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Wild Wood: Susi Jirkuff installation covers three rooms of the Scession
Susi Jirkuff, Wild Wood, Installation view, Secession 2013. Photo: Wolfgang Thaler.

VIENNA.- Susi Jirkuff's installation Wild Wood comprises wall drawings, wallpaper, animations projected onto geometric forms, abstracted sculptural elements, and soundscapes. Stretching over three rooms it forms a sort of life-size, walk-through film set within which the artist's three-part video animation Boyz in the Wood (2013) is shown. Using a reductive formal language, Jirkuff plays with an array of means to create the illusion of film, and drafts a graphical, media reality of her own.

“The idea of the installation is to draw the viewers into the story. It gives them the chance to enter a sort of film set. My aim in the Secession was to incorporate classical shots like long shot and close-up into the mise-en-scène and to present each room as a separate film scene. Because the installation claims all of the space in each room, the story is more immediate; you cannot get around it.” (Susi Jirkuff in an interview with Jeanette Pacher)

Boyz in the Wood is shown on three monitors suspended from columns. Three drawn, comic-style faces conduct a grotesque conversation. The desire to move forward, to make progress, is met with incomprehension and ultimately countered with resignation. In the exhibition Susi Jirkuff addresses— not without irony—the discrepancy between the media-propagated paradigm of unlimited opportunity on the one hand, and the (real) social limitations and restricted freedom of individuals and society on the other. The tree, rooted in its environment and thus inflexible, stands symbolically for this antagonism: it could not move even if it wanted to. The bus-stop drawn on the wall, in turn, evokes associations as various as departure, desire, waiting, or desolation. The title of her video animation is a reference to the movie Boyz n the Hood (1991), in which director John Singleton delivered an authentic portrayal of ghetto life in South Central LA.

“The title references the film in the sense that the film describes a particular milieu in which people may reflect upon social circumstances but have few options of changing them […] Using the form of conversation, I translate this insight into an absurd context by confronting it with the static situation of three trees […] The trees shift the conversation to a surreal plane; the idea that a tree could just get up and leave is at once touchingly pathetic, violent, and totally mad.” (Susi Jirkuff in an interview with Jeanette Pacher)

Susi Jirkuff, who studied sculpture in Linz and London, chooses to work primarily in drawing, which she puts to use in a variety of ways, as well as animation and installation. Her works, which have been shown in international exhibitions and film festivals, address the media construction of reality, pop culture as an identity-shaping force, the representation of (sub)urban life and anonymized spaces, and social isolation.

Her strategy of merging the exhibition space with the fictional, virtual space of video animations using a sophisticated presentation and dramaturgy was also in evidence in earlier exhibitions. In Rainy Days (2012), her exhibition in the Medienturm in Graz, for example, she presented three animated videos, A_The Elusive Life of Mr. A (2010), B_The Bitch (2011), and C_The Reality Check (2012) in an installation of objects and wall drawings whose reductive, emblematic formal language displayed clear parallels with the videos. Within this setting, which represented a standardized living situation, a narrative unfolded between the three videos or rather their protagonists: an artist struggling for recognition and against the ubiquitous competition of television, his neighbor, and a curator. The monologue audio tracks, however, emphasized the profound isolation of all three figures in their respective realities.

Images from newspapers, television, and the internet, as well as her own photographs serve Susi Jirkuff as source material and references for her drawings and animations. In remote control (2001), the image zaps from channel to channel. We see a series of stereotypical TV formats such as talk shows, documentaries or news programs, and celebrities. The familiarity of the images is disrupted by the audio track which, instead of snatches of banal small talk or matter-of-fact commentary, features a voiceover explaining the phenomenon of social fragmentation and increasing anonymity, and the contributing role of the media. Choreographies is an ongoing collection of animated drawings of everyday activities, casual movements, intimate gestures. These miniatures are used modularly, they are recombined and assembled, and vary in their meaning according to context. Pop music and the individual or collective socialization around certain bands or musical genres plays a central role in a series of works, for example in Friday I’m in Love (2007), Zappa (2009), Fifty & Gromit (2006), or People Who Like Bonnie Tyler (2009).

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September 29, 2013

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