Posts Tagged ‘Tropical Gift’

Interview | Christian Lutz, Photographer

Friday, May 31st, 2013

mouth2mouth interview | sam stourdzé, director, musée de l’elysée
christian lutz | photographer

Born in Geneva in 1973, Christian Lutz studied photography at the Ecole supérieure des Arts et de l’Image, ‘The 75′, in Brussels. Winner of numerous awards, his work has been exhibited worldwide and frequently published. Initially following the tradition of documentary photography, he soon adopted a highly individual, cinematographic style that gave his work a certain distance to reality. Lutz is represented by the agencies VU’ in Paris and Strates in Lausanne.

Protokoll, the first series in the project, started in 2003 when you began photographing the apparatus of federal politics. Ten years later, how would you assess your itinerary?
Actually, I am the kind of person who prefers to look forward rather than backward. And I’ve come to realize that my work on the issue of power is not yet quite finished. It was initiated in 2003 by coincidence, without any real initial intention; I didn’t tell myself ‘Well, how about working on the notion of power!’ It was only over time, as my work asserted itself, that I realized why I was doing it and why I wanted to carry on. Power operates everywhere, in the private sphere, in human relations, between nations, among peoples; it is at the heart of countless processes in society. This is an issue that obsesses me and which is in fact an excuse to talk about our world and the interactions between individuals and systems. I thought I would come to terms with it through this trilogy, but I still have some way to go, as the issue of power opens up new fields of exploration.

All three components of the Trilogy – political, economic, and religious powers, are exhibited for the first time at the Musée de l’Elysée. What tensions or reflections do you intend to create by juxtaposing the series?
My assumption is that power is always staged, as if power needed some form of theatricality to exist: protocol, representational codes, uniforms and role play, decorum, the forms of power that I have observed in the three series presented today all express themselves through external signs. But they are so obvious that they allow for breaches and give a glimpse of details, urging you to take a closer look, to reach beyond appearances. In all three series, there is this permanent tension between what is being observed and the grey areas, the hidden, the unspoken.

Several images in the series In Jesus’ Name have been censored. How do you intend to show the void of censorship?
From my point of view, censorship did not create a void, it created a surplus. In other words, I consistently refuse to explain my images or to caption them, in order to avoid imposing a unique interpretation and a manipulation of the imagination. Captions freeze the poetical and suggestive space carried within a photograph; which does not mean that photographs can be made to say anything and everything, especially when we’re talking about a series or a book, as in this case. But an image must breathe, and leave some space to the beholder. Yet, in order to achieve the ban on the book, the lawyer of the plaintiffs wrote out his own interpretation of my images. In doing so, he kills them in a way. So I had two options: either to let go and admit the defeat, or give a new impetus to the series In Jesus’ Name by foiling the situation, exploiting the new power that is being imposed on me, that is, the power of the judiciary.

You discovered the judiciary power though your appearance in court. Could this constitute a fourth component to your project?
Yes, but I would not say that it would be a fourth component. It would rather be an outlet project, stemming from a situation I didn’t chose. This sequel will link together the three previous series and will probably shed a different light on them. It is likely to be a narrative rather than a photographic project. To tell the truth, I still don’t really precisely know; the legal proceedings are pending and I still have some difficulties figuring out what I could do with this. But what is certain is that as an artist, I cannot let things happen without finding an artistic outcome to this restriction on the freedom of speech.

Images from top
From the series In Jesus’ Name, 2012

From the series Protokoll, 2007

From the series Tropical Gift, 2010

All images ©Christian Lutz from the exhibition
Christian Lutz, Trilogy
Musée de l’Elysée
Lausanne, Switzerland
5th June – 1st September, 2013

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