Page 1


THE

KNOWLEDGE CHAMBERS

AN

EXHIBITION SERIES BY

FRITHA LANGERMAN

BELL-ROBERTS GALLERY, CAPE TOWN ARTSPACE GALLERY, JOHANNESBURG 2007 & 2008


WHAT MAKES SENSE?

T

Anna Tietze

his body of work engages with the idea of systems of knowledge, vast compendia of ideas and facts that explain our world. It does so by making reference to three of the great knowledge systems of history: the rose windows of mediaeval churches, the multi-volumed eighteenthcentury Encyclopédie1 edited by French philosopher Denis Diderot, and the modern phenomenon of the Google search engine. Taking images, words, and structural ideas from these sources, and working them into twoand three-dimensional structures, it creates a dense and monumental but silent discourse on the question of knowing. The four areas into which the works are grouped – contents, index, library, and colophon – speak of the secular text as well as of the monastic library, and the contrast between the two is a leitmotif of The Knowledge Chambers which looks at the disparity between finite, authoritarian knowledge systems, and ones based on infiniteness and freedom of access. Running through the work is the tug between openness and control, between glorious experimentation with ideas and all-powerful authority. The rose windows, architectural phenomena of the Gothic age, were very much products of the latter. Great multi-faceted round windows, of richly-coloured stained glass, they reflected light into the cathedral space, and narrated the stories of the Bible, interspersed sometimes with astrological symbols. Like the paintings that decorated the cathedrals at ground level, they educated the illiterate masses through brilliant and accessible pictures. But the education they offered was of a closed system, a finite world of known things from religious and other mystical sources, and one controlled by the clergy, God’s representatives on Earth. The Encyclopaedia project that emerged from eighteenthcentury Paris aimed, from the outset, to challenge this notion of controlled knowledge. Begun in 1751, and

spanning well over a decade, this vast undertaking resulted in a 35-volume text, with 71 818 articles and 3129 illustrations, on a huge and disparate range of topics, from shoe-making to philosophy. The original idea was that the English-language Chambers Encyclopaedia should be translated into French, but when the first editor entrusted with this job proved inadequate, the publisher turned to Denis Diderot who ‘ran with the idea’, as we might say now, and decided instead to create his own entirely new encyclopaedia with a group of free-thinking contributors, whose articles would both disseminate knowledge but at the same time create it and question it. And this in a series of printed books that were available on the open market, through subscription. As is well known, the project and its organisers were dogged by police harassment, censorship and finally an official – though unenforced – ban, but its success and popularity were revealed in its print run – over 4 000 copies, in an age where even single-volume texts rarely sold more than 1 500 copies. Clearly there was a public hungry for its fundamental political message: there was not a natural social hierarchy and that knowledge should not, as the church implied, be controlled by those at the top. In our own time, this idea has been fully realised by the invention of the internet and the brilliance of tools such as Google (a directory to knowledge rather than a compendium in itself, of course) and Wikipedia, perhaps the most direct heir to Diderot’s encyclopaedia. Both of these have been underlain by a non-mercenary spirit, reflecting the fact that now, as in Diderot’s age, educational issues are closely related to a political and moral sense of individual liberty. Of course the Encyclopédie’s liberation of the masses through knowledge access, like Google today, would not have been possible without astonishing technical inventions and skills, largely taken for granted and rarely pondered on by the public that uses their end products.


THE SYSTEM OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE: MEMORY 2007, linocut, 75 cm diameter


This is one of the leitmotifs of Langerman’s work, that it is so often only through the highly-skilled and timeconsuming labour of background ‘craftsmen’, labouring with very physical things, that we are able to transcend the material world and think the thoughts that their communication tools have made visible to us. This is true of all the knowledge systems referenced by Langerman’s work, as well as of her work itself. The rose windows, which left great structural gaps in the cathedral walls, were made possible by the discovery of vaulted ceilings which lessened the need for walls to bear load, while the Encyclopédie, and earlier mass educational projects, depended on the invention of paper and print, humble tools more recent than we might think and based on astonishing technical wizardry and intense human labour. The internet, meanwhile, is the brainchild of mathematical genius and engineering invention too technically esoteric to summarise and yet worth bearing in mind constantly as we effortlessly access its interface. And then there is this artist’s work, which comes to us, at one level, so instantly, and yet which is the result of so very many hours of skilled labour, a labour of a skilled hand driven by a technically knowledgeable mind. Langerman is aware that this intensity of manual labour receives little favour within current art circles of the ‘one-liner’, yet is keen to celebrate it in this body of work, which draws heavily on traditional skills in printing, as well as contemporary processes and materials. Langerman references the pre-photographic printing tradition by using the techniques of linocut and etching2 for the figurative images in her Contents series. These print media are intended to hark back to woodcut and engraving respectively. Of these two early massreproduction techniques, woodcut was cruder in style, by nature of its production method; as a result it and its modern linocut equivalent carry connotations of an earlier worldview, a more rustic appeal and a simpler audience. Engraving, which in its pure form scarcely exists now, was a more labour-intensive, technically difficult and

