Franz Ackermann

White Cube | Hoxton Square

“Home, home again,” a visually electrifying exhibition, pairs photographs of prosaic tourist hotels seen through the crosshairs of rifle scopes and enormous paintings of environmental devastation rendered in eye-popping colors. The canvases jump out to dazzling effect and strike viewers with dramatic scenes of broken-up infrastructure, downed planes, and urban ruin. Borrowing its title from a Pink Floyd song that meditates on life’s ages and lost time, the show turns the phrase to suggest an antiglobalization death wish, offering a thrilling before-and-after sequence beginning with the imagined targeting of capitalism’s leisure industry and leading to the world’s annihilation.

City Planning 4: Around You, 2006, a roughly nine-by-nineteen-foot painting, shows an airliner’s violet fuselage and its cockpit interior in shades of eerie pea green among ripped-up fragments in bright oranges and strident reds. Below the plane, the roots of dead trees intertwine with worming electric wires, mingling technological and organic landscapes. The stunning chromatic scheme extends the conflict between nature and technology by setting vibrations of Day-Glo complementaries—acid greens next to stop-sign reds, citrus yellows beside bright magentas—against somber earth tones. Jumbled together and lacking fine detail, hard-edged shapes mix cartoonish representations of recognizable things (office towers, power plants) with abstract faceted forms that look cut and pasted, suggesting, in a style that recalls Japanese sci-fi anime, a computer’s perceptual after-image of some cataclysmic disaster dispatched from the future.

Interspersed among the paintings are eighty-eight photographs, each positioned before a horizontal light-blue band running at chest level around the gallery, connecting the installation’s parts like a gigantic circuit board. The views offer mostly close-ups of mid-rise resort buildings cast in banal repetitions of steel grids and glass windows, rows of balconies, and garish signage. Impossible to locate geographically—possible sites might be the Costa Brava, Yucatán, or the Indonesian archipelago—the hotels (and the few beach scenes of bathing tourists included) project a nightmare of globalization, one homogenized leisure spot after another inhabited by undifferentiated masses of sun-drenched consumers. The scope diagrams come in a variety of styles—X-patterned, oval, circular—and appear digitally overlaid. Considered together, the photographs and paintings evoke a logic of mathematical identification and systematic neutralization.

Billboard size, the paintings advertise a postapocalyptic future that seduces through the visual pleasure of its brilliantly colored scenes, assisted by the photographs that encourage hostility toward the present. One must look carefully overhead at the entrance to see City Planning 1: The African Bridge, 2006, a wooden loft structure the size of a large bed, with sundry items hanging down through small portals: colored bottles and balloons, London daily newspapers, and world maps in Arabic. The construction suggests (with the help of some stereotyping) a terrorist’s digs used to plan the attack. On its front surface is an upside-down panoramic image of London with what might be a blimp afloat and bearing the date 2012—the year of the city’s upcoming Olympics. Sound like a plan? The installation seems to work through terrorism’s threat by imagining its worst-case scenario from inside the perpetrator’s obsessive-paranoid mind, where aestheticization soothes anxiety. One is left reveling in scenes of obliteration—troubling, because it turns the imagined catastrophe into a perverse object of desire.

T. J. Demos