ACME STUDIOS opened in The Hague on 25th August with an exhibition by the renowned Dutch photographer, Jan Banning. Acme Studios is a new gallery of art and design that merges contemporary visual art with the functional beauty of vintage typewriters. Acme Studios is the only physical typewriter shop in the Netherlands and northern Europe. This unusual combination of elements—art and typewriters—is powerfully drawn together by Banning’s newest photographic “portraits” of typewriters.
The opening art exhibition, Bureaucratic Forms, includes Banning’s newest series: Typewriter Sentences, a striking departure from his better-known portraiture. In these new images the “portraits” are of typewriters producing documents recording the historic, legal executions of Sacco & Vanzetti and others who were innocent victims of the judicial system. A variety of typewriters, an integral part of the exhibition, will add a tangible connection to the photos, and visitors are invited to use the various typewriters to write whatever they want.
Banning’s body of work has often focused on sensitive and evocative human portraiture in series such as Comfort Women (Troostmeisjes), Down and Out in the South, Traces of War, and others. The common thread that connects these human portraits is the sometimes oppressive nature of unjust social policies, legal systems and political decisions. Typewriter Sentences disconnects the flesh-and-blood human beings on both sides of judicial decisions of life and death by interposing a mechanical typing machine and the black & white legal decree it produces. And, by this very act of disconnection, the emotional human stories are brought into profound focus.
Jan Banning is also known for his 2022 photographic exhibition and book The Verdict: The Christina Boyer Case which was an important factor in bringing worldwide awareness to this modern-day miscarriage of justice. A recently released docu-drama, Demons & Saviors, (August, 2023; Hulu and Disney+) was strongly influenced by Banning’s work seeking justice for Boyer.
The Bureaucratic Forms exhibition also includes some of Banning’s best-known images from his popular project Bureaucratics, his earlier projects Law & Order and Cyprus: The Green Line. All the photographic images are complimented by the presence in the gallery of typewriters from the 1920s through the 1960s. The beautiful design of these utilitarian writing machines can be seen in contrast to their common use in bureaucratic and legal environments. The fact that these same beautiful machines can be used to write love letters, poetry, and great works of literature “hangs in the air” leaving the viewer to consider the human involvement that brings the words onto the typed page.
Founder Christopher Mullen is excited to introduce Acme Studios to the Netherlands and the world as a venue to explore the social impact of the visual arts, and the functional aesthetic design of typewriters.