Tableaux 1970 – 1984


publisher: Imprimerie Sitol – M. Guibert, 1984
text by: Ilaria Sponda

Urs Lüthi is a Swiss artist who has authored a series of self-portraits since the early 1970s. Indeed, following the path of Duchamp and Cahun, he is considered a pioneer of research related to the body and the self-representation of fluidity through changing identities. His self-portraits are the process and the result of his dialectic inquiry towards an understanding of the self, all alter ego(s) that leave the author body as soon as they are brought into existence. Along the line of Pessoa, the poet of the limitless self, Lüthi explores the possibilities of existence and the pure expression of the crises that are intrinsically part of the process of self-representation.
Tableaux 1970-1984 is a catalogue published in 1984 on the occasion of Lüthi’s exhibition at FRAC des Pays de la Loire in Genas. Paintings, drawings and photos communicate between each other constructing layers and different dimensions around the theme of identity. Black and white and colours pictures inscribed on the line of performance documentary build up a fragmentary story of loneliness and duality, which are experienced on their own, in the body itself, and which live outside him, through voids and encounters with objects and people. The artist lives through the irony of being and not being someone while making use of the photographer’s position of being “en voyeur” to fundamentally analyse his identity through what is other than himself.

Lüthi is interested in what contradicts the ideal state of things, namely the objects taken by humans as a presupposed ideal state and promise of a better feeling, although being just objects interposed between them and essentiality. These are words taken from his interview with Patrick Frey, reported in the book as a preamble to his tableaux. Beauty is indeed perceived in the everyday objects that a person gathers together in their house, and which result being their very expression. Moreover, when those objects are in relation with humans that give them importance, their representation transcends their banal reality. On the other hand, when they are isolated, desolation emerges and emanates all around.
In a Pirandellian sense, Lüthi works are conceived in irony, resulting in the representation of the condition of humans of being one, one-hundred different people and nobody at the same time. He is one, he is paradoxically nobody because he wears different personalities as if they were masks, often imposed by pre-constituted societal codes. Loneliness flourishes in the exclusion from society when the subject decides to experience their identity (and gender) in discordance whit what the others want to see in them. In performing androgyny as a non-ontological identity, the artist plays around the concept of role and unified ambisexuality. Polymorphous private performances take place in interiors, that function as a psychical and social environment (milieu) intimately echoing in the persona of Lüthi and vice versa. Photography, being ontologically connected to the real world has the potential of being considered part of it rather than just a substitute of it. The images are then records of an event that never took place except in the photos themselves.

Urs Lüthi (born 10 September 1947 in Kriens) is a Swiss eclectic and innovative Conceptual artist. During his long career, he has experimented with various styles and techniques – including photography, sculpture, performance, silk-screen, video and painting. He is famous for placing his body and his alter ego in the center of artworks, trying to grasp his own self and question the reality.

Lüthi attended the School of Applied Arts in Zurich and upon finishing studies, started working as a graphic designer. He has been a university professor since 1994 in Kassel, Germany. The canton of Zurich awarded Lüthi the prize of honor for his work in 1996, and in 2009 the city of Kassel gave him the Arnold-Bode-Preis.

Copyright © Urs Lüthi, Imprimerie Sitol – M. Guibert and PHROOM, all rights reserved

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