therefore more expensive print method which produced an elegant and smooth finish and very high degrees of image definition. Langerman has reproduced this effect with the medium of etching, which technically could produce much more sketchy effects but which can equally well mimic the fineness of engraving. As with all prephotographic print methods, linocut and etching are time-intensive processes in which multiple stages of craft work lead to the final result, and in which there is always some risk and unpredictability in the route towards the end image. This she notes as being part of the pleasure of the work, that it becomes a kind of journey of discovery, a long and complicated manual process that forces the mind to be both focused and in free play, as complicated skills do. In the case of both linocuts and etchings, Langerman utilises the rose-window format and its typical scheme of multiple and repeated images organised radially3. She divides the ‘rose windows’ into three categories – memory, reason and imagination – the categories used by the Encyclopaedists to organise all their material, and draws her visual references from extensive Google image searches. Thus all three knowledge systems are brought into a kind of strange synthesis, and we are reminded of both the benefits and the shortcomings of each. There is the majesty of the rose windows, the boundless ambition of the Encyclopédie, and the unstoppable ‘helpfulness’ of the search engine – but an equally powerful and intended sense of the bizarreness or non-sense that can emerge from all these. Certain technical and visual constraints help determine which images are chosen from the hundreds accessed via Google: the particular print medium used suits certain shapes and images better than others, while the demands of the circular format and the repetition of imagery again makes for certain visual choices over others. And then there are the thematic constraints of the knowledge categories – memory, reason, and imagination – which lead in each case to a certain orientation towards some images rather than others. But given the change,


WWW.MEMORY.DIDEROT 2007, etching, 60 cm diameter


since the eighteenth century, in our understanding of these terms - memory is presented in apposition to ‘history’ in the Encyclopédie, while imagination turns out to be ‘poetry’ and reason ‘philosophy’ - there is little point in engaging literally with the original text’s knowledgefiling methods. But then Langerman is quite deliberately engaging playfully with this text and throwing open the question of just how malleable and short-lived our systems of understanding really are. From our favourite terms to our ways of framing them, right up to the broad unspoken philosophical systems we base our lives on – these things change and should make us wary of their claim to be knowledge, if that means something immutable. This relativist message in itself is current orthodoxy and we each differ in how much we are prepared to take it, but it makes sense that the contemporary artist will want to push the idea quite far, given how much our sense of art nowadays is based on the idea of personal response, free interpretation. This would have seemed strange to a pre-nineteenth century artist, almost certainly bound by the programmatic demands of a patron; but to us, now, the idea of ascribing a fixed meaning to artwork seems odd. Langerman celebrates the thematic freedom of the contemporary artist by proliferating images and categories, promises of arcane knowledge – but then making clear that they spin around in their own fantasy universe, to be used by us as we wish. Her work reminds us of how strong is the urge to make sense of things, to give everything a meaning and an apparent relationship to something else. And yet, of course, given her random search method, the images don’t ultimately add up. Then the radiating images within these closed circles begin to feel more like the melée of our unconscious mind, as thoughts drift in and out. The ‘reason’ world in her work is more stern than the memory or imagination ones, but it is still a private space uncontrolled by strict boundaries of sense. Despite their intentional difficulty, the image-based

linocuts and etchings are still accessible by reason of their figurativeness, but the other works in the Contents series become more abstruse as they retreat into fragments of text, numbers, and ASCII symbols. Circular mirrors inscribed with numbers and computer symbols are paired with the linocuts; the numbers reflect numerical Google search results in the quest for the memory, imagination and reason imagery, while the symbols in these works derive from html code. Meanwhile the figurative etchings are paired with circular laser-cut wooden pieces which reveal dense, scrambled type – a fragmentary residue of the Encyclopédie’s entries on concepts that were accessed, again, for the main image research. Moving even further away from the figurative is a set of digital prints made from hugely magnifying tiny parts of the original handmade prints under an electron microscope4. As a final stage in the Contents series, these digital prints are reduced to PostScript errors – the code generated by a printer when it cannot fully read a typeset page – and these are then made the basis of an etching. Thus the Contents series moves further and further away from accessible knowledge into the realms of technical languages and the substrates of communication. We are reminded of how a knowledge system, so often, turns out to require sophisticated preliminary knowledge of its language and conventions before we can begin to use it. And of how strange is this link, between the marks on a page and our capacity to use them. The remaining categories of The Knowledge Chambers Colophon, Index, and Library - play in their different ways with the ‘secular vs. religious’ theme established by the Contents category. The ‘Colophon’ (strictly speaking the professional publisher’s logo and/or publication details) is interpreted in terms of a long panel reminiscent of the Gothic church, using imagery from Dürer’s Apocalypse woodcut series of 1498 as a compositional template for 36 images derived from a Wikipedia search chain, running between ‘apocalypse’ and ‘book’. The ‘Index’ amalgamates fragments of all the imagery and text from the Contents,


