eat (caviar) – monte carlo
It’s rare to find someone succeeding at a freakishly cool day job, but it’s even rarer to find someone with an equally cool pastime. Set designer cum artist Anne Koch is among this elite. After several years working in film production and set design in London, Koch relocated to New York in 2001, where she has dreamed up and created scenes for the likes of Patrick Demarchelier and Arthur Elgort. To boot, with her eat series, Koch has ventured into the world of experimental film, turning the camera on herself.
Randi Bergman: First of all, I find it really interesting that your day job is about making elaborate scenes for others, and your eat series seems to be about plunking yourself down in pre-existing scenes. Did your day job inspire you?
Anne Koch: I create environment for others: for models, for the photographer, for the editor, for the client—I love this. I love creating temporary fleeting sets that will only last for a short while. I love the theatrics, the light, the actors, the details, and then…gone. The magic that takes place is short-lived, but when I create my small films, they are real. I really am eating. I am in front of a real location; there are no tricks, no Photoshop, no editing…It is filmed in one take. I might trim a bit off the beginning and end to make it a good length of time, but that is it.
Randi: You’ve been really lucky to have found such an interesting niche for yourself, both with your set designs and films—how did you get your start?
Anne: I didn’t always know I wanted to work in fashion. I went to university reading European philosophy and literature with women’s studies. I loved it; it was difficult and fascinating, but too theoretical. I knew that I could continue to study and eventually become a professor, but I did not really want that. Instead, I graduated and moved down to London and got a job on a film called Miss Julie. After the film wrapped, I contacted the production designer, Michael Howells, and asked if I could work with him. I ended up being his apprentice for two years. I learned the most I ever could being in that position.
Randi: What attracts you to the mise-en-scène?
Anne: I am part of the industry. I am a part of the decision making of what something should look like. When other people see this work, it’s as a unified team—our idea as a collaborative. And hopefully they become inspired to materialize their ideas.
Randi: You’ve done a lot of work with Brian Wolk and Claude Morais from RUFFIAN; how did this come about?
Anne: I met the fashion designers from RUFFIAN on a photo shoot, and we became close friends. They asked me to design a print for one of their collections, and now we are working on our third season together. I make these prints with pen and ink or pencil—nothing elaborate. I prefer this simple medium, as opposed to computer-programs, as it puts me more in tune with my body and creates the likelihood of happy coincidences.
Randi: Where did you get the idea for eat?
Anne: My first film was eat (potato chips) taken in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. My first thought was, ‘Oh my goodness, this is such a gorgeous piece of backdrop, this is incredible…I need to do something here.’ And I just bought a packet of crisps right there, eight feet away from where I was standing. I wanted to stand, not move, and just have the rest of the world move.
My decision to conduct an action, eating, was first subconsciously to parody the tourists that gawk and look—kind of like at a zoo, but also to be doing something mundane and everyday. Most people take eating for granted and do not taste. I wanted to make an eating piece: a series of eating something wherever I go. The scenery, ambiance and feeling I have in these places are very important to the piece.
Randi: You must get some strange reactions from onlookers…
Anne: Yes! I wish often that I could turn the camera around, so you can see all the people who are fascinated with the happening. Sometimes they can be crowded around the camera looking, pointing, asking questions…They are fascinated. All these little sounds contribute to my work. As I film it with my ordinary digital (still) camera, it does not look like a video camera, so the people who are looking at me think, ‘Gosh, she is taking quite a long time to have a photo made.’ You get to experience their threshold of patience for about five seconds, but then they realize something else is happening—as my films are around 90 seconds long. They don’t know what I am doing and they don’t know how to react, and then they will just walk in front of the lens in anger or frustration. Then, they are also documented.
One of my favorites is eat (caviar) . That was taken in front of the Grand Casino in Monte Carlo. There were so many people, all tourists: “Oh, let’s look here, and oh, look there.”
Randi: I like how some of them have pre-existing theatrics and some of them look like you are so out of place–like eat (mandarin) vs. eat (asparagus)).
Anne: Oh, yes. I love this. There are no preconceived notions of what to eat, where to be. I will be in a certain place (I always travel with my camera), and I will be like, ‘Yes! This is it!’
All scenarios are real, I love how different each can be, but still autobiographical. eat (mandarin) was amazing; this is my other most favorite piece. I could not have asked for a better signifier for Beijing.—this incredible LED ceiling. It is outdoors, people walk under it—it’s part of a mall. Locals practice their everyday exercise there, like walking in long strides, even skipping.
For eat (peeled white asparagus), I am in front of the house where I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. There are so many feelings I have about this location. I moved around a lot in my life, and this is the first house I ever knew. I wanted this piece to be quite literal, with a suburban feeling, including my rescued alsatian, Sir William Sugarplum, on the lawn.
Randi: Is there any sort of message?
Anne: Every place is wanted for different reasons: a lot of people need to be where they are right now, but maybe don’t take places for granted.