want to do.

Q: Is there a piece in this exhibit that you enjoyed making most?

A: Because it’s one project, and because I make all the work roughly at the same time, there’s a thread that goes through all of them and I enjoy the thread that goes in all of them, not necessarily a specific work. It’s like a little family. So it’s like saying, “The nephew is nicer than the cousin, but they all have the same genes.”

Q: Who are your top three inspirations when creating art?

A: I’m weird in the sense that I’m not as influenced by other artists as I’m influenced by writers. I have a deep love for Russian writers and poets. One of my favorite poets is Anna Akhmatova. And writers like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I have this thing going on for Russia, and I am so enamored with Andrei Tarkovsky–he’s a filmmaker–but he also wrote beautiful poetry. He always said that his film was just poetry, so that’s really what inspired me. And, of course, I’m inspired by a lot of South African writers.

Q: If you could bring back one thing from Colorado to Florida, what would it be?

A: I would bring back my lungs, so I could breathe again. I’m struggling a little bit with the air.

I really enjoy the people. They have been so gracious and so hospitable and kind. I found the students to be very stable and very intelligent.

By |2017-07-11T00:09:17-04:00October 4th, 2015|

Dori Varga at Rawlines Kunstblitz Berlin

Short film screening at kunstblitz, Berlin

Dori Varga at Rawlines

Exactly a week ago (16.07.) we held a movie screening for short films at KUNSTBLITZ for four young talents:

Nadine Poulain (Germany) showed a preview of documentary ‘U-977 – 66 Days Under Water’ followed by her art film on the same subject. ‘U-977 – 66 Days Under Water’ is a cinematic feature length documentary about the deeply human quest for freedom and self-determination. Set at the end of WW2, it is the story of Heinz Schäffer, former u-boat commander of U-977, and his crew.

Arata Mori’s (Japan) ‘Camino Negro’ is based on key concepts such as Body and Image, Repetition and Nomadism. Inspired by French modern philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze and Georges Bataille and indigenous traditions and mythologies from all over the world, Arata has created a number of multimedia artwork including photography, video, sculpture and dance performance. Camino Negro, written and directed by Arata Mori was selected for Short Film Corner at 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Anja Marais’ (South Africa) ‘Cathedral’ is a tale about acceptance. Shot entirely in Russia, it is a visual and audio poem inspired by the poet Anna Akhmatova. Instead of fighting suffering our female protagonist decided through admission of her burden to achieve union with herself and nature. Anja’s previous film ‘Shift’ is in a permanent collection of MOCA and was also selected for the Cannes Film Festival Short Corner in 2013.

Irene Moray’s (Spain) ‘Bernarda Rodríguez’ is a mokumentary about an artist. Irene usually works for different producer companies as a still photographer but she also experiments with video and directed a couple of video art pieces. Usually her recurrent issues are dance, female body, and underwater scenes, but in this short film Irene is just having fun as she said, directed and starred about a Berlin artist.

The night was curated by my right hand, and of KUNSTBLITZ’s artists: Adela Holmes, photographer. After the show, I set down with Adela and asked her about experiences with this project.

Short film screening at KUNSTBLITZ

DV: How did you choose between works while picking out the final pieces?

AH: We received a lot of film submission for the KUNSTBLITZ Short Film selection but the four films I chose for the viewing were the ones, which kept me wondering. I wanted to see more and had the urge to find out what will happen. There was not a moment where I wanted to skip any of the scenes and to me that was the crucial aspect in choosing these films. While watching the submissions I learned that you really have to give a film a chance, which means to watch the whole thing. Sometimes, it is clear in the very beginning that this is crap but you don’t know yet if this crap is intentional which could result in pretty good. Its also tricky with the really slow art films where in that case beautiful imagery keeps you captivated. Other times its other things, but captivation I’d say is the number one interest grabber. Be it the story, the music, the expression but something has to grab you and evoke curiosity. The quality of the film does not matter, but to me the quality of an actor is a very crucial choice.

DV: What made you like the showed movies?

AH: Nadine Poulain’s film puts you in a mood of meditation while gorgeous imagery slowly interchanges, enforcing a feeling. It is important to feel a film otherwise why even bother. Arata Mori’s strangeness in combination of incredible sounds on the subject of repetition was loaded with symbolism I still don’t quite understand, but that’s OK. There is always time to dissect a film. Most impotently, the fifteen minutes felt like so much longer (in a good way) because of the amount and variety of impressions, captivating. The Anja Marais film I could watch forever. The character’s body language, mainly her walk, keeps you wondering where she might be going and what is her intend. I could follow this character thought the world wondering forever. Irene Moray’s film was interesting to watch. It was one of those where you didn’t know if this is intentionally bad and yes, a few minutes into the film the realization that it is, makes you burst out in a loud laughter. The other submissions didn’t catch my interest in that intensity as the four selections and so the decision-making was easy. It might be on a personal level but curating a show means you show what you believe in and these four filmmakers I can’t wait to follow and see what else they will do.

