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 Mapno.54, beauties with kitchen), 1994
©Franz Ackermann, Deutsche Bank Collection

Indeed, Ackermann reacts to the apparent complexity of modern urban space with a "comparative topography," as he calls it. There is no hierarchy capable of ordering this allover of buildings, colorful flashes, and block-like architecture. Here, however, Ackermann is anything but a naive tourist marveling at the sights; he is concerned with establishing a connection to the social reality everyone is subjected to, everywhere around the world. Despite this, his graphic explorations become something like a symbol of the wider restlessness that's kept at least the art world in motion, from biennial to biennial. It fit all too well to the notion of a world on its toes, whose continuous mobility has been reflected in business life, as well, in the makeshift conference room at the airport.

For Ackermann, the fact that we've increasingly come to resemble hamsters in treadmills is a paradox that has found expression in his way of working: "the idea of an office on the beach never worked. The only thing I learned from all of this has been the fact that you have to be ready to compromise at all times. Then, the hotel becomes the studio, and the table next to the bed is the drawing table. Basically, more than anything else, I'm one thing - not at home, everywhere around the world."

Franz Ackermann: Permanent Departure, 2003 © Franz Ackermann,
Courtesy of neugeriemschneider, Berlin, Germany

It was only after the 11th of September that limitations were once again placed upon the availability of time and space. For Ackermann, the catastrophe was a dramatic cut; it suddenly became clear that territories were still being fought over that had long since escaped notice in the delirium of globalization. In terms of his work, the threat has penetrated into his choice of subjects; his new Mental Maps more and more frequently bear titles such as just more riots or incredible terrible beautiful. Yet it would be wrong to locate the danger in the incalculability of current political strife. It comes as no surprise that the series of drawings and paintings he showed during the summer of 2003 in the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg was called Naherholungsgebiet (Local Recreation Area). Here, recreation finds its counterpart in aggressively turbulent ink landscapes in which helicopters and skyscrapers enter the drawn page's edges like a collar closing in on a blank white space. Then, everything presses into the middle again, producing bulky knots out of which individual colorful threads emerge, as though the imagined location of desire were an amputated heart.

Franz Ackermann: Ohne Titel (golf), 1993
©Franz Ackermann, Deutsche Bank Collection

The conflict between the center and the periphery is drawing nearer - this is the cartography of crisis that drawings such as permanent departure or clever shopping stand for. In contrast to an earlier romantic idea of traveling to lose oneself in the labyrinth of a transformed everyday, Ackermann instead perceives the changes arising out of a tense world situation: "Since September 11, no one talks about a desire for faraway exotic places anymore; wellness right here at home is what they want." At the same time, the last vestiges of a longing to couple one's own expectations with the other have disappeared; for Ackermann, this disappointment is another after-effect of globalization: "from Hong Kong to South Africa, parks and shopping malls all look alike." To this purpose, a specific iconography emphasizing individual features isn't necessary, because "in assimilation, everything becomes the same abstract material."

In one respect, however, Ackermann's curiosity hasn't abated. Although he used to travel on planes for days on end, and always with a faraway destination in mind, he has now become an alert observer, even on very short trips. When he rides his bike to the studio, he perceives Berlin as a collection of garden colonies and wasteland areas stretching to either side of the banks of the river Spree. The city proliferates in both directions - further into urban chaos and, in the post-industrial age, back to a terra incognita.

Translation: Andrea Scrima

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