Anita Ackermann, born in Mainz, Germany, lives and works in Berlin.
Ackerman creates sculptures and experimental installations that are based on natural phenomena and scientific principles that play with our perception.
Tell me about your work.
I’m interested in our origins and in the mechanics of the universe. Things that lie beyond this dimension, hermetic traditions and “supernatural” perception (which is in fact “natural”). I am fascinated by movement and light because it directly engages with our perception. It is the most subtle “material” - the first physical expression of an idea taking shape.
My works often start with a “glimpse”, basically an idea, something
I see in front of my inner eye. Very often these glimpses are related
to astrophysics, frequencies, consciousness and the laws of nature.
I also find Quantum Physics fascinating as it brings a lot of insight about the universe but I think the mainstream knowledge is far from what scientists know.
Once I have a new idea I start making some sketches and often complement them with research. In the next stage I start experimenting with colour, shapes and forms in relation to these ideas. In some cases I also introduce movement. I call this process „Bridging Sky and Earth“ – turning ideas into physical forms.
So would you say your practice is mostly based on the observation of nature and physics?
I am always interested in the principles behind natural phenomena – for instance the principle of the geometry of light as visible through prisms, the principle of planetary movement, the principles of life in nature and the role our consciousness plays in all of that.
In The Light of Movement I play with the question “Are we active participants or passive observers of the universe?“ as it was stated by John Wheeler, the famous Quantum Physicist. Specifically, I was inspired by the Double-slit experiment in which physicists discovered that light behaves differently in the presence of an observer
or a camera: it moved in either particles or waves.
I first exhibited this work at the exhibition of Club Transmediale, which took place at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. The hexagonal kinetic mirror sculpture, consisting of many tiny mirror elements in specific angles, was hanging at the centre of the dark space.
Eight people were allowed to enter the space at the same time; each person got a torch on their forehead (simulating sight) to translate their movement directly into vision, activating the sourrounding through the lights onto the mirror pieces, which reflected different patterns throughout the space. This work was shown in different countries – always with eight people at once in the space.
The work is based on the simple observation that we always have
a perceptual impact wherever we are, we always interact with our surroundings but are not always aware of it.
Was it the first work of its kind?
It was the first of this scale. My previous works often involved experiments with a more “passive” viewer. All my works actually exist within a matrix of the viewer, construction and movement in relation to movement (dynamic parameter) versus no movement (static parameter)
Anita Ackermann, Mirror of the Sun / Ultraviolet, 2015
Ackermann installing her work
Are there artists or writers that you find yourself repeatedly coming back to for inspiration?
There are certainly artists that I find very inspiring like Robert Irwin and James Turrell (the master). Gaston Bachelard has been very inspiring as well as physicist, also Werner Heisenberg and Newton’s “Mechanical Universe”. There are also immensely interesting ideas about the creation of the universe by the Egyptians that inspire me.
If there was one work of art you could live with, which one would
Outdoors I would like to live in Jantar Mantar – in the middle
of huge sundials, Gnomons and astronomical instruments – an amazing observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh II in the 18th century. And inside I would like to live with Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors”.
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Anita Ackermann, In the Light of Movement, University of the Arts Berlin, 2014
Anita Ackermann, In the Light of Movement, CTM Kunstraum Bethanien, 2015
Anita Ackermann, Mirror of the Sun / Ultraviolet, Vesselroom Project, Berlin, 2015
What is the concept behind "Mirror of the Sun / Ultraviolet" ?
The poetic concept about this work is that the moon is a mirror of the sun.
The principle it is inspired by is the Law of Reflection (reflective ray = incident ray).
I am fascinated by the idea to see the moon itself like a mirror. A mirror is a very philosophical object for me – it is a metaphor and a physical material at the same time.
Would it be accurate to say your works are often visualisations of the philosophical concepts
of time and light?
It is about the experience of time and light. I believe that you cannot really understand something just intellectually. There is more truth when you experience something through
your body rather than just visually.
My work is really always about different layers of perception and the experience of our universe.
For instance we always think time is linear but a lot of theories say it is not. So it is about how can we grasp this in our human form that there is no linear time. If we look at nature which is also growing - nature itself doesn’t grow in straight lines. Everything in nature has angles, moves around corners, moves in circles. If you look under the microscope how a flower grows and you observe the movement itself, it does not grow in a straight line. So that means our lives also don’t grow in a straight line. Growth itself does not happen in a straight line.
How did you acquire all your knowledge on physics?
I had a very inspiring Prof. for Media Theory at UdK in Berlin, Dr. Siegfried Zielinski, who is very knowledgeable and who sparked a lot of curiosity in me. I also learned through books, lectures and internet research. My bachelor thesis was about time and then later in the series “Beyond Boundaries” I met with physicians from the Helmholtz Institute in Berlin to learn as much as I could about the scientific concept of time. BUT I’m nowhere close to being a scientist, I really only understand a fracture of it.
“Beyond Boundaries” is a publication on which I’m currently working with the curator Dr. Mário Cáeiro. It brings together the research as the basis of my work and the development of a matrix to categorize experiments and works.
Do you know whether the outcome is accurate of what is actually happening in space while you work on them?
I see my work more as poetic than an accurate scientific illustration.
There is a lot of experimentation involved and for me it’s about forming a new language.
How important is spirituality in your work?
For me spirituality is intertwined with life – so it’s ultimately part of everything. I have also started a new project called Visual Alchemy, which deals more specifically with spirituality.
What is Visual Alchemy?
I have been able to see people’s auras for many years but only realised about three years ago that they were actually auras I was seeing. I always presumed everyone could see what I saw. So eventually I realised that I see things other people cannot perceive.
So I started to work on that and to learn more about what I am seeing.
I eventually started to draw and paint and developed more personalised artworks based on people’s colours and shapes and make a three dimensional work out of them similar to the one’s I am already making. I call this process Visual Alchemy.
Anita Ackermann, Window to Orion: Evening Rise Tallinn, Dominiklaaste Kloostri Museum Tallinn, 2015
Anita Ackermann, Window to Orion: Evening Rise, Dominiklaaste Kloostri Museum Tallinn, 2015