DV: This was your first film-related curatorial work. Was everything like you imagined at the screening?

AH: I can say I’ve learned a lot from curating my first films show. Firstly that film is a really tough nut. And that whoever dares this endeavor is valiant. Showing it is also a challenge. I was lucky to have picked filmmakers who were patient with me. Overall it went really well but hard is what I am on myself. What I should have done is not to trust the fact that it will look fantastic on a textured wall projected with a projector never tested on the wall. Some films did all right, not all. Even though I have curated many shows, the difference between curating a short films viewing and a show with still images has become apparent. It has to be quiet and dark during the viewing that sets a mood, which is hard to break once the film is over and that it sometimes results in an awkward silence. Breaking that silence means taking things in charge in a very different way then usual. Not my expertise, but thankfully the KUNSTBLITZ crew managed to save the situation, as usual.

By |2017-07-11T00:09:17-04:00May 2nd, 2014|

Huffington Post interview on “SHIFT”

The Huffington Post | by 

First Posted: 01/31/2012 4:07 pm Updated: 01/31/2012 4:25 pm

In “Shift,” a wild dog steals the face from a figure born from a tree. It’s a short film collaboration by South Florida artists Juan Carlos Zaldivar and Anja Marais.

After someone working with Miami International Film Festival saw a working cut of the film, the filmmakers were invited to enter MIFF’s short film competition.

But in order to complete the film, the artists need more funding so they turned to micro-funding site IndieGogo.

HuffPost Miami spoke with Marais, who hand-sewed all the film’s characters and animals out of paper.

What was the inspiration behind Shift?
I’m originally from South Africa and Zaldivar is originally from Cuba, so we draw extensively from our experiences as immigrants. I’m concerned with “the perpetual outlander” always reaching for the unreachable.

Zaldivar’s work is often informed by our relationships with our bodies and by the transmutations and transcendences of the physical. Together, we have crafted a highly original, visual symphony that uses beautiful time-lapse photography and relies completely in film language to weave a haunting tale of loss and redemption.

How did you come up with the narrative?
Nature is important to both of us and became the main conductor for inspiration and visuals for the story. Zaldivar’s narrative was led by transformations in nature, and my narrative was led by the interstice and liminal spaces of nature.

How did you and Juan work together on the film?
Zaldivar has an extensive film background and I’m a sculptor from the Visual Arts genre. We both came together with very different approaches.

We both wrote the script, we both were models for the filming, and we both share in the labor around making stop animation.

Individually Zaldivar brought his knowledge and the filmmakers eye to provide the film with structure and flow while I provided sculptures and artwork to capture the emotions of the characters.

How does this film fit in with the rest of your work?
Before becoming a professional director, Zaldivar started his film career as a sound editor and designer, his work can be heard in Academy nominated films such as Ang Lee’s “Sense and Sensibility”, in Nanette Burstein and Bret Morgan’s “On the ropes” and on HBO’s America Undercover, for which he garnered an Emmy nomination.

For me, this short film breathed life into my sculptures. I hand sewed paper together to form three-dimensional figures to emphasize their fragility. This became part of interdisciplinary projects consisting out of sculpture, photography, installations and now film. These projects are an ongoing documentation that the journey and foreigner exists in all of us.

I have been taught firsthand by Japanese master papermakers on how to make and work with paper. You can see in the film “Shift” that all the characters are hand sewn out of paper.

Where was this filmed?
“Shift” was filmed outdoors in the Florida Keys. We found hidden, almost untouched areas on the Atlantic coastline, between mangroves and seaweed we managed to give nature an important role in our film.

You can read the full article at:


By |2017-07-11T00:09:17-04:00February 6th, 2012|

From ‘Studio Decisive Moments’

A Review by student Chrissy B. from the blog ‘Studio Decisive Moments’ of ” Tenterhooks” an exhibition by Karley Klopfenstein and Anja Marais at St. Mary’s School of Maryland’s Boyden Gallery.

“….The dual exhibition showcased the work of Anja Marais who is an artist from South Africa who works with sculpture and the theme of storytelling and life passages in her work. Although she currently resides and works in Florida, Marais has artwork and publications all over the country. As her biography states, “ Through an ancestral portal she examines the fragility of life by creating biosphere content that touches on themes of cyclical elements of fauna and flora, memories, genetics and life-death.” This is very true with Marais’ work that she presented in the exhibition, with sculptures of the human head and torso attached to strings and other fabric materials. One specific sculpture showed a man’s head upside down, attached at the neck by a tied rope hung off the ceiling. The sculpture is hand sewn and Marais explained how she sews on each small portion of fabric to make the surface of the sculpture actually resemble that of the human skin. This, as well as glass eyes bought from a taxidermist make the sculpture resemble the human forms of life and death; it’s on the edge of reality but also on the verge of unreal. When I spoke to Marais, she actually said that this was something she was trying to get across in her artwork. Behind this particular piece was a collage of the different pieces of numbered fabric, pasted onto a sheer cloth with hints of blue water-like shapes. When you stand back and look at the work, it looks like a person submerging themselves into the water; its abstraction and beauty really do contradict each other, but give it almost a sort of nostalgic feeling. …” ~ Chrissy B

By |2017-07-11T00:09:17-04:00November 25th, 2010|

Guide and Review for “Flow of Thoughts”

Edit: We were also mentioned in the Korean Herald.