10-200 Îźm: LINOLEUM 2007, digital print, 50 cm diameter


but does so within an architecture of Gothic-inspired lancet windows and the circular Imago Mundi, reminiscent of the great mediaeval image-universes. And then there is the Library – promise of free knowledge and yet knowledge here enclosed, even locked5, within pew-like wooden benches. The title of Library refers to the ‘library of the Enlightenment’, the nearly 3000 reference books used by Diderot in the compiling of the Encyclopaedia which were bought finally by Russia’s Catherine the Great to help Diderot out of financial crisis6. One of the benches/pews, entitled Catherine’s Purchase, contains the Dewey numbers of the total University of Cape Town encyclopaedia collection; the other, Diderot’s Desire, contains index cards bearing 1000 website references to Diderot. But both sets of knowledge sources are confined within their wooden enclosures, and the pews are exhibited, along with the other works, in a cool white space suggestive of the Church. These are complex works whose many layers are fully revealed only with some degree of erudite knowledge on the part of their audience. With their repetition of simple structures and overall monochromaticism, they operate on subtle levels and play complicated mind-games with the idea of knowledge and its communication. But in our search after the works’ more arcane layers of meaning, it is important not to lose sight of their simply visual and tactile appeal also. With only the dimmest sense of what these works are about, it would still be striking just how purely beautiful they are. A feeling for materials, a sense of how a visual poetry can be made from unlikely sources, and a masterly command of ink and paper – on these deceptively simple-seeming gifts rests the edifice of Langerman’s Knowledge Chambers. The editors of the Encyclopédie were highly sensitive to the importance of technical skills, dedicating countless articles and illustrations to what were commonly known as the ‘manual crafts’, and seeing it as part of their revolutionary educational mission to overturn prejudice against these. But as Diderot noted in his 1750 Prospectus “It is handicraft which makes the artist,

and it is not in Books that one can learn to manipulate”7; Langerman’s Knowledge Chambers, for all its discourse on the life of the mind, is finally a splendid embodiment of a knowledge that comes only from a very specialized kind of ‘manipulation’. Anna Tietze is a senior lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies, University of Cape Town.

NOTES 1 Its full title, Encyclopaedia or Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts gives an idea of its ambitious scope 2 Although in a twenty-first century move, these are translations of images first captured in PhotoShop. 3 However the circular format is also envisaged as a play on the literal translation of ‘encyclopaedia’: circle of knowledge. 4 These small fragments of the materials used to make the prints were coated with gold, then subjected to the electron beam, which translates raised areas as light and recessed areas as dark, thus building up an image. The fragments were subjected to three different degrees of magnification. These images were repeated radially within each print. My thanks to the artist for clarifying this technique. 5 The Gothic-inspired windows cut into the benches allow one to see into their interiors, which are lit, but access to the inside is prevented by heavy leather straps, or metal points. 6 Hearing of Diderot’s financial straits, Catherine the Great bought the library, but instructed that it should remain in the meantime in Paris where Diderot could continue to use it. Moreover she created a post of official librarian for him, and paid him a yearly salary. 7 Diderot, Prospectus, November 1750, p. xl.


THE CONTENTS PRINT: “The print does not always have the same shape as the body that impressed it, and does not always derive f rom the pressure of a body. At times it reproduces an impression a body has left in our mind: it is the print of an idea. The idea is sign of things, and the image is sign of the idea, sign of a sign. But f rom the image I reconstruct, if not the body, the idea that others had of it.� Eco, Umberto. 1984. The Name of the Rose. London: Martin Secker & Warburg. p316 BOOKWHEEL: an alternative version of the revolving bookstand. A device designed to allow one person to read a variety of heavy books in one location with ease. The books are rotated vertically much like a Ferris wheel (as opposed to a flat, rotating table surface). This device was invented by Italian military engineer Agostino Ramelli in 1588. To ensure that the books remained at a constant angle, Ramelli incorporated an epicyclic gearing arrangement, a complex device that had only previously been used in astronomical clocks. http://www. halfvalue.com/wiki.jsp?topic=Bookwheel NOMINALISM: a philosophy that models the concept on the external object, which it holds to be individual and particular. Nominalism consequently denies the existence of abstract and universal concepts, and refuses to admit that the intellect has the power of engendering them. What are called general ideas are only names, mere verbal designations, serving as labels for a collection of things or a series of particular events. Neither Exaggerated Realism nor Nominalism finds any difficulty in establishing a correspondence between the thing in thought and the thing existing in nature, since in different ways, they both postulate perfect harmony between the two. http://www. newadvent.org/cathen/11090c.htm TEXTURE: n. In extended use: The constitution, structure, or substance of anything with regard to its constituents or formative elements. a. Of organic bodies and theirparts. http:// www.oed.com

