Kristina Walsh is an artist and creative director working across design, sculpture and moving image, moulding research with emotion to initiate discussion about social personal perspectives of the human body. Walsh recently completed a two year residency at Sarabande Foundation and The Net Gallery had the pleasure of scanning her alumni exhibition, Architecture of Autonomy. The exhibition shows the evolution of a project Walsh developed over the course of her residency: from a design series including new accessories, sculptures and prosthetics, through to photos and footage showing the collaboration of ten women.

The Net Gallery took the opportunity to speak to Walsh about the exhibition, as well as her experience of benefiting from studio space at Sarabande.

The Net Gallery: How did the project behind Architecture of Autonomy first start to develop, and how does it feel for it now to be culminating in the exhibition?

Kristina Walsh: I first started thinking about this project in July 2017, at the time I only knew I wanted to collaborate with others and work across disciplines. Over the following two years, I reached out to creatives across design, dance, circus, and film, to understand if we shared some common ground: themes surfaced surrounding what it meant to be independent and how influential our support systems and communities were. I started creating sculptural designs that touched on some of those themes and – after developing the project – I was granted funding by Arts Council England to create a collaborative performance film with my team. This is the first time all the works have been together in the same space and after years of hard work it feels surreal.

TNG: Between what dates did you have studio space at Sarabande and how valuable was it to have that resource?

The Drawing Board

‘The Drawing Board’ (2018-2020). Exhibition view from Architecture of Autonomy.

KW: I was in residence at Sarabande from October 2017 – October 2019. The studio residents are incredible and the experiences I had and friendships I formed there have had a big impact on how I approach creative work and understand business. It gave me the opportunity to collaborate with other designers like ROBERTS|WOOD, a womenswear brand who were in residence at Sarabande during the same time, and who made the dream-like garments the performers wear in Architecture of Autonomy’s film. Sarabande has gallery space that was flexible enough to allow me to record part of the film there, but also support exhibitions.

TNG: It sounds like you’ve collaborated with a lot of very talented people in working towards the exhibition. Would you say this is the most multi-faceted project you’ve worked on to date, and have the collaborations enabled the project to develop in new and unexpected directions?

KW: This is definitely the most multi-disciplinary project I have worked on. I developed the project across three countries with designers, craftsmen and women, fashion, dance, circus, film, and product engineers, and it involved over 30 people. Each person brought their own expertise to the work and allowed the project to grow in unexpected ways. This was beautifully present in the rehearsals for the performance film. Each performer had backgrounds in different disciplines – from contemporary dance to circus arts – and seeing Cathy Waller, the film’s movement director, and each of the five performers work together, new movements would develop. Their movement then further evolved through the lens of Mae Sass, the film DOP and editor. I’m proud this project engaged so many talented people and I hope it shows that individuals can create great things by working together.

Models 2

‘Models’ (Varied materials; 2018-2020). Exhibition view from Architecture of Autonomy.

TNG: What has your experience of lockdown been like and how disruptive has it been for your work? I imagine you must be relieved that you were able to go ahead with the exhibition?

KW: Lockdown definitely prompted this project to be presented in new ways, but I think challenges offer opportunities. By presenting the work through a virtual exhibition, it can be viewed by anyone with internet connection, so instead of inviting just Londoners to visit the work, people anywhere can experience it. It feels great to be able to invite new audiences, as well as supporters and collaborators from abroad, to engage with the exhibition.

TNG: While it’s difficult for anyone to make concrete plans at the moment, have you got projects and areas of your practice that you would like to develop or focus on over the next year or two?

KW: I am currently working on a few design projects where I am creating new products, but this project also allowed me to take on a creative director role and work with dance, music and film. I have always been drawn to working with groups of people and creating spaces for individuals to work together towards a common goal and am interested in working with music and dance artists on music videos and performance. I am also inspired by the way design companies like IDEO, adidas, and Adobe foster creativity within communities, so working with companies to make new products and experiences for their customers is a pathway I am looking to pursue.

Portrait courtsey of Sarabande Foundation

Kristina Walsh. Portrait courtesy of Sarabande Foundation.

You can view the virtual walkthrough of Architecture of Autonomy, scanned and produced by The Net Gallery, here.

To learn more about the exhibition and the related series of events at Sarabande, visit:

Interview by Richard Unwin.

Hero image taken from The Net Gallery’s scan footage of Architecture of Autonomy. All other images courtesy of the artist, Kristina Walsh, except the portrait of Kristina, which is courtesy of Sarabande Foundation.