Actually, so far I have only taken photos which have given others an impulse for art. For me a creative form of expression to enthuse a target group. But with paperbag [reBORN] everything is different:
After several ups and downs in my nearly 25 years of creating art, I started, after a structured creative break on 21 November 2008, the new series “paperbag [reBORN]“. As everybody knows everyone in the large village of the Rhine valley and a few of my models want to be unrecognised, this form of conceptual performance photography offers the possibility to be photographed anonymously and in an erotic way. Every female model, who would like to participate in this project, gets her own paperbag. The models receive their own face in form of a paperbag which I create with different clippings I have collected over the last years. A numbered and dated unicum. I used the name reborn as the face is created with scrap paper. This face is breathed into life by the model. This is how everything started:
The project permanently develops further and there is the possibility to look at the embryos online. These prepared faces are waiting to be born! The visitors of my website can choose their unborn face and register for an exclusive series. Men receive a neutral paperbag.
The project matured in 2010 and up to now 35 different models were born. The first shooting always takes place in front of the same background in the studio – so to say – in the delivery room – the birth. Afterwards various locations are visited or we take the pictures in the nature.
The date of every shooting is registered on the back of the paperbag - like a curriculum vitae. The paperbag face can change over the months / years like everyone changes. The main features stay the same, but eyes, mouth or hair can be exchanged. We are working on a paperbag [reBORN] ID card. With this card the models should get different benefits, that still need to be defined. This way an own artificial and quite artistic identity is created.
At every exhibition the gallery receives a chosen face of a limited series printed on paper bags (approx. 100 pieces). These, through the identical reproduction so called clones, can be used as applied art e.g. as shopping bags or cloned to collector's items for all those interested.
The photos are developed in a limited edition (5 pieces) on plexiglas and presented. Unicums from the same series are also possible. The paper bags can be shown, upon request, but remain unsaleable. They have received an identity with a certain liveliness.
Interview with Norbert Brunner, December 2010
About the concept of paperbag [reBORN]:
- What is a photo for you?
A snap-shot. A repetition of a feeling. Challenge. A photo is an expression of my creativity. Ostensibly I take photographs for me and to show my perception to people who take pleasure in what I do.
- How were the faces on the bag developed?
An empty bad does not have an aura like the recycled face. I created an unity from scrap paper. Woman: Orients itself towards top models, which should reflect the femininity to attract men. Which woman wouldn’t like to be a Victoria’s Secret Model? Everyone knows – beauty knows no pain – and many go under the knife. The results are not always pleasing and have no similarity with a catalogue model. Sometimes the surgical intervention goes wrong and empty, emotionless masks of society are created. I chose parts of these recycled faces and put them together to create a face from a catalogue, fashion magazine or image editing program. That is how the scrap paper formed the female faces from paperbag [reBORN] – I call this “model recycling“.
Man: although metrosexuality influences the initial figure of a man, I don’t want to give the men a face. In paperbag [reBORN] the man takes the role as a companion of a beautiful woman.
- Why only women?
At the beginning of the project more women were interested in participating. The ratio between women and men is 20:1. Paperbag has grown and I have also carried out the first couple-experiment. The men receive a plain paperbag without a face. In general women are more beauty-orientated than men. Women want to comply with the ideal of beauty which is created by the media. They permanently want to change and are never really satisfied with themselves. From my experience women are more willing to be photographed. The appreciation and the self-admiration is more important to women. Therefore there are many more women than men. paperbag [reBORN] is open to everyone – there is no restriction on my side.
- How did you choose the models? Will they remain 35?
I do not select. Everyone who wants to take part, can. Also the number of participants is increasing and I don’t want to be limited. Each face is a unicum.
- You talked about the Rhine Valley. Are there only photos with models from the Rhine Valley?
No, after presenting the project outside of the Rhine Valley, the implementation and the style has adapted to the ways and laws of the respective country. The project is a metamorphosis – the faces change over time although the main features stay the same and every stage of life can be associated with a previous photo. The basic principle of anonymity, beauty recycling and reincarnation in a more beautiful, idyllic world, shall remain.
Models from Salzburg, Tyrol and Upper Austria are involved – also 2 from Switzerland and one from Asia. Initially the project was initiated for regional models to be able to realize the idea. Later the course of the project changed and it is growing through the presentations and exhibitions.
Furthermore I have initiated performance art at the exhibitions as well as the appointments before and after. There should be the possibility that models can participate in the project on site. Or maybe a shooting can be booked for special occasions, e.g. for an unusual wedding shooting. The project is allowed to develop further when the degree of familiarity rises.
As there are no restrictions such as gender, religion, skin colour, sexual orientation or origin, the series paperbag [reBORN] is open to the whole world. paperbag [reBORN] shall become visible in everyday life.
- How important is the background?
The background is e.g. to be creative also without Adobe Photoshop J. Everyone can be beautiful if one appreciates and accepts oneself. Hide and seek as well as illusion dominate in our society. Through the paper bag everyone can be the way they want to and does not need to deceive themselves. That is what the series paperbag [reBORN] wants to call attention to. Recycling is another topic which I would like to spotlight.
- Who stages the position and the outfit?
I do both. The outfit is put together and draped by me. It is a combination of things I bring along and available bits and pieces. I preset the position and during the shooting the model becomes one with the paper bag.
Position: The poses shall appear very technical. Like a robot, whose remote control does not function properly or has been manipulated. Spastic through the integration into the new self. This changes during life, like in real life, to more homogenous illustrations. Like a baby that first learns to crawl, then walk and finally grows up to an adult.
Outfit: We are naked when born. We are dressed – the model is also dressed by me. To draw attention to recycling, new clothes are combined with old ones. Incomplete, ripped, worn out clothes which are out of fashion are combined with new pieces and therefore an own style is developed for paperbag [reBORN]. Hidden inside is the indecisive and the inwardly torn self – the Ying and Yang – which wants to be brought into harmony.
- Did you photograph the faces yourself?
They are from different regional magazines and brochures. That will change with the everlasting further development. In future faces I would like to incorporate own photographs, or maybe they will only be my photographs.
- Why not collages from your own repertoire? Your story?
I orientate myself on beautiful famous people. Recycling models – to draw attention to the fast pace of the model business. Today a top star, tomorrow thrown in the waste paper and reborn through the project paperbag [reBORN]. I make my own story out of them. My artistic activity in the last 25 years was a learning process to get to the point where I am now. My repertoire does not offer the wide variety of faces, which I would like to have. There are a lot of ideas in my mind, which shall be reborn with the success of paperbag [reBORN] with a new significance.
- How important is the material, on which it is printed?
The trend is canvas. In spite of that I chose Plexiglas. I believe that this corresponds with our world today. Everything is made of plastic. Everyday objects, toys, sex, medicine, pollution, art, and much more. Everything fades and can be reborn in another way.
- What is the main message for you?
The main message lies in many different answers. In my opinion nobody is totally happy and might see his/her missing piece in this project. The missing piece to come closer to perfection. Showing the influence of the media. To hide pudency and insecurity behind a paper bag. To fulfil the wish to become perfect. To feel better through the role play and the mask. Plastic surgery through waste paper recycling.
paperbag [reBORN] is 12 months pregnant and has to be born. I can feel the potential and hope that people interested show appreciation with what I have set myself to do.