'I Also Fight Windmills' is a literary photobook by the Polish-British artist Ania Ready. It visually interprets the work of the modernist, trilingual and largely forgotten author of Polish origin Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska (1872-1925; she died in a mental asylum in the UK).
Ania Ready has reimagined Gaudier-Brzeska’s highly autobiographical story of a migrant woman from Eastern Europe who travelled west to Paris, New York and London to find employment, and above all to fulfil her ambition of becoming a writer. The rigid rules of the old societal order, the lack of opportunities for women, poverty and disappointment led to her mental instability. The heaviest blow came with the loss of her partner – the modernist French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska – in the First World War soon after she had sent him a rather mean-spirited letter.
Ready was captivated in particular by Gaudier-Brzeska’s novel 'Hysterical Women', written in sharp, innovative prose (with no conventional punctuation marks) and depicting young ambitious women disillusioned by their mundane lives as domestic workers. Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska treated hysteria as a form of bodily protest against stifling patriarchal society. Through re-enactment and the performative aspect of photography, Ready brings to life tragic literary heroines – Sophie’s alter egos – for whom creative freedom and fulfilment remain out of reach. She depicts their unravelling mental states through black and white photographs, reflecting the extreme emotions of hope and hopelessness, hyper-excitement and dark depression described in the novel.
By combining Ania Ready’s photography and Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska’s writing, 'I Also Fight Windmills' explores the themes of displacement, creativity, loneliness, a disempowering sense of guilt, lack of emotional support and social exclusion. The book investigates the psychological aspects of frustration and entrapment in a restrictive social role, and sensitively depicts mental disturbance.
'I Also Fight Windmills' contains a book within a book, with literary texts presented separately from the visual story on smaller, yellow pages to resemble Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska’s archive and to fit with the Polish saying ‘to have yellow papers’, meaning ‘to have been admitted to a psychiatric institution’.