Jurack, Brigitte, 2006.
The principal aim of Jurack’s research was to develop sculptural representations of photographic documentation of built urban environments that are undergoing significant aesthetic remodelling due to tourism and redevelopment, in order to enhance the visibility and appreciation of unspectacular and un-canonised utilitarian environments. Primarily concerned with the function of the souvenir as a portable keepsake and trophy of a place of personal pilgrimage and its significance as an epistemological tool affecting our knowledge of places, the research focussed on buildings that are in the periphery of Newcastle, Glasgow and Liverpool – all cities that have participated in the ‘European City of Culture’ programme. Through the process of translation of physical encounter and documentary photographs into hand modelled forms, a collection of 30 souvenir sculptures of less celebrated architectural sculptures have been developed. The works demonstrate a constant negotiation in the relationship between sculpture and photography, investigating to what degree the sculptural transformation process can supersede the time/space co-ordinates of a photograph.
Souvenir Sculptures is timely in the context of artists questioning the relationships between photography, sculpted forms and the built environment. At Newcastle University alone, Jurack’s work engages with relevant contemporary research and fine art practice by Wolfgang Weileder, Susan Hiller and Volker Eichmann; works by Ed Ruscha, Gerhard Richter and Bernd and Hilla Becher are also significant in terms of researching the souvenir status – they fulfil a double function of validating a successful journey and also becoming an ersatz, a stand-in for a more precious object that cannot be removed from its location.
In the context of Jurack’s own research, Souvenir Sculptures builds upon previous work investigating the role of the ICI Teesside Photographic Archive in the construction of a three-dimensional memory of a specific place (So Near and Yet So Far (1999), Middlesbrough Art Gallery. From this exhibition the series ‘Travel Sculptures’ evolved as a suite of simultaneously generic and unique architectural miniature sculptures of vernacular architecture in Europe (exhibited Im Nordlicht (2002), Forum Junge Junst, Scwerin; Infallible (2004); Assembly (2004), Liverpool Biennial). These architectural miniature sculptures refer to, and stand in for, buildings Jurack has encountered during her travels. Through materiality (white plaster) and scale (all of a similar scale) they have gained a generic element without compromising their unique character, captured in the depiction of detail.
The complete collection of the souvenir sculptures were exhibited at Kasse Kamp 1974-2006, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf (2006) and in the solo exhibition Ich Sehe Schwarz Weiss at the Arena exhibition, Liverpool Independent Biennial (2006). The installation posed fundamental questions in relation to:
the construction of visual memory through form and space;
the fading of colour through time and distance;
the replacement of light with darkness and the ‘shades’ or acoustic of darkness;
the ‘gap of knowledge’ in anticipation of considered/articulated problems of perception – the a priori incompleteness of description and subsequent interpretation;
The stucco white sculpture as metaphor for the ‘untouchable’
The installation involved two spaces, one predominantly black and the other white. Jurack thus engaged with two conventional modernist exhibition techniques in juxtaposition, playing on the ambivalence of perception and memory.
The research has culminated in the publication of Irfaran: Travel and Work (2006), a small edition book (500 copies) published by the Research Group Artist Publication (RGAP – Derby) and distributed by Cornerhouse. The book investigates the relationship between artist as travelling worker and as tourist within the global tourism industry. Arising from Jurack’s travels in the Baltic, Germany, Italy and the UK, Irfaran is located at the intersection of travel writing and academic writing, investigating the visual research of Souvenir Sculptures in relation to the ‘tourist gaze’ established by early souvenirs.The book is significant in its approach, combining creative writing and academic approaches with travelogue, and bringing in both historical and contemporary perspectives. As well as making Jurack’s sculptures accessible beyond a gallery context, Irfaran contributes to a far wider debate around the perception of the built environment.
Jurack was also one of the few artists to present at the conference Things That Move: The Material World of Tourism and Travel at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2006.