Audio guide stop for Lutz Bacher (The Celestial Handbook)
NARRATOR: The eighty-five prints in The Celestial Handbook are scattered throughout the Museum. The plates themselves are very small, but the objects that they depict are unimaginably large. There are galaxies, nebulae, and, in one case, quote, “an infinite profusion of shining suns.” That phrase comes from Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, a book self-published in 1966 by Robert Burnham, an amateur astronomer.
In her work, Bacher simply frames and re-presents the pages of Burnham’s book. In doing so she literally spaces them out, making them objects of independent focus. One thing that comes forward as a result is the relationship between the images and Burnham’s captions. Sometimes these are poetic, sometimes they’re minimally factual. Either way, they rarely seem to describe their subjects adequately. In Bacher’s staging of the original book, that failure becomes a point of interest. It suggests that the work’s real subject may be the cosmic chaos that exceeds the reach of language.