Its not an ecstasy of death. Its brutal, factual, inescapable physical event devoid of sentiment, nostalgia, romance, and valor. It is the Triumph of Death; uncannily realistic and without myth, or sermon or ritual. To Otto Dix, death was not an intellectual construction, an academic enigma that could be compromised and made more user-friendly through pontification.
Donald Kuspit: Dix has unflinchingly looked death in the face and lived to tell us what it looks like: his “War” series is the greatest rendering of the disasters of war since Goya’s, and even greater in its technical brilliance and candor. For Dix gets to the roots of death, showing us how rooted in life it is — showing us more grisly skulls than we care to see, stripping flesh to the bare bone. Goya stays on its bleak surface, rarely venturing and confronting its skeletal truth. Dix’s Nude (for Francisco Goya) (1926) makes the point succinctly: the beautiful refined body of Goya’s nude Maja has become ugly, vulgar, and beastly, as her claw-like right hand confirms….
…She is ready for sadistic action, her hairy crotch more crudely naked and claustrophobic — hardly inviting — than even Courbet imagined it in the Birth of the World. She is Death and the Maiden — an image of the Triumph of Death over youth and beauty — in one hideous body, suggesting that having sex with a grotesque prostitute must have been an unconsciously hideous experience, and as excruciating and death-defying as being an isolated machine-gunner — sex as well as war is a matter of endurance and survival, however necessary sex is to discharge the profound fear of death (annihilation anxiety) aroused by war, in any kind of dubious pleasure.Read More: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp a
But Dix, perhaps not surprisingly, was not a misanthrope.Similar in many ways to Viktor Frankl, Dix chose art to reflect the same concerns; we dream a dream from which we are arising from, but the message that if we only improve the economic status of people, things will bee o.k. and a level of happiness will be attained. Bad dream or just an anxiety reducing pill. The truth for many is that the primary struggle for survival is less threatening and the question has arisen: survival for what? More people presently have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.
Viktor Frankl: Unlike an animal, man is no longer told by drives and instincts what he must do. And in contrast to man in former times, he is no longer told by traditions and values what he should do. Now, knowing neither what he must do nor what he should do, he sometimes does not even know what he basically wishes to do. Instead, he wishes to do what other people do… or he does what other people wish him to do…For too long we have been dreaming a dream from which we are now waking up: the dream that if we just improve the socioeconomic situation of people, everything will be okay, people will become happy. The truth is that as the struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged: survival for what? Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for. Read More: http://stuff.mit.edu/people/gkrasko/Frankl.html a
Goya, it can be argued, soft-pedaled on the hard reality of death by implying its occurence is the result of war of war instead of in the realm of inevitability. Failure to do so maintains its fantastical and sensationalist elements; as well as a pathological attraction. The artistic tension,
gh graphic, tends to be based on false premises. Imagine R.D. Laing writing War and Peace. Dix asserts that Death is an “experience” that goes with the territory. It is not mystical or poetic: no one is exempt, there is no free pass or “chance” monopoly card that waives one from joining the dance of death.There is no desire or release from death; its just there, black and infinite.
As Donald Kuspit remarked, it is what Dix’s conga line of prostitutes perform: death is built into their grotesque bodies. It is also responsible for the strange (and estranging) ungainliness of the bodies of the respectable bourgeois — professors and doctors as well as businessmen and art dealers he portrays. “In contrast to both Dix and Goya, Eliot unrealistically theorizes about death, offering us what amounts to a selective encyclopedia of quotations alluding to it, passed off as a poetic vision.” Read More: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp
Leo Bersani has written about “an interest in failure” , within a culture without redemptive power; breaking this mythical bond between god, and a deification of culture which distills itself into fetish,obsession and ultimately violence. Its an examination about the mobility and immobility of desire: the same themes that Dix, ostensibly a “modern” had gone back into the visual devices of ancient Assyrian art where this “fracture” is prolonged; the lack of a primary locus of action frustrating and prevents visual bonding that is both seductive and manipulating.
In “The Forms of Violence, Narratives in Assyrian Art” Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit assert that the importance of this effect lies in this; that as our vision is kept moving; the effect of the violence within the imagery upon us is diminished. This effect is in contrast with the narrative visual tradition of the West, in which an apex of action-the focal point of an image- predominates as a structural device. It is at that apex where the dangers of mimetic identification and desire occur for the viewer, resulting in a fascination with violence —the identification of the viewer with the action. “In the Assyrian Palace reliefs, the very centers of anecdotal violence de-center themselves.”
This subversion of the violence aesthetic is also a peeling away of the Freudian co-mingling of desire as excitation and pleasure rather than satisfaction. Importantly, Bersani has been a critic of accommodation and of satisfaction that reinforces the violence-producing status quo, which is what popular culture for the most part is, given that stagnancy is predictable, quantifiable and easy to package and commodify like Miley Cyrus, and American Idol. For Bersani, it is an auto-mutilation of the ego: Satisfaction leads to a sense of closure, or even redemption, and these are deceptions that distance us from our capacity for intensity; an ego-fragmentation that signals an encounter with intensity.
Michael Roth: For Bersani, pleasure is not an enhancement of the ego as it masters the world. Pleasure is a shattering of the ego as it encounters the world. What does this splintering have to do with intimacy? The “greatness of psychoanalysis” is “its attempt to account for our inability to love ourselves and others,” and for Bersani, this greatness should provoke us to explore new modalities of affection and relation that would not repeat old repressions and poisonous violence. These would be new intimacies that embrace shock and fragmentation, that seek out self-shattering rather than repair and redemption. Bersani and ( Adam )Phillips call these “impersonal intimacies.” Read More: http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/015_01/2249 a
From the traditional, Freudian psychoanalytic perspective, we had to overcome narcissism and to recognize the otherness of others in order to approach intimacy with them. Bersani rejects this narrative because , its argued, it leads to violence against otherness; that an attainment of intimacy on the Freudian model is not sustainable, and it borders on the occult in its proximity and absence of insulation from violence. What is regarded in Otto Dix’s work as a terrible beauty dancing on a volcano. Roth: “Difference,” Phillips writes, “is the one thing we cannot bear.” If we could imagine shattering selves connecting with one another, both agree, perhaps we could form new, nonnormative stories that would escape the dialectics of violence and difference.
Read More: http://www.robertfulford.com/Nussbaum.html
In his book “Psychotherapy and Existentialism” (PAE) Viktor Frankl writes: “We have seen that there exists not only a will to pleasure and a will to power but also a will to meaning. Now we see further: We have not only the possibility of giving a meaning to our life by creative acts and beyond that by the experience of Truth, Beauty, and Kindness, of Nature, Culture, and human beings in their uniqueness and individuality, and of love; we have not only the possibility of making life meaningful by creating and loving, but also by suffering – so that when we can no longer change our fate by action, what matters is the right attitude towards fate.”
This third avenue to meaning is, perhaps, the most important one. Too often we forget that suffering is an unavoidable and ineradicable part of human life. Without it, life could not be complete. Suffering – albeit in unequal degrees – accompanies us through all our lives, eventually terminating in death. Finding meaning in suffering is not as much the ability to cope with suffering and not letting it destroy oneself, but the possibility of “rising above oneself,” “growing beyond oneself,” and thus “changing oneself.” In “Man’s Search for Meaning” (MSM p. 88) Frankl writes: “Here lies a chance for a man either to make use or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.” And a few pages later: “When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden” (p. 99) Frankl proves that a human being “may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.” Read More: http://stuff.mit.edu/people/gkrasko/Frankl.html