Author Archives: Anouk Ahlborn

Mnemosyne Atlas – Format/Setup

I am currently focusing on two-dimensional flat paper formats which may lead me towards the digital screen format. I cut out different the formats mentioned in my previous post at scale 1 : 10.

Paper Formats, scale 1:10

Paper Formats, scale 1:10

Looking at paper, still the most widely used canvas for architecture students today, let me speak about the production processes which it involves: from the raw material to the packaging of the cut sheets of paper and its afterlife in a daily use.



In brief, I will make a paper theatre which talks about the factory processes and machinery which are directly linked to the final format:
– Paper Reeling and Cutting using the Fourdrinier Machine (Forming section, Press section, Drying section, Calender section)
– Newspaper Printing using the System of a Rotary press (High speed commercial web, or Small (narrow) Web press),
– and Book Binding, Billboard Plastering, Canvas Making, Darkroom Activities, Street Signage Design

I have started thinking about the overall spatial organisation and collected resource material for my drawing of the paper theatre, which should include some projection or screens as well.

The Medium is the Message - Mass age - Massage, Marshall McLuhan, Originally published in 1964 by Mentor, New York TO READ

The Medium is the Message – Mass Age – Massage, Marshall McLuhan, Originally published in 1964

I found out that the UK’s bestselling Newspapers (The Sun: Tabloid Format, The Daily Telegraph: Broadsheet, The Times: Compact) are printing at Harmsworth Quays Printing Limited, Thurrock, except for the Guardian (Berliner Format) which have their own printing press.



Just before blogging, I participated in the first AAXX100: Transcription Workshop, a small contribution to the many projects which happen at the AA during AA Open Week in November.

DRAWING IN PROGRESS (You can find me in the unit space.)

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Mnemosyne Atlas – Recon Step 4, Paper Format

> FORMAT < thinks:

for·mat  (fôrmt)


1. A plan for the organization and arrangement of a specified production.
2. The material form or layout of a publication.
3. Computer Science
a. The arrangement of data for storage or display.

b. A method for achieving such an arrangement.
tr.v. for·mat·ted, for·mat·ting, for·mats

1. To plan or arrange in a specified form: They formatted the conference so that each speaker had less than 15 minutes to deliver a paper.
2. Computer Science

a. To divide (a disk) into marked sectors so that it may store data.
b. To determine the arrangement of (data) for storage or display.
[French, ultimately from Latin frmtus, past participle of frmre, to form, from frma, form.]



I think:

“Format” is one of those words which one can easily use to describe anything. It is hard to separate it from the spatial setup which defines its logic and appearance both in analogue and digital contexts. Since I don’t have a real site for my Recon Project, I decided to look at analogue two dimensional formats before moving on to analyse their relationships within a spatial constellation in a model.

Since I am forced to work with materials which are available to me in the UK, I decided to make a selection within the endless range of existing formats. Here is the list of favourite, main, common or bestselling sizes & other display opportunities which may feed into the project:

List of “analogue” 2D formats

Paper Sizes
A Series
C Series
Mountboard Sizes
Material Thickness
Canvas (Frame) Sizes
Newspaper Sizes
Billboard Sizes
British Book Sizes
Business Card Sizes
Photograph Sizes
Passport Photograph Size
Film Still Sizes
Road Sign Sizes

List of “digital” 2D formats

Kindle Screen Size
iphone/ipad Screen Size
My Laptop Screen Size
Beststelling Apple Computer Screen size
Largest Touchscreen Size
AA Projection Screen Size

Highest Screen Resolution
Human Eye Sight Resolution

dimensioning different paper formats for future reference

dimensioning different paper formats for future reference

List of “analogue” 3D setups

Common Plinth Size
Display Table Size
Bookshelf Size
AA Library Floor Area
London Library Floor Area
Warburg Institute Library Floor Area
Largest Cinema Dimensions (also see: Imaxx Cinema)
Largest Planetarium
Largest Zoetrope Dimensions
Average London Flat Floor Area
Average London Exhibition Floor Area
Floor Area per Person

