Sunday, October 04, 2009

Outer Space

'The Leonardo of Wermsdorf' -
technical illustrations by Karl Hans (Joachim) Janke

"My atom could also be called a space-electron atom. It’s an energy collecting and condensation mechanism, in which case energy is absorbed respectively from the earth’s magnetic field and likewise the entire solar system. Let me remind you of the central, magnetic strait in the solar ring-system.

The energy as such already exists in space, as well as in our atmosphere. Our earth teems with such energy and the sun provides a great supply of it. Billions of space-electrons, pressed into the system over thousands of years by the sun, generate the energy that I then retrieve using the suitable acceptors, antennas, sensibility gages etc., and, with the help of precisely constructed compressors, press into the stationary (or mobile) system. [..]

One day, the operation of all land, air, sea and space-vehicles will rely on this atom. [..]

Galactic island-clouds – 420-million-kilometers-long and 150-million-kilometers in diameter. Billions in the darkness of space! I call them mother-nutrient clouds because they contain all the nutrition needed by the solar system – all of the known chemical compounds, existing in a dust-like state. Shining suns and systems grow wild on it like meadow flowers! Three, five, nine, eleven solar systems on every soil-nutrient cloud!

In the early stages, humans will travel from one solar system to another. These space-island clouds – according to my own scientific hypothesis, and discovered by no other scientist on earth – will draw closer and move away again over a period of thousands and thousands of years. They roam through eternal space without borders, drift up and down, and to the right and left – like the clouds above our earth. When such space-island clouds meet and align, we’ll make transfers with our vehicles from one cloud to the next, and continuously drive through eternal space." [KH Janke]1

Kleintrajekt 1954 - Karl Hans Janke

Small 'trajekt' (ferry?) 1954

(Trajekt is possibly a made-up word derived from the German word for trajectory, but I'll leave it as 'ferry' in other titles below)

The image captions in this blog post are all from an online translator so they are iffy. [Edit: now cleaned up a bit - thanks Stephan!] You can see the original German titles by mousing over the image.

By way of example, the metadata provided with each image (which I won't bother reproducing for all of them) looks like this (translated):

Series: ferries, airplanes, helicopters, engines, space
Admin: Wermsdorf, Rosengarten e.V., inv TRA047
Material and Technique: colored
Iconography keyword: ferry

Turbinen-Trajekt 1954 - Karl Hans Janke

Turbine ferry, 1954

Dampf-Gas-Trajekt 1955 - Karl Hans Janke

Steam-Gas Ferry, 1955

Atom-elektrisches Raketen-Triebwerk 1957 - Karl Hans Janke

Nuclear electric rocket engine, 1957

Luftschiff Sedina .... Kugelkammern 1954 - Karl Hans Janke

Airship Sedina with (honeycomb?) Ball spherical chamber, 1954

Vakuum-Trajekt - Düsen-Trajekt 1956 - Karl Hans Janke

Vacuum ferry / jet ferry, 1956

Dt. Luft- u. Raumverkehrsfahrz. - Trajekt-Liniend. undated - Karl Hans Janke

Dt. Aviation and space traffic Fahrze. / Ferry-Liniend, undated
German Aviation and space traffic vehicles / Regular Ferry Service, undated

Vakuum-Trajekt 1957 - Karl Hans Janke

Vacuum ferry, 1957

Helgas-Trommel-Waben-Schiff 1954 - Karl Hans Janke

Helga's drum honeycomb ship, 1954
*Helga might mean: 'Helium gas'*

Weltraum-Luftschiff der Serie I 1954 - Karl Hans Janke

Space airship series I, 1954

Weltraum-Luftschiff mit Lichtlader in Facettenform  1953 - Karl Hans Janke

Space airship with light charger (faceted), 1953

Erholungsfahrten-Trajekt Hiddensee undated - Karl Hans Janke

Recreational trips, 'Hiddensee' ferry, undated

Terra Venussa 1968 - Karl Hans Janke

Terra Venussa, 1968

Terra Venussa vor der Landung auf dem Mond 1968 - Karl Hans Janke

Terra Venussa before landing on the moon, 1968

Elektratom - das deutsche Weltall- Höhenfahrzeug 1957 - Karl Hans Janke

Elektratom - the German space-height(?) vehicle, 1954
probably better as 'the German space-going or space-compatible vehicle'

