Barham's anagrammatic works reveal the unconscious meanings of words.
Much of Anna Barham's work centres on poetic texts, created using a self-prescribed set of rules, and in particular, the rules of the anagram. Inspired by the story of the archaeological discovery of Leptis Magna, an ancient Roman city east of Tripoli, in 2007 Barham created a series of drawings charting anagrams of the city's name. In 1816, some fragments of the ruins of Leptis Magna were given to King George IV, and used to build an artificial ruin at Windsor Great Park. Just as the excavated stones formed the foundations of an imaginary ruin, so in Barham's work the letters in the city's name become the building blocks of new poetry and prose.
In recent works, Barham has added R, E, E and D to her existing pool of letters, thereby generating further anagrams. At the ICA, the artist is exhibiting the video Magenta, Emerald, Lapis, 2009, in which she uses a tangram (a square cut into seven pieces that can be re-formed in various ways) to create letterforms, eventually building up words into a text. The tangram pieces are shuffled and reshuffled at the moment they become recognisable as letters, illustrating how symbols are transformed by the reordering of their parts. Barham's interest in anagrams stems from the idea of revealing an unconscious meaning of a word, and exploring its associative potential.
Anna Barham was born in the UK in 1974. She graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, in 2001. She works in a variety of media, including sculpture, performance, video and drawing. Barham has exhibited internationally and within the UK, and is currently showing in the exhibition Stutter, in Tate Modern's Level 2 Gallery until 16 August 2009.