Anaglyph_3D Spacing Size

List of “digital” 3D setups

(somehow shifts the discussion from dimensions to weight)

Smallest Pinter Dimensions
Biggest Plotter Dimensions
AA Laser Cutting Machine Dimensions
AA CNC milling Dimensions
AA 3d printer Dimensions
Human Body Scanner Dimensions (also see: Hologram)
AA Chromakeying (green screen) Screen Size
World’s Largest Chromakeying Screen Size
Largest Database Center (evtl. Largest Storage Capacity)
World Wide Web
Google Earth
Second Life



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Mnemosyne Atlas – Recon Step 3, Review

Step 1_studying Warburg:
As we have learned, Aby Warburg used current newspaper articles to feed into a constellation of images from art history, “a field of knowledge claiming to have something to say” (Georges Didi-Huberman). Although his ultimate objective was never fully revealed, the Mnemosyne Atlas allowed Warburg to travel through (past) time and (pictorial) space to put in relation visual content based on his interest in crossing disciplines (art, psychology, anthropology, music, technology, law, sociology, political theory, geography etc.). In addition to his literary possessions, his obsession with exceeding simple erudition enabled him to rise as the founder of the Warburg Institute but may have had repercussions on his mental health, leaving the project unfinished. Whilst attempting to elucidate his obscure methods of working, various contemporaries and successors were forced to accept that his practice was mainly based on a subjective understanding of historical content, linked through pictorial planes in an analogous framework. Consequentially, the Mnemosyne Atlas leaves room for interpretation regarding subject matter as well as formal representation.
Step 2_removing Warburg:
In my view, Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas shows how historical methods of structuring knowledge tend to solidify only to defragment and explode again. It seems that instead of learning from the past by looking up the subjects in your grandmother’s diary, history books, Encyclopaedias, websites and blogs, today’s student may question whether we should “learn from the past” through relating different contents at all.
Do the subjects of study hold some kind of “objective truth” just because they have filtered out a collective body of work (publications, etc.) and have qualified through their survival over time or does the relation of contents become more relevant? In fact, one may speculate that this reliance on informative networks over the accumulation of knowledge seems to manifest itself in the way we use our gadgets and computers. Unsure about his performance, the average student is now surfing around globally shared interest zones by clicking and hyperlinking his way through virtual space.
Personally, I have always been quite interested in how I might understand the relationship between the different layers of images as well as their relation to movements in time. So far, I have thought about them as cross-relating content (observations, stories, narratives, etc.) to form (graphic style, composition, frame, sequences, etc.) but content has always remained quite present in defining the overall constellation. Although I may consider the process of abstraction as a means to rearticulate the relation between subject and object and re-understanding of content, I haven’t considered removing notions of content entirely. Reconsidering this, with regard to the Mnemosyne Atlas, in the light of a classification of contents now changes my attitude.
How do we relate to and orientate ourselves in space and time, individually and collectively?
Step 3_removing history:

The dimensional readings of Panels ABC123 - from complex constellation to linear sequence of images

The dimensional readings of Panels ABC123 – from complex constellation to linear sequence of images

After realizing a sketch model hinting at a transition of the Warburgian montage into a cinematic sequence of images, it became clear that this was just another rearrangement of content which would eventually lead to the removal of the frame, favouring narrative over format.
Referring back to “Panel C goes B!” (the banana in the Mnemosyne Atlas), which would demand the impossible task of introducing or deducing any coherent classification system from a chaos of material objects and their ideological associations, I chose to separate content from format in order to move from an analytical project to a design proposal. How do I strip back, erase or disregard content to and work with formats and their spatial relationships in order to construct a project today which does not get piled up in the heap of history. How do I conceive the “History of the Future of Images”, the “After Images”? At first, I find myself looking at a field, cluster or densities of blank squares from which the image has been removed. I wonder if a blank storyboard, framed in space and time, may emerge out of this hidden mess of relationships.
How does our repertory of knowledge reshape itself once content is separated from format? How do we use our intuition, intellect, acquired knowledge, know-how in relation to a set of impartial discoveries? How do these objet trouvés relate to each other once they have been alienated from their subject matter?
Step 3-4_building the future:

Test1 - The Future of Images: Objets trouvés?