Das Tor zum Weltall (Flug Erde - Mond) undated - Karl Hans Janke

The gateway to the universe (earth, air - moon), undated

Weltall - Polverkehr zwischen den Erdkörpern 1968 - Karl Hans Janke

Universe - traffic between the planetary poles, 1968

Landung auf einer anderen Erde 1968 - Karl Hans Janke

Landing on another world, 1968

Raum-Kugel-Trajekt 1972 - Karl Hans Janke

Space sphere ferry, 1972

Quecksilber-Dampfkocher 1962 - Karl Hans Janke

Mercury steam cooker, 1962

Rad-Motor, Atom-Diskus-Läufer 1954 - Karl Hans Janke

Wheel motor, atomic-disc rotor, 1954

Heckende des 'Raumtrajekts' 1955 - Karl Hans Janke

Rear end of the "Raumtrajekts" (?ferry rooms), 1955
Rear end of the space ferry, 1955

Eisschlitten mit Düsenantrieb 1971 - Karl Hans Janke

Ice sledge with jet propulsion, 1971

Cyclop - erstes Groß-Lasten-Flugzeug 1955 - Karl Hans Janke

Cyclop: First Large-borne aircraft, 1955
(maybe 'Large-indentation' aircraft?)

Kreisel-Hubschrauber 1954 - Karl Hans Janke

Gyro helicopter (gyrocopter), 1954

Trag-Gas-Kugel-Kessel 1953 - Karl Hans Janke

Sphere carrying gas boiler, 1953

Deutsches Atom-Triebwerk 1957 - Karl Hans Janke

German nuclear power unit, 1957
German nuclear engine, 1957

Deutscher Atom-Omnibus 1966 - Karl Hans Janke

German atomic bus, 1966

Lunamobil - das Fahrzeug für die Mondlandschaft 1966 - Karl Hans Janke

Lunamobil - the vehicle for the lunar landscape, 1966

Atom-Düsen-Expreß 1972 - Karl Hans Janke

Atom jet express, 1972

[All images are presumed © the Estate or assignees of KH Janke]

{click on any image above for a larger version}

Have you heard of Janke before? No? Well then stop reading here and go and have a look through his portfolio of nearly 3,500 drawings/documents that Deutsche Fotothek uploaded in the last couple of months. The sampling of images above hardly does the fellow's amazing legacy justice, and it's arguably better to get a feel for his output without being prejudiced by the background detail. Or so I think. Click on 'alle in Galerie anzeigen' or one of the category links below it. They bring up thumbnail pages and there's a zoom link below each image. Have a decent browse around and then come back; we'll wait.

divider line

Karl Hans Janke (1909-1988) 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 hospitalised on a number of occasions because of behavioural problems and was eventually discharged from the service on medical grounds in 1943.

By the late 1940s Janke was found to be malnourished and exhibiting increasingly eccentric behaviour and, after a short prison sentence and hospital assessment, he was committed to a psychiatric institution in Wermsdorf, Saxony in 1950 with a diagnosis of chronic paranoid schizophrenia. He remained at this facility for the rest of his life.

The institutional staff either encouraged or tolerated the passion Janke showed for sketching technical designs: he had his own "office" in the hospital in which he produced four thousand drawings and constructed hundreds of models of his "inventions". Apparently the boxes containing his works were stowed away at the hospital and forgotten after his death and weren't rediscovered until 2000 when the imaginative artistry and sheer enormity of his output was finally recognised.

Janke was, in his own mind at least, a serious engineer, intent on helping mankind by devising all manner of rocket ship (especially), space vehicle, ferry, bike, propulsion mechanism and associated transport system. His drawings range from simple prototype sketches to incredibly detailed schematics reminiscent of technical manual designs. He was an energetic correspondent with the patent office and various technological and aerospace type agencies and departments, endeavouring - without much luck - to share his inventions with his scientific "peers". Fearing theft of his intellectual property however, Janke was also assiduous in dating and signing his works with an accompanying statement declaring himself as the author and originator of each idea depicted.

