Birgit Jürgenssen (*1949 †2003, Austria) was one of the most prominent Austrian artists of the feminist avant-garde. She studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna in the 1960s and joined the teaching staff at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 1982 together with Maria Lassnig, Arnulf Rainer and Peter Kogler. In the 1980s, she began the long-term collaboration DIE DAMEN with the artists Ona B., Evelyne Egerer and Ingeborg Strobl. She worked with analogue photography for over three decades in her own darkroom. For her staged photographs of herself, she worked exclusively in her own studio using a self-timer. Her artworks were shown in the first feminist exhibitions in the 1970s, including MAGNA – Feminismus in Vienna and Copenhagen in 1975 and Künstlerinnen – international 1877–1977 in Berlin and Frankfurt in 1977, as well as Kunst mit Eigen-Sinn in Vienna in 1985.
Birgit Jürgenssen’s multifaceted artistic practice spans painting, drawing, photography, Polaroids, rayographs, printed graphics, collages of different materials, body projections and installations. Her work is characterised by visual wit and a great deal of self-deprecation, which the artist referred to as a kind
of “autobiographical strategy”. Like many female artists of her generation, she rejected painting at an easel in favour of a practice that relied on body discourse, image symbolism and language in different combinations in order to regain and deconstruct the (colonised) body and its cultural role assignments. A phase of artistic rebellion (Hausfrauen-Küchenschürze - Housewives’ Kitchen Apron) was followed by explorations of the borders of identity through the disappearance
of the self (Ohne Titel (Selbst mit Schädel), 1979), Ohne Titel (Selbst mit Fellchen), 1974/77), in which her playful language of expression remains ambivalent and poetically subversive, while also unsettling and disturbing.
Courtesy Estate Birgit Jürgenssen / VBK, Vienna