Test1 – The Future of the Image: Objets trouvés?

By screen capturing my search for “the future of the image” on google, pinterest, Instagram, facebook, ninegag (yes!), youtube and AA Library, I travelled through virtual interfaces of the World Wide Web to the physical arrangements of libraries. I selected about 5-10 images, uploaded within the past week, per platform and laid them out on a table. Although the images still presented me with content, their position within the present and orientation towards the future helped me to read them more detached from their historical background. As an additional reaction, I inserted a couple of raw or basic materials (bluefoam, lasercut Perspex, mirror) used in architecture schools and gadgets (iphone, ipad) into the constellation. Some images, such as the Google Books Scanning Machine, represent the process of translation through reformatting, distinguishing themselves as one of the core ideas of the project. Similar to the ways in which the painters have inserted their presence within their paintings (Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Marriage, 1434; Jan Vermeer’s The Music Lesson, c. 1662-1664), this image can speak about the relationship inside and outside of itself. The painter is the subject who transferred his impressions on canvas, the Google Books Scanning Machine is the robot which transfers one format into another. Provisionally disregarding his model, who is the painter without his format and sub-formats? Ignoring content, which is the identity defining itself through working with formats? Can one read format as an unadorned portal through which masters, muses, geeks and automata seek to reinvent themselves? And if so, which is the black canvas, the plane or multidimensional construct which ties it all together? Which is the frame-work or system?
In order to stop myself from mentally bouncing back and forth and understand what I am speculating about in depth, I will do three main things (order depends on available time): 1. Visit the Warburg Institute 2. Consult with Herbert Marshall McLuhan and Jacques Rancière 3. Start drawing or building the architectural space in which formats are tested…

What is format? Starting with analogue two-dimensional paper space... (source:

What is format?
Starting with analogue two-dimensional paper space…

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Mnemosyne Atlas – Recon Step 3, Recording the process

Getting my head around linking blog content – Please click on the image or link below to check out a humble…

attempting to screencapture googling my After-Images, process documentation

attempting to screencapture googling my After-Images, process documentation


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Mnemosyne Atlas – Recon without content

I was listening to this lecture by Bruce Sterling to broaden the spectrum of influences for thinking about Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas and my Recon project:


Let's move!

Let’s move!

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Mnemosyne Atlas – Recon Step 2

In the pursuit of some more clarity within what I would like to get out of the Recon project, I will address a couple of questions simultaneously: On one hand, I want to understand what I am reacting to (Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas and its reception within Artistic Disciplines). On the other hand, I want to know how this reaction can help me to find out to orientate, educate and position myself and others within a knowledge-based society (“Wissensgesellschaft”)?
Hence I start looking at Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas (and the Warburg Institute Library) as a piece of work which was born out of and (perhaps) unknowingly destabilized an orthodox approach to the theoretical and practical history of art. Pending between passionate ambition and pathological obsession, Warburg’s attempt to map the afterlife of Antiquity through montage (a concept and technique to be understood in all its facets) motivates me to 1. create an image-montage and their associations 3. within a frame which allows for the contemplation of a spatial relationship in motion. Through this little experiment I hope to get a different understanding of how one individual creates their own framework of knowledge, which characteristics may be underlying our common shared knowledge indexes and how these may relate to some kind of notion of progress.

Here is a sketch of how I experiment with using the frame of the Zoetrope, not to set in motion, but test see in how far the a network of subjective associations performs in a linear or spatial configuration…


matrix of associations, sketch

matrix of associations, sketch

How do we move from perception to assumption to acknowledgement to generalization to accepted fact?

