“The work of Klaus Lutz is absolutely unique.
Lutz was a draftsman, printmaker, and thinker. He was ceaselessly making sketches, recording his thoughts and feelings in notes. He was a performer and a filmmaker. In a special way Klaus Lutz was a universal artist, and his work has a timeless resonance. Containing art historical references to the Bauhaus as well as the Russian avant-garde, his work simultaneously confronts us with an unparalleled artistic vocabulary. This is perhaps what constitutes the special quality of his timeless oeuvre, which draws on art history but is at the same time utterly autonomous”.
Dorothea Strauss, director of Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich
Caveman Lecture (N3-16), film still, photographed by the artist from 16mm film projection, b&w photography, 2002
What does it mean to speak about unfolding with regard to Klaus Lutz’s works? And what about the absence of an objective view I’m referring to in the title of this talk, In the midst of his own unfolding? Any artist can be said to be “unfolding.” And in the sequence of an œuvre, there is always a pushing forward from one thought to the next and one work that leads to another. And in any work of art something interior is brought outside so that there is a set relation between what an artist presents in his work and him- or herself. What is exceptional in Klaus Lutz’s work is that we witness these processes and relations in the work itself, at the very base of its construction. This artist is performing and recording his art as primarily and explicitly an ongoing experience and an acting out that leads from one formulation to the next. There is no still moment in Klaus Lutz’s films. And they don’t convey anything that is fixed and certain. Klaus Lutz lets us take part in his evolving universe and in his search, his ever branching paths, his going further, his reaching out and his failures. He shows us his vulnerable search of a very particular and utterly personal language, driven by philosophical necessity. A language that can display in its very structure before our eyes and for our thoughts a reflection of this ongoing experience of unfolding. In 2009, Lutz wrote a Synopsis of his newest film Titan, the film you have seen in second place. He didn’t like to say much about his work but here had to submit a synopsis for the Toronto International Film Festival, where this film was to be premiered. “Titan moves through a landscape consisting of white drawings.” Please note the expression “landscape,” and also the significant plural of the word “drawing.” In his films, we always find connected groups of drawings. “Foreshadowing, a pair of big black legs are dancing simultaneously. Men at work exhume the beautiful face of the muse who opens her eyes slowly. Titan’s journey begins: he paddles in a white boat through outer space, landing in his kitchen where he builds an aeroplane to fly above Manhattan. He rests briefly in the middle of a film crew, continues and then flies through the mouth of a big dragon held by WTO protesters. Titan travels further to the roof of Helmhaus Zürich, …” “Helmhaus” is the municipal museum for contemporary art in Zurich where he had a large exhibition in 1999 and fell off a ladder. “… tumbles inside where a balloon installation is going on with the second forewarning. Regardless he blows up a big balloon and travels to the Arabic Desert where he falls into the ruins of a mosque. A war is raging, rockets are flying. Suddenly a big black figure attacks Titan, triumphs and nails him to the rocks. Titan begins to shake, a big fish rises up and gives him the strength to free himself. Titan embraces the fish and together they fly off over the East River …”
Klaus Lutz, Arabia, 16mm color, silent, 1991
Klaus Lutz Retrospective at Museum Haus Konstruktiv, 2012
«Klaus Lutz at Museum Haus Konstruktiv» Review by Marek Bartelik, artforum
Klaus Lutz, Marsschatten, 2009
accordion folder, drypoint, edition: 20
The oeuvre of Swiss artist and filmmaker Klaus Lutz adds up to a densely interlaced universe all of its own. Based the premise that written language would soon be replaced by entirely visual communication, Lutz created an intricate sign system that he deployed across a whole range of media. Initially, his preferred media were small-format dry-point etchings and copperplate engravings of narrative image sequences, some of them based on the writings of Robert Walser, whose work was of crucial importance to Lutz. Later, Lutz turned to experimental filmmaking and film performances. By means of multiple exposures, various types of lenses, and self-constructed apparatuses, he created films that combined and over-layered animation, performance, drawings and scenes shot on the streets of New York, where he had been living since 1993. Lutz shot the films all by himself in his one-bedroom East Village apartment. Reminiscent of early silent movies by Georges Méliès or Charlie Chaplin, the films relate the adventures of one man, Lutz himself, in a quixotic universe between dream and reality, made up of signs, shapes, everyday objects, and footage of the outside world. Some of his films were incorporated in installations and performances.
Lutz was a classic artist’s artist who had close band of ardent followers in Europe and the US, yet his unique works were never available to a broad audience. This summer Museum Haus Konstruktiv will present the first retrospective of Lutz’ diverse oeuvre. A comprehensive catalogue will be published by Kehrer Verlag.
Text Martin Jaeggi