Birgit Jürgenssen

Edith Futscher

Edith Futscher

Birgit Jürgenssen. Body Projection (The Magician Houdini)

In: Sabine Mostegl, Gudrun Ratzinger (eds.): Exh. cat. MATRIX. Geschlechter/Verhältnisse/Revisionen. (Vienna, New York: Springer, 2008), pp. 136-137.

What Birgit Jürgenssen projected onto parts of her naked skin in 1988, and documented in evane­scent yet large-scale photographs are enigmatic signs of what is called myste­rious femi­ninity - sphinxes (ph966), animal-like imagery (ph1732) , astral signs (ph34) , as well as the shadows of bodies (ph1730). Many of these photographs were used for the artist´s book I met a stranger (1996), which she desi­gned together with Lawrence Weiner. The book elabo­rates on a drama of the gaze: pages of typography - "They looked at me (again)" - with framed cut-outs offer partial views of photographs of skin and body on the following page. The uncanny is the point of connection between the book and the projection enti­tled Houdini. Projected onto her abdomen in this coarse-grained color photograph is the almost indecipherable likeness of the famous magician and escape artist, who pres­ents himself (with an expansive gesture) next to a saw as tall as himself, between the two halves of a woman osten­sibly sawn in two. Some­t­hing outra­geous is happe­ning here, some­t­hing that is owed to decep­tion and ought by no means to be ascribed to a supernatural realm. Jürgenssen´s body - her hips clothed in fabrics that, as it were, serve as a pedestal to a section of her body and to the image, in textiles remi­niscent of 19th century French erotic representations of bathing - partakes in the staging of the gaze on a sexual object; her navel seems to be the eye (of a third party), an inves­tigator´s gaze - situated precisely at the location of Houdini´s genitals. This navel can be read as the inverted image of an eye (gaze) in the place of a double lacuna: just as Jürgenssen´s abdomen seeks to close (as the mate­rial support of the image) the gap in the body of the woman split into two, it supplements Houdini´s legerdemain and the viewer´s gaze with the sign of a cannily furtive and vigilant observation, a counter-gaze.