Ulrike Johannsen – Response to Qiu Zhijie and Jia Zhanke


Response 不 bu magazine
Qiu Zhijie: Tattoo II 天空 tiankong magazine
Jia Zhangke: Xiao Wu (2009)

In her paper collages, Ulrike Johannsen plays with the points of contact between individual mythologies and those pertaining to popular culture. Working within a strict concept, Johannsen pieces together song lyrics from individual letters cut from magazines and advertising bills. She then pastes these back into magazines or advertising bills. The letters that form the collage are barely perceptible at first glance, weaving their way through the magazine like a secret subtext. Playing off articles and advertisements, these written insertions create new meanings that comment on and frequently counter the original advertising messages and their attempts to exhort.

As a trace of active intervention, the handiwork of cutting and pasting the letters is diametrically opposed to the smooth aesthetic of the glossy magazines.

Response is two magazines created using cut outs. The work is dedicated to the
Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie and filmmaker Jia Zhangke. In the first magazine 不 bu,* as a reference to Qiu Zhijie`s work Tattoo II, every “bu” character is cut from the text and pasted back onto the images of the fashion magazine. In the second magazine, 天空 tiankong,** Johannsen uses the same technique of cutting out characters to piece together song lyrics.

“Tiankong” is both the title of the magazine and a song by the Chinese pop singer Fay Wong that is sung during a key scene in Jia Zhangke’s film Xiao Wu.

*tiankong is ”sky” in Chinese
**bu is “no,” “not,” or a general negative particle in Chinese