Lutz Bacher

What are You Thinking? (2011)

From pulp fiction to discarded photographs and dates Americana, the provenance of Lutz Bacher’s diverse materials – at once familiar and bizarre – is often the thrift store. She does relatively little in the way of altering these rescued pieces, but the effect packs a punch: images may be enlarged or text may find itself captioning a surprising new picture, as in Sex With Strangers (1986), in which pornographic images are paired with captions written in the style of a scientific study of rape. In contrast to her New York-based contemporaries, such as those often bracketed as the ‘Pictures Generation’, Bacher is less invested in the clinical dissection of mass-produced and widely disseminated commercial imagery, instead introducing distortion and interference into apparently innocent images.

Her work is often unflinching, as with a six-hour real-time recording of a major operation the artist had to remove a tumor. And though disparate, some of these far-flung projects coalesce into what might be taken as an unsentimental kind of self-examination: The Lee Harvey Oswald Interview (1976), for example, actually comprises a ‘conversation’ between the artist and herself.

A line of dialogue is taken from ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ (1988, Philip Kaufman), with voices saying; “Tomas, what are you thinking? I am thinking how happy I am.” Bacher has paired this simple exchange with a monochrome background that changes slowly from black to white and back to black. The piano soundtrack and loaded sounds, the rain, the wood pigeons, cars and windscreen wipers build up the idea of a past occurrence or memory, but when disembodied from the imagery, the film is more ambiguous.  This moment is repeated, and as it returns back through light to dark, everything we could attribute to the dialogue between the lovers and this moment – hope, happiness and love – quickly passes, and we end the film back in the dark where we began.

Frieze Film 2011 was curated by Sarah McCrory under the auspices of Frieze Projects.

Frieze Film is a programme of artist commissions screened to coincide with Frieze Art Fair, in 2011 it included five newly commissioned films.

In previous years collaborations between Frieze Film and Channel 4’s ‘3 Minute Wonder’ slot have averaged audiences in excess of one million viewers.