Susanne Jirkuff

The artistic work of Susanne Jirkuff (*1968) moves in the fields of architecture and urban space. With her installations made from drawings and texts, she documents the development of lodgings, which cross the limits of being an actual house or apartment, and instead focuses on the increasing uniformity of residential areas and cities.

The description and documentation of these processes takes place not only in the visible changes in architecture and city planning, but above all in the mass media. The models for Jirkuff’s drawings derive from international newspapers and journals. With the standardised style of her drawings, she shows the increasing uniformity of urban space. The corresponding texts are taken from different sources. Quotations are taken both from passages from urban theory writings of the twentieth century, such as plans for urban development of some parts of Los Angeles, as well as advertising texts for special residential areas and resorts like the artificial small town “Celebration” built by the Disney Corporation in Florida. In the exhibition, the drawings and texts are directly connected. Sometimes there are three quotations connected to one drawing, sometimes a drawing merely has an explanatory subtitle. Through this arrangement, Jirkuff has found a way to emphasise the common validity of image and text. With the style of her drawings and the selection of the text fragments, she succeeds in connecting the images of sections of residential spaces and areas in a harmonic way.

In her work Jirkuff documents the withdrawal of society into the private sphere. This movement to the interior, towards intimacy, leads to the development of gated communities or other residential communities, which are arranged in a very homogenous way and are made to connect people who are looking for neighbours with the same values as themselves. The artist is especially interested in the USA and South Africa, as the phenomenon of gated communities is very widely spread in these countries. Inside the fences of the gated communities, special laws and rules prevail. This way of living together evokes the concept of segregation, that is, the exclusion of something that does not fit into a certain idea of communal life. The isolated residential areas, which were established during the racial segregation and apartheid, are still influencing a certain concept of delimitation, which arises from different motives, such as status, need for security and xenophobia. A number of the texts chosen by Jirkuff show that this kind of development has not changed, even after the abolition of racial segregation and apartheid. On the contrary, the twenty-first century has brought an ever-increasing expansion of these gated communities and in this way changed entire city structures.

By Nina Köller, translated by Eva May


"Amerikanische Vorstadt" (2002) (Markers/Feltmarkers on paper, 59,4 x 42 cm) (From the project "Shortly before the riots started") Scan – No photographer. Courtesy: Cultural Institute of Upper Austria