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Art & Ideas: A Q&A with Artist Brigitte Zieger

March 12, 2018 // by Caitlin Swindell

Works by Paris-based German artist Brigitte Zieger have been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery London, the National Museum of Fine Arts, Tapei and now the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville. Zieger's video Shooting Wallpaper is currently on view in Call and Response. The video installation incorporates the quaint, historical pattern known as toile de Jouy, meaning literally “cloth of joy.” The patterned motif, which originated in eighteenth century France, often depicts farm life and pastoral vignettes of the French countryside. Although the toile pattern is associated with joy and portrays an idyllic scene, its meaning is abruptly altered in Shooting Wallpaper as a shepherdess emerges at different moments from several sections of the wallpaper, to aim and shoot a gun in the direction of the viewer. By juxtaposing this gentle, pastoral motif with an act of extreme violence, Zieger creates a disturbing work which undermines any sense of familiarity and subverts notions of femininity. We asked Zieger to share with us insight into her work and process.

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Image courtesy of the artist.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What is your artistic training?

I was born in Germany (Mannheim) and moved to Paris when I was nineteen years old. I studied then at the art school in Paris, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (ENSBA).

Since you work in several different media how do you conceive of a project? What is your artistic process like?

It seems to me impossible to undertake any artistic endeavour without some political connection. The main interest for me is how history shapes our perception and conditions our view on gender and social stereotypes.

To begin a new work, the Internet is an important source. Often, I start with a keyword and then search through all kinds of documents-old photographs, graphics, press images-all related to recent history and political events.  My choice is mainly directed towards images related to ideals or utopian visions of society, as well as the contrary, domination and violence. I manipulate these images in different ways, displacing them into other contexts and other artistic forms. In this way, I reactivate these images and develop a renewed reading of them, which I want to be disturbing for viewers.

The chosen media itself is a source of reflection. Each one of my series is based on different gestures or techniques introduced into the semantic field of the artwork. 

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© BRIGITTE ZIEGER, Shooting Wallpaper, 2006. Animated film with sound. Image courtesy of the artist.

What was the genesis of the piece Shooting Wallpaper?

I started to work with the toile de Jouy pattern after a curator's invitation to propose a new work for the walls of a collector's dinner. I decided to react to this very specific condition: an artist proposing the “decoration” of the walls for a fancy dinner. I wanted to make a piece that disrupts the tranquility of this exclusive moment, so I chose to position myself inside the framework of a bourgeois wallpaper to provoke the audience. It is the artist who shoots at the viewer.

Could you tell us a little about your process for making Shooting Wallpaper? Was it created mostly from animation? How did you select the different noises?

The video is an animation with myself as the actress, created in a way to fit into the initial wallpaper design. I keep all of the patterns intact and then add the figure, which is integrated with a compositing software. The inserted animation opens up the profoundness of space behind the flat surface of tapestry.

I am interested in these type of wallpapers since the toile de Jouy represents an ideal world of happiness. Here nature is still the perfect place of living; it challenges and confronts a period of European universalism and expansion. 

I am glad that you ask the question about the sound, because this involved quite a bit of detailed research. I wanted to use all types of gun sounds, reaching from old pistols to modern arms, from hunting weapons to military guns, again the sounds go through this long history of violence.

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BRIGITTE ZIEGER, Shooting Wallpaper, 2006. Animated film with sound. Installation view at MOCA Jacksonville. Photo by Doug Eng.

Brigitte Zieger's work Shooting Wallpaper will be on view in the Call & Response exhibition until March 25, 2018.

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