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Mnemosyne Atlas – Recon Step 1


Another iteration of Panel C of Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas at the scale of its photographic reproduction (ca. 18 x 24 cm). What if you’d insert a circle? Too abstract! A banana? Well, it’s got enough particularities to fit in.

Rather than a serious proposal, the potential insertion of a banana, as a generic object, into the pathos-laden historiography, reveals the absurdity of responding to Warburg’s subjective approach to mapping the past through a constellation of images, ranging from Antiquity to the 1920s.

Mnemosyne Atlas, Panel C goes B!

Mnemosyne Atlas, Panel C goes B!


That stated, I will still attempt to challenge the notion of orientation both within physcial and intellectual space, multiple interconnected worlds. If I am to provide a reconfigured index outside the Warburg Institute and within a global pool of resources, I should rethink how to montage such a network. Instead of imposing my subjective logic onto Aby Warburg’s sense of reasoning within the existing set of images of the Mnemosyne Atlas, I consider making use of a form of collective judgement as a means to ascribe objective value to contextual items.

The question redefines itself to: “How do I, as an architect, use the world around me as an objectifying filter to construct, communicate and guide through a temporal and spatial constellation of knowledge which challenges Aby Warburg’s emotional logic, medium and format?”


Please feel free to comment!



“Together with panels A and C, panel B provides an introductory ‘grammar’ or ‘syntax’ with which to read the subsequent 60 panels.”
Title: “Various levels of transferring the cosmic system to humanity. Harmonic correspondence. Later reduction of the harmony to abstract geometry instead of to cosmically conditional [geometry] (Leonardo).”



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Mnemosyne Atlas_Letters from the Archives

Manuscripts and Typescripts from the Archives of the Warburg Institute:

I found it interesting to read through some of the notes found in letters sent within the Warburg Circle between 1924 (the beginning of the Mnemosyne Atlas) and 1929 (Warburg’s death), published by the Warburg Institute on their Archive Database:

 09/05/1924: Manuscript from Aby Warburg to Fritz Saxl:“…comments that what is required from him is to sing ‘an aria of mnemosyne‘…”

11/08/1925: Manuscript from Aby Warburg to Fritz Schumacher:“forwards sketch for the lettering of Mnemosyne

16/01/1926: Typescript from Aby Warburg to Johannes Geffcken: “…review in ‘Süddeutsche Monatshefte’, …Bibliothek Warburg; calls the library ‘a revolving observation tower'; likens his work to work in a tunnel, in which he heard Boll knock at the other end; …; it had been [Hermann Karl] Usener who led him to the formulation of the second maxim; on the inner purpose of studies; on ‘mnemosyne‘ and ‘sophrosyne';…”

08/07/1927: Manuscript from Walter Solmitz to Aby Warburg: “… mentions Mnemosyne [loved by Zeus] and Epimeleia [concern towards creation]…”

23/06/1928: Manuscript from Aby Warburg to Fritz Saxl: “…; this would then have to be accompanied by chapters on iconology, parallel compositions, pathos formula, selection of Ovidian motifs which are important for Mnemosyne: process, pursuit, rape, Perseus, Fortuna, pain, death, victory, battle, triumph;…”

n.d., 22/03/1929: Manuscript from Fritz Saxl to Aby Warburg : “…; assures Warburg that he is looking forward to helping him with Mnemosyne Atlas; …”

19/12/1929: Typescript from Gertrud Bing to Eduard Fraenkel: “…; he will have heard that the KBW plans to re-publish Warburg’s writings, then unpublished lectures, Mnemosyne, Aphorisms, excerpts from letters and diaries; the plates of the Mnemosyne atlas have in the last few weeks before Warburg’s death taken shape beyond being simply a great but chaotic collection;…”



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Mnemosyne Atlas – Getting started…

