A peculiar combination of context and coincidence.A new aesthetic discourse in Nazi representation. Is there an aesthetics of fascism? Rudolf Herz is the artist who took the seemingly incongruous combination of Hitler and Marcel Duchamp and combined the two in a photomontage. It was based on the idea Heinrich Hoffman’s portrait of Duchamp in 1912 and later becoming the official photographer of Hitler. Is there a connection? Is this an apparent mutual celebration of nihilism, something along the lines of Walter Benjamin’s assertion or merely the random coincidence of a new contexts:
…The growing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of masses are two aspects of the same process. Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life. The violation of the masses, whom Fascism, with its Führer cult, forces to their knees, has its counterpart in the violation of an apparatus which is pressed into the production of ritual values. All efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war. War and war only can set a goal for mass movements on the largest scale while respecting the traditional property system. Read More:http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm
The interpretations of Herz’s pieces were not uniform. Does it represent the individuation of fascism in which Duchamp’s art is an example of commodity fetish in the service of consumerism motoring on over a road paved with the flimsiest of concepts not to mention ideals. A nihilistic abandon as commercial force not unlike Lady Gaga which seems to reinforce white male patriarchy and the established hierarchy and pecking order.
Donald Kuspit: “I don’t think it’s so bizarre at all. Duchamp was a terrorist, wasn’t he? I just wanted to say that I don’t think it’s so bizarre at all. Duchamp was a terrorist and so was Hitler, and Duchamp was a fetish object, as Hitler is. And a lot of art historians, there are a whole group of art historians who click their intellectual heels and make the Duchamp salute these days. They are both fairly disruptive figures. I think Duchamp was an extremely disruptive influence on art, despite the rationalization of it as, quote, conceptual and so forth. So I think it is a wonderful and actually rather insightful connection to put Hitler and Duchamp together.”
Eliott Barowitz:I was puzzled about the work and asked for clarification. In my short discourse I said I thought that the juxtaposition of Duchamp with Hitler was bizarre, and I suggested (tongue in cheek) that it might have been appropriate to also include a photograph of Lee Miller since Man Ray (who had become the (un)official photographer of Duchamp) also photographed Miller. Plus, Lee Miller, who reportedly bathed in Hitler’s tub, was one of the subjects of a presentation by Carol Zemel of the State University of New York, Buffalo. In her discussion of the so-called liberation photographs by Margaret Bourke-White and Miller, Zemel suggested that the two women’s photographs tended to “anesthetize and aestheticize” the Holocaust. I could not agree more and I indeed feel that Herz’s Zugzwang “anesthetizes and aestheticizes” Hitler. Read More:http://www.toutfait.com/issues/issue_2/Notes/barowitz.html
By the same measure, would the recurrence of linkages of one sort or another between Hitler and Kafka throughout “Hitler studies” be equally out of place or provocative. In addition to the D. M. Thomas character’s conjecture about the kinship of Kafka and Hitler as artists of the unthinkable and the unbearable, many have invoked Kafka as a prophet, seen the absurd logic of the death camps foreshadowed in “In the Penal Colony” and The Trial, and wondered whether only a Kafkaesque universe can explain the nightmare world Hitler made flesh…
Ron Rosenbaum:Still, some of the little details and correspondences are striking. George Steiner, who, as we’ll see, believes in some metaphysical sense that Kafka invented Hitler or at least Hitler’s concentration-camp universe, points out, on a smaller scale, that Ungeziefer, the word Kafka used to describe the insect into which Gregor Samsa metamorphosed, is a favorite word of Hitler’s, one he used to characterize the “vermin” of Europe, the Jews he wanted to exterminate like unwanted insects. But Binion was the first to apprise me of the very peculiar fact–meaningless except in a Kafkaesque way–that
an named Kafka once lived in Hitler’s house….A coincidence certainly, but the Hitler-Kafka connections go deeper than happenstance. Were it not for Binion’s Hitler explanation and the attack on it by a descendant of Kafka, the world might never have known that the Jewish doctor who treated Hitler’s mother was a relative of Franz Kafka.
Is there something more to the link than these accidents of fate? Read More:http://www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/1299/rosenbaum/excerpt.html
For Walter Benjamin, Marxism and its foundational base of political economic equality of welfare would under cut all that. Marxist art would keep Fascist art at bay. Nevertheless, I think there remains some doubt whether choosing to politicize art in this manner serves to do something greater than to only short circuit a move toward Fascist art. Walter Benjamin demonstrated how a drawing in signs does a different thing than a painting in marks; how the way in which we conceive of a work determines the manner of its consumption. He intimated the ways in which painting and photography that dealt with the real problems and real spaces in which contemporary men lived their hard fought lives was superior to action art that fed the inner genius. Nevertheless, once the artist settles upon his politicized art, he find himself one step removed from the fundamental problem: though he has an answer to the question, why create art, he is still undone by the question of how to create art? This question cannot be answered by relying on some deterministic concept of politicized aesthetics. Read More:http://blackandwhiteandthings.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/walter-benjamin-fascism-and-doubt/
“I have never seen a boy so ineffably saddened,” Bloch would say later. Adolf’s suffering was intense. And transformative, Binion believes: “Hitler’s experience of his mother’s last illness,” Binion concludes, “looms behind his later tireless diatribes against ‘the Jewish cancer,’ the ