Vera Lutter: Inside In
Kunsthaus Graz, 2004
“Destroy every last thing / but not memory” – W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants
“The past is symbolic, never “factual.” – Dan Graham, “Art in relation to Architecture, Architecture in Relation to Art”.
In March 1929 Louis Wirshing Jnr witnessed the opening of the first of what was projected to be a complex of interlinked buildings, Nabisco’s new headquarters on the Hudson River in upstate New York. Designed as a printing facility, this vast plant was roofed with north facing skylights that spanned an unusually spacious interior graced by a grid of slender columns. Hardwood maple floors and high standards of workmanship reflected the longevity presumed by industrial standards of the day. Destined primarily for storage, the capacious basement was similarly subject to an exacting functionalism: a dense forest of thick round columns with simple flared capitals supported the light-filled factory above. In the late afternoon natural light, penetrating from the west, raked the floor of this otherwise tenebrous space. Given its austere rigor and formal clarity, Wirshing’s architecture was primarily a matter of structure, volume, space and light. Seven months later the stockmarket crash put all further development of the Beacon facility on hold, indefinitely.
That same month, October 1929, Alfred Barr, opened the inaugural exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art in temporary headquarters in mid-town Manhattan. Although the show was devoted to painting (specifically to works by the four canonical Post-Impressionists, Gauguin, Seurat, Cézanne and Van Gogh, on whom his reading of Modernism was to be grounded), Barr soon established additional departments, notably in photography, film, architecture and design. They, together with painting and sculpture, were to form cornerstones for his definition, promotion and dissemination of the Modernist movement in North America over the next half-century. Key among the accomplishments of the Architecture and Design Department was its fostering and canonization of the International Style, following a landmark exhibition in 1932. For Barr, ever alert to the charge that in its early decades MoMA was not sufficiently receptive to the work of American artists, film and architecture were the two fields in which he could embrace local contributions unequivocally - with a passion comparable to that he bestowed on their European counterparts.1 Barr’s promotion of a contemporary vernacular architecture rooted in industrial idioms was doubtless reinforced by the enthusiasm of many of the International Style’s principal protagonists for such anonymous utilitarian structures as silos, warehouses and grain elevators. Le Corbusier’s celebration of this mode of American building in his seminal Vers une architecture, published in 1923, codified this ideology, of which Wirshing’s building was a worthy exponent. Over the course of the next half-century, in an influential series of exhibitions and collection displays focusing primarily on stylistic and formal achievements, MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design acclaimed the work of not only such signature figures as Mies van der Rohe, but a plethora of anonymous industrial designers and engineers.
Seventy years later, in the summer of 1999 Vera Lutter visited Wirshing’s now vacant facility, her mission to photograph in the once elegant building just then beginning to show signs of neglect. The young German emigrant had been offered free rein of these premises by Dia Art Foundation before it converted the building into a museum for its collection of late modernist art, a collection rich in holdings of American and German works from the 1960s, in particular Minimalism, Conceptualism and Land art. Prior to her visit to Beacon Lutter’s preferred subjects had been vistas culled from New York City and its environs; the former Nabisco factory generated her first interior views. After much study she positioned her camera in four positions, two on the main floor, and two below in the basement. The first, Nabisco Factory, Beacon I: July 19-22, 1999, capitalized on the dramatic perspectival effects created by the duct-work along the north-south axis of the main floor. Its companion, located at the junction of Building 1 and Building 3, framed the gridded interior through a wide doorway, whose proportions were comparable to that of the overall image. A clock high on the wall above the broad aperture reinforces the dynamic formal interplay between the party wall, an unrelieved barrier, and the expansive vista glimpsed through the opening; that is, between an obdurate planarity and the erasure of conventional spatial boundaries. In the pair of basement images the apparently limitless tenebrous depths are transfigured into a brilliantly luminous ambience, in which a phalanx of dark columns appears mysteriously as if to impart a nascent order to the visionary sublime.
