In the age of over-sharing on Facebook and illicit government (and newsroom) phone tapping, the unique codes protecting our personal information provide a dose of security against the most flagrant abuses of privacy. But for Jürgen Mayer H., these encryption devices are also fodder for creativity.
The Berliner is famous for his sculptural buildings – the Dupli. Casa in Ludwigsburg, Germany, resembles frozen milk, the Danfoss Universe building in Nordborg, Denmark, looks like a scalloped mountain and the Metropol Parasol in Seville has been compared variously to waffles, mushrooms and cathedral vaults. But visit his website and its homepage reverberates with a series of overlapping numbers to signify his underlying obsession with codes.
Mayer H.’s huge collection of security codes, personal identification numbers and pattern-lined envelopes – some dating back to 1913 – are the focus of Wirrwarr, a limited-edition book published by Hatje Cantz Verlag and currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago.
For those who can’t afford the book (which sells for 198 Euros), the exhibit shines a light on the book’s 100 reprints, in which Mayer has recorded the enigmatic symbols that litter our world. In Mayer’s hands, these modern hieroglyphs are transformed into beautiful, intricate patterns. Some have even appeared in his designs – the Data tile series for Bisazza, for one; and if the Metropol Parasol, whose form was machine-milled according to numerical code.
Apart from the book and the AIC exhibit, Mayer has also mounted an installation in which numbers populate the walls and floors of the Berlinishe Galerie in Berlin. And his newest building, the Court of Justice in Hasselt, Belgium, is almost complete and ready for its close-up.
Wirrwarr is on view at the AIC until January 22, 2012.
Rapport is on view at the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin until April 9, 2012.