Birgit Jürgenssen’s sharp and humorous work around gender roles, identity, and freedom of choice, goes on show at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Birgit Jürgenssen belongs to a circle of Austrian women artists who were prominent in the 1970s for work that explored gender identity and the reclamation of the female body. Inspired by the work of Louise Bourgeois and Meret Oppenheim, Jürgenssen helped create a space for sharp feminist commentary, in opposition to the male Viennese Actionist movement that was dominant at the time. She is now remembered as one of the leading figures of the Austrian avant-garde. In the latest edition of an exhibition series, the Copenhagen-based Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is bringing Jürgenssen’s photographs and drawings to the fore.
Born in Vienna in 1949, Jürgenssen died prematurely at the age of 54. Although her work received scant attention during her lifetime, in recent years, Jürgenssen has garnered significant posthumous recognition, drawing support for her humorous compositions that focus on the destruction of rigid gender roles and freedom of choice. Rebelliousness runs as a thread throughout her extensive works, interrogating the notion of normalcy and traditional gender constructs. In one piece, entitled Housewives’ Kitchen Apron, Jürgenssen photographs herself with a loaf of bread protruding from an open stove door, the bread becoming both a phallic symbol, and a metaphorical “bread in the oven”. It is attached like an apron to Jürgenssen’s body.
The exhibition focuses on the playfulness of Jürgenssen’s archive, and her use of humour to make a political point. Entrapment is a motif in much of the work, as she grapples with the expectations of female domesticity while longing for freedom.
Entitled Birgit Jürgenssen. Ich Bin (which translates as ‘I Am’) the exhibition is the first presentation of the photographer’s work in Scandinavia, and it also offers a glimpse behind the finished works – looking into the artist’s production, and featuring early drawings and photographs. The archive encompasses Jürgenssen’s many disciplines, including video, writing and photography.
Birgit Jürgenssen. Ich Bin. is on show at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art from 14 June to 22 September 2019