Ecstatic Archive presents new work from Gerhard Marx’s ongoing series of disorienting maps which investigate in the words of writer Alexandra Dodd, ‘the formal and fictive possibilities of perspective’.
The title of the exhibition refers to a series of archives Marx has been working with over the past two years. The archives came from two main sources. The first was a collection of decommissioned geographic, geological and political maps from the past two centuries, which were saved from being pulped. While the other archive was of a more personal nature, comprising outdated maps donated by individuals burdened by a nostalgic attachment to these documents, but unsure what to do with them. Rupturing the flatness of these maps, Marx has reworked the material with the dedicated rigor of a cartographer charting ever more imaginative territories. The geometrically complex drawings produced by these efforts are best read with the assistance of a navigational device. One such compass can be found in the form of a catalogue essay written by Professor Edgar Pieterse.
‘At the existential core of the nation state (and the modern idea of a community of nation states) is the power to define boundaries: who is in, who is out; who is legitimate, who is not; who can be seen and who must remain invisible. The boundaries are socialised through cartographical practices of map-making,’ writes Pieterse, offering a socio-historical context to Marx’s area of inquiry.
Over time then maps take on an authoritative quality. This legitimacy in turn reflects our confidence in the structures that undergird society. But what happens when our faith in these systems wane?
In such uncertain times there is a need to accept what we can’t control. This inability to fully discern where we may be heading requires a certain level of fortitude – a task, argues Pieterse, uniquely suited to Marx’s meditative drawings.
‘Marx’s drawings are about courting a form of madness – nurturing vaguely understood compulsions,’ he writes. This effort requires Marx to give himself ‘over to a demonic compulsion to cut into the (old) world and restage it as a fractal offering with endless potentialities.’ By reckoning with the past in this manner Marx’s drawings open up the space for possible alternative futures.
‘The physical world haunts these maps and there is always this sense that by altering the map one can affect reality, which really means by shifting the way you look, one can affect what is seen,’ says Marx. By reconfiguring these fragments into complex and often self-contradictory geometries, Marx’s drawings make evident ‘the tropes used to describe and understand the effects of Globalism and Contemporary Urbanism on our increasingly deterritorialised spatio-temporal world’. Marx achieves this by referring to these discourses through a distinct visual language of ‘rescalings’, ‘folds’, ‘collapses’, ‘spills’, ‘entanglements’, growths’, ‘knots’ and ‘agglomerations’. As a result of this process, Marx adds, ‘what was far comes near, the here is there, the distant is intimate, the solid dissolves and the bordered leaks. Everything can be present all the time, but everything is migrant, layered, and dense.’
In Ecstatic Archive Marx replaces the original scientific purpose of maps with a discursive one. Through this work, writes Pieterse, Marx ‘exposes the map as fetish… render[ing] traditional cartographic representation as inherently strange and arbitrary’ resulting in ‘maps of allusion instead of maps of authority… [which] occupy a hinge position between contested pasts and uncertain digital futures.’