Freiburg, Germany

Lutz & Guggisberg

Kunstverein Freiburg

The work of the Swiss duo Andres Lutz and Anders Guggisberg, much like that of their predecessors Fischli & Weiss, inspires critics to speak of a “cosmos” rather than an “oeuvre.” Through a kind of encyclopedic indexing, the artists try to make their own sense of the chaos of the world. Lutz & Guggisberg’s over-the-top scenarios make use of almost any medium imaginable in accumulations of innumerable objects that interweave the found with the crafted, the philosophic with the banal, the mystic with the playful and ironic. Their exhibition at Kunstverein Freiburg, a former public swimming pool, was installed in the main entrance hall and the second-floor gallery, with the two floors connected by a retro-futuristic Kontrollturm (Control Tower), 2007, made out of painted cardboard boxes and paper-towel rolls, which extends from the first floor to the upper-balcony gallery. An upper segment of the tower housed the two-channel video projection Einmal da hörte ich ihn, da wusch er die Welt (Once When I Heard Him He Was Washing the World), 2007, about a mad scientist who reverses natural and man-made phenomena—for instance, making a mushroom cloud shrink back to nothing.

One entered the second floor through Lutz & Guggisberg’s Bibliothek (Library), a work in progress begun in 2000 that consists of a growing selection of fake books in a cozy setting filled with handmade furniture and objects. The titles include philosophy, art, and science books as well as novels, all nicely designed and eye-catching—only you can’t open them. Their humorous titles and blurbs are printed on carefully crafted wooden objects, a fictional archive of great ideas that have never been put down on paper. The second-floor gallery space was divided by semitransparent screens into distinct areas, recalling ’70s-style living rooms and doctor’s offices, equipped with couches and lamps that seemed halfway between sculpture and furniture. Displayed in this environment were “real” sculptures—hybrids of archaic and modern forms, somewhere between Stonehenge and Henry Moore—made of Ytong concrete, clay, paper-towel rolls, and plaster; some of them were presented in acrylic vitrines covered with delicate miniature paintings in asphalt lacquer depicting preindustrial landscapes, reversed maps, and crowds. The sculpture Fünfminutenhaus (Five-Minute House), 2007, is an impressive model of modernist architecture assembled (in five minutes, of course) from found white Styrofoam. The paintings in the “Weisse Serie” (White Series), 2005–, imitate the styles of other artists, including Wols and Luc Tuymans.

Lutz & Guggisberg’s omnipresent humor is frequently punctured by subtle forms of interference, such as the perforations in the Styrofoam of Fünfminutenhaus, which suggest bullet holes. Another foreboding work was Brut (Brood), 2005, a flock of more than a hundred half-burned wooden birds roosting in the main hall. Looking like an uncanny army, these charred creatures, made from industrial pallets, seemed more like miserable refugees fleeing catastrophe than like warriors. Only a few of them, Die Adoptierten (The Adopted), 2007, escaped being burned and made it upstairs to what the artists referred to as the “Wohlfühlparcours” (Feel Good Gallery). While Lutz & Guggisberg celebrate the sheer joy of creation, they don’t shy away from serious subjects.

Eva Scharrer