PRINT September 2019



Lutz Bacher, 2017.

UNTIL 2010, Lutz lived with her husband, the astronomer Donald C. Backer, in Berkeley, California. Lutz and Don were in love. Don was recognized internationally for his PAPER (Precision Array to Probe the Epoch of Reionization) project and for advancing the understanding of the history of the universe; Lutz was recognized internationally for advancing the understanding of the readymade. In her cosmology, everything was always already in the depths of the surface of the found object. Lutz died of a massive heart attack, exactly the same way Donald did nine years prior. She believed that there was no such thing as coincidence, so there is something magical in their parallel deaths.

Lutz and I met in 2007 in a West Village apartment where she often stayed when she came for one of her “New York trips.” Two years later, we worked together on “Do you love me?,” her first European survey, at Kunstverein München. She later explained that, when it came to working with curators, she was “promiscuous.” She rejected the conventional, formal artist-curator dynamic, in which the artwork was the sole subject of conversation; instead, in the lead-up to her exhibitions, Lutz would often build intensely personal relationships. She thrived on those relationships. It was like being in a pact, or a romance. In fact, I believe there existed a clear correlation between the quality of those connections and the quality, alas, of the exhibitions. She loved both objects and people who had psychologically affective qualities, a story to tell.

In her cosmology, everything was always already in the depths of the surface of the found object.

We both laughed when she suggested “Do you love me?” as a title. Lutz rarely gave interviews or explained her work, although she would occasionally refer to Gilles Deleuze. John Protevi puts the Deleuzian position beautifully in his 2002 essay “Love”: For Deleuze and his sometime collaborator Félix Guattari,

love is a form of desire, the process of material nature. In Anti-Oedipus [1972] love is anti-Oedipus itself: “sexuality and love do not live in the bedroom of Oedipus, they dream instead of wide-open spaces, and cause strange flows to circulate.” In A Thousand Plateaus [1980] it is life itself, the very process of creating novel uses for available materials: “Why not walk on your head, sing with your sinuses, see through your skin, breathe with your belly: the simple Thing, the Entity, the full Body, the stationary Voyage, Anorexia, cutaneous Vision, Yoga, Krishna, Love, Experimentation.”

Or as Deleuze and Guattari so aptly summarize it in Anti-Oedipus: “Desire does not ‘want’ revolution, it is revolutionary in its own right.”

Central to “Do you love me?” was Big Boy, 1992, an oversize doll, a daddy of sorts, lying on his back, nude, his floppy male genitalia exposed. At the heart of her exhibition, Lutz had installed a body with a pathetic phallus. So when in this context she asked, “Do you love me?” she was also asking if one was prepared to lose aspects of one’s own subjectivity to break with the established order of things—not to kill the body, but to rearrange the principles by which it is organized so as to create a new body. Oh, Lutz, I do love you! 

Stefan Kalmár is the director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, and cocurator of Manifesta 13 Marseille in 2020.