this issue contains
>> An Interview with Andrea Zittel
>> Miwa Yanagi: The Beauty of the Prison
>> Franz Ackermann's Mental Maps
>> New Forms of Governance
>> Working on the Myth

>> archive


Franz Ackermann: Ohne Titel (mental map: nearest coast airport), 1994,
©Franz Ackermann, Deutsche Bank Collection

Then, it becomes more and more difficult to find one's way around the nervous patterns, lines, and fields of ink. Initially, the small watercolors and gouaches seem like studies, starting points for material still in need of being sorted out. Ackermann, however, has been making his Mental Maps for ten years already. Yet despite this, it's impossible to recognize any of the concrete cities he's been to. Networks of streets, a proliferation of red and brown serpentine trails always seems to be fraying apart; residential and industrial areas otherwise clearly delineated on city maps become superimposed, while the ink-drawn building complexes and empty marks left behind by strips of tape take on the quality of radically subjective signs. At the bottom of it all, one might suppose a weakness for dramatic expression or, at the very worst, the cliche of a psychedelic El Dorado for drop-outs exuding the atmosphere of a metropolis somewhere in the Far East, much like the one that seems so thrillingly foreign to the young Leonardo DiCaprio in the film The Beach.

Franz Ackermann: Choose Wisely, 2003 © Franz Ackermann,
Courtesy of Scharpff Collection

But Ackermann's feverish chaos isn't some special effect testifying to a loss of self intoxicated by the exotic city. He treats his investigations as urban research without, however, seeking to translate city space onto the two-dimensional paper surface. Far from the sensuous pleasures of a flaneur, he avoids getting lost in detail and resists giving in to the temptations of unknown locations. His approach always remains firmly grounded in the tourist's strategy: beginning at the city center, his expeditions progress concentrically outwards until he eventually reaches the periphery. In his methodology, Ackermann resembles a stubborn structuralist; in a project description of his working experiences, he remarks: "In the process, I become interested in the question as to how far reality can still be appropriated and transformed (i.e. into a work of art) without ignoring or negating already existing highly complex formative mechanisms. In all the cities I've visited, modern progress arrived before me - and stayed, which sometimes led me to feel more at home abroad than here in Germany."

Franz Ackermann: Mental Map (clever shopping), 2002 © Franz Ackermann,
Courtesy of Harald Falckenberg Collection, Hamburg, Germany

Nevertheless, the confusing webs in his drawings might perhaps testify to a subliminal melancholy - after all, the self doesn't change while traveling, but continues to recognize itself through the other. Thus, even in Bangkok, Lagos, or Los Angeles, there's nothing to hold onto but fleeting impressions that leave diffuse traces behind in the memory. For this reason, Ackermann need not differentiate between the magic of the exotic metropolis or the work Hoch über Bad Reichenhall (High Above Bad Reichenhall), which he made back home. A greyish brown ravine surrounded by a bundle of white fields; a network of arteries intertwined on a dark red background: the Mental Maps are a form of self-orientation, both abstract and highly disciplined, without legend.

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