Clemens von Lucius
‘… the I that intuits itself as active
intuits its activity as an act of drawing a line.’1
— Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Kasper Andreasen makes books that are part text, part drawing. Several mediums are central to his work: firstly the artist’s books and here especially writing and drawing, and secondly his maps and drawings. Both these aspects are present in his exhibition The Place of Writing.
In his books, Andreasen explores the realm between writing and drawing, their relationship, and the areas of overlap. He is interested in the underlying gestures and the placement of traces on the page. The basic principle is the first line – directed by the artist’s hand – of a drawing, a written text, or a map. The ‘drawing of a line’ initiates the artistic process. This exhibition could also be entitled The Space of Writing, as Andreasen is interested in the spatial dimensions created by these lines. He states: ‘… space is materialized through writing, by way of moving across and describing movement on the page … Written material is a thinking space, a mental entity that has become physical. A mind’s image is transformed into written space.’
In his significant drawing/text Drawing on Writing he demonstrates how writing and drawing are intertwined, textually and visually. The work occupies a double spread in his book Land Route: on the left-hand page he has handwritten and drawn a complex and multilayered text, the capital letters partly crossed out, underlined, corrected, and interspersed with geometric forms and minimal signs. The same text-image is typeset on the facing page. The beginning of it reads (or rather looks) like this:
In addition to their ‘spatial’ qualities, Andreasen’s books also have their own temporality in the sequence of pages. Andreasen is aware of this spatio-temporal aspect of every book. Present already in his ‘traditional’ (paper) books, this facet is even further enhanced in his recent multimedia book works. He is concerned with ‘intermedia,’ a term coined by the artist Dick Higgins in the sixties. Higgins was interested in the artist’s book that he simply called (due to lack of a clear definition): ‘a book done for its own sake.’2 The succinct definition of ‘intermedia’ is ‘to emphasize the dialectic between the media,’3 which applies to Andreasen’s recent books. He has created several book-based videos in collaboration with Hanne Lippard. In these ‘audiovisual’ books, the physical aspects of the book are the centre of attention: ‘the performative act of picking up a book and flipping through it … flipping through a book is a different way of “reading”.’ The actual handling of a book is thus recognized as an integral part of the book. The book is ‘no[t] a bag of words’,4 but a physical object.
In the large-format, ephemera-based marker drawings such as Techny Copy, Riguel MNE, or Antiqua Travel Net writing and lettering become an autonomous image, close to a painting. The letters, numbers, special characters, and logos start to lose their meaning and become shapes, colours, and textures instead. Text is here treated as image: ‘I often can’t read my own handwriting. Sometimes, I can recall what I was writing and when I wrote it,’ the artist states. The reflection on what is being written is already present in the process of using the pen.
The exhibition also shows ‘reference material’, material that has influenced or informed the artist’s work in one way or another. Instead of hiding his influences from everyday European print culture, he incorporates this reference material in his books and exhibitions – a self-confident act which is rare in the contemporary art world. Most of the reference pages again deal with the border between text and image, writing and drawing. There is, for example, a classic French handbook of graphology, showing how handwriting alters with the speed of writing, becoming less readable and more pictorial with increasing speed.5 Andreasen’s focus seems less on the historical graphological ‘finds’ – judging a character by his handwriting – but rather on the merely visual part, the lines. He looks at the letters primarily as shapes: ‘These marks resemble letters or short words.’ And the ‘signature tremblée’ [shaky signature] of the old general Michael von Melas shortly before his death in 1806 – also reproduced in the graphology handbook – does indeed only resemble handwriting and looks more like marks. Other reference pages show overprinting, palimpsest-like pages, doodles, ‘bad’ printing or photocopies, mirror writing, runes et cetera, leading to a combination of readable and unreadable writings and drawings. They range from everyday finds and travel remnants to art.
In his recent artist’s book Thread Your Way Andreasen immersed even deeper in the visual potential of a multilayered line composition. The drawn lines meander over the pages, partly condensed to knots or even larger black areas where the individual lines have disappeared, sometimes running delicately thinly from one place to the other. The ‘threads’ literally form a route and a space – they get one more dimension through the semi-transparent paper, making it possible to see several pages at once or look through the book. In his text ‘Writing Images’ the artist describes the process: ‘At the outset, the pencil, pen or marker doesn’t always stay on the paper … It touches, lifts off, hovers for a split second and then comes back down … I leave traces – like making notes – a map of places written. Sometimes I draw for only a couple of minutes. A day passes in order to return to it the day after. Spaces of anticipation.’
This approach of dissecting the graphical elements is also exemplified in another group of works – the large Sketch Maps shown at the entrance in Hasselt. Irregular lines, straight or meandering, long and short, fill the more than three-meter-long wallpapers. Parts look like scribbling or handwriting waiting to be deciphered, others resemble shadings in classic drawing technique, and other parts seem to be simply stained. In two of them the background is divided into dark and light areas. The viewer is tempted to see familiar forms, e.g. islands or outlines of continents, or decipher the works as maps in a more general sense. However, many things remain unclear or appear to be reversible: Are the dark parts oceans or land masses? Are important places or cities marked, mountains delineated? What is the relation between the maps?
