The Photographic Space
Named after the song “Ein Schiff wird kommen” by Lale Andersen, Birgit Graschopf’s photographic work for EIKON SchAUfenster shows people standing on a bridge. They are looking off into the distance, and the beholders never learn what they see or what they hope to see. There’s an expectation that something will happen, something propitious, perhaps even something symbolic, but the artist consciously leaves this unclear. The theme itself also refers to the location of the photography installation and reflects the view of the beholder through the showcase window. A similar view into an undefined expanse was created by Birgit Graschopf in June 2010 in her photographic performance for Das Weisse Haus. Here too, the artist used the space as a visual support and referred thematically and conceptually to the local configuration of an empty apartment.
The photographic emulsion was applied directly to the wall. The imaginary opening of the space became even more present when seen from the next room. Breaking through the wall, an act that was actually physically carried out by Birgit Graschopf herself, channeled the gaze and at the same time framed the image on the opposite wall, generating the impression that the spatial opening was doubled. Characteristic for the works of Birgit Graschopf are both a tendency towards installational staging of photography as well as an interdisciplinary approach linking photography, video, drawing, and spatial installation. For example, the process by which this work was developed was also performative. In the space set up as a darkroom, the audience could follow the successive development of the image. Permutation by way of photographic intervention can be seen as one of the emphases of Birgit Graschopf’s work: be it by way of intervening in the image, as in the current work Schleudern (Side Slip), or by way of direct work on the wall itself. The special haptic quality, the painterly surface is what interests the artist about working with photographic emulsion.
The works integrate temporal change since the emulsions react differently depending on the support. The artist, who studied fine art and media art as well as photography at Vienna’s Universität für angewandte Kunst, is concerned in many of her works with the constitution of contemporary social structures and interactions, as in the video Essen (Food) or the work series on Tischbakterien (Table Top Bacteria). Shot from above, the people sitting at a table, eating, mutate into anonymized groups that form in the semiprivate spaces of lunch cafeterias. By the way they are sitting together, they offer insights into social interactions. Being montaged onto a neutral support allows the Tischbakterien to not only become a general statement, but also a unity assembled arbitrarily by the artist. Reality is the starting point for photography but becomes in the succession a graphic construction on the drawing table of the artist to then again be transformed into photography. The drawings that emerged for this series quote quite consciously the representation of microscopic images and scientific orders. The combination of various media as well as the combination of analog and digital techniques targets a continued conversion of a spectrum of materials and motifs from drawing to photography. This also characterizes the new diptych Urban Creatures, which initially emerged as a drawing made during Graschopf’s travels through Apulia. In the drawn reproduction of the maps of twelve old town centers from the southern Italian region, the churches were removed and literally placed along the sides of the sheets.
The title Erbgutentnahme (Genotype Removals) refers to the church as a core around which the town began to grow. In the photomontage Urban Creatures, Birgit Graschopf placed the town centers as freely floating hybrids before a black backdrop to thus finally divorce them from their context. As in Tischbakterien, what seems like a purely formal act, ordered by aesthetic criteria, here communicates a troubling subject, for these towns are at the moment currently threatened by a massive loss of population. The city centers are in terms of their organic constitution reminiscent of the drawings and photomontages of Tischbakterien, and they are in fact thematically interwoven and present a “kaleidoscopic universe of the conditio humana.”
 Katarzyna Uszynska, “Birgit Graschopf,” in Zeitgenössische Fotografie: Neue Positionen in Österreich, ed. Silvie Aigner (Vienna, 2009), 92.