As in Europe, in North America the International Style drew deeply on the inter-related fields of engineering and technology in its search for the wholly new and reductively efficient. Not only its structural and material but its stylistic sources, too, were garnered from bridges, hangars, silos, factories, planes, cars and ocean liners. Grounded in the rational, idealist, universal, transparent, weightless and floating, this visual vocabulary was further consolidated with the emigration of Mies van der Rohe from his native Germany to Chicago in the late1930s, for perhaps more than any other single figure Mies changed the face of American architecture. Stimulated by the Rockefeller Center, begun in 1929 and completed in 1936, mercantile high-rise building soon dominated the skylines of mid-town Manhattan and Chicago. By the beginning of the sixties, a dense congregation of generic glass towers, emblematic of corporate power, had become the hallmark of the modern metropolis.
An office in a mid-town Manhattan bank provided the vehicle for Lutter’s first series of large-scale camera obscura images, which were shown in her debut exhibition in 1995. Raised in Bochum, in the industrial corridor along the Ruhr, Lutter had begun studying sculpture at the Munich Academy in 1984. In 1991, just prior to graduating, she sought a means to ground her fledgling three dimensional forms more securely in their ambience, turning to photography, initially as an aid, a research tool. Two years later, when a DAAD fellowship offered her the means to travel to New York, she immediately enrolled in extensive photography courses at the School of Visual Arts. By the winter of 1993/4 she had identified the pin-hole camera as her preferred medium, constructing the first of her black boxes from a room in the apartment in which she was then squatting. Soon after she gained access to an office of the Hypo Bank whose spectacular views in all four cardinal directions spawned canonical images not only of the urban skyline but of the docks and piers along the Hudson which had once been the principal port of entry for immigrants to the New World.
Long admired by artists, Manhattan’s down-town industrial fabric was in serious decline by the 1960s, due to a protracted economic downturn and competition from cheaper sources of labor elsewhere. Commandeered as ideal studios and improvised residences, this former manufacturing sector soon became a mecca for gallerists as well as artists. Among the most articulate proponents of the use of vernacular industrial sites for the creation and presentation of contemporary art, Donald Judd pioneered the transformation of warehouses, factories and other utilitarian structures into spaces for living, working and showing. In a review he wrote in 1964 for a wide-ranging exhibition (comprised largely of photographic documents) that MoMA devoted to twentieth-century engineering, Judd stated his position in characteristically forthright manner: “Dams, roads, bridges, tunnels, storage buildings and various other useful structures comprise the bulk of the best visible things made in this century”, he opined. “Most buildings are far inferior to engineering projects, which with their definite use and the supposed objectivity of their solutions, have been allowed a freedom and advancement not accorded to buildings and architecture”.2 As evidenced in the extensive polemics he later published on the subject of museum architecture, he believed that generic structures, that is, buildings whose forms had been determined by economic, engineering and functional requirements, offered optimal sites for rehabilitation for contemporary art.3 His forceful directives and example in turn provided the basis on which Dia identified utilitarian industrial buildings as the preferred typology for the display of its collection of Sixties work in Beacon, and in Manhattan for a contemporary exhibition program (in which Lutter was to feature in 1999).4
Following her first solo show in 1996, in a gallery located in a converted industrial building in Soho, Lutter’s subjects had gravitated from the Manhattan skyline to related industrial terrain, including places of transport and travel. A quintessential emblem of interwar American design, the landmark Pepsi Cola sign, which she photographed in 1998, was congruent with the manufacturing structures that formed the core of her quickly solidifying visual vocabulary. Erected in 1936 on a factory on the Queens’ waterfront and hence best viewed from mid-town Manhattan, this urban icon is not represented in Lutter’s memorable photographs from the most familiar vantage point, across the East River where it dominates the riverside panorama. Tellingly, she chose to construct a camera adjacent to the sign, on the same rooftop. Given the reversal inherent in her process, the lettering when shot from behind reads conventionally in the final print. And, given the unusually close proximity from which it was recorded, the grid-like armature that serves as scaffolding for the sign is clearly visible: its geometric overlay imparts both formal and structural order to the image. Rare in her oeuvre on account of its renown – its instant identifiabilty – the Pepsi sign can be compared with an architectural landmark she was commissioned to shoot a year later, the Vienna Secession. Although now greatly admired for its hallmark art nouveau ornamentation free of historicizing detail, Olbrich’s masterpiece was acclaimed when it was unveiled in 1898 more for the fundamentalism of its design. A domed and pyloned rectangular block, its forthright stripped-bare aesthetic and concrete technology were considered radical at that time. In negative, Lutter’s Pepsi sign glows deceptively as if in a nocturnal ambience: by contrast, the Secession, again in negative, and once again centered and foregrounded so that it largely obscures its immediate surroundings, appears like a phantom, a brooding specter from a distant half-remembered past.
