A visual adaptation of the narrative »Der Sandmann« by E.T.A. Hoffmann

The reader is invited to follow the tracks of Hoffmann's main character „N.“ through paper, letters and acts of un-covering to explore his space of reality.

With the help of photographies printed on foil, fictional notes and pieces of old scientific documents, the reader is able to combine a world of imagination, the subconscious, dreams, magic.

It illustrates the experiences of N., but leaves enough space to invent own strings of thoughts, similar to how N. created his universe of man-made realities.

The original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann

In „Der Sandmann“ the main character Nathanael tells his life's story through letters written by himself. His mother puts him to bed with metaphorical words: „Go to sleep, the sandman is coming!“ - but his nurse creates terrific, mad images in his head: she discribes the Sandman as a wild creature that rips out children's eyes while they are still awake.

His furious imagination transforms heavy footfall of a nightly visitor into a real, terrifying Sandmann who visites N.'s father. Secretly N. observes both of them performing alchemistic experiments - and has to watch his father die. His burnt-out eye sockets haunt N. ever since.

The image of the Sandmann follows N.s frantical life: he mistakes a man who sells optical instruments for the feared creature. This catalyses a fanatical caleidoscope ride: N. falls in love with an automatic doll, sees shadows, spirits, burning-wild eyes everywhere - until he can't take it anymore.

The (un)conscious mind, imagination, madness and reality melt into each other: the mind itself decides what's real - and what is not.

How can a story become visually alive - like if it was real? How can the reader experience similar things as N.?

Hoffmann's book addresses imagination, ambiguity of cognition, multi-layering of reality and presents an alternative reality to the reader which the protagonist explores with his own imagination. This is translated into visual and haptic fragments which merge to an interactive experience.

Empathy and and experience

The story becomes literaly real through the books of N. The haptical play with paper, text, notes, layers of foil-images creates room to explore, imagine and re-combine. Just like N. did to create his wild world of imagination.

Illustrative narration

The plot is presented in a mystified / fragmental manner, framed by N.s quotes on paper, photography and old documents. Those elements help to illustrate N.s perspective through layered shadow images.

New ways of thinking

By combining images, text and content in juxtapositions, new intellectual constructs are created. Logic and imagination of the reader combines content in a sureal, inspiring process of creation.

Conceptional layers of the books

Matter of perspective

In ‚Der Sandmann‘ exists no absolute reality - only perspectives define how things are to be perceived.

Virtuality is reality

It does not matter if it happens in a more obejective reality or N's subjective imagination. Everything is real for N. and the reader follows this alternative reality.

Imagination through ambiguity

Gaps, fragmental pieces and vagueness trigger new combinations of thoughts in the recipients mind: he's provoked to create further pieces of the story.

Blurred states of cognition

Hoffmann does not clarify whether the experiences of the main character are 'real', 'madness', dream or imagination. Different shapes of cognition become indisctinct.

Exploring fragments

The original plot explores piece by piece a higher level of reality. The reader keeps track (similar to a detective) of N.s experiences and perspective upon reality.

Suspense as an emotional base

A dark, eerie undertone creates tension, awareness and an open-mindedness to breed vivid imagination.

Material layers of the books

Multi-layering plays a main role in N.s note books. Comprehensive layers lead the reader from the outside into the innermost of N.s mind: from his study room into documents, images and notes that appear to be incidentally added to his notebooks. Those narrative pieces of information merge to a explorative composition of N.s mental landscape.

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  • The books

    The two books „N.1“ und „N.5“ are filled with documents, notes and images on foil, fixated by aged sticky tape. Both are completely reproduceable / reprintable.

  • The clipboard

    A clipboard, filled with a fictional letter and short pseudo-medical comments, describe the books as fragmental evidence of the patient N., who is to be analysed. The reader becomes a detective. /p>

  • The study

    White noise and dimmed light: the fictional work space of the main character N. provides further evidence which can be explored.

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  • Notes of N.

    Selected quotes from the original story provide fractual impressions of N. and his mind, which guide the reader through the story. Furiously typed words in typewriter fonts present his tumultuous, inquisitive, wondering mind.

  • Scientific documents

    Science is, next to our own senses, an external portal to explore 'reality'. Reproduced documents in the public domain give insight into a collective state of mind around 1900. The illusion of ripped-out book pages illustrate how N. tries to comprehend 'reality' quite agitated. A curious carousel ride on 'old' science - which makes us wonder even today.

  • Shadow images

    Photographies printed on foil create an echo of N.s previous impressions in an eerie, translucent way. They generate a mysterious atmosphere, play with (un-)covering of visual content and create their own game of perspective, dark, light and layering.