Galleries

The Impossible Joy of Finding Meaning

by Ben Valentine on October 18, 2012

Installation shot of Lutz Bacher’s show at Ration 3 Gallery (all images are by the author for Hyperallergic)

BERKELEY, California — Ratio 3 gallery’s new show of work by Lutz Bacher is a must see. The large, skylight-lit, raw gallery space is perfect for Bacher’s captivating installation of audio, visual, and sculptural work. Upon entering the gallery one immediately focuses on the small black spheres scattered about the floor. After a hesitant test, the black orbs turn out to be squishy balls. Along the walls are framed black and white astronomy prints cut out from a book. As one weaves their way through the balls (or in my case, kicked my way until I was asked to avoid touching the work) the visual connection between the galactic formations and the floor installation was obvious.

One of the many cut out pages of astronomy prints in the show.

However, walking into the dimly lit back room, the artist’s intention became more muddled. The space is filled with a slurred voice reciting Puck’s famous finale to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The voice repeating Puck’s lines, “If we shadows have offended,/Think but this, and all is mended,” sounds strained, possibly the voice of someone elderly or maybe a very, very drunk individual; I felt uncomfortable not knowing whose voice it was.

Also inside the room is a semi-reflective panel, which upon first glance appears completely black. Look again. Staring out at you is an enlarged photograph of Edward Cullen, (below) the tween-dream character played by Robert Pattinson in the blockbuster adaptation of the Twilight series.

Edward Cullen’s face looking out of one of the works by Bacher. The speaker is reflected in the background.

Puck’s words inviting the audience to pretend the whole play was a dream, in the context of Bacher’s show, is tempting. Bacher does not encourage the viewer to understand the work by including any explanation and there are no titles or information offered online. How does one wrap their head around popular culture references, mythology, a Shakespearean play, a floor installation of playful balls, and the entire cosmos?

Bacher puts the viewer in an exciting space where one can reflect on the grandiosity of the universe, on so many levels, and yet not feel overwhelmed or put on to find a particular meaning. One can walk through and enjoy this exhibit on a purely visual level, on a cultural level, or try and piece together the entire puzzle to assign the show one cohesive meaning; Bacher seems to suggest we shouldn’t even try. This may be a little nihilistic, but all too often artists try to force the viewer to see the artist’s perspective, Bacher’s refusal to do so was refreshing.

An installation view of Bacher’s Ratio 3 show (image via ratio3.org)

Lutz Bacher continues at Ratio 3 Gallery (2831A Mission St., Mission District, San Francisco) until November 3.

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