Devoid of a lens, the pinhole of the camera obscura - the aperture - permits a direct imprint of the subject it confronts. By retaining the negative rather than reprinting to create a positive image Lutter adheres as closely as possible to the original activity of light tracing form on photo-sensitive paper. This, in turn, means that concrete elements seem but echoes of themselves, faint traces of what would appear in a conventional print to be substantive in mass as well as in volume. Normally regarded as factual and objective, the trompe l’oeil illusionism that is emblematic of the documentary is undermined, to varying degrees, in her work by effects of the fleeting and evanescent that may at times verge on the eerie or the uncanny. By utilizing photosensitive paper in the largest dimensions available, she produces images imbued with a monumental scale, grandeur and gravitas akin to that associated with the subject matter itself. Invested with a quasi architectural dimension, her unique prints have few parallels in the history of photography.5
Very often, too, she draws on other of the stylistic precepts associated with documentary conventions: strict axiality, clarity in detail, precise focus, and symmetrical composition, or an omniscient bird’s eye view that preclude distortion. However, the extended duration required to expose any image counters all notions of instantaneity, of a momentary glimpse, of a brief fragment of time. In fact, Lutter stresses the protracted period taken to realize an image by noting the dates of beginning and resolution in the title of each work. In addition, she provides the name of the site, thereby stressing the historical specificity of place and time. Since the fleeting and transient fail to register in this attenuated process of recording, the calm unpopulated atmosphere that typically permeates her works enhances the impression of time past: the gradual sedimentation and accrual required to register these images seems appropriate to structures, vehicles, ways of manufacturing and processes of fabrication that recall a previous era, that hearken back to a period whose decline snowballed in the sixties. Recognition that Lutter employs an outmoded or, better, a primitive technology - the most rudimentary, simple and irreducible means required to secure a photographic image - further heightens awareness of the etiolation of time. Indeed time seems to have stopped in these places: even the prominent clocks, once key to regulation, systematization and efficiency in factory productivity, have come to a standstill.6
A pair of smaller works, Zeppelin, Friedrichshafen I: August 10-13, 1999, and Zeppelin, Friedrichshafen II: August 13-17, 1999, which Lutter made in 1999, develops this elegiac idiom centered in Modernist design history in a different direction. The product of an enterprising venture by a German speculator, who hoped to resurrect the pre-war flying machine not for its potential as a transcontinental passenger vehicle but as a novel leisure craft for cruising, the revamped zeppelin was still undergoing trials when Lutter set up her camera. Each time the giant airship returned to its moorings after a test flight, it was tethered in a slightly different position. The first of Lutter’s two images made from a position in the corner of the building contains multiple overlaid profiles, whereas the second, taken over a period of days when the inflatable remained grounded, and the doors of the hangar closed, registered a sharper clearer silhouette. Although it verges on the quaint today, during the interwar years this singular craft excited much attention – until the Hindenburg crashed spectacularly in 1937, bursting into flames just minutes before it was due to land in New Jersey. The series of remarkable images shot by a news reporter who witnessed the tragedy both contributed to its rapid demise as a means of public transport, and to its enduring place in the visual annals of twentieth century New York and of Germany, where it had originated and been accorded substantial popular acclaim. 7 By contrast, Lutter’s portrayal, while dramatizing its scale, form, and mass, disembodies it, dematerializing it. The obdurate facticity, the sense of sheer physical bulk that dominates earlier representations, is undermined by the elusive form that, wraith-like, verges on the fictional.