THE SYSTEM OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE: REASON 2007, linocut, 75 cm diameter THE SYSTEM OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE: IMAGINATION 2007, linocut, 75 cm diameter


ADVANCED SEARCH – MEMORY 2007, sandblasted mirror, 60 cm diameter


CUT-AND-PASTE: In human-computer interaction, cut and paste and copy and paste offer user-interface paradigms for transferring text, data, files or objects from a source to a destination. Most ubiquitously, users require the ability to cut and paste sections of plain text. This paradigm has close associations with graphical user interfaces that use pointing devices such as a computer mouse (by drag and drop, for example). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cut_and_paste RESULTS: Each underlined item is a search result that the Google search engine found for your search terms. The first item is the most relevant match we found, the second is the next-most relevant, and so on down the list. Clicking any underlined item will take you to the related web page. Here’s a sample search results page, along with brief explanations of the various types of information about your results that you can find there. www.google.com/help/interpret.html BINARIES: Deconstructing binaries shows they are not innate; they are defined by their opposition from each other and not from inherent characteristics. Olson discusses Derrida’s term, “différance,” a combination of the words “differ” and “defer.” The difference between binaries can never be pinpointed and is “perpetually deferred” (Olson, p. 182). Binaries are exclusive: “concepts forming a binary opposition are mutually defining—each being what the other is not. Such mutual definition involves exclusions, categorizations, and classifications. A given concept excludes what it is not.” http://informatics.buffalo.edu/ org/lsj/articles/seto_2006_11_organization.php GLOSSARY: A collection of glosses; a list with explanations of abstruse, antiquated, dialectal, or technical terms; a partial dictionary. http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50095759 HYPERLINK: connection established between a component and an element different than the element owning the component. Hyperlinks make it possible to navigate in knowledge hyperspace by clicking individual components rather than using navigation toolbar commands. You can set a hyperlink by using Hyperlink on component pop-up menu. You can also Ctrl+drag a component to Hyperlink ClipBox and drop it on the hyperlinked element. http://www.supermemo.com/ archive/sm8help/glossary.htm

WWW.IMAGINATION.DIDEROT 2007, etching, 60 cm diameter WWW.REASON.DIDEROT 2007, etching, 60 cm diameter


P 5635, COLUMN 1 2007, lasercut Supawood, 60 cm diameter


TREFOIL: Trefoil is a term in Gothic architecture given to the ornamental foliation or cusping introduced in the heads of window-lights, tracery, panellings, etc., in which the center takes the form of a three-lobed leaf (formed f rom three partiallyoverlapping circles). One of the earliest examples is in the plate tracery at Winchester (1222 - 1235). The fourfold version of an architectural trefoil is a quatrefoil. A trefoil combined with an equilateral triangle was also a moderately common symbol of the Christian Trinity during the late Middle Ages in some parts of Europe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trefoil REFLECTION: Reflection involves a change in direction of the light ray. The convention used to express the direction of a light ray is to indicate the angle which the light ray makes with a normal line drawn to the surface of the mirror. The angle of incidence is the angle between this normal line and the incident ray; the angle of reflection is the angle between this normal line and the reflected ray. According to the law of reflection, the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. www. glenbrook.k12.il.us/gbssci/phys/Class/refln/u13l1c.html CHALK: a soft whitish calcite; a pure flat white with little reflectance; methamphetamine: an amphetamine derivative (trade name Methedrine) used in the form of a crystalline hydrochloride; used as a stimulant to the nervous system and as an appetite suppressant; a piece of calcite or a similar substance, usually in the shape of a crayon, that is used to write or draw on blackboards or other flat surfaces. http://www. google.co.za/search?hl=en&defl=en&q=define:chalk&sa=X&oi=glossa ry_definition&ct=title MIS·TRANS·LATE: (m s tr ns-l t , -tr nz-, m s-tr ns l t , -tr nz -) tr.v. mis·trans·lat·ed, mis·trans·lat·ing, mis·trans·lates. To translate incorrectly. mis trans·la tion n. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mistranslation

1-100 μm: INK 2007, digital print, 50 cm diameter 10-100 μm: PAPER 2007, digital print, 50 cm diameter


POST-SCRIPT ERROR 1-100 μm 2007, etching, 29 cm diameter


DIDEROT’S DESIRE 2007, obeche, glass, card, steel bar, 150 x 35 x 57 cm CATHERINE’S PURCHASE 2007, obeche, glass, chalk, 150 x 35 x 57 cm


