FIELDTESTED | Addie Wagenknecht

Addie is an experimental artist and her work deals primarily with pop culture, feminist theory, new media and open source software and hardware. This journey of exploration has taken her on the road, with exhibitions in Vienna, New York, Paris, London, and Istanbul.

Tell us a little more about what you do.

I am an artist, and writer. In my work I look at invisible structures and systems and re-translate that into something visual. As a writer – I like to find emerging creatives, places to go, products I love, and feature them to audiences which might not otherwise be aware of the work. I also love to travel and I use Instagram like a visual diary of where I am or how I am thinking and what I am exploring.

What led you to the work you are making now? How do the dots connect to now?

A lot of the work, at least in my art is a reflection of personal experiences or reactions to society or events. In a way, words have always failed me and art can transpose an experience in ways words can’t always translate. I grew up with a pretty bad learning disability, so art was always a default for me to express and articulate.

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You build your art by hacking sculpture and robotics together – is there a reason for this, and where did this idea of contrast come from?

I started working with drones as paintbrushes and extensions of my hand in 2007/2008. I wanted to explore alternative means of painting. It was really just what was around the art space I was working out of in Chelsea/NYC and was a huge topic in the news and media at the time so it felt like an obvious place to start. I saw drones as a tool used for violence and war, and I wondered if they could be re-appropriated for something beautiful instead.

What your process is like when you’re creating something?

With some works, like my recent pieces that use roombas- these robotic vacuums as brushes- I was thinking a lot about invisible labor, and how that labor is often done by women- cleaning the house, cooking, childcare, laundry and how I might translate that into a body of work. I sat on the idea for probably 2 years before actually making work about it- it felt very vulnerable and like a big risk, to make work that looked and critiqued something that is part of my everyday, in a way that maybe a lot of people who looked at it wouldn’t get or understand. It wasn’t until I connected the concept with Yves Klien and renegotiation that work he made with women’s bodies, that I felt it made sense to present, especially given that the #metoo movement was reaching a mass and so much of the conversation of the pieces looked at the invisibility of women in both labor and suffering. I have since taken the same concept of painting and am using cosmetics like foundations and lipstick with everyday home appliances like the roomba as an exploration of the contemporary female experience.

You say that there is a responsibility to change the system, not just make it more pretty to look at. Can you share more on that?

‘Be the change you want to be in the world’ or something like that. Right? Two things need to fall into place: Children need to see alternatives and representation of themselves in places of power. So they need to see that a black women can be a president like a white man, that a woman can fly to the moon or be a CEO in the same way as boys have always had men be examples. I see actions like what happened last night when at the opening of Cannes, 82 women actresses walked together to represent the number of female directors who have climbed the stairs since the first edition of the Cannes film festival in 1946 (In the same period, 1,688 male directors have climbed these very same stairs) to be a starting point.

Personal or professional or really any change is uncomfortable and hard which is why so many people aren’t willing to do it, even when they are unhappy. It takes risk but risk isn’t always pretty and easy, so I think a lot of people would rather settle then risk something better but there are people who are willing to finally take those risk and be those changes.

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What is success to you and do you think you’ve achieved it?

Success is a moving target. Everything is possible but at a cost, one way I think we can reduce that cost is realize that success is always possible but it is also always a temporary state. I try to think about that often as an artist, the art world isn’t a women friendly place, the odds are always stacked against us. Something like 2% of represented artist in NYC are women and even less people of color. . I don’t think I have achieved success professionally- not even close, but personally I have everything I need; amazing girlfriends who live all over the globe, mountains just outside my door, a roof over my head and a family who I love. A big success for me is having the concept of home being a sense of place in multiple places and countries. Success is always having a bed available for the people you love to show up at your door and be welcomed and vice versa. I feel that knowing you always have a place to stay- be in in Amsterdam or Marrakech or NYC is such a grounding state of existing.

#ChangeBeyondTextiles is…

An awareness of how little things make big impacts

What is one thing you stand for and believe in, and why?

Paying it forward. For every one person that has helped me in some way, I try to help two more by using my privilege to empower and elevate others who do not have the same opportunities.

How would you like to be remembered?

Someone who really went after life and lived it. Someone who was in love with the world. Someone who helped people besides just myself and left the world better than I came into it.

We are inspired by Addie’s artistic articulation in exploring a reflection of personal experiences and reaction to current events, and are proud to have her as Fieldtesters, a group of inspiring individuals that test MATTER products in their everyday journeys of passion, to help us improve durability and design. Addie is wearing our Sideswept Dhoti + Trikora in Size 1. 


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