Vera Lutter


 L’entretien prévu avec Vera Lutter n’ayant pu avoir lieu, je reproduis ici le guide d’entretien que j’avais préparé et transmis à l’artiste.


One could argue that your work is essentially about the passage of time, and in this respect akin to, for instance, Barthes’s mother’s photo. But time is an external element in most photographs (time elapsed since the photo was taken), while it is also an internal factor in your photographs. Does that make sense to you?

In the triangle ‘time, movement and light’ (a concept that appealed to me very much), time is, for me, the most elusive factor, the one most central to your approach, since you actually represent time, unlike photographers addicted to the decisive instant:  in your photographs external duration is caught and collapsed in the photograph, and represented there. But this time in and of the photograph is determined by technical parameters, not by the duration of a specific external action (like, for instance, Michael Wesely’s photos of a football match or a concert). It’s real time, but it is not a duration defined by (external) reality, but rather the duration of a process. Does this distinction make any difference to you?

Until Clock Tower, there had been only three clocks in your work (note 5 of Lynne Cooke’s essay in the Graz catalog): time was everywhere in your work, but rarely shown in the form of its obvious measuring instrument. Does this series mark a change in this respect?

You said that your work is not against photography (what would that mean?) but it is a critique of the common definition of photography as representation. Would you qualify such a deconstruction of photography as ‘experimental’?

To try some other labels, would you define your work as process-driven? as conceptual?

You work is a reflection on photography as a medium. If one considers that abstract painting (and even more so the self-reflexive currents in painting such as Support Surface) started only when photography took over the figurative task in the place of painting, I make the hypothesis that the omnipresence of digital photography today, and the resulting abundance of images, is leading analog photography to move away from figuration (representation of the world) towards self-reflexivity, whether one calls it non-representational, experimental or abstract. Would you tend to agree with that?

Each of your works with the camera obscura is unique: besides the technical reasons, is it also an attempt to regain some of the Benjaminian aura? Or is that reading too much into it?

At one point, you say that for your first experience, you thought you had seen God (one of the most overwhelming moments of your life). With respect to photographing a man sunbathing, you say that your photographs can capture only people immobile, or dead (“a scary idea”). The issue of death is omnipresent in photography, even before Barthes. Some may experiment your photographs as a mystic experience. How do you react to that mystic dimension? Do you welcome it ? nurture it ? or is it secondary ?

When you are in the camera, your image does not register, it is there but invisible (in photography, except in self portraits, the photographer is indeed supposed to be invisible, with few exceptions), it remains a latent image; you may be aware of some photographers using camera obscura who remain still in the camera, and thus appear vaguely in the image, but your choice is different. Besides the obvious technicalities, I wondered if it had something to do with the disappearance of the author, the self-effacement of the artist, going back to Barthes and Foucault or to Mallarmé (the reference to Mallarmé, since you asked, can be found in your Nîmes catalogue, page 92, note 10)

You mentioned a few times the idea of choreography, of performance in relation to your work, describing the movements you have to make; by calling it choreography, you add a poetic, artistic dimension to what would otherwise be simple technical gestures (putting the sensitive paper on the wall, or developing it). In your first camera obscura experience, your body was penetrated by the outside world, and then you replaced it with the sensitive paper: this is a very personal and sensual observation. Could you elaborate on the choreographic presence of your while its image is absent? and on the performative (and ritualistic) dimension of your work? Could an analogy to conducting also apply (“trying to coax this magnitude of aspects into a successful performance”)?

In the Nimes catalogue, P14, Françoise Cohen say that there is a conceptual limit you refused to transgress. I did not understand. What would have meant going over that line? Which sort of photos would have resulted if…?

A few more general questions:

Whom do you consider as having inspired you?
Specifically photographers?
Writers, philosophers, critics?

Do you know the writings of Vilém Flusser? Did they have any importance for you?
And those of Franco Vaccari?

Whom do you see as your peers in your exploration of photography?

And do you have any disciples? Or young photographers doing work in a similar vein whom I should know?