THE LIBRARY CLASSIFICATION: The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system, devised by library pioneer Melvil Dewey in the 1870s and owned by OCLC since 1988, provides a dynamic structure for the organization of library collections. Now in its 22nd edition, and available in print and Web versions, the DDC is the world’s most widely used library classification system. http://www.oclc.org/dewey/about/ CENSORSHIP: The Catholic Church, controlling universities such as the Sorbonne, also controlled all publications through its decree in 1543 that no book could be printed or sold without permission of the church. Then in 1563, Charles IX of France decreed that nothing could be printed without the special permission of the king. Soon other secular rulers of Europe followed suit, and scientific and artistic expressions, potentially threatening to the moral and political order of society, were brought under control through systems of governmental licence to print and publish. http://www.beaconforf reedom.org/about_ project/history.html BIBLIOTHEK: In a well publicized act of erasure, students f rom the Wilhelm Humboldt University (which borders on the suggested target site) collect thousands of books, journals and manuscripts f rom the university library and the Institut für Sexualwissenschaften and transport them to the suggested target site. (45032) Under the careful instruction of members of the SA (Sturmabteilung), a bonfire is lit on the suggested target site. (71182) The students then proceed to grab piles of books and manuscripts and throw them into the fire. http:// necronauts.net/berlin/documents/ir_197.html LIBRARY: “All truths,” says the Abbot, “are not meant for all ears; not all lies can be recognized as such by pious spirits. The book is a f ragile creature,” he says, “it suffers f rom the use of time.” So the library must defend that f ragile book. It must defend itself, unfathomable, like the truth it hosts. Recalling that “monasterium sine libris est sicut mensa sine cibis,” http:// www.etext.org/Zines/Critique/article/umbertoeco.html

CATHERINE’S PURCHASE (detail) 328 pieces of chalk DIDEROT’S DESIRE (detail) 1000 index cards


AAC2007, chromed plasma cut steel, 105 x 34 cm -ZYM 2007, chromed plasma cut steel, 105 x 34 cm


THE INDEX LASER CUTTING: Several years after entering the market with sheet metal processing, the oxide-f ree method of cutting chromium nickel steel came into use. This awakened the desire for even higher capacity, bringing about the rapid development of laser power f rom 500 Watt in those days to approximately 6000 Watt of today. http://www.aloma.com/lasercut.aspx CASLON: 25. Chambers, E[phriam].Cyclopaedia: or, an universal dictionary of arts and sciences; containing an explication of the terms, and an account of the things signified thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical; and the several sciences, human and divine … Second edition, corrected and amended, with some additions. London: printed for D, Midwinter, J. Senex, R. Gosling [et al.], 1738. $7,500 2 volumes, folio, double-p. engraved f rontispiece, 19 engraved plates (a number folding) plus one double-p. Caslon printer’s specimen. http://www.rulon.com/Catpages/list99/list_99.html ICONOPHOR: an image whose first distinctive feature consists of the letter which begins the name of its referent. “Iconophoric” is the adjectival form. A meta-iconophor is an image whose first distinctive feature consists of the letter which begins the name of a referent that is connoted, not denoted by the image. http:// www.artlex.com/ArtLex/I.html MIRROR: Tool of the devil, luxury item, optical device, decorative accessory, humble grooming aid, the mirror, so commonplace today, has meant many things through the ages. This erudite meditation on the development and marketing of the mirror, and on its social and psychological implications, reveals how significantly the mirror has influenced Western culture. In its capacity both to reflect and to distort, to reproduce and to f ragment, the mirror profoundly changed both notions of physical space and ideas of the self. Medieval thinkers feared the mirror’s power to distort and to provoke pride and vanity; later, the looking glass was considered an aid for reaching selfknowledge. http://www.amazon.f r/Mirror-History-SabineMelchior-Bonnet/dp/product-description/0415924472 IMAGO MUNDI : REASON 2007, chromed laser cut steel, sandblasted mirror, 6o cm diameter IMAGO MUNDI : MEMORY 2007, chromed laser cut steel, sandblasted mirror, 6o cm diameter


IMAGO MUNDI 2007, chromed laser cut steel, laser cut mirror perspex, Supawood, glass, compasses, 240 cm diameter


REFERENCE: The Library as a honeycombed labyrinth both relates to the Web, the Universe, and also to the rhizome: many nodes that have shoots and connections to an infinite number of other nodes. Nodes can also be thought of as Web pages, or one of the hexagons in the Library of Babel. In the rhizome, the Internet, and the Library of Babel, there is no center and no binary, but an infinite number of interlocking nodes, linked through similarity through the Semantic Web. http://informatics. buffalo.edu/org/lsj/articles/seto_2006_11_organization.php CROSS REFERENCE: Cross reference provides complimentary listings for every Christ-centred church, school, mission, thrift shop, radio station and television station making our directories an indispensable resource for all area Christians. http://www.crossreference.net/ IMAGO MUNDI: The cathedral, then, is not only a book but doubly so since it is an imago mundi, an image of this world and its relation to the world beyond. http://www.loyno.edu/~MidAges/Jwass33.html CHROME PLATING: There are many variations to this process depending on the type of substrate being plated upon. Different etching solutions are used for different substrates. Hydrochloric, hydrofluoric, and sulfuric acids can be used. Ferric chloride is also popular for the etching of Nimonic alloys. Sometimes the component will enter the chrome plating vat electrically live. Sometimes the component will have a conforming anode either made f rom lead/tin or platinized titanium. A typical hard chrome vat will plate at about 25 micrometres (0.001 inches) per hour. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrome_plating ENCYCLOPAEDIA: Indeed, the purpose of an encyclopedia is to collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to the men with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time become more virtuous and happy, and that we should not die without having rendered a service to the human race. http://colet.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/getobject_?a.36:291./ projects/artflb//databases/artfl/encyclopedie/IMAGE/

