Tina Braegger’s contribution to the exhibition New North Zurich places five larger-than-life cartoon teddy bears high up on the side of a building. Each of the smiling, striding bears is a different colour and each looks out from a light box marking the outline of the bear’s furry body. In form, the light boxes are not unlike advertisements on the sides of department stores. At this size and height and backlit, Braegger’s bears can easily be seen from the highway, which passes by the building…
Braegger’s bears are also moving in another way – or rather in multiple ways. After all, Braegger’s bears are not hers, exactly. First, they were the bears in the famous drawing by Bob Thomas, which appeared on the back cover of the Grateful Dead’s 1973 release History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One (Bear’s Choice). In the last few years, Braegger has repurposed Thomas’s original drawing of five “marching” or “dancing” bears, as well as numerous fan-made variations on the icon, for her paintings, prints, a picture book, and hand-sewn polyester flags. In this way, Braegger has recontextualised this icon of 1960s and 1970s counterculture. Or, said another way, the image has circulated.
Braegger’s use of the bear involves appropriation; it comments on property rights and intellectual property rights, but also on that historical moment and its denouement. She develops new forms, the bears reach new people in new ways, and the smiling, striding bears keep moving – just like us, circling the globe.
Courtesy of the artist and Weiss Falk, Basel