29
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Christian Lutz, Trilogy’ at The Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 1st September 2013

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Power: it will corrupt you, but if you don’t want it, it will be used against you.

PS. Some, if not all, of these people seem like marionettes!

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Many thankx to The Musée de l’Elysée for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Protokoll' 2007

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Christian Lutz
From the series Protokoll
2007
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Protokoll' 2007

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Christian Lutz
From the series Protokoll
2007
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Protokoll' 2007

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Christian Lutz
From the series Protokoll
2007
© Christian Lutz

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“New York, 2003: spectacular security frenzy around the President of the Swiss Confederation Pascal Couchepin – a striking image to the eye of the photographer who was present at the scene. Christian Lutz thus invited himself in the suitcases of the ministerial delegation and documented its various official activities during three years. The first volume of what will become a trilogy on the issue of power is published in 2007: Protokoll. Tropical Gift, dealing with the oil and gas trading in Nigeria, is released in 2010. After portraying the rigorously codified and staged political sphere, the photographer’s cutting eye unveils the malodorous traps of a deadly economic power, with troubling visual poetry. In his viewfinder, reality unnoticeably shifts into a heady thriller. The first two parts of his trilogy have been exhibited worldwide, establishing Christian Lutz as an eminent photographer.

The fate of his yet unreleased third series, In Jesus’ Name, is quite different. Christian Lutz spent a year within a Zurich-based evangelical community. Celebrations and rock concerts, summer camps and blood donation rallies, he photographed all the events he was invited to attend. However, a Zurich Court of Justice banned the book immediately upon its release in November 2012 as 21 people appearing in the volume filed complaints to protect their image; complaints that were carefully orchestrated by the Church’s managers. With these provisional measures, the Court nonetheless ruled against the freedoms of expression and information.

The exhibition Trilogy is a three-fold investigation. Tropical Gift will be shown as a projection accompanied by the original score by Franz Treichler of the Young Gods. As for the latest series, In Jesus’ Name, it carries the marks of a new power, with which it is now inseparable: the judiciary. Troubling and destabilizing, this fourth power questions democracy and artistic freedom. But as it pushes art into a corner, it seems to compel it to reconnect itself with its political dimension, to test established systems, by triggering debate.

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Censorship of the book In Jesus’ Name

The photography book In Jesus’ Name, Christian Lutz’s third part of the series on the issue of power, was launched during Paris Photo on 17 November 2012, before disappearing from the bookstore shelves a couple of days later. The legal proceedings that followed this project raise issues about the artistic freedom as well as the freedom of expression.

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The photographical project In Jesus’ Name

The Zurich-based evangelical community ICF (International Christian Fellowship) is one of the most important free churches in Switzerland. Its success and rapid expansion are a matter of public interest. Created according to the American model of mega-churches, it was initiated in Zurich at the end of the 90s, and has now spread throughout Roman Switzerland thanks to a solid establishment in Lausanne and Geneva. It manages a considerable budget and is characterized by the use of sophisticated and performing marketing and communication methods.

Christian Lutz met the pastor and founder of the Evangelical movement ICF, Leo Bigger, in May 2011. He then introduced him to the other church managers to whom the photographer also presented his project, his former books, his approach and the stakes involved in his Trilogy. He was subsequently granted express consent from the managers who welcomed him in the community.

The photographer nonetheless systematically kept on requesting specific authorizations to the organizers for each ICF’s activity which he wished to photograph. He joined several trips and summer camps organized by the church, and took part in all sorts of events: celebrations, baptisms, ladies lounge, blood donation, theater show, workshop on the addiction to pornography, etc. He met members of the church, exchanged constantly with them, and freely discussed his reportage.

As for each of his series, Christian Lutz entirely immerged himself, photographing faces and individuals up close while fully respecting a rigorous deontology. He was given an ICF photo-reporter badge, and affiliates or organizers of activities regularly ordered images from him. He photographed openly, each one being aware of the project and accepting to be part of it.”

Press release from he Musée de l’Elysée website

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Tropical Gift' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series Tropical Gift
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Tropical Gift' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series Tropical Gift
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'Tropical Gift' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series Tropical Gift
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Interview of Christian Lutz by Sam Stourdzé, Director of the Musée de l’Elysée

SYS: Protokoll, the first series in the project, started in 2003 when you started photographing the apparatus of federal politics. Ten years later, how would you assess your itinerary?

CL: 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 quite yet 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 is only with 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.

SYS: 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?

CL: 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.

SYS: Several images in the series In Jesus’ Name have been censored. How do you intend to show the void of censorship?

CL: 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.

SYS: You discovered the judiciary power though your appearance in court. Could this constitute a fourth component to your project?

CL: 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.

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Christian Lutz. From the series 'In Jesus’ Name' 2010

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Christian Lutz
From the series In Jesus’ Name
2010
© Christian Lutz

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Portrait of Christian Lutz © Frédéric Choffat

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Portrait of Christian Lutz
© Frédéric Choffat

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The Musée de l’Elysée
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH - 1014 Lausanne
T: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Closed Monday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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