IMAGO MUNDI (details)


OXYMORON i) 2008, iron oxide on paper, 60 cm diameter


THE COLOPHON DYSPHAGIA: a medical term defined as “difficulty swallowing”. It derives f rom the Greek root dys meaning difficulty or disordered, and phagia meaning “to eat ”. It is a sensation that suggests difficulty in the passage of solids or liquids f rom the mouth to the stomach. http://dysphagia.com/ REVELATIONS 10:10: And I took the little book out of the hand of the angel, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth as honey, sweet; and when I had eaten it my belly was made bitter. English Revised Version APOCALYPSE: Dürer’s Apocalypse with Pictures (Apocalypsis cum Figuris), published simultaneously in Latin and German in 1498, was perhaps the first attempt to interpret a text through a sequence of images that accompany it but are not subordinate to it - equivalent to making a film version of a novel in the 20th century. http://www.ackland.org/art/ exhibitions/apocalypse/index.html RESTRAINT: Humane Restraint Company was founded in 1876 by Mathew Lynch. Mr. Lynch, a harness manufacturer, was approached by a local mental health hospital to make a device more humane than the metal shackles they used to manage agitated / aggressive patients. A leather restraint was produced, approved and implemented. http://www. humanerestraint.com/ COL·O·PHON: [kol-uh-fon, -fuh n] a publisher’s or printer’s distinctive emblem, used as an identifying device on its books and other works. an inscription at the end of a book or manuscript, used esp. in the 15th and 16th centuries, giving the title or subject of the work, its author, the name of the printer or publisher, and the date and place of publication. PROOF READER: The proofreader should take care to place his corrections in order and, as much as he can, alongside the line where they should be placed. See Proof. Nothing is as rare as a good proofreader : he must know very well the language (at least) in which the work is composed; what common sense suggests concerning an issue, whatever it be; he must be able to be suspicious of what he thinks; he must understand spelling, punctuation, etc . very well. Diderot 4:271. http:// quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=did;cc=did;rgn=main;view=te xt;idno=did2222.0000.537

HTTP://EN. (details) 2008, linocut, 30 x 120 cm


Working stages of HTTP://EN. Compositional template based on Albrecht Dßrer’s wood engraving series Apocalypsis cum figuris. Digital image comprised of 36 images derived from a Wikipedia search chain, beginning with apocalypse and ending with book.


OXYMORON ii) 2008, laser cut steel, 60 cm diameter


PREVIOUS PROJECTS

F

RITHA LANGERMAN is a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town, Michaelis School of Fine Art, where she teaching printmaking. She studied at the University of Cape Town receiving a BAFA (1991) and MFA (1995), has exhibited nationally and internationally and was the joint winner of the 3rd Cape Town Public Sculpture Commission in 2002, a Sasol Wax Merit winner in 2003, and an ABSA Atelier Merit winner in 1999. The Knowledge Chambers is in many ways a synthesis of previous undertakings. It brings together Langerman’s research interests in taxonomies of information, curation, the book, systems of ordering and the history of print. Her first solo exhibition, The Dissection (The Castle of Good Hope, 1996) focused on biomedical visual representation and authorship of the human body. Referencing 19th century medical engravings, the work examined how the Cartesian legacy has led to a disassembled, fragmented understanding of the body, and looked for a visual means of reconstructing this division. Since then she has taught printmaking at both the University of Stellenbosch and at the University of Cape Town, where she has introduced students to exploring the language of printmaking in its broadest sense. Her work reveals an interest in the politics of visual taxonomies and the relationship between units and the whole. Individual works usually form part of a more complex visual and conceptual network in which number and series is significant. Her work borrows from epistemological systems that have strong visual biases, formally fracturing and remaking these systems.


