“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
— Oscar Wilde
What would you do if you could do it anonymously? It’s a funny question in the age of information when issues relating to privacy and transparency are hotly debated. For the Bay Area artist known as Lutz Bacher, anonymity has helped to create an elusive legend.
Newly published by JRP Ringier, Snow attempts to bring together for the first time a catalog of the artist and her activities. No small feat because her work is eclectic, hard to define, and in many cases has no clear beginning or end. Ragged and disturbing, her found objects, hoarded personal items, paintings, collages, photos, installations, and videos don’t illuminate so much as they suggest meaning. Fragments from cultural history form their own narratives. No answers are given; new questions are raised. For example, in 2008, for an exhibition in San Francisco, her press release consisted of a recipe for butterscotch pudding. Bacher, with a keen sense of humor, stubbornly decides to exist out of sight and in the margins of her own narrative.
Snow makes mention of Do You Love Me, Bacher’s well-known series of video interviews the artist conducted with friends and colleagues to find out what they thought about her and her work. The approach is misleading because most of the interviews reveal much more about the subject than the artist. Unsettling and unpredictable, the interviews stop and start with distorted audio and repeated phrasings. Toying further with the idea of identity, her subjects are usually filmed from the neck down, showing only gesturing arms and torsos instead of faces.
Bacher’s art raises all kinds of questions: Isn’t all information presented in fragments? In the 21st century, aren’t we left to scavenge our own meaning out of the junk heap of data, forging our own funny, profound and strange webs of facts and fictions? Her ambiguity isn’t so strange after all. In the end, Lutz Bacher might just be a realist.
Lutz Bacher: Snow, JRP Ringier (jrp-ringier.com), 2013, 352 pages, $45.