– Spring 2008

My Secret Life: Lutz Bacher

Lia Gangitano

Lutz Bacher, Closed Circuit, 1997-2000. Digital video, 40 mins. Image courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

Lutz Bacher, Closed Circuit, 1997-2000. Digital video, 40 mins. Image courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

Although Lutz Bacher, since the mid-1970s, has engaged in practices that resist stylistic categorisation, imply assumed identities and reject the necessity for epic art statements, it seems that her work, either because or in spite of these efforts, is both monumental and highly personal in its intensity.

Reviewing Bacher's projects sequentially, variations (from still to moving, spatial to flat, silent to loud) indicate that the image, although persistent in its mirroring and shaping of experience, is also consistently engaged in a process of imminent breakdown. A deliberate subversion of apparent 'signature' style is perhaps related to the unstable status of the image that Bacher seeks to insinuate throughout her practice.

While her early work in still photography and its various methods of reproduction, such as The Lee Harvey Oswald Interview (1976) or Sex With Strangers (1986), delineated a constellation of concerns involving 'authorship, gender, sexuality, violence and power', they also served to confound easy allocations of labels - feminist, for example - due to their cool aggression and vague authority.1 Hiring others to execute her paintings and drawings for Playboys (1991-94), or appropriating mass-produced imagery and text for works such as Jokes (1987-88) drew a certain general branding of Bacher as a 'mysterious California conceptualist', but this postmodern label was resisted by her deliberate migration from strict methodologies (of appropriation, for example) to other ways of working.2

However, Bacher's alignment with the presumed depthlessness of the appropriated image (as infinite copy) is thrown into further question when her body of work is considered to succumb to the corrupting effects of 'real-time'. It seems that Bacher considered this question all along. Beginning with her

  1. Maura Reilly, 'Lutz Bacher at American Fine Arts and Participant Inc', Art inAmerica, April 2005.

  2. Walter Robinson, 'Weekend Update', Artnet Magazine, 5 February 2003: 'Playboy too in the back room at American Fine Arts on West 22nd Street, where mysterious California conceptualist Lutz Bacher has one of her 1993 blowups of a Vargas girl done by sign painters for hire. Who doesn't remember the fuss that greeted this particular act of feminist appropriation? [...] In the front is a videotape, Manhatta, a digitally fractured aerial tour of Manhattan island. Lutz's Closed Circuit, a video year in-the-life of the late art dealer Pat Hearn, was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum, of all places.' See http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/reviews/Wrobinson/robinson2-5-03.asp (last accessed on 25 November 2007).

  3. Lutz Bacher, unpublished artist statement, 2002.

  4. 'Spectacular Optical', Thread Waxing Space, New York, 28 May-18 July 2008.

  5. Lutz Bacher, correspondence with the author, 3 March 2005.

  6. 'Olympiad', Rupert Goldsworthy Gallery, New York, 18 April-16 May 1998.

  7. Lutz Bacher, unpublished artist statement, 1998/2002.

  8. Lutz Bacher, 'Hover Clutch', compilation of artist's notes, n.d.: 'This scan converter derived post "effect" I named the "hover clutch" because of the suspended movement produced ... on [a] computer monitor while entering digital video - at first my video editor maintained that it isn't possible to record [it] as it is not an effect, merely a playback anomaly, but he eventually figured out how to record the anomaly and later purchased a scan converter to perform the process...'

  9. Ibid.

  10. L. Bacher, artist statement, 2002, op. cit.

  11. 'BitStreams', Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 22 March-10 June 2001.

  12. Lutz Bacher, correspondence with the author, 1 March 2005.

  13. Quoted in Shierry Weber Nicholson, 'Subjective Aesthetic Experience and its Historical Trajectory', Exact Imagination, Late Work: On Adorno's Aesthetics, Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 1997, p.38.

  14. 'Crimson & Clover' was released by Tommy James & the Shondells in 1968.