Layers of Time, Space and Memory
The art of Christian de Lutz uncovers and filters hidden perspectives
Contemporary histories, images beyond photography, experiments and transformations: American-born Berlin-based artist de Lutz alters and disperses apparently familiar images.
by Irmgard Berner
May 2008 A dark monolith of more than 5000 years rises in a Stone-Hendge-ambience from a mauve and gloomy ground, it seems half-way under water. The painted-like print on canvas shows a quasi monochrome quietness, wasn’t there the layer of a source-code-virus textually covering the sight. The symbolic attack to the monolith takes place more than fifty centuries later, in the atelier of American-born artist Christian de Lutz. This picture is part of the “avebury series” from 2004/5.
De Lutz is an investigator of hidden sources, an archaeologist of unseen codes. His resources lie in what is objective betrayal of reality. He is an inhabitant of the digital world of computers, “a world that wouldn’t even have existed a generation ago”, he says. “At the same time in the last 15 years we have gone to the situation where we basically carry around cameras, digital cameras in our pockets, mobile phones, you can download them on a computer, change them and then self-publish them on blogs.” All these technical achievements have become part of his tools which he uses to look beyond borders of image, language and description.
Network Home Digital Life
Looking on Christian de Lutz’s website is like entering a kind of laboratory of images, linking and leading you further and deeper into spaces you seem to know, but which actually are beyond your conscious knowledge of time and memory. People at night on public places in dusky light getting water from a fountain, dancing couples or empty subway-stations: A daylight scene in dark night, in camouflage, and cryptographic-like texts over images of war and everyday life. Or everynight dream? Haziness, blurring, the outlines of figures, landscapes and architecture obliterate and at the same time create a composition of movement in a fugitive moment. You doubt your own visual acuity and perception. He calls them very concrete Albania, Rumania, Bulgaria or Lithuania. Based on photographs he has taken and collected in the the post-Soviet nineties, he has altered the images and covered with layers of letters and texts, the so called source codes in html-computer language. These texts cannot just be read like a poem or a statement, they appear more like some arcane idiom. “That source code is everything in our lives, we just don’t see it under the surface”, as de Lutz describes it, “it is a kind of hermetic expression”. It “seems to fit very well to some of the works I have done instead of making them total trompe-l’oeil”.
Footage and Source Material
In the 1990s he is driven by photo-journalism to Eastern Europe, especially to former Yugoslavia, to Turkey and Russia and his themes were basically political. De Lutz thus has collected an archive of analogue and digital visual and sound-material which he now uses as source material. Images bear layers of their original meaning, “but new meanings have come about in the new century, our new millennium”.
So ex-Yugoslavian images resurrect in an audiovisual installation called “Il paradiso: the flight from / to Tuzla”. It is the first of three projected multimedia installations on the themes of nation-alism, media and the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. There is a certain political implication in his work but with a loop from documentary to artistic statement. He reuses footage, combines and reedits it so there comes a new meaning to the source material. “I don’t see my work as political in the traditional sense of agit-prop”, he says, “I am more interested in asking questions and making people think – not in preaching.” He is not so much interested in convincing the viewer of a particular position, but in provoking him to think about as a situation.
Art and Laboratory
Christian de Lutz does not confine himself to using footage and source material only for images but also plays with and develops acoustic tracks in his artistic laboratory: voices, noises, sounds. The chirping of a nightingale in his dreamy, contemplative video “Bulbul” which he recorded with his cell-phone in the park, gives the soundscape for a woman in moonlight scenery. Or he lets an Iranian emigrant recite texts from an Iranian blog as accompaniment to a voyage through desert Spain.
"It is a point of multiple view-points, of multiple situations and levels of truth and levels of information, and depicting back to my art it is very fascinating – the different ways of looking at things and the different ways of putting information together. And how that could show a more complex, perhaps more informative, more truthful view of something", says de Lutz.
Resuming the work of Christian de Lutz it is a critical reflection on historical, scientific, and digital sources using new media, mixing and mashing documentary as well as spur-of-moment materials. He thus creates a picture language that - in his prints on canvas - reminds on traditional painting, but at the same time disperses the limits through digital alteration and algorithmic references.
Curator, artist and empty spaces in Berlin
At the beginning of our millenium Christian de Lutz moved to Berlin, "living in Berlin and being from New York originally there is certainly this whole idea of tension between national identity and nation state and the idea – in a globalized world – this immigration and multi-cultural mixtures and the problems that come from that. I am really fascinated about how technology is able to subvert barriers and borders, not always totally but to some degree", he says.
Together with Regine Rupp and Sandra Frimmel he has opened the project-room "Art Laboratory Berlin" in Berlin-Wedding in October 2006, a non-commercial art-space "e. V." (eingetragener Verein). "With my colleagues we decided to do most of our work on this idea of borderlines in art, curatorially we are very interested in what the possibilities are beyond the traditional". Together they have created a space in progress, a real filler in an empty space in the Berlin art-world.