In 2001 Lutter returned to the theme of flight in an extended series of works executed over several weeks at Frankfurt airport. From the inception of air travel modernist architects, in particular Le Corbusier, enthusiastically followed the aerodynamic industry, extolling the metaphorical expressivity of its streamlined design and assembly-line production. Several of the most memorable of Lutter’s exposures, however, focus on a jet, a monumental leviathan shot from below, almost directly beneath its bulky belly. In Frankfurt Airport: April 28, 2001, the nose looms hypnotically while in a related pair, Cargo Field Light Exposure, May I, 2001 and its dark variant made the same day, the menacing form takes on a more lugubrious, spectral aura. Yet other, smaller works explore the svelte fluid vocabulary of curve, arc and orb in sections of the wings, in a paean that imbricates the histories of flight and modernist aesthetics. Space technology, the acme of this convergence of aviation and visionary design, is hauntingly figured in some remarkable if remote test-sites that have long fascinated Lutter but, to date, eluded her grasp. A more immediate legacy of sixties’ utopian design, again centered in vanguard engineering as well as technology, Peter Cook’s high-tech proposal for the new Graz Kunsthaus also celebrates aspects of this scientistic heritage. A key member of the experimental team Archigram, Cook began designing speculative utopian projects few of which were intended to be realized, or indeed could have been realized, in the early sixties. Once more responding to an invitation to work in situ, Lutter chose to focus on this controversial structure in ways that underscore its sci-fi-like qualities. In her singular evocation, “Kunsthaus, Graz III: December 19-20, 2003,” 2003, one segment of the roof - a quarter sphere - is doubled by means of a reflection. Wire mesh, framing a walk-way, becomes a grid that filters the lower half of the exposure while the horizontal railing, which bisects the motif, adroitly structures the taut refraction into an image “palpably beautiful in its alien quality”.8 Stark black and white tonal contrasts, and sharp, vivid details, the hallmark of a modernist photographic style, are now put in service to the oneiric. Utopian and inspirational, Cook’s radical formal vocabulary drawn from science fiction, space technology, futuristic speculations, and such visionary forbears as Buckminster Fuller, is here inscribed in a hyper-realist idiom that goes far beyond cool factuality and detached objectivity. Deploying a camera technology based in historical models, Lutter’s stunning image probes a revered modernist genealogy not merely for its imagery but for its philosophical implications, spinning its legacy to new ends.
Lutter’s first phase of work, of which this Graz image is a late offshoot, approaches the intersection of Modernist architecture and design with the built environment through the lens of the sixties. Minimalist sculptors like Judd, Carl Andre and Richard Serra not only appreciated and utilized sites such as she selects for the creation and display of their art but made the surrounding space integral to their work: the carefully guarded territorial demarcation of architectural container and autonomous sculpture broke down when space became malleable and fluid.9 As these artists increasingly took responsibility for the contextualization of their art – its installation and presentation, together with the critical discourse generated around it – they capitalized on opportunities to work in venues that complemented the industrial modes particular to their practice; the use of materials such as metals, plastics and new alloys, serialized techniques of fabrication, and a rationalist aesthetic. “Esthetic formalism and functionalism in architecture are philosophically similar”, Dan Graham has argued. “Functionalist architecture and Minimal art have in common an underlying belief in the Kantian notion of artistic form as a perceptual/mental “thing-in-itself”.” Noting their mutual commitment to an “abstract materialism” and “formally reductive methodology”, Graham contended that they also “share a belief in “objective” form and an internal self-articulation of the formal structure in apparent isolation from symbolic (and representational) codes of meaning.” According to Graham, “Both Minimal art and Functionalist architecture deny connotative, social meanings and the context of other surrounding art or architecture.”10 Embodied in a technology that is overtly rooted in the past, Lutter’s figuring of the historical origins of early twentieth century architecture in its later socio-cultural roles pays elegiac tribute to the waning of the Modernist ideal.
