Suffer a Sea-Change

I’m not even going to try to hang some kind of interpretation on Lutz Bacher’s work at Ratio 3. It only occurred to me now, after having a day or two to let the images soak into my brain, that the strange realization that there sure were a lot of Star Trek character images in the show was tipped off in the exhibit title: ODO, which is the name of one of the ensemble from the spin-off series Deep Space Nine. And things just get weirder from there.
Running along the perimeter of the gallery space from room to room at about chest height are a progression of pictures torn from magazines, stills pilfered from films, hand drawn notes on loose leaf paper. There are the aforementioned “pin up” pages of Star Trek characters, two wrestlers locked in a hold, children standing amidst a playground of giant breakfast foods, a few screen grabs from a G.I. Joe cartoon, and a gruesome real-life reenactment of the Crucifixion. There seemed to be a fascination with the many forms of simulacra that have somehow invisibly infiltrated our lives, dolls and mannequins in store windows, a Santa Claus lawn ornament covered by a plastic bag. There are any number of Simpsons characters, including ones hand drawn by somebody. One page of lined paper is covered with an elaborate flow chart to help you determine which Naruto character you most closely resemble. At times I wondered if Bacher was dredging up a lifetime’s worth of images and experiences and putting them on display, just to show how much we ingest over time and how varied the media we consume really is. Inevitably, seeing many of them prompts an emotional response, as many of them are anchored to a particular period in our lives. Those that are old enough to seem relics of a more distant past tend to begin a chain of associations that remind of family histories, horrid collages from the stairwell of the house you grew up in, or moments culled solely from documentary film fragments.
Throughout the space are film and slide projectors, the former looping grainy amateur footage of fireworks and hunting trips, the latter displaying a list of first names right inside the entrance. Turning to see the footage of a shopping trip, rows and rows of outdated racks of winter coats projected above the desk where the gallery attendant was absorbed in whatever was on his computer screen was particularly jarring for some reason. Perhaps the image that will stick with me the most is the black and white photograph of a skeleton. It’s Australopithecine, or some distant relative of man. Behind it is a movie projector which is shining its light through the rib cage. Bacher’s exhibit seemed to be doing something like that: drawing our attention to the endless ways that we create homonculi that are projections of ourselves, which divorced from context are startling, embarrassing, or off-putting in their exaggerations and improvisations.


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