Birgit Jürgenssen

Natascha Burger

Natascha Burger

The core of her art: Birgit Jürgenssen's Note- and Sketchbooks

In: Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein (Ed.): Self-Timer Stories, Schlebrügge 2015, p.142

The core of her art: Birgit Jürgenssen’s Note- and Sketchbooks.

As a permanent thinker and worker Birgit Jürgenssen (1949 – 2003, Vienna) has acquired an exten­sive source of ideas revealed in her nume­rous note- and sketchbooks. Between drawings and writ­ings she deve­loped drafts of thoughts to current works and exhibitions, documented her own elabo­rated concepts, poems and citations, or frequently noted impulses for her students at the academy. Furthermore, she recorded technical descriptions, work explanations or formu­lated statements in preparation for cata­logue cont­ributions or interviews. As a reader one grasps immedi­ately the impression ”(…) as if the notebook provides the ”inside story“, the ”inside track “ to the soul of the person keeping the notebook, and likewise the inside track as to the genesis of their ideas and achievements. It is like being privy to the secrets of an alche­mist`s labo­ratory, enliv­ened by their all-too-human foibles and weaknesses.“[1]

Birgit Jürgenssen started drawing her first sket­ches already during her childhood and even one manu­script of those days was published as a facsimile years later in 1979. The fascinating work of an 8 year old was created – thus of ”BICASSO Jürgenssen“ (1957). The title proves her captivating inventiv­eness from the very start. By her nick­name ”Bi“ she masters the particular symbiosis with Picasso. Page by page the thin exercise book is filled with image citations of the Spanish painter.

More than 80 of these work-, note- and sketchbooks are saved in the Birgit Jürgenssen estate today – an impressive collection of her writ­ings and thoughts. They define Jürgenssen as an incredibly writer, bibliophile thinker and disc­lose her individual acquisition of knowledge. Looking exten­sively at her personal archive offers a visuali­sation of her permanent debate with philosophers and authors. Quotes and poems are marked next to ephemeral notes. Literature was her insatiable passion and indis­pensable part of Jürgenssen’s art: ”I started very early to spend my time with surrea­listic literature and art. My work emerged from an exchange between literature and daily life. It was impossible for me to draw without keeping a piece of literature in mind.“[2]

Concepts can be found consecutively to forthcoming exhibitions or ideas for new artworks. They show Jürgenssen’s approach or rather processes of work and thoughts – the core of her art. For each participation in an exhibition she created some­t­hing new. It was unimaginable to show one piece of work repeatedly.

Today these personal documen­taries are a fascinating source that wonderfully manifests the complexity of her intel­lectual and artistic interest. One can expe­ri­ence the deve­lopment of her thoughts, the insight of the genesis and her working rituals. An indepen­dent, chaotic and equally poetic process that proofs Jürgenssen’s bril­li­ance and sensibility.

[1]  Michael Taussig, Fiel­dwork Notebooks / Feldfor­schungs­notizbücher, in: 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts / 100 Notizen – 100 Gedanken, dOCUMENTA 13, p.9

[2]  'Alles fliesst, bedingt und durch­dringt einander...' Felicitas Thun-Hohen­stein spricht mit Birgit Jügenssen, in: Carola Dertnig, Stefanie Seibold (Hrsg.): let's twist again. Was man nicht denken kann, das soll man tanzen. Performance in Wien von 1960 bis heute (Gumpolds­kir­chen/Wien: D.E.A., 2006), p. 272-279.