Claudia Schönefeld, Catalogue Schwerinblicke, Apr. 2010

Working on Implantation, at the Staatlisches Museum  Schwerin , 2009

     In his installations, the native Frenchman Nicolas Manenti has often dealt with progressive operations of the working environment in which he broaches bureaucratic ways of the working world. In his work Implantation RDC (2005) he transported the ground plans of an industrial site over a time span of 25 years via blue carbon paper on a working table in an aleatoric1, random way. Table, lamp and setting are a pivotal part of the installation, showing the bureaucratic development of the Implantation of the industrial complex. The French term implantation means colony or settlement. Its temporal component becomes obvious by the layering of the plans. Consequentially the artist has now applied the idea to the 850 years of development of the city of Schwerin.


As a basis for Implantation Schwerin, Manenti has taken a table in the Wilhelminian style. The traces it bears, demonstrate the temporal aspect in analogy to the historical development. Through the eight and a half centuries of Schwerin history, the specific setting of the city, in midst the lakes, remains concisely visible. In the centre, the carbon copies accumulate into an agglomeration, which seems to render the traces of human settlements. Seen from apart, they appear as negative highlights, which are acting as witnesses of the civilisation of electrified cities, when seen nocturnally in birds eye view.


In an inverted archaeological approach, the artist adds aleatorically the plans over each other on a drawing-board, like the chronological layers of archaeological diggings. Hazard decides where the image is placed. Copies with black or blue carbonic paper were for a long time the only possibility of duplication. The carbon paper and a second sheet for taking the copy, is therefore placed under the original. In 1806 the Englishman Ralph Wedgwood registered the patent as an apparatus to duplicate documents. Up to the advent of the computer, it was the means of choice to copy writings. Black carbon papers were used for typewriter duplications and blue ones for handwritten documents, which are here applied by the artist.

The blue colour allows association with blueprints or cyanotypes, which were especially employed for technical engineering and construction drawings up to the middle of the 1990s.  The whole installation, Implantation Schwerin, consists of working table, lamp and office, which is provided for during the exhibition by the choice of a small room and the correspondence with the studies of Johann Alexander Thiele. He produced the sketches of Schwerin and its environment in 1750. The atmosphere of a studiolo, a small workroom reserved for study, is evoked. Thiele used techniques such as the collage of many studies, the addition of notes and descriptions of material. The progressive way of his method of operation corresponds with the installation of Nicolas Manenti.


It is important for the artist to maintain the impression of irritation for the spectator, how the minutely detailed drawings were made. The randomly layered plans evoke associations with sheets of sewing patterns used to layer several cuts on one paper. Their lines vary in form and colour, so the consumer has the chance to find the desired pattern. He can then copy it with the help of a little, pointed wheel on a neutral sheet. This connotation correlates with operating methods of the artist, while the spectator of the installation Implantation Schwerin hast to follow the blue lines varying in intensity like an archaeologist following antique remnants.


The specific topography of Schwerin situated on marshy grounds, caused the plans of roads to change hardly at all over the centuries.2 The structure of the castle island or the arrangement of the Pfaffenteich in mid-19th century is always clearly visible.3 The development of the city remains as blue tracks on the working table. They are a sign of the growth of a city, which was, as far as the geographic premises allowed, designed on a drawing-board.


1 Wie der Fall eines Würfels, lat. alea – der Würfel. | aleatoric from lat. alea – dice.

2 S. Petit Musée Sentimental de Schwerin, Pfähle, S. 73 | s. Petit Musée Sentimental de Schwerin, Pfähle, p. 73.

3 S. Petit Musée Sentimental de Schwerin, Schloss, S. 78, Pfaffenteich, S. 72 | s. Petit Musée Sentimental de

Schwerin, Schloss, p. 78, Pfaffenteich, p. 72.

