Jürgen Mayer H.: Wirrwarr
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Through January 22, 2012
While the Berlin-based architect Jürgen Mayer H. is known for his highly sculptural, honeycomb-like buildings, such as the Metropol Parasol in Seville or the the Court of Justice in Hasselt, Belgium (above), one of his quirky obsessions is not as widely known: a fascination with secret codes and numbers encrypted into patterns. Used by institutions such as banks to ensure that sensitive information such as PINs and passwords are only visible to the recipient, these intricately patterned data sheets are largely unexamined. To Jürgen Mayer H., however, this visual expression of our fear of exposure and desire for protection is fascinating and relevant to architecture.
For more than a decade, the architect has been collecting hundreds of envelopes lined with patterns and codes designed to encrypt the privacy of the contents, some dating even back to 1913. Part of this collection has even appeared in his designs, like his 2008 Venice Biennale installation, Pretext/Vorwand, the Data tile series he designed for Bisazza mosaics, and the Metropol Parasol, whose form was machine-milled according to numerical code. One hundred reprints of Mayer H.’s collection, which was originally published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, will be on view at Wirrwarr (“chaos” in German). While heavily loaded, the patterns themselves are quite beautiful in their own right.