Also highly responsive to the plight of the early Modernist environment, Bernd and Hilla Becher had recourse to photographic traditions to record its atrophying infrastructure.11 But whereas the Bechers’ impulse was archival and redemptive, Robert Smithson who shared their passion for the Ruhr and other industrial regions, was drawn to mournful aporias of blighted wasteland, to the kinds of polluted, despoiled environs seen in his Oberhausen photographs from 1966. Deeply respectful of the conventions of professional industrial photography, the Bechers allude to this commercial tradition while situating their own practice firmly in a conceptual discursive terrain. Smithson, by contrast, was not engaged with the finer points of camera technologies. Cherishing his Instamatic 400, he usually shot informally, almost casually: for him, the apparatus was simply a tool to make images which could be variously used and reused, in conjunction with text, in diverse print channels or reincorporated back into landscape sites. As Photo Markers or ‘photographic displacements’, they reintroduce the representational into the realm of nature, where they are rephotographed for presentation in a cultural milieu, as a Non-Site. “From scrutinizing the object, the viewer’s mind rushes off to the Site and then is lost somewhere in the void between the Nonsite and the only partially understood Site”, writes art historian Robert Hobbs.12 Such a suspending of experience, akin to that found in Alice’s Looking Glass world, is integral to the Site/Nonsite dialectic at the heart of Smithson’s practice. Entropy and decay, counter-pointed on occasion with their futuristic sci-fi antitheses, dominate Smithson’s vision, giving his approach to these listless environments a singular tenor, neither nostalgic nor fatalistic but redolent with the melancholy power of a dystopian sublime.
Smithson’ savoring of diverse kinds of increasingly chaotic, entropic unraveling finds echoes in two series of works Lutter made – the first in 2000 and the second between 2001-2003 – when she gained access to the recently abandoned warehouse bearing the iconic sign. As seen in Pepsi Cola, Interior IV: August 4-11, 2000, the first few images she executed in this charged location record the residue of industrial fabrication: obsolete and broken equipment, discarded machinery and other detritus is randomly scattered over the floor, rendering the space incoherent and its former functions illegible. A year later Lutter returned to the site to create a second series of monumental images. This time she introduced into the space photographs that she had made previously in that very location, though not necessarily aligned from same vantage point. The insertion of two dimensional representations into their site of origin renders the new works far more complex spatially and temporally. As it obfuscates and distorts, the perceptual/perspectival displacements ricochet to the point of incomprehensibility, making it difficult to decipher what is actual and what illusory. Destabilizing visual conventions, it contradicts the very logic of the photographic record: contravening the single static point of view from which a coherent unified spatial context is pictured, it insinuates an unprecedented degree of uncertainty and doubt; fissuring the temporal cogency, it undermines the documentary “truth telling” for which analogue photography and, above all, the pin-hole camera, is revered. That the setting which Lutter chose to turn the camera back on itself, so to speak, was the Pepsico building is more than apposite. This interior betrays no evidence of the remarkable roof-top sign that gives the warehouse its renown. Indeed so generic is the structure that it could be found in countless cities in any number of buildings, abandoned, half-emptied, littered with the residue of previous industrial activity.
For Smithson the mirror functioned both “as a concept and abstraction”. “It’s an abyss between the abstraction and the site: a kind of oblivion… Oblivion to me is a state when you are not conscious of the time or space that you are in. You’re oblivious to its limitations. Place without meaning, a kind of absent or pointless vanishing point…. I’m…interested…in limits and how these limits destroy themselves and disappear”, he confided.13 Both his mirror Nonsites and Photo-markers assert the futility of a one point perspective system for understanding the phenomenal world, revealing the anthropocentric as only one possibility for comprehending the visual environment. Robert Hobbs persuasively argues that in much of his art Smithson sought to create “a timeless realm”, “an almost mythical world that transcended diurnal time and space coordinates, as reflections and refractions refute the here and now for some dizzying otherworld”.14 “My Non-sites take the outdoors and bring it inside in containers”, Smithson stated in 1969. “This starts a dialectic. These photo-markers do the reverse. I am using the environment to frame something artificial. In the gallery, History frames Time. Here the reverse happens.”15