The Sketch Maps have undergone several transformation processes before they appear in their current shape on the wall. The origins are small etchings that require a laborious and slow process of engraving in a zinc plate. Andreasen makes several prints during the process and then continues to engrave, prints again. The finished engravings are then enlarged – to such an extent that the originally straight lines become ‘rasterized’ as happens so often with blown-up images. Whilst Leon Battista Alberti defined a line as ‘points joined together continuously in a row’,6 Andreasen goes the opposite direction and dissolves the once straight lines back into single points, ‘like minute periods or dots’. The blurry effect of the works is again enhanced by the final inkjet printing on textile – a technique he invented for these works – that adds a ‘soft’ dimension and a ‘used’ look to the large-format works. This overall strong visual alienation effect leaves the viewer unsure about what they see exactly. Again, he ‘emphasizes the dialectic between the media’ – he distances himself from using specific (traditional) media as ‘merely puristic points of reference’.7 The works shown are not ‘finished’ in the traditional sense. The artist himself calls the unused spaces ‘spaces of anticipation’. They could – at least hypothetically – later be continued, erased or deleted. He thus lends the Sketch Maps an ambiguous status. While denying the form of a ‘finished work’ he shows a temporary form to underline the process rather than the final product.
Mark Monmonier makes a famous analogy in his book How to Lie With Maps: ‘Maps are like milk: their information is perishable, and it is wise to check the date.’8 Many people take maps as a given fact and don’t check them – maybe also due to the omnipresence of maps in the press, media, and on the web. ‘However, maps are … also construction, project, and projection into the future. They tell something about power, expansion, aggression, and rule, about appetites, ambitions, and passions,’ writes the German historian Karl Schlögel who deals with maps as images of power.9 He continues: ‘Maps are selective and partial. One can do anything with maps, almost anything, as with other texts – for example a map can be taken out of context and thereby manipulated.’10 Some of Andreasen’s maps represent a given space while most others create their own (virtual) space. The degree of representation of the physical world differs greatly but even comparatively simple maps as a political or tourist map are always distorted in one way or another. He artistically plays with the elements and conventions used in maps to create his own two-dimensional spaces (of thought). He does not try to hide the construction of his maps. On the contrary, Andreasen’s manipulations are clearly visible. He, for example, places the names of Brussels’ streets – taken from an official city map – on his own imaginary map (Over Brussels). In The Hasselt Projection he prints the names of cities on a big satellite photo of Hasselt that is permanently installed in the staircase of the museum. Instead of the neighbourhoods or neighbouring villages of Hasselt we read ‘Amsterdam’, ‘Enschede’, ‘Düsseldorf’, ‘Luxemburg’ or ‘Waterloo’. The irritation is enhanced by the fact that the geography is still ‘somehow’ correct. What happened? Andreasen placed the names ‘correctly’ in as far as their cardinal direction is concerned but the scale is different – we all know this effect of ‘zooming out’ from online maps. So Amsterdam becomes a suburb of Hasselt instead of being roughly two hundred kilometres away. The orientation on this multilayered map is atilt; The Hasselt Projection requires attentive viewers that are willing to explore Andreasen’s own ‘topography’ that again lies ‘between’. The work is not interested in creating an alternative truth but in articulating this space ‘between’. The German artist group Spur – for a while part of the Situationist International – articulated this ‘between’ already in their Manifesto from 1958 as if describing his work: ‘The truth lies in between things. Those who want to be objective are partial, those who are partial are pedantic and boring.’11
By systematically investigating the cartographic elements, Kasper Andreasen scrutinizes how facts are constructed in maps. Likewise, the artist’s books seem to expose how meaning is constructed from ink on paper in abstract forms that we have come to read as letters and words. By dissecting and re-assembling the constituent elements, each work addresses our conventions of transmitting meaningful information. While not directly connected to a certain text, his lines always make us wonder whether they have some writing as their foundation.
1 Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Foundations of Natural Right  (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy), ed. by Frederick Neuhouser (Cambridge et al., 2000), p. 55.
2 Dick Higgins, ‘A Preface,’ in Artists’ Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook, ed. by Joan Lyons (Layton, 1987), p. 11.
3 Id., ‘Statement on Intermedia,’ [August 3, 1966] in Décollage, 6 (July 1967), ed. by Wolf Vostell (Cologne and Frankfurt am Main, 1966), n.p.
4 Ulises Carrión, ‘The New Art of Making Books ,’ in Artists’ Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook, ed. by Joan Lyons (Layton, 1987), p. 31.
5 Jules Crépieux-Jamin, ABC de la graphologie (Paris, 1929).
6 Leon Battista Alberti, De Pictura , quoted in Tim Ingold, Lines: A Brief History (London et al., 2007), p. 39.
7 Higgins 1967 (see note 3).
8 Mark Monmonier, How to Lie With Maps (Chicago, 1991), p. 54.
9 Karl Schlögel, Im Raume lesen wir die Zeit: Über Zivilisationsgeschichte und Geopolitik (Frankfurt am Main, 2007), p. 87 [translation CvL].
10 Ibid., p. 98.
11 Gruppe Spur, ‘Manifest’ [broadsheet 1958], in Gruppe Spur, exh. cat. Villa Stuck, Munich; Museum Lothar Fischer, Neumarkt; Kunsthalle St. Annen, Lübeck (Ostfildern, 2006), p. 17 [translation CvL].
Texts and books by Kasper Andreasen cited
Moment’s Notice (Maastricht, 2007)
Land Route [companion volume to a permanent installation in the Museum of Literature in The Hague] (The Hague, 2010)
‘The Book in Intermediary Form’ (2013)
‘Writing Images’ (2014)