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Anja Notanja Sieger: Like life, typewriters have no undo button

As a creative free-spirit who is loathe to be categorized for her artistic talent, Anja Notanja Sieger is best known for her poetry, storytelling, and performance therapy.
With a passion for typewriters, the archaic machines symbolize her drive to create messages without the safety of an undo button, and her articulate fascination with the minutia of daily life brings an unacknowledged reality to light for the Milwaukee community.

Editor’s Note: This is the first illustrated interview produced by the Milwaukee Independent, because the innovative approach reflects the personality and work of Anja Notanja Sieger. Video segments were also produced for this feature.

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Q&A with Ànjà Notànjà Sieger

Q: What is the fondest memory of your youth, and was there anyone who influenced your life or interest as a storyteller?
Alternative Answer
Sticking my fingers in the mud. Adults captivated me with their vast life experiences, and kids because their lives were different from mine. I asked a lot of questions of everyone, especially strangers at restaurants and parties and I got a lot of stories. I remember going to Grecian Delight on North Avenue every Sunday night after church and asking all the smokers in the smoking section, “Why do you smoke? When will you quit?”
Q: If you could send a message back in time to a younger version of yourself, what would you say?
Alternative Answer
You’re not in trouble.
Q: Are you a writer who expresses yourself in art, or an artist who expresses yourself in words?
Alternative Answer
You can’t pin me down without feeling the blade of my teeth on your forearm. This is of course a spiritual metaphor, I am not a physically vioIent person.
Q: How is faith a part of your life and the work you do?
Alternative Answer
Bibliomancy, synchronicity, magical thinking, symbolism, community interaction, good conversation, books, radio and analytical pondering are the ways my ancestors and sprites get the truth to me.
Q: What was the most unexpected yet influential lesson you learned from your time as the Pfister Hotel’s narrator?
Q: Do you have an extensive manual typewriter collection? And how did you obtain the machines you use? Is there a Holy Grail of typewriters you hope to one day own? And, what is it about the machine that you find so fascinating?
Alternative Answer
When you write on a typewriter you are declaring your sentences with physical force and you can’t go back. You must be confident, not a computer coward, or an internet troll sneaking around the alphabet.
Q: With the elaborate personas you have invented, did you ever consider becoming an actress?
Alternative Answer
Of course, I also act all the time for projects led by Charles Bursell or Wes Tank.
Q: If someone wanted to visit the country of Rhatasia, what sights would you recommend? And, does anyone still call you Garfield?
Alternative Answer
How the heck do you know about the country I made up when I was 16? How do you know about the fact I insisted my name was “Garfield” back in 1990? Should I be concerned you’ve done too much research about me here?
Q: Do you think there is a liberal elitism in the Milwaukee art community? And, how can creativity help improve the dialogue in our city of silos?
Q: Shadow puppets have a long cultural history in China, but not so much in America, so where did your interest in creating these shows come from?
Q: As a performing typist who sold the thoughts of other people as a form of art therapy, what was the biggest impact of your craft?
Q: What is the Subtle Forces and where did the idea come from?
Alternative Answer

Anja Notanja Sieger and Freesia McKee locked tentacles in 2012 and slowly discovered over the course of numerous live radio sessions and paraben-free snack meals that they are indeed the harvesters and harbingers of THE SUBTLE FORCES.

  • The Subtle Forces are the chopped cilantro sprinkled on her soup.
  • The Subtle Forces furrow your brow for an 8th of a second.
  • The Subtle Forces deliver both the bus driver and the bus rider to their next destination, same as always.
  • The Subtle Forces believe that a Revolution must first be felt in the body, it must be viscerally desired before there is any societal momentum. We are society and this is our moment.
  • Will we change? Can we feel what change is? Does change feel better than what we have? Is change possible?
  • The Subtle Forces exist whether or not Anja and Freesia are there to divine them.
  • Will you notice them?
  • You will.
Q: Do you have any plans to formally publish your writing in a book format?
Q: What is the most common question you are asked, and what does no one ever ask that you have always wanted to talk about?
Q: What is your biggest hope and greatest fear for the future of Milwaukee?
Q: How is your work connecting with the community to bring about positive change?
Q: Do you have any new plans for the future, and what is the last thing you ever see yourself doing?
Q: What advice would you offer Milwaukee youth about their self-identity?
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© Image

Art © Anja Notanja Sieger

Photo © Lee Matz

Read the Q&A interview and watch the video segments that were produced as companion features for this news report.

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