4 S. o. | ibid.

The desktop reminds one of a pupil’s desk or a  telephone table, where one scribbles unconsciously  or leaves notes intentionally such as crib sheets or telephone numbers. Only under close inspection is the secret disclosed. An important aspect of the work is the aleatoric combination of the plans. It is opposed to the methods of chance, which can be considered as a starting point of artistic creativity. Dali ‘s so-called paranoia-critic method for example does nothing else but what is done in a Rorschach-test. Nails are smashed into etching plates by an explosion. He then uses those plates as a ground layer for his compositions. By their haphazard structure, his own fantasy is inspired, and they tickle his sub-conscience. The process also happens, while watching the desktop of Manenti’s installation, already proven by the mentioned allusions of the tufts of lines as negative highlights of nocturnal infrastructure.


In aleatoricism, though, artistic structures are generated by chance operations and improvisation. It is a method which can be applied to art as well as literature and music. André Blanc-Lapierre and Robert Fortet have formulated this procedure in their Théorie des fonctions aléatoires in the 1950s.5  In music, especially John Cage has to be mentioned for the application of aleatoric methods. As well as, already in the 18th century the composer and music theoretician Johann Philipp Kirnberger, who invented the “musical dice game” – a compositorial system with dices as random generator.6 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart designed probably the best known game of that kind, with his instruction to compose waltzes with two dice […]“, in which the audience could jumble the bars of a waltz. 7


John Cage visualized the principle in his series Not Wanting To Say Anything About Marcel, which he made after the death of Marcel Duchamp on the 2nd of October, 1968.8 Eight printed slabs, each of transparent plastic, were mounted with gaps on a wooden base. The spectator can look through he different layers. The constellation of the printed objects changes randomly with the movement of the spectator.


The topic of transparency of various layers is broached by Nicolas Manenti through the layering of plans. In that context, the rustic, wooden desktop appears like an allusion to the wooden bases, Cage used for his so-called plexigrammes. With the title, John Cage refers to the famous Silence of Marcel Duchamps. The plexigrammes themselves aimed at their mutual method of involving the principle of contingency as a means of creation independent of artistic control. Marcel Duchamp applied the random principle in his work Trois stoppage étalon, 1913–14. In the experimental setup, Duchamp dropped three threads of one meter each, held horizontically, from a hight of one meter on a plane surface. There, he glued them, exactly the way they fell, on blue canvas strips and mounted them to glass panels. According to his own expression, he wanted to conserve chance.9 Later, Duchamp called the Trois stoppage étalon his most important work, since it marked the breach with traditional methods of expression most clearly.10


The idea of conserving chance was fixed literally by Daniel Spoerri in his Topographie Anécdotée du Hasard in 1962. It formulated the basic idea of his Tableaux pièges.11 In collaboration with Robert Filliou, Emmett Williams and Dieter Roth the German edition Anekdoten zur Topographie des Zufalls was published in 1969.12 On the 17th of October, 1961 at 15.45, Daniel Spoerri had started numbering and cataloguing meticulously all objects situated on his working table in the Hotel Carcassonne in Paris.13 The determining moment of the random analysis is the exact point of time, the 17th of October, 1961, 15.45, when Spoerri freezes the situation. Nicolas Manenti shows the change of Schwerin topography on a working desk of the 19th century in 2010, exactly 850 years after the foundation of the city (on the presumption that the date of foundation is the correct one …).

5 André Blanc-Lapierre, Robert Fortet: Théorie des fonctions aléatoires, Paris 1953.

6 Johann Philipp Kirnberger: Der allezeit fertige Polonoisen- und Menuettencomponist, Berlin 1757; [2.3.2010]; Gerhard


Geschichte der Würfelmusik in Beispielen, Saarbrücken 1994. | Johann Philipp Kirnberger: Der allezeit fertige Polonoisen- und Menuettencomponist, Berlin

1757; [2.3.2010]; Gerhard Haupenthal: Geschichte der Würfelmusik in Beispielen, Saarbrücken 1994.

7 KV 294d/516f. | KV 294d/516f.

8 The Plexigrammes were made in collaboration with Calvin Sumsion, they were produced in New York in an edition of 125 by Irwin Hollander. The Staatliche Museum


owns eight exemplars of the series, Inv. Nr. Objekt 1a–h.

©2020, Nicolas Manenti