the reconstruction of the “mortuarium für zwei alphabete” (1969) as part of the exhibition “franz mon” at galerie hoffmann marks the third time the work is accessible in its original dimensions: an octogonal structure composed of 220 x 220 cm wall elements. initially produced for the 1970 venice biennale, it was on view again at the bienal de são paulo in 2012. the following, a text by tobi maier and installation views, give a glimpse of the experience visiting mon’s “mortuarium” on site.
the text on the ceiling is the negative of the floor text. this immersive installation has the characteristics of a labyrinth or—as the title also indicates—a tomb
one of the larger installations [franz] mon has created during his career is "mortuarium für zwei alphabete" (1969) shown at the 35th venice biennial one year later. the piece was inspired by the death of philip blaiberg, the second human being to receive a heart transplantation. blaiberg lived with the donated heart for 18 months before passing away in cape town in august 1969.
mortuarium für zwei alphabete is centered on a symmetric set up, which results in an octagonal form. the root text is printed to appear on wall #1 and consists of 51 names and the statement ‘is dead’ in 11 european languages. the same content is repeated on the 6 other walls of the octagon, the eighth being the entrance. yet the typefaces are superimposed and enlarged to cover the wall until no white is left and the black font covers the entire available surface on the last panel. wall 2 boasts 2 superimpositions wall 3 holds 3 and so on.
the text on the floor is composed of 4 text strips from the originals appearing on wall 1. the text on the ceiling is the negative of the floor text. this immersive installation has the characteristics of a labyrinth or—as the title also indicates—a tomb. the use of language is intensified, every letter element clearly contributes to the construction of text, until the last wall is entirely black, the viewer looses orientation; "mortuarium für zwei alphabete" provokes thoughts on the cycle of life but also on the dramatic increase of communication and use of language over the last century.
tobi maier, 2011 (excerpt from “waldemar cordeiro and franz mon,” ed. tobi maier (leipzig/new york: spector books and mini/goethe-institut curatorial residencies ludlow 38, 2011).)