Text by Juhee Youn, English Translation by Hyemin Son. On http://neolook.net/

패트리샤 토마와 아냐 마레이스의 전시 가이드 하기 ● “어디나 우리는 선으로 연결되어 있습니다. 그 선은 때로 눈에 보이기도 하고 보이지 않기도 합니다. 또한 그것이 전혀 다른 지점을 연결하는 선으로서 위치하게 될 때 지속적인 형태를 띠게 되며, 어떤 경계를 표시할 때는 정적인 형태를 띠게 됩니다. 뚜렷한 목적이 있는 선일수록 그 선의 모양은 단순화 되고 최대한 짧게 표시되며, 그 반대의 경우는 선도 시작과 끝점이 쉽사리 보이지 않을 정도로 복잡해지고 엉켜서 때론 만나기도 하고 겹쳐지기도 합니다.

여러분은 자연스러움에 대해 익히 듣고 있을 것 입니다. 그것이 지금 인간을 위한 최선의 선택이고 미래를 위한 완벽한 선택이라고 말들 합니다. 이렇게 자연스러움은 21세기 커다란 화두입니다. 뚜렷한 목적을 향해있는 단순화 된 선으로만 가득 차 있는 도시에, 자연으로부터 나온 듯한 유연한 선들을 더해줌으로써 도시 안에서 자연스러움을 만들어 가고 있습니다. 하지만 자연스러운 것이라는 건 철저히 자연과 동일해질 수 없다라는 사실을 아이러니 하게도 강하게 전제하는 것이 됩니다. 즉 그 자연스러워 보이는 유연한 선들은 자연스러워야 한다는 강박관념하에 선명해지며 시작점과 끝점이 눈에 들어오기 시작합니다.

여기 두 작가들은 목적이나 계획들로 인위적으로 다듬어지고 단순화 되어가는 서울을 자연스럽게 돌아다녔습니다. 그리고 정확한 목적이나 어떤 선입관 없이 이 도시를 찬찬히 관찰하고 기록하고 마주하게 되는 상황에 자연스럽게 반응했습니다. 그들이 서울을 이해해나가는 방식은 출발점과 도착점이 서로 모호하게 얽혀있는 선 같았습니다. 그러나 있는 그대로를 보겠다는 태도 자체가 인위적인 의도를 드러내는 것이기 때문에 이들의 존재는 눈에 들어오기 시작합니다. 또한 그들의 자연스러움과 우리들의 자연스러움이 결코 같지 않기에 그 존재는 더 확실히 인식되기 시작합니다. 마침내 그들이 자연스럽게 반응하여 풀어낸 서울은 전혀 우리가 경험해보지 못한 낯선 서울로 다가오게 됩니다. ■ 윤주희

A Guide for Anja Marais and Patricia Thoma Exhibition ● In our daily lives, we are connecting with lines like roads, networks and rivers. A line could be visible and also invisible. It can connect two different spots and appear as a continuous form or it can mark a boundary and can appear as a static form. A line with a certain purpose is often designed as being quintessential and simplified, or it can become complex. A big snarl-up to mix the beginning and the end, sometimes to meet and to overlap each other. ● As we familiar ourselves with the idea of getting ‘being natural’, it suggests one of the best alternatives for humanity and a perfect choice for our future. Currently, ‘being natural’ is the great agenda of the twenty-first century. In a city, full of straight simple lines performing certain functions,it transforms into becoming natural by adding various fluid lines copied from nature. Ironically, ‘being natural’ is strongly premised on the assumption that it cannot be identical with nature. The more we obsess in becoming natural the more fluid lines emerge and clarify. ● Anja Marais and Patricia Thoma are here to stroll around Seoul which is getting simplified and polished artificially upon objectives and city-plans. Without a clear purpose and any prejudice toward Seoul, they are observing slowly, documenting and responding to this city. It seems that their approaches to understand Seoul are similar to tangled lines to blur the distinction between their starts and ends. However, to observe the matter without a prejudice and a purpose is also an obvious intention. From that point of view, we could have a glimpse of their existences. Their naturalness is different from our understanding of naturalness so that we could see two artists’intention more precisely. Finally, Marais and Thoma’s natural responses to Seoul offer us unfamiliar Seoul that we have never experienced before. ■ YOUNJUHEE

Related posts:
“The Opposite of Nature is impossible”
“Flow of Thoughts”, A Two Person Exhibition in Seoul
Progress at residency:week 2
Progress at residency: week 1

By |2017-07-11T00:09:18-04:00June 29th, 2010|

CURRENT: Florida Prize in Contemporary Art Exhibition • ORLANDO MUSEUM OF ART • MAY 31st – AUG 18th, 2019