Jana Bissdorf

Memories in Dialog

A pair of colored armchairs, a broken bed, a patterned carpet, a wooden cross hanging on a wall, an old clock on a bedside table, a family of toothbrushes on a washstand – the motifs in Jana Bissdorf's series "Wege zum Glück" (Ways to Happiness) give insight into a person's direct environment. The artist cuts small windows into her color photo prints at selected points, into which she inserts black-and-white photographs. These small-format pictures, which the artist has found and collected, clearly date back to an earlier time and show visible signs of wear and tear. They were presumably once preserved in private family albums from the first half of the 20th century, but their authors and subjects remain unknown.

By combining two photographs in this way, Bissdorf conjoins two different layers of time and contexts in each picture. The color photos show pieces of furniture and objects that are used by somebody. The images capture things that are part of everyday life at any point in time. If we decide to move, we pack these objects up, then unpack and place them in our new home. The black-and-white pictures found by the photographer, which date back to previous generations, enhance the photographs, creating a constellation that deals with private spaces and experiences on two narrative levels. Together, they awaken feelings we may have about the things that surround us.

Picture collages have been part of artists' practice since the early 20th century and have contributed significantly to reassessing the concept of what constitutes an image. Rather than representing an idea or showing a certain scene, a collage creatively merges pictures created in different contexts. Collages break up existing structures, transforming the individual elements of the picture into fragments that enter into dialog with each other. This technique is also widespread in contemporary photography. Photographers today increasingly work with existing pictures that were not originally intended as art.

Jana Bissdorf uses collage as a medium to unleash a strong associative force based on the duality of the elements she has merged – a force that is different for each person who looks at it. She creates a connection between the picture and the viewer, for whom the interaction between the present-day photograph and the black-and-white "picture within a picture" evokes familiar emotions as well as personal memories. Only in the observer's mind do the moments and fragments captured at different times from the lives of various people overlap and become entwined. The individual trains of thought can start at a formal level, as there are also parallels in the composition of the combined images. On closer examination, contextual references are revealed between the elements in the picture, provoking a dialog that also encourages the viewer to reflect on social norms and structures.

Biographical information

1987

born in Heidelberg, Germany

2008-2011

training as photographer in Frankenthal/Pfalz, Germany

since 2012

studies Visual Arts at HfG Offenbach (University of Art and Design), Germany

2018

awarded the HfG Fotoförderpreis of Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

lives in Offenbach am Main