close

Urs Lüthiartist sheet 35/78

focus

events

He has always included his own body in his work, often staging its gradual transformations. In the 1970s, he played on his androgynous appearance, which played a central role in the exhibition Transformer – Aspekte der Travestie, organised by Jean-Christophe Ammann at the Kunstmuseum in Lucerne in 1974.

Exhibitions

He has always included his own body in his work, often staging its gradual transformations. In the 1970s, he played on his androgynous appearance, which played a central role in the exhibition Transformer – Aspekte der Travestie, organised by Jean-Christophe Ammann at the Kunstmuseum in Lucerne in 1974.

60 years of performance art in Switzerland museum Tinguely, 20.09.2017 - 28.01.2018

Bologna Performance (1975)

Pigment printing, 80 x 104 cm

During the opening of the art fair in Bologna, Lüthi hands out envelopes containing an undeveloped self-portrait to visitors.

Opening Performance Diagramma (Milan, 1972)

Pigment printing, 80 x 60 cm

During his opening at the Diagramma gallery, Lüthi dresses up as a rabbit and hops into the exhibition space and tries to find a hiding-place there.

Napoli Performance (1975)

Pigment printing, 80 x 120 cm

In the Morra studio, Lüthi hands every visitor a card bearing the imprint of his lips and the words "you are not the only who is lonely."

Mille Rose rosse (Milan, 1974)

Pigment printing, 80 x 122 cm

For one day, as if in slow motion, Lüthi throws 1000 roses onto the refuse-strewn floor of the Marconi gallery.

Performance Firenze, the lonely Saxophone (1974)

Pigment printing, 80 x 144 cm

In the Schema gallery, Lüthi plays the saxophone for two and a half hours uninterrupted and with plenty of emotional fervor, without ever having learned to play the instrument.

L'artiste est dans la cave (Geneva, 1974)

Pigment printing, 80 x 62 cm

On the occasion of his performance at the Musée d'art et d'Histoire in Geneva, a lavish buffet is built up in one of the exhibition spaces while Lüthi sits in the basement.

This is about you (Rome, 1973)

Pigment printing, 80 x 177 cm

On the occasion of the exhbition Contemporanea organized by Achille Bonito Oliva, Lüthi constructs a bistro backdrop in an underground garage in Rome. For two weeks he sits there almost motionlessly at a table for several hours a day and stares at the visitors, while nevertheless trying to avoid all eye contact.

Overall view

Photographs in the order listed above, from left to right.

PerformanceProcess Paris, Centre culturel suisse 18.09-13.12.2015

Performance Duomo Milano (1969)

5 photographs, 44×63 cm each
A presentation of photographs of his first performance Performance Duomo Milano (1969), where he plays several extremely ordinary roles in the crowd.

Sketches (1970)

9 sheets, 39,8×27,3 cm each, Galerie Toni Gerber edition , Berne (1970)
A presentation of the portfolio entitled Sketches (1970), a series of humorously staged postures with David Weiss, photographed by Willy Spiller.

Photographs of performances

Prigment printing
Presented in the Focus Urs Lüthi (from left to right)

Bologna Performance (1975)
Opening Performance Diagramma, Milan (1972)
Napoli Performance (1975)
Mille Rose rosse, Milan (1974)
Performance Firenze, the lonely Saxophone (1974)
L'artiste est dans la Cave, Genève (1974)
This is About You, Rome (1973)

extraball

symposium

+

biography

bibliography

interview

images

vidéos

texts

Motionless performer

Urs Lüthi's work is essentially a staging, or more accurately a “shaping”, of the self-as-other (and of the other as oneself). But can it still be termed “performance art”? ...

Urs Lüthi's work is essentially a staging, or more accurately a “shaping”, of the self-as-other (and of the other as oneself). But can it still be termed “performance art”?

Performance art, a term that has become familiar in the historiography of twentieth century art, refers to a an often interdisciplinary genre that is not codified, includes improvised and “theatrical” elements, and dates back to the painted faces of early protagonists of the Russian avant-garde post-1910. It re-emerged in the happenings organised by Fluxus in the US in the late 1950s and early 1960s, took a new direction in the work of Yves Klein and Joseph Beuys, and was brought up to date once more in body art. These manifold artistic interventions undoubtedly have something in common with the common goal of removing the frontiers between art and life.

They often involved the spectator, and one might wonder what kind of picture Urs Lüthi's (motionless) images send back to the viewer and, when we look closely, what image they offer of the viewer himself. Especially if we keep in mind that in 1972 the artist proclaimed I'll Be Your Mirror and, the following year, This Is about You, sitting on a chair at an isolated table with a wine bottle and a full glass, dressed as a transvestite, alone in front of the “voyeurs” filing past.

In Paris, at the CCS, the answer is to be found in the eight life performances or “moments” that Urs Lüthi has chosen to present in the form of decades-old photographs 80 centimetres in height, with horizontal raster lines giving them an innovative twist and creating distantiation: Lüthi als... (Milan, 1969), Bunny (Milan, 1972), This Is about You (Rome, 1973), You Are Not The Only Who Is Lonely (Naples, 1974), Mille rose rosse (Milan, 1974), The Lonely Saxophone-Piece (Florence, 1975), [Selfportrait di Urs Lüthi, in cui tu forse ti puo riconoscere] (Bologna, 1975), and L'artiste est dans la cave (Geneva, 1975).

The two video works from 1974, Morir d'amore and Orgasm, in which the audience was not able to interact with the artist, are not included in this series (at that time Urs Lüthi was not using video to record pieces that have, according to the circumstances, been termed “performances”).

One of Lüthi's most exemplary and eloquent performances took place on 26 November 1975 at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire in Geneva. At the back of the empty main hall, at the left as one entered, stood a huge, sumptuous, baroque sideboard like a stepped altar designed for grand social ceremonies. Hidden among the canapés, petits fours and flowers was a little card bearing the simple phrase: The artist is in the cellar. Some visitors/viewers eventually found him in a remote corner of the basement of the “great museum” of Geneva: Urs Lüthi, his face covered in soot, barefoot, sprawled on a blanket on the floor, with a bucket (what for, one wondered?), a bottle of champagne, and a transistor radio, waiting in silence and smoking.

Did the enthusiastic visitors, one of whom blithely sat down at his side, understand these oblique yet obvious messages, namely that the artist was situated both in the depths and on the margins of the (museum) institution, of society, and of everyday preoccupations? What one did grasp, at the very least, was that the artist was highlighting a deliberate rift between himself and the guests invited on his behalf.

Christophe Cherix shrewdly noted that Urs Lüthi “thus elaborates a body of work in which, despite appearances, it is not so much the artist who is being exhibited as the viewer. The figure squatting in the cellar, whether a hermit or a dandy, looks at the people going by, wondering what is going on, pitying him, poking fun at him, without responding. He is a screen revealing the emotion or the indifference of the visitors he comes into contact with, and in this sense he only exists through their eyes [...] The roles are thus reversed. It is the viewer who is the medium for a collective projection: once as a voyeur, once as a member of society.”

By merely “posing” and “passing on” the action (the reaction) to the other person, Urs Lüthi “the performer” brings a new sense of economy to the genre, involving a spare use of energy and spectacular demonstrativeness. In 1998, lying limply on his side, Urs Lüthi raised his hand and dropped a little ball in front of him: this was Low Action Games. The artist has always been a sage.

 

Rainer Michael Mason, art historian and curator

links