Have you noticed designer Anna Aagaard Jensen on Instagram? She’s recently produced some pretty extraordinary flower vases that we’re all desperate to get our hands on. You may also know her for her Lady Chairs, which have been designed especially with women in mind: basically, only women can use them. Her work is functional, feminist and fun! We spoke to Anna about design, her art world sheroes and of course, her Lady Chairs.
When did you first become involved in art and design?
I think it was in my late teen years. That moment when you’re confronted with the existential question and decision of ‘what to do for the rest of your life’. I wasn’t particularly exposed to art and design throughout my childhood, I was told to study books, but I didn’t have a passion for that. I used to sometimes go with my dad to fix things around the house as a child and I still remember until now this feeling of going with your instinct and the freedom there is in making with your hands. So I started fine woodworking and from that on merged into design and art. When I delved into the fields of design and art, I knew I was in my element.
Can you tell us a bit about your Lady Chairs?
The Lady chairs were my graduation project ‘A Basic Instinct’ from Design Academy Eindhoven that then expanded into a body of work of 14 chairs that only women can sit on. I created these chairs in response to societal restrictions that dictate the notions of appropriate female behaviour in terms of sitting. Men have the tendency to take as much space in public as they feel or need, whereas women tend to sculpt their bodies and behavior to as much society allows and deems appropriate. ‘A Basic Instinct’ aims to facilitate a more provocative, empowering and confronting attitude through the body language of today’s women. The chairs physically re-sculpt the female body and its way of sitting, giving women more confidence through a more outspoken body posture.
When women sit in them they quickly realise that what they are basically forcing them to do, is to confidently lean back, spread their legs and through this gesture claim their space!
We also love your flower vases, can you tell us about them?
The vases started as a hunt for beauty and the constructed beauty. A flower is very rich and layered, referencing several different abstract notions. We see flowers as something connected to femininity and women – precious and fragile.
The vases capture the beauty found in natural flowers and freezes it in a form that will forever be the same, nothing can be taken away from them nor can they be broken. They are potent and very much present, for example with ‘Shashay’ – she walks directly towards you with her flower right in your face.
Your work could be described as being made for women. Why is it important to you to incorporate feminism into your work?
This is going to sound very cliche but it is for me the most natural thing to do. I am a femnist and I believe in it to my deep core (with this not saying I am a perfect one, because we all have our own ways of being of feminist). I don’t try to incorporate feminism in my work, it is not a thing separate from me or my work, it is an integral part of myself, my thoughts and thus my works.
What I am creating is somehow my subconscious desires and fantasies that come out because I feel they are lacking in our everyday life.
There is this overall notion of not being taken seriously with these very feminine spaces/fantasies, either perceived too girly, or too femme, that femininity in general is weak. I feel that we as women/girls are taught first to indulge in these pink fantasies and then when growing into womanhood embrace masculinity and masculine traits if we want to get somewhere or be taken seriously. We are conditioned to think this way.
With my work I explore the other side, and attempt to embrace the feminine, and provide space for these narratives and objects to exist.
Who are your art world sheroes?
I really admire the work of Sarah Lucas. She is funny and provocative and I think some would even see her as rude, but I like the way she speaks about gender, sexuality and hierarchy. It is as if she flips me off and laughs in my face at the same time – it’s refreshing.
What did you get up to in quarantine?
There isn’t anything specific that I got up to in quarantine. There seemed to be a pressure of accomplishing something during this absurd period, either mastering a new skill or learning a new language or coming out of this whole thing ‘different’ or ‘better’.
To me, I embraced the emptiness and the silence of it. With quarantine coinciding with key moments of change all around the world, I acknowledged how much I myself, and we all need to educate and reeducate ourselves, and for that I paused, I read more and I reflected. With it also coinciding with key moments of my personal life, it was a time to reset my priorities.
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
Work wise my plans and hopes are that I will be fortunate enough to keep on working the way I do now and with my own narratives. I feel honored in this line of work with the ability to make works contributing to conversations about change in our perspective of how we potentially should see the world. I am lucky enough to be able to not only express my own desires and dreams but also tap into others. That’s fucking amazing!