INCISIONS VII (detail) 1994, screen printing, etching, plaster, fabric, wax 94 x 170 cm CHINKS IN THE ARMOUR 1998, waxed paper, wood, felt 83 x 60 cm

BLACK BOXES (detail) 2002, waxed paper, felt, wood, acrylic 99 units, each 34 x 14 x 20 cm

INDIGENOUS (detail) 2003, waxed paper, wood, fabric, plastic 11 units, each 40 x 40 cm

T

he Paper Armoury series, begun in 1997, reconfigured stained and waxed sheets of old South African school textbooks into ‘Medieval weaponry’, using clichés and dictums as titles, such as ‘knowledge is power’, ‘wisdom comes with age’, ‘arm yourself with knowledge’. These weapons acted as metonymy for an obsolete educational system - the fallen warrior. Black Boxes (2002) used a similar method of production. This project reflected on issues of cultural representation, specifically those of ethnographic display and the material manifestations of the tourist industry in South Africa. The work was premised on the viewpoint that culture is mutable, whereas cultural classification is an inorganic and divisive process, and made visual reference to this both in the display of the exhibit and in the production of the 99 individual units. The inevitable consequences of cultural ordering, mis-classification, inaccurate translation and misunderstanding, were inherent within the project. Learning to Speak, 2003, developed these ideas in an exploration of the imaging, language and symbolism of nation building. It was concerned with taxonomy and nomenclature and the inevitable conflation of nature and culture that this embraces, using plants as a symbol for the shifting definitions of indigenous and alien.


COME TO PASS (details) 2004, steel, bronze, cast glass, stone aggregate 3 m diameter CURIOSITY CLXXV (details) 2004, curated cases of found objects

A

n interest in memorialising is reflected in the sculpture project Come to Pass, the product of the 3rd Cape Town Public Sculpture Competition, which was awarded to Fritha Langerman and Katherine Bull in 2002. This artwork took as its content monuments as systems of public remembrance. In conceptualising the work they questioned the events and individuals that are typically commemorated, and the formal language through which this occurs. As a response, they designed a work that parodied this formal language yet had its own complex internal structure based on a partially invented archive. Formally quoting ‘street architecture’ (cat’s eyes, drain covers and lights), it is embedded within the street itself. In contrast to the standard position of public sculpture, which is largely not publicly negotiated, this project involved the participation of women in the area who were encouraged to become part of the ‘data’ captured in the work. Curiosity CLXXV (2004), curated together with Pippa Skotnes and Gwen van Embden, was designed to coincide with the University of Cape Town’s 175th anniversary. Research entailed trawling through private and public University collections of visual and oral archives, and finding display strategies by which to make these collections speak of the complex and varied activities and histories of the University. One-hundred-and-seventyfive cabinets brought together disparate collections in a dialogue that celebrated both scholarship and the narrative power of objects.

photo credit: Stephen Inggs


MODEL-MAKING 2003, plastic, fluorescent tubing, 8 m long

F

ritha Langerman has also been involved in the curation of a number of exhibitions at the South African Museum, including Charting the Earth (1998), Ulwazi Lwemvelo (1998) and Lexicons and Labyrinths: the iconography of the genome (2003). Her own work from this exhibition, Model-making, consisted of an eight-meter long fluorescent ‘model’ constructed from disposable pharmaceutical paraphernalia. This was a symbolic unravelling of Watson and Crick’s double helix model fifty years previously and questioned who the new modelmakers are. A series of digital images, HFE-HBB (2004) followed this exhibition and reflected on the dangers of scientific determinism and the binaries created in the popular imagination by scientific research.


