- Birgit Jürgenssen 1949–2003
- Photograph, silver gelatin print on paper
- Unconfirmed: 400 x 300 mm
- Presented by the Estate Birgit Jürgenssen, Galerie Hubert Winter 2013
Not on display
Everyone Has His Own Point of View is a black and white photograph by the Viennese artist Birgit Jürgenssen. It depicts the artist’s naked back on which the German sentence ‘jeder hat seine eigene Ansicht’ is written in capital letters with lipstick. This translates into English as ‘everyone has his own point of view’. Jürgenssen’s head is bent slightly forward and her arms are held tight to her sides. The shadow of her head is visible on the white surface immediately before her. The image was taken in 1975 and reprinted under the supervision of the artist’s estate in 2006 in an edition of eighteen, of which Tate’s version is number nine.
The photograph juxtaposes word and image, ironically confronting the viewer with an image of the artist’s back while presenting the term, ‘An-sicht’, usually associated with the ‘front-view’. The artist’s viewpoint differs from the observer’s as they cannot see what she sees, nor can they properly see her. Jürgenssen emphasises the multitude of viewpoints while suggesting that socio-cultural circumstances literally write different viewpoints onto our bodies.
Using her female body as a vehicle for the text Jürgenssen underlines uneven gender dynamics. At once drawing attention to the idea that women are often only visible in the public sphere in relation to their bodies, as well as subverting that exposure – by using her back as sign – as a way to get a message across. In addition the use of lipstick to write the words suggests a feminine mode of speaking. Jürgenssen has used the motif of a woman’s back in other works; for example, the drawing Rückgradveränderung (Backbone Alteration) 1974 depicts a human back which has been opened out, revealing the spinal column. The photograph Ohne Titel (Körperprojektionen) (Untitled (Body Projections)) 1988 shows a woman’s back with the projection of a curved spine, again referencing – amongst other things – the strong influence of socio-cultural projections or structures on the female body.
The female body and feminist analysis are at the centre of Jürgenssen’s work, whether critical of the domestic sphere and mass media or in celebration of the natural or animalistic (see, for example, Untitled (Self with Little Fur) 1974, 2011, Tate P13486). Jürgenssen wrote, in relation to this plurality, that: ‘Women certainly deal with the question of identity in a more interpretive way simply because they are more often obliged to play roles’ (quoted in Elisabeth Bronfen, ‘Self-Irony as an Autobiographical Strategy: Birgit Jürgenssen’s Word Games’, in Schor and Solomon-Godeau 2009, p.84). Her work encompassed a range of media including sculpture, installation, lithographs, drawings, collage and photography. Jürgenssen lived and worked in Vienna throughout her life, although the curator and art historian Peter Weibel has emphasised the international relevance of her work. In 2003 he wrote: ‘Birgit Jürgenssen is the missing link that is finally being discovered not only for Austrian feminism between Maria Lassnig and VALIE EXPORT, but also for the international women’s art movement from Francesca Woodman to Cindy Sherman’ (quoted in Schor and Solomon-Godeau 2009, p.9). Jürgenssen also described herself a feminist artist ‘in the sense of conscious awareness, analysis and deconstruction of dominant theories and systems of representations – yes’ (quoted in Schor and Solomon-Godeau 2009, p.8).
Gabriele Schor and Abigail Solomon-Godeau (eds.), Birgit Jürgenssen, Ostfildern 2009, pp.79–95.
Gabriele Schor and Heike Eipeldauer (eds.), Birgit Jürgenssen, exhibition catalogue, Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna and Sammlung Verbund, Vienna 2010.