Karl Hans Janke

1909 - 1988

  • Raum-Kugel-Trajekt, mixed media on paper, 29,7 x 42 cm
  • 2000km/std. Schnellste Maschine der Menschheit, die je gebaut werden kann!, mixed media on paper, 29,7 x 42 cm
  • untitled, mixed media on paper, 29,7 x 42 cm
  • Das große Ziel, mixed media on paper, 29,7 x 42 cm
  • Einige wichtige Sachen meiner Lebensarbeit!, mixed media on paper, 29,7 x 42 cm
  • Lasten-Maschine mit Schmalrumpf u. Spaltflächen, mixed media on paper, 29,7 x 42 cm

By the time he died in 1988, Janke had produced more than 4,500 drawings of various technological inventions, chief among which were fantastic flying machines and propulsion mechanisms rendered in exquisitely detailed technical sketches. Visions of inter-galactic travel, diagrams of the cosmos and of the origins of life - all his inventions and ideas were, in his own words, "for the benefit of humanity and aimed toward propagating peace."

His designs were made in the seclusion of the Hubertis Psychiatric Hospital Wermsdorf in the former German Democratic Republic, where he was a patient from the 1950s onwards. The institutional staff of the hospital either encouraged or tolerated the passion Janke showed for sketching technical designs: he had his own "office" in which he produced four thousand drawings of his inventions.

He had originally graduated from high school and attended a technical college for a couple of years and studied dentistry although he didn't complete the course. He was drafted into the German army in 1940 where he was hospitalized after a series of break downs. He was eventually discharged from the service on medical grounds in 1943.

Karl Hans Janke's works were to be rediscovered only in 2000, long after the iron curtain had come down. The imaginative legacy and sheer enormity of his great space visionary was finally recognized after his death. Janke was included in the 2003 Gotheburg Biennial by artist Carsten Nicolai and shown recently at the Hayward Gallery in London (2013).