HFE-HBB 2004, digital prints, each 30 cm diameter


EXHIBITIONS (selected) 2008 Solo exhibition. Of Symmetries and Oxymorons: the knowledge chambers 2008. Artspace Gallery, Johannesburg. 2007 Solo exhibition. The Knowledge Chambers. Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town. 2007 Linocut Today. Städtische Galerie, Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany. 2007 Exhibition of previous merit award winners of the ABSA Atelier, Klein Karoo National Kunsfees, Oudtshoorn. 2006 INKLANDIA: an international print exhibition. Rueff Galleries, Purdue University, USA. 2005 Printtt. AVA, Cape Town. 2005 ABSA Atelier. ABSA Gallery, Johannesburg. 2004 A Decade of Democracy: witnessing South Africa. Boston, Washington DC and Durban. 2004 Identity. Fortis Circus Theatre, Schenvingen, Netherlands. 2004 Come to Pass. Public sculpture installation, Cape Town (with Katherine Bull). 2004 Curated exhibition. Curiosity CLXXV. University of Cape Town (with Pippa Skotnes and Gwen van Embden). 2004 Decade of Democracy. South African National Gallery, Cape Town. 2004 North South Pulse. Sasol Museum, Stellenbosch. 2004 Working Proof. Art on Paper, Johannesburg. 2003 Curated exhibition. Lexicons and Labyrinths: the iconography of the genome. South African Museum, Cape Town. 2003 Then and Now: South African prints before and after the demise of apartheid. South African National Gallery, Cape Town. 2003 Solo exhibition. Learning to Speak. Klein Karoo National Kunsfees, Oudtshoorn. 2002 Solo exhibition. Black Boxes. AVA, Cape Town and NSA, Durban. 2002 CON/TEXT. Axis Gallery, New York. 2002 I.D./OLOGY. Axis Gallery, New York. 2001 Solo exhibition. Watch. US Gallery, Stellenbosch. 2001 Address - Redress. Cultureel centre, Ieper, Belgium. 2001 Reconstitution. Standard Bank National Arts’ Festival, Grahamstown. 2001 International Print Exhibition. Macau Museum of Art, Macau. 1999 Project Conflux. Luxembourg, Dijon, Cape Town and Pretoria. 1999 Bloedlyn. Klein Karoo National Kunsfees, Oudtshoorn and AVA, Cape Town. 1999 Anima(l). Bellville Association of Art, Bellville. 1998 Curated exhibition. Charting the Earth: early lithographs of natural history, South African Museum, Cape Town. 1998 Curated exhibition. Ulwazi Lwemvelo: indigenous knowledge in South Africa, South African Museum, Cape Town. 1998 Solo exhibition. CODE. AVA, Cape Town. 1998 Sensitivities. Area Gallery, Cape Town. 1997 Recent Acquisitions. South African National Gallery, Cape Town. 1997 International Womens’ Day Exhibition. Robben Island, Cape Town. 1997 Anatomy in Transition. Breakwater Lodge, Cape Town. 1997 The Body Politic Portfolio. AVA, Cape Town. 1997 Process and Practice in Contemporary South African Printmaking. National Arts’ Festival, Grahamstown. 1996 Exhibition of South African Women Artists. Sasol Museum, Stellenbosch. 1996 Solo exhibition. The Dissection, The Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town. 1996 Volkskas Atelier Awards. Bellville and Pretoria. 1996 Cross Section. Bellville Association of Art, Bellville (with Berni Searle and Wilna Coetzer). 1996 Contemporary Cape Town Printmakers. Civic Theatre, Johannesburg. 1995 International Exhibition of Art Colleges. Hiroshima, Japan. 1992 Artists of the Future Exhibition. Baxter, Cape Town.


PUBLICATIONS Langerman, F. 2006. (ed) Artworks in Progress, Vol 8. Yearbook of the staff of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, U.C.T. Cape Town: Michaelis School of Fine Art. Langerman, F. 2006. Reading difference/seeing pattern: evaluating the visual representation of the genome. Artworks in Progress, yearbook of the staff of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, U.C.T. Cape Town: Michaelis School of Fine Art. Skotnes, P., Van Embden, G. & Langerman, F. Curiosity CLXXV: a paper cabinet. Cape Town: LLAREC Series in Visual History. Langerman, F (ed). 2003. Lexicons and Labyrinths: iconography of the genome. Cape Town: HSRC Publishers. Langerman, F. 2003. Come to Pass: a work of erasure and inscription. Artworks in Progress, yearbook of the staff of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, U.C.T. Cape Town: Michaelis School of Fine Art. Langerman, F. 2001. Containing excess: creating a lexicon for the management of objects and images. Artworks in Progress, yearbook of the staff of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, U.C.T. Cape Town: Michaelis School of Fine Art. Langerman, F. 2000. Objects for: a transcultural lexicon. Cape Town: Michaelis School of Fine Art (artists’ book). Langerman, F. 1998. Sutures and Wounds in a Paper Armoury. Artworks in Progress, Yearbook of the staff of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, U.C.T. Cape Town: Michaelis School of Fine Art. Langerman, F., Skotnes, P. & Sauls, R. 1996. On the Surface: the art and technique of relief printmaking. Cape Town: Katrine Harries Print Cabinet. Langerman, F. 1995. Images from the Dissection: a collection of original etchings and screenprints. Cape Town: Michaelis School of Fine Art (artists’ book).

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS South African National Gallery; Katrine Harries Print Collection, UCT; Yale Art of the Book Collection; US Library of Congress, Washington DC; Stellenbosch University, Sasol Museum; MTN Print Collection; ABSA Collection; Sasol Wax Collection;University of Cape Town; Durban Art Gallery; Sasol Collection; Purdue University, Indiana, Standard Bank Corporate Collection.


The production of this catalogue was enabled by the generous support of the PA and Alize Malan Trust and the University of Cape Town Fellows’ Award. The artist would like to thank the following groups and individuals for their assistance in the production of both the catalogue and the exhibition: the University Research Committee, the staff of the Physics Department workshop, Fabian Saptouw, Anna Tietze, Ali Aschman, Margie and Cedric Buffler, Pete and Shirley Smith, Fred and Marianne Lubben, Diana and Rupert Langerman, Ingrid Willis, Lisa and Robbie Essex, Godfrey Koff, Stuart Buttle, Pippa Skotnes, Stephen Inggs, Svea Josephy, Andrea Steer, Russell Jones and most significantly Andy and Oscar who make everything possible.

Knowledge chambers  

This body of work engages with the idea of systems ofknowledge, vast compendia of ideas and facts that explainour world. It does so by makin...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you