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Jan Rothuizen


Mind map­pings

There may be peo­ple who have men­tal maps in their mind that resem­ble GPS car nav­i­ga­tion. But they cer­tainly are a minor­ity. Most peo­ple make men­tal maps of places that are con­trary to a two-dimensional land­scape with high­light­ened roads. Instead we con­nect places by con­nect­ing mem­o­ries and tid­bits of infor­ma­tion in a highly indi­vid­ual way. Try to visu­al­ize an arbi­trary route from point A to point B. You will catch your­self rely­ing on your mem­o­ries of that route as snap­shots of the scenery, for exam­ple an acci­dent that hap­pened long ago or an apple tree on a cor­ner. Or you could be remem­ber­ing audio frag­ments of what some­one once said at a cer­tain place, or archi­tec­tural details seen in a book. If you were to make draw­ings of the land­marks and rout­ing you have devel­oped in your mind, it might look a lit­tle like the work of Jan Rothuizen. It would cer­tainly feel like it! Most peo­ple rely on these soft land­scapes con­sist­ing of their own mem­o­ries instead of the solid world of asphalt and street names. Jan Rothuizen has worked with the con­cept of these highly indi­vid­ual mind mappings.

Maps are essen­tial for nav­i­gat­ing a city effi­ciently. They keep you from get­ting lost all the time. Yet they show few details of a place. They reveal noth­ing about how peo­ple use and expe­ri­ence the city. Jan Rothuizen is fill­ing the void here. His draw­ings are not totally per­son­al­ized ref­er­ences, which would make them hard to under­stand. On the con­trary, they are based on what might be referred to as the unwrit­ten his­tory of a place. He uses news­pa­per clip­pings, his­tor­i­cal details and adver­tise­ments to build a com­pletely dif­fer­ent con­cept of the city.

Jan Rothuizen calls this work his soft Atlas. He walks through dif­fer­ent cities, some­times by him­self, some­times with inhab­i­tants as guides. He takes notes on what he sees, on what he hears and expe­ri­ences and makes draw­ings of that in his ate­lier. His work is help­ing us to re-experience the cities we thought we knew so well. And he is rais­ing our aware­ness to the impor­tant role our senses play in pro­cess­ing and stor­ing the flood of infor­ma­tion we receive. The car­to­graphic intel­lect that used to get all the cred­its for help­ing us find our way is deval­u­ated and at the same time re-established for what it’s worth. Rothuizen’s work trig­gers our own expe­ri­ence. It com­mu­ni­cates in an unusual yet famil­iar way. It is because of these aspects that he is so well known and respected.

Rothuizen is an inter­na­tion­ally suc­cess­ful artist. His work is reg­u­larly shown in Dutch Musea and has been on exhi­bi­tion from New York to Sin­ga­pore and from Cairo to Prague. He is rep­re­sented by Ellen de Brui­jne projects, Amsterdam.