A catalogue collating the multifasceted work of the Austrian Avant-garde artist Birgit Jürgenssen. Published in German, English and Italian on the occasion of the touring exhibition “Birgit Jürgenssen. I am,” 2018–2019.
With texts by Natascha Burger, Nicole Fritz, Maurizio Cattelan, Lorenzo Giusti, Jessica Morgan, Gabriele Schor, Jasper Sharp and Abigail Solomon-Godeau.
“Birgit Jürgenssen (1949–2003), one of Austria’s leading avant-garde artists, was a strong feminist and fierce advocate for women in the arts. This volume draws on the comprehensive spectrum of Jürgenssen’s work, rooted in deconstructing stereotypical relationships. Starting in the late sixties, Jürgenssen’s early vibrant illustrations and surrealist, dreamlike photographs explored gender and societal restraints. Her hybrid human forms debunked gender codes and blurred the lines between humans, plants, and animals.”
Even though the title “I am” suggests a homogenous self, the multimedia artist Birgit Jürgenssen persisted in questioning this very idea in her work. Her critical involvement with alternative identities rather assumed a plurality of the self. Plurality and consequential multi-layered complexities are themes that manifest themselves in various ways in Jürgenssen’s work. On a formal visual level, through manifold collage techniques, repeatedly exposed cyanotypes or her series of “body projections.” On a conceptual level, through inventive work titles that expand the interpretation and reading of a drawing or object. The visual and tactile concept of the book references these motifs; on the one hand through the depicted collage on the cover, in which the artist compounded previous works into a new piece, on the other hand through elaborate paper changes and thus resulting super- and juxtapositions.
The book collates a selection of the artist’s works, four essays and eleven short texts. The appendix is distinct from the main part of the catalogue, marked by the change in colour and tactility of the paper.
Scattered among the pages of images and text are facsimiles of notebooks and sketchbooks from the Estate Birgit Jürgenssen. The reproductions create a visual or contextual correspondence with the particular spread they are bound into. This effect is enhanced by the choice of very thin, translucent paper for the facsimile prints, resulting in a visual layering of the finished works and the precursory nature of the note, alluding to the artistic thought process.
In order to create a visual disruption before a short text, the parchment-like structure of the paper used for the facsimiles is emulated in printed form. The structure simulates the translucent character of the interposed pages and appears on the reverse side of where the image discussed in the text would show through—a reference to the play on perception in Jürgenssen’s oeuvre. Text and image align to a grid with six columns. The layout appears to be conventionally type set at first, but is disrupted by unusual details. For example, the positioning of the page numbers seems arbitrary at first, but also responds to the grid; footnotes and running heads are aligned centrally. Subtle and playful elements add an experimental as well as poetic character to the layout.