It's an astonishing collection and, on casual perusal, might simply be regarded as an interesting and artistic obsession (like blogging?), albeit at the extreme end of the continuum. But the delusional nature of Janke's illness becomes readily apparent from closer inspection (and reading around). His elaborate and grandiose ideas about harnessing stellar atomic energy meld with naive conceptual visions for its applications and connections to nature and other lifeforms. He skips from a vague - to put it mildly - comprehension of the atom to designing end-point technical gizmos and transporters that will rely on his illusory power source. There is also a whole series of watercolour sketches outlining the origin of the world (including as a hatching egg), for instance, that hints at the breadth of eccentricity within Janke's deranged belief system.

I'm sure some people will consider Janke's thoughts and designs about futuristic transport to alien planets and odd energy sources to be visionary genius or prescient, with parallels in the modern world say, but they really are the product of deluded fantasies, no doubt helped along by photographs and schematics he saw in newspapers over decades that documented the evolution of rockets and satellites. This was a fellow who built a totally psychotic world in his own head - and he had no insight that it was from an illness - with only tenuous connections to reality; whose extraordinary artistic output wasn't so much a symptom as it was a documentary record of the nature and extent of his distorted thought patterns. That's not to say that his portfolio isn't brilliant in an 'outsider art' way. It is, of course. But any deeper meanings relate to aesthetic qualities or psychiatric disturbance and not to technological virtuosity.

Janke's works have been exhibited in both space art and psychiatric art exhibitions. The accompanying catalogues (linked below) have articles translated into English in which the authors speculate - perhaps wildly at times - about the probable background and origins of Janke's inspiration. One idea of particular note observes that Janke often backdated his designs and research to 1928 (he signs them with 1928-1956, for example) and the inference goes that 1928 was the year Fritz Lang released his sci-fi film, 'Woman in the Moon'*, (or at least, the year when the book it was based on was released; the film: 1929) which just might have been the trigger for Janke's life-long obsession with outer space creativity. Maybe.
"Janke went to great pains to emphasize that all his technological inventions and ideas were for the benefit of humanity and aimed towards propagating peace. In his final testament, he wrote: 'I ask you to keep the images and albums with the numerous drawings and models that I created for you humans.' " 2

photo of Karl Janke


Kittybriton said...

Wermsdorf't introductory paragraphs cited sound as if he was thinking along similar lines to some of Tesla's work!

Oh brave new world, that has such wonders in it!

costanza said...

grandiosi progetti!
ottima scelta!

Anonymous said...

I wonder what we would have said about some of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions if he'd lived in our modern era. Madness?

The first thing I thought on seeing these (before reading his biography) was that I'm sure years from now people will think our science fiction was quaint and ridiculous, too.

Moon River said...

what amaze me is the endless findings of you!
makes me believe in life, beauty and creation of men kind always when visiting you

Stephan said...

I've worked as a German to English translator, and Trajekt is not a word I'm familiar with. Having looked at some Google results, I would venture that it is a Russian word that connotates a kind of ferry, which may have been in use in Eastern Germany at this time. In this context I would probably translate it as "vehicle" rather than "ferry."

Your guess for the translation of the caption of the Elektratom is correct.

The caption of the Cyclop refers to a "large load," now we would call such a plane a "heavy lift aircraft."

On the "Sphere carrying gas boiler," Traggas refers to Helium, so I would translate that as "Spherical Helium Boiler."

These images are very evocative of Eastern Bloc science fiction, a field I have always been fascinated with. Great find!

Mo Whiteman said...

I know it's a plug, but he has a poster available at if you are interested.

peacay said...

So I can post a plug for my book on your site?

Karla said...

Those are wild, but I think I'm especially fond of some of the titles, despite or perhaps even due to the oddities of translation.

Graham I. Haynes said...

Just FYI the images on this post don't seem to be available anymore.

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