Jürgen Mayer H. : »HeatSeat Pads«, 2001
by Dörte Zbikowski
With his HeatSeat Pads Jürgen Mayer H. is taking the omnipresence of surveillance into a new, wholly unexpected dimension. The work relies on and responds to the behaviour and corporeality of museum visitors. The HeatSeat Pads are pink seating cushions, shaped in a way that brings to mind mouse pads and thus computers in everyday life today. The surface of the cushions responds to warmth as is transmitted when a museum visitor elects to sit on one of them. When you sit down on a HeatSeat Pad it absorbs your body warmth and a temporary body-heat shadow forms, appearing as a white discoloration somewhat similar to an x-ray - this can be referred to as a »body print« - an analogy to fingerprinting. The hidden layers of clothing, body and - depending on the duration of contact - right through to bone structure are clearly represented, in detail. When it cools, the body print disappears just as surreptitiously as it appeared and the color returns to its original state. Unbeknownst and undesired by the museum visitor an image of certain body parts appears which may cause embarrassment, until he starts to experiment with the possibilities of temperature-sensitive surfaces, and instead of being exposed and controlled by technology, starts to control it himself.
HeatsSeats exist as couches and seating banks and - for the exhibition CTRL[SPACE] in ZKM -for the first time as cushions. Their effect derives from the surface composition: A mixture of a ground color and a thermo-chromatic carbon-based pigment that fades as the temperature rises and brightens as it cools. This substance was developed by NASA as a coating that would warn scientists when a machine was overheating. It was hoped that the material could be further developed for heat regulation and used as an exterior house paint that would darken and absorb heat from sunlight during colder seasons. This idea was abandoned however, as the paint was not UV resistant and moreover, too expensive.
Jürgen Mayer H. uses this thermo-sensitive paint in numerous works. Housewarming which appeared in 1994 at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York was one of his first experiments with thermo-sensitive paint on walls and seating surfaces. For his 1998 installation Face he mixed the substance with latex house paint. When you touched the wall the color became paler.  The guest book with invitation cards which J. Mayer H. created in 1996 also belongs to the same context. All fingerprints show up instantly as heat shadows on the heat-sensitive paper, erasing the writing. And his bed wear [Lie], 1997, also created as an edition, forms part of the same context: The body print of a sleeping figure is temporarily imposed as a white coloration onto the thermo-sensitive data collector pattern on cotton. In June 2000, the artist created Thermo Bank at Pixelpark Berlin – a pink waiting bench with temperature-sensitive paint. 
Irritation, guilt feelings about having destroyed something with HeatSeats combined with the exposure and unmasking considered to be embarrassing, characterise J. Mayer H.‘s use of »intelligent technology«. With his works he provokes traces - traces which have the power to prove, as they tell of actions. And as they can expose those who perform the actions down to their skin and bone, J. Mayer H. seems to have found his most perfect form of surveillance with his HeatSeats.
[Translated from German by Jeremy Gaines]
1 Face, 1998, installation, thermo-sensitive paint, polaroids, Pavillion der Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz, Berlin/ Smart Museum, Chicago. ^
2 www.jmayerh.de ^