Zoo/78 VI

  • 1978
  • Victor Burgin
  • black-and-white photograph
  • (2x) 80 x 103 cm
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1981
  • Inventory number 898

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'Zoo/78 VI' by the English artist Victor Burgin consists of two black and white photographs that are the same size. The photograph on the right shows a woman behind a bar. The bar is long and has a corner in it, so that the woman is virtually entirely surrounded. The photo on the left is a view of East Berlin from West Berlin. It shows a stretch of water, a section of the Berlin Wall, and in the distance the tower of Alexanderplatz. In the foreground there is a traffic sign, as well as an alarm post and a sign with the text: “End of the British sector.” There is also a text in the top-right corner. This starts with: “A wide moat surrounds her and prevents any approach.” It then tells how a man can manipulate a rotating platform with a woman on it, using a rope.

This work is part of a series of eight diptychs entitled 'Zoo/78'. The title “Zoo” is derived from the name of the centre of West Berlin, Zoölogischer Garten, with its zoo, its peepshows and the Berlin Wall. Some photographs show pictures of the zoo, others show photographs of girls in peepshows or parts of the wall. Burgin makes a link between looking at the girls in the shows and the men in concrete bunkers peeping through chinks in the wall. He said: “I was interested in the possible relationships between these different forms of supervision.”

In 'Zoo 78/VI' the text refers to looking at a woman. The exhibition visitor is looking at the woman in the right-hand photograph and she is on a sort of island within the boundaries of the bar, just like the girls in a peepshow. Up until the fall of the Wall in 1989, West Berlin was like an island in East Germany. The text “A wide moat surrounds her and prevents any approach” therefore applies to both photographs. In the first instance, the photographs and the text appear to have few connections, but when you read the text and take a careful look at the photographs, it becomes clear that all sorts of associations become possible. This is exactly what Burgin was aiming at. He had a socio-political message, but wanted to give the viewer the room to discover these various levels of meaning himself. Because of the strong emphasis on meaning and consciousness, Burgin’s work is classified as Conceptual Art.

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