April 01, 2009

One on One: Henry Urbach on J. Mayer H.

Alongside our new curator “One on One” talks, we’re doing occasional ‘one on one’ blog posts, from curators, staff, and public, on a particular work or exhibition they’re interested in. Today’s post is from Henry Urbach, SFMOMA curator of architecture and design.

J.Mayer H., _Guestbook_

Guestbook by Jürgen Mayer H., principal of the Berlin architectural studio J. MAYER H., is a limited edition book composed solely of sheets printed with data protection pattern. A touchstone of the studio’s work and focus of the exhibition Patterns of Speculation: J. MAYER H., data protection patterns are ubiquitous, jibberish-like image types that serve to conceal other information, including bank statements, shipping labels and paycheck stubs.

Mayer H. began collecting data protection patterns many years ago and has gathered hundreds; he has worked with them across multiple media and scales, even generating architectural form from their dense scramble. In Guestbook, he printed the pattern in thermosensitive ink, so that when people touch the page to ‘sign in,’ the pattern temporarily vanishes, capturing a trace of the viewer’s hand which, in turn, vanishes as the pattern slowly returns. Much of Mayer H.’s work addresses the uneasy relation between embodied, sensory experience and digital, dematerialized realities; with Guestbook he articulates this contemporary condition with exceptional elegance.

Guestbook was made in 1996; one of Mayer H.’s earliest works, it set the stage for the extraordinary body of work that has followed. Please join me Thursday, April 2 for a discussion of the exhibition Patterns of Speculation: J. Mayer H., and how it aims to reveal the interrelationship of concept and form across the firm’s many compelling projects.

Henry Urbach, Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design, SFMOMA

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