FELDMANN~Hans-Peter – ‘Birgit’.*
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Publisher: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König / CAG, Vancouver Canada
Softcover, 80 pages with 72 color ill. 24 x 17 x cm. Separate 6 pages booklet with English text.
Birgit does her make-up - and Hans-Peter Feldmann lets us be part of it. The photosequence of this artistbs book traces this every morning activity in every detail: from laying on the make-up to drawing the kohl and arranging the hair-do. Sometimes Birgit looks us in the eye, because she knows that we are watching.
The artist Hans-Peter Feldmann is a major figure in the conceptual art movement and a pre-eminent practitioner in the artist book and multiple formats. Feldmann's approach to art-making is one of collecting, ordering and re-presenting. Culling imagery from the swollen vernacular of amateur snapshots, print photographic reproductions, toys and trivial works of art, Feldmann reproduces and recontextualizes our reading of them in books, postcards, posters or multiples. These gestures create inventories documenting the ephemeral aspects and unattended moments that in the end make up our everyday existence.
He began working in 1968, producing the first of the small handmade books that would become a signature part of his work. These modest books, simply entitled Bilde (Picture) or Bilder (Pictures), would include one or more reproductions from a certain type - knees of women, shoes, chairs, film stars, etc. - their subjects isolated in their ubiquity and presented without captions. Feldmann recognizes the problematic nature of pictures and art in a culture inundated by images. His specialty has been to heighten an appreciation of these images, to bring some order of understanding to them by removing them from the ordinary, day-to-day context in which they are first experienced.
With his newest artists' book Birgit, Feldmann traces the everyday activity of applying make-up in a sequence of 72 photographs of a friend. We see every detail in its banal realization, from blending the powder to blotting the lips; Feldmann lets us be a part of it. Each successive image compels further a tender and unassuming curiosity, and Birgit's ordinary activity becomes at once peculiar and profound. Accompanying this bookwork is an insert with essay by Roy Arden, curator of Feldmann's exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery. In correspondence to Roy Arden, Feldmann remarks about this work, "...of course you can see how she gets prettier with each picture".
In Birgit, Feldmann has made a series of colour snapshots of a friend applying her make-up. In a kind of flip book narrative, the story of his subject applying her make up becomes a visual approach to Darwinism in that the Feldmann takes on societal norms of "looking good." Birgit makes the everyday, the banal, appear strange-one picture of a woman doing her make up wouldn't raise questions, but a series of 72 consecutive pictures causes us to think and observe like an anthropologist. Exhibition essay by Roy Arden is inserted into the bookwork, leaving Feldmann's images to speak for themselves. However, the Arden essay is brillantly written with rich insight into Feldmann's work and career.