Page from Lutz Bacher’s SMOKE (gets in your eyes). Courtesy of Regency Arts Press.
Regency Arts Press, Ltd., 2008
For those unfamiliar with Lutz Bacher’s work—or Lutz Bacher the person—her new artist’s book SMOKE (Gets In Your Eyes) recreates some of the many strange moments in the career and life of the Berkeley-based artist … and in the world at large. SMOKE compiles Bacher’s quotes and various ephemera, Xeroxed reproductions of her artwork (which is largely appropriated), redacted emails, excerpts from interviews with and by the artist, and assorted news clippings. Some of these pieces will likely be included in Bacher’s spring retrospective at PS1, but encountering them in book form affords the advantage of repeated viewing. SMOKElends itself both to quick flipping and slow study. A brief glance reveals fractious disorientation. A longer look and the reader assembles a narrative not just throughout the pages, but also applicable to Bacher herself. However, by including everything —personal notes, dream diaries, sketches, appropriated imagery—Bacher makes it impossible for the reader to conclude anything about her identity. Instead, the sprawling compendium of personal and impersonal information translates her appropriative work into a collective collage.
Bacher raises the key semiotic issue we face today: How is meaning assembled from fragmentary information? Throughout SMOKE Bacher attempts to understand her own identity, and the reader follows along with a similar curiosity. Her quest to understand herself mirrors the social networks’ fraught abilities to construct their users’ identities. Spend an hour with the book and then open up Facebook, Word, Twitter, your email, your RSS reader, nytimes.com, Reddit, Perez Hilton, Wikipedia. Then remember the feeling of trying to figure out who Lutz Bacher is, and why she put this glut of personal ephemera together the way she did.