Born and raised in Germany, Birthe Piontek moved to Canada in 2005 after receiving her MFA from the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany.
Her work has been exhibited internationally, in both solo and group shows, and is featured in many private and public collections, such as the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago and the Museum of Applied Arts in Gera, Germany.
Birthe Piontek’s project The Idea of North won the Critical Mass Book Award 2009 and was published as a monograph in 2011. Her project Abendlied received the Edward Burtynsky Grant in 2018 and was nominated by Time Magazine as one of the best photo books in 2019. The most recent work, Janus, was published by Gnomic Book in 2021.
Birthe Piontek is an Assistant Professor of Photography in the Audain Faculty of Art at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.
Janus is another iteration of my ongoing inquiry into the topics of memory and change.
All photographs in this series were taken in the same corner of my studio in my home as I am interested in the domestic setting, and how an artist can find inspiration in the limitations of a specific space.
In Janus, the idea of change within spacial limitations is brought across by utilizing the changing light. The notion of transformation is depicted by focusing on objects like fruits, vegetables and flowers – items that are commonly associated with the traditional still life genre.
In some images, the objects are photographed alone; in others, I perform with them. In the combination of body and object, a kinship is revealed. Much of the series rests on the idea of an alikeness of all organic matter that is exposed to the forces of change. We all adapt, mutate, grow and decline every day, even if this transformation is mostly invisible to the eye.
Like the ancient Roman god, Janus – the god of beginnings, transitions, and endings – we always try to look into the future while being informed by our past. Thus the current moment, in which change is happening, usually slips by unnoticed.