Review by Douglas Stockdale •
I am frequently asked by participants in my creative book workshops about how to resolve a complex project in which they cannot determine how to choose and focus on just one aspect. I now have a brilliant solution in the recently self-published Gstettn by Regina Anzenberger; create a multitude of books in which each book focuses on a component of the larger project to create an equally complex and layered narrative.
Gstettn is “a place of wilderness and freedom, a plot of land waiting to be used for housing and that has been taken over by nature in the meantime”. From 2017 to 2021, Anzenberger set out to capture the essence of a small piece of ‘vacant’ land just behind the Anker bakery in Vienna (Austria), where her gallery is located. Housing for 3,000 people is intended to be built at this location, a place where Europe’s largest bread factory once stood. It is the diversity of her investigation using photography, drawing, painting, collecting, re-creating, and layering to develop this collection of books that is very creative and contemporary.
It would be possible that this cumulative body of work could be published in one large volume with individual chapters to segment the art work into the respective styles. By publishing individual books, each of which can encompass the unique characteristics reflecting the manner of that investigation style is what creates this broader and more intriguing body of work. Her book reminds me of the equally complex set of books by Julia Borissova’s V (Zine Collection) and Ellen Korth’s layered investigation of nature using a series of folios //Walks//.
Anzenberger has created eight unique chap books, which are titled: Gstettn (illustrated Introduction), Winterblumen (Winter Flowers), Naturplaneten (Nature Planets), Die Illusion des Sommers (The Illusion of Summer), Ursprung (Native Grounds), Die Rückeroberung der Natur – 6 Pfeiler (The Reconquest of Nature – 6 Columns), Schnecken (Snails), and Frost (Frost). These are then housed together in a beautifully designed slip-case.
The artwork begins with the direct impressions of Anzenberger’s experience, rendered in documentary style photographs, whether it is snails, asphalt punctuated by man-made structures, or wild grasses that are reclaiming the temporarily abandoned landscape. Another creative layer are her artistic interpretations of these impressions, opaquely painting over the photographs, extending the pictorial frame with graphic drawing or augmenting the photographs with found botanical objects. Stylistically she has a multifaceted manner of investigating her subject and rather choosing one over the other, she has allowed each to flourish.
The multifaceted approach to her subject is reflected in the variety of chapbooks contents and design. Each of her Gstettn books explores her subject in a different manner, thus this series of books is essentially an 8-part symphony, each playing its part to create a wonderful blend of artistic music.
These books allow the reader to chose and linger in which manner of discovery that suits them, perhaps one day watching the snails slowly crawl across the pages, with childhood memories of these lethargic creatures crawling across the sidewalk. Or time with the silvery frost on the darkened pages and followed by the graphic lines of the weeds protruding from the snow, a wintery vision, pausing to study the mini-book within and enjoy the jumble of animal prints, to reflect on how winter follows fall.
The chap books have a commonality in the trim size, with the pamphlet stitching thread a matching color to its corresponding chap book cover. The central pamphlet stitch binding allows a lay-flat layout for the books. Each book has an individual design treatment, such as the twenty-four-page Frost book appears to be printed with a silver metallic ink on black matte papers, which provides a beautiful rendition of the appearance of frost. While the twenty-four-page Snails book has 18 pages of warm tone photographic images, it has two types of end papers, one translucent and other a warmer version of the book’s cover, and the front and back covers have tipped-on Polaroid framed images of her subject.
The Die Rückeroberung (Reconquest) chap book is the thinnest of the set at 12 pages with a classic layout of a small margin around photograph on a warm tone paper, while her Die Illusion (The Illusion) book has the largest page count at 36 pages, including the translucent end papers, featuring her beautiful and intriguing hand painted photographs on a slightly cooler toned paper. Equally thick are the 32 pages of her complex and layered of the Ursprung book, featuring her painted photographs with extended drawings that are re-photographed in combination with found objects, printed on a warmer toned paper. Clever.
Anzenberger blurs the boundary between object and reality and then embarks us on an elegant adventure. Each book provides a slice of her investigation as a delightful visual narrative in and of itself and when in combination as a set; brilliant.
Douglas Stockdale is a visual artist, Senior Editor & founder, PhotoBook Journal
Gstettn – Regina Anzenberger
Artist (photographs, drawings, paintings & text); Regina Anzenberger, born and resides in Vienna, Austria
Published by AnzenbergerEdition, sold thru her gallery, AnzenbergerGallery bookshop, Vienna, copyright 2021
Essay: Regina Anzenberger and Anna Baar
Text: English and Austrian (German)
Stiff cover with French folds, pamphlet stitch, 248 pages with 142 photographs, signed and numbered edition of 300 copies, plus 20 collector’s edition, printing and production by Tea Design, Sofia, Bulgaria. ISBN: 978-3-39503876-8-1
Photobook Designer: Regina Anzenberger
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