For Smithson, in the real world outside the museum, Time frames History: (re)turning to the studio, Lutter found a different means to suspend the historical in the oblivion of timelessness. By framing an earlier image with mirrors, a parenthetical bracketing of the real in the guise of the illusory, she created a complex spatio-temporal aporia.16 Pepsi Cola Interior XXI: April 30-May 29, 2003 inserted an image of part of the site into that same site; Pepsi Cola Interior III: July 1-July 31, 2003, introduced two mirrors into the surroundings, fracturing and duplicating the space in yet more complex ways. This, in turn, led to a third strategy, juxtaposing mirrors and a pre-existing image in the abstracted realm of the studio. Intimated in the individual titles appended to each member of the series – “Mind Set…”, “Inside Looking In…” – these new, fabricated set-ups produce a wholly different nexus of conceptual issues. Recently, Lutter has concentrated on a single image in this on-going study: the Beacon basement. Attracted by its strikingly austere antitheses, at once formal and metaphorical, of shadow and luminosity, silhouette and effulgent brilliance, she had transfigured it into a strangely haunting ambience that was located, tellingly, literally underneath the limpid, serene functionalist environment, the ground floor devoted to box printing. At once specific yet generic, Nabisco Factory, Beacon, IV: October 21-December 22, 1999 is not a portrait of that disturbing site in any direct way, but an abstraction, a stereotypical situation. Introduced into the ascetic, neutral studio environment, itself a former warehouse space stripped back to its fundamentals, it counterpoints one kind of archetype with another.17 By flanking each side of the Beacon image with a mirror of identical height, suturing the given image to the architectural dimension of the reflective glass, and hence to that of the studio, Lutter creates a new image that not only doubles the original but renders it positive at the same time as it expands its limits infinitely, incommensurably. Suspended as is a vision or an apparition, the mise en scene of Studio IX: November 5-December 15, 2003, appears simultaneously real and not real. Twice reversed, so it reads as a positive, the classically reposed interior in this pellucid transfiguration is given orderly definition by the enfilade of stately columns: what formerly was sullenly brooding has become limpidly ethereal.
Since this image of an image originated in the speculative arena of the studio, itself an instantiation of the artist’s imaginary, the documentary verities of the camera obscura now incorporate their antitheses: fiction, ambiguity, and reflexivity. Studio IX, like its peers, conflates fragments from the real world with conceptual constructs. The camera records not simply what exists in the world outside but its own condition, in a process of reversal and doubling that creates a conceptual mise en abyme. Despite the indication of the length of the exposure in the title, the notion of passing time in this milieu of frozen reflection carries little meaning or significance. Timelessness supervenes where formerly in Lutter’s art time had been a foundational element. In contrast to the Pepsi Cola interiors from 2001-2003 which stage disruptive incursions in normative patterns of spatial organization and experience that provoke existential disquiet, these studio-based works open the way for interpolations of a more metaphysical kind. Imbued with an almost Egyptian grandeur and monumentality, with the majesty of a departed civilization, this grave columned interior invites a meditation on abandonment and death. Where Lutter’s former series conjured states of subjective disquiet her current work offers a reflexive meditation on loss and longing.18
- 1 For a fuller discussion see Sybil Gordon Kantor, “Alfred H. Barr, Jr., and the intellectual origins of the Museum of Modern Art”, Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 2002. In contrast to the functionalist, progressive social ideology underpinning much of the International Style architecture built in Europe, Barr’s appreciation was more formal and more narrowly aesthetic.
- 2 Donald Judd, “Month in Review”, Arts Magazine, October 1964, reprinted in Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959-1975, Halifax, The Press of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design/New York, New York University Press, 1975, pp.136-139.
- 3 See Donald Judd, “Architektur”, Munster, Westfalischen Kunstverein, 1989. The fullest expressions of this position are seen in Judd’s use of a building he bought in 1968 on the corner of Spring and Mercer Streets in Soho, and in Marfa, Texas where he sited 100 milled aluminum boxes in two hangars which he converted expressly for the purpose.
- 4 “Rodney Graham and Vera Lutter: Time Traced”, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, October 14, 1999 – June 18, 2000. For a fuller discussion of Dia’s history and collection mandate see Lynne Cooke, “Never No More No Literature?”, in Lynne Cooke & Michael Govan eds, “Dia:Beacon”, New York, Dia Art Foundation, 2003, pp.48-75.