The Mnemosyne Atlas (1924-1929), the last project of the German Jewish “cultural scientist” Aby M. Warburg (1866-1929), is an Atlas of Images which is currently kept in the Warburg Institute in London. According to Christopher D. Johnson from Cornell University, the epistemological project is “an unfinished attempt to map the pathways that give art history and cosmography their pathos-laden meanings. Warburg thought this visual, metaphoric encyclopedia, with its constellations of symbolic images, would animate the viewer’s memory, imagination, and understanding of what he called “the afterlife of antiquity.”” (source:



FACTORY: I am looking at the Mnemosyne Atlas as a Product Factory and/or Identity Factory. Considering the location of the Mnemosyne Atlas within the Warburg Institute in past and present contexts, the production processes operate and actualize in multiple ways. On one hand, the library holds a collection of books and the Atlas as physical and intellectual outcomes. On the other hand, the Atlas as a constellation is in itself conceived as a resource of knowledge.
IDENTITY: In addition to Aby Warburg’s own subjective ordering methods, a complex network of art historians, cultural theorists and other established professionals have impacted the library’s classification systems by categories and subcategories (authors and content) and by spatial organization (horizontal and vertical) over time. These dynamic conditions of an underlying network informing the formatting of content is also inherent in Warburg’s ways of linking ideas within the cosmos of images of the Mnemosyne Atlas.

Panel 79

Aby Warburg, Mnemosyne Atlas, Panel 79 (“The Eucharist”), 1929

Although Warburg’s intention was never fully articulated, his concept for the Mnemosyne Atlas relied mainly on the transmission and application of knowledge through image, word and action. He used the space of sixty-three different panels (approx. 150 x 200 cm), wooden boards covered with black cloth, to combine images (such as reproductions of paintings, photographs of maps, manuscript pages, newspaper and magazine articles) in thematic sequences. Although he used the panels for lectures and presentations, there is a lack of written explanations and captions of his work. Today, the last version of the Atlas only exists in form of black and white photographs (18 x 24 cm) which are held in the archives of the Warburg Institute and are partially published on the website of Cornell University Press and Warburg Institute.

Panel 79

The Meaning of Panel 79 in Aby Warburg’s Oeuvre as a Distributed Object, by Sara Angel

RECON: My initial ideas for the Recon of the Mnemosyne Atlas.
As an initial experiment, I will attempt to challenge the notion of orientation through association by reusing the technique of montage to insert, replace or separate a generic object (scale 1:1, full size) into the existing final panel of the atlas of images. Since I feel quite inspired to set the stage for a re-enactment of Aby Warburg, I expect my ideas to become clearer through drawing…




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Letter to Mnemosyne

After listening to the suggested Jeff Kipnis’ lecture “In praise of sloth, indolence and all other forms of torture” (2014) and diving into the ocean of information built up around the figure of Aby M. Warburg and his Mnemosyne Atlas, I feel as if sitting in a swomp. Oh Mother Memory!

One of the nine muses is asking her mother Mnemosyne to relieve her from the transcendental tension created by the pursuit of knowledge by young Aby M. Warburg in 1888.

One of the nine muses is asking her mother Mnemosyne to relieve her from the transcendental tension created by the pursuit of knowledge by young Aby M. Warburg in 1888.


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Diploma 9 Atlas

Diploma 9 Atlas of Images, AA School of Architecture, 2014-15

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Timeline of the Royal Saltworks by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux

Ideal City of Chaux

Royal Saltworks’ production cycle and timeline (work in progress), AA School Term 1

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Quotes on the Royal Saltworks by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux

Royal Saltworks by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux Arc-et-Senans, France, 1775

Royal Saltworks by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux
Arc-et-Senans, France, 1775

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Novae Artes – Getting started…

or shall I call it “The Irony of Research – I guess I am hooked”?!


Novartis Campus : a contemporary work environment premises, elements, perspectives, Magnago Lampugnani, Vittorio, 1951-, 2009


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