At first glance, Anja Niemi’s new work shows an unaccompanied woman, dressed in black and with a face that is always turned, driving to a solitary house in the desert. Here she trades her clothes for that of a boxer. The boxing paraphernalia builds upon the idea that each photograph and setting is a site of mental training and introspective battle. As with all of Niemi’s work, the narratives she constructs and then performs in as both author and character simultaneously, act as allegorical amplifiers to the conversations that lie beneath.
In one photograph, boxing gloves sit on the concrete floor just outside the bedroom with nothing but the parched land beyond. Even without hands for them to clothe, and so close to a space of comfort and safety, they are present as the agents of rejection, denial, societal pressure, anxiety and the countless number of conflicts we as humans wrestle with. Even when we are not directly contending with our rivals, we can always feel the residue of the past as well as being close to another event which would force us to pick up the gloves once more.
These everyday scenes are placed next to louder examples of Niemi’s extended metaphor; now with the gloves on, an Airstream trailer and a quintessential boxing ring are the arenas where Niemi’s character fights unseen opponents as well as another her. Who wins if we are fighting ourselves? The ideas of winning and losing seem, however, less relevant here. Instead, the photographs speak of a need to fight on, an ode to picking yourself back up after being put down by others and at times, yourself.
Concealment is an idea that is prevalent in The Blow and in Niemi’s practice as a whole. It is essential that here, the woman’s face is never entirely revealed. By removing specific identities, Niemi orchestrates the dismantling of herself as a singular identity and the work becomes a vessel for universal ideas we can all relate to. The Blow offers us time and space to reflect upon ourselves and reminds us that even if the conflicts of life can lead to bruises, it is important that we always stand back up.