- 5 Comparison might be made with Michael Heizer’s Actual Size Photographs shot in landscape, and certain works by Cristina Iglesias, such as her 1998 series of untitled diptychs, in which photographs of constructions of quasi-architectural forms have been silkscreened onto large copper sheets. (See Sam Wagstaff, “Michael Heizer’s Use of Photography”, in “Michael Heizer: Sculpture in Reverse”, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1984, pp.72-75, and Iwona Blazwick ed., “Cristina Iglesias”, Ediciones Poligrafa, Barcelona, 2002.)
- 6 To date, three clocks appear in Lutter’s oeuvre. In “Nabisco Factory, Beacon III: September 8-September 12, 1999, the blurred face of the clock indicates that it was functioning normally. On the second day of the exposure of “Beacon IV”, 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused an electrical blackout in the building, stopping the clock permanently. “In 333 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago I: October 15, 2001” Lutter masked the top part of the image half-way through the two hour exposure, at 12 noon, thereby fixing that part of the image including the clocktower.
- 7 Now owned by Ydessa Hendeles, these photographs are reprinted in “Partners”, Cologne, Walter Konig, 2003, eds. Chris Dercon & Thomas Weski, pp.55-62
- 8 Jonathan Crary’s felicitous phrase is borrowed from his brilliant analysis, based on the technological and philosophical implications of the medium, of the visionary in Lutter’s practice.
- 9 “There is no neutral space, since space is made, indifferently or intentionally, and since meaning is made, ignorantly and knowledgeably. This is the beginning of my concern for the surroundings of my work”. Donald Judd, “21 February 1993”, “Donald Judd – Large-Scale Works”, New York, Pace Gallery, 1993, pp.9-13 Among the early shows involving site-sensitive installations in “raw space”, “Nine at Castelli”, 1968, curated by Robert Morris in Castelli’s uptown warehouse proved seminal.
- 10 Dan Graham, “Art in Relation to Architecture: Architecture in Relation to Art”, “Artforum”, February 1979, p.24. Graham’s contention that “Minimal art of the mid- through late-sixties would seem to refer to the gallery’s interior cube as the ultimate contextual frame of reference for the work” was only partially accurate. For Judd and, later, Serra, have embraced other more raw spaces. Graham’s claim that “The gallery functioned literally as part of the art” overstates the case; material space whether in a gallery or elsewhere was the issue not the identity of the venue as such.
- 11 Influential teachers for a generation of young German artists whose work centers in photography, such as Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky, the Bechers played no direct role in the formation of Lutter’s aesthetic. Although she admires their work it only came to her close attention after she had taken up the camera obscura.
- 12 Robert Hobbs, “Robert Smithson: Sculpture”, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1981, p.120.
- 13 quoted in Hobbs, op. cit., p.136
- 14 Hobbs, op. cit.
- 15 quoted in John Perrault, “Art. Nonsites in the News”, “New York Magazine”, February 24, 1969, p.46.
- 16 Lutter acknowledges a debt to Dan Graham, especially to his early video installations, when conceiving these works. As analogue technologies increasingly give way to digital, as conventional views of photography as a documentary witness - modes which reigned virtually unchallenged until the late twentieth century – Lutter, in contrast to her many of her peers, has not turned to computer based tools. Refraining from the current modes of altering and manipulating the image electronically she has questioned received notions relating to documentary verities by introducing pre-existing images into that same site. In this she differs too from constructed photography, for example, the work of Thomas Demand, which utilizes replicas of buildings which appear nondescript but which take on significance when it is revealed which notorious events, events that have left no visible or manifest trace or imprint, occurred there.
- 17 Lutter’s studio is located in a warehouse building on West 39th Street in Manhattan that was built in 1928, during the development of that neighborhood by the garment industry. In the 1950s when the industry suffered heavy losses and moved out, it became a sweat shop. In 1997, when she moved in, Lutter was the first artist to occupy space in the building. The dot.com technology boom brought new residents in 2000 who left in late 2001. Today the building is mostly broken into yet smaller spaces, for offices.
- 18 This observation parallels those Reyner Banham experienced when exploring this decaying building typology in and around the city of Buffalo in the late 1970s. See his classic study, “A Concrete Atlantis: U.S. Industrial Building and European Modern Architecture 1900-1925”, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1986, p.17.