“About four years ago, I began walking a deeper spiritual path through which I became very interested in the intersection of ritual, culture, and contemporary art,” visual artist and production designer Orly Anan tells It’s Nice That. “I started to investigate different artists and philosophers and, of course, traveled the world to learn and understand how I could blend and manifest art through an act of faith.”
Orly’s “acts of faith” are manifested through intriguing, strange production design which has more than a hint of lynchian mystery about it. She has collaborated with Marina Abramovic, Kris Moran, Daniel Arsham, Annie Leibovitz, Missy Elliot and Usher, and her stage work has been published in Vogue Italy, V Magazine, T Magazine, New York Times, Harpers Bazaar, Bullet Magazine, L’Officiel Mexico, L’Officiel Germany, Metal Magazine, Surface Magazine and Numero magazine. We caught up with Orly to hear more.
How did you first get into production design and visual artistry?
I like the idea of reinterpreting spaces. It’s something I’ve done with my room since I was very young. I loved changing the lighting, the arrangement of objects, the order of things. Then I studied theatre in my teenage years in Tel Aviv and it was through theatre that scenography arrived in my life and I understood: this is what i want to dedicate my life to.
I love the idea that you can travel in time and space if you are submerged in a manipulated space. I am a romantic dreamer, so I guess that to alter reality is a need for me.
A deeply spiritual theme threads through your work. Tell us about that.
As a multicultural human—half Colombian, half Israeli—I had the chance to live in different parts of the world and get inspired by their cultures, religions, and beliefs. I am a jew by birth, and in Judaism there is no space for superstition, no praise for objects, it is a monotheistic religion. Only with time did I discover that faith is full of symbolism and objects.
I respect altars very much and they have definitely inspired me a lot. That is why I decided to call my work Acts of Faith. Each culture with its own composition, the Chinese with their altars full of mandarins, and so each culture with its theme. Visually each altar is a distinct universe, each has its own magic.
As I build my pieces, I transmit an intention that inspires me to work in these small spaces. The offering that I give them helps me to create. Every act of faith is ephemeral, is built and destroyed, fulfills its cycle. Like everything in this life, it transforms. Today my work focuses on the act of creating these sacred spaces. I create my own acts of faith.
Tell us about a recent project which you’ve enjoyed working on.
I opened a very personal show last week at Licenciado Gallery, a contemporary art space in Mexico City. It’s composed of three altars and a video art installation in which I use my face in constant transformation as the main subject. It culminates in a contemporary ritual marking my 30th birthday. Each of the altars is a lit mirrored box filled with a constellation of objects with different personal intentions. In the centre of the box you can see yourself in a magnified convex mirror. Each viewer’s reflection becomes the main power of the altar.
The project is an experiment and the conclusion of the past year in which my main focus has been the theme of faith and the power of the intention you put into an object. It always feels good to have opportunity to show my work in a physical space where people can interact with it and feel different emotions.
Who are your favourite collaborators and why?
My favourite collaborators can be divided into two kinds. The first kind are the closest to my heart—my artists friends. With them I share my real life, fears, visions and it always feels most fulfilling to be able to create and collaborate with people I have a personal connection with. It makes me grow as an artist.
The second kind are artists that I admire for their solid artistic path, humans that inspire me to get better and to constantly keep working hard. I’ve had the enormous pleasure of having Bill Murray in one of my sets, as well as participating in a workshop led by Marina Abramovic.
What makes a great commission?
I feel that first of all I need to personally connect with and feel inspired by the philosophy of the client or the brand. After that, ideally I would have the freedom to bring my own vision into the project so that it’s a real collaboration and brings me satisfaction. It’s when the client trusts my work ethic and aesthetic that the greatest projects happen.
Where do you turn when you run out of ideas?
I am deeply inspired by street markets, ninety-nine cent stores, nature of course—all of these places where you can walk around, get lost, get surprised, feel, and hunt for strange and everyday objects. I am also inspired by the anthropology of faith rituals and religions around the world. Music is also very important to me and to my work since it can be very cinematographic and it helps me imagine and physically manifest ideas.
What would you like to work on next?
I would love to get more involved in the music industry by directing music videos. I would also like to expand my work globally, traveling to collaborate with different artists around the world.
About the Author
Bryony joined It's Nice That as Deputy Editor in August 2016, following roles at Mother, Secret Cinema, LAW, Rollacoaster and Wonderland. She later became Acting Editor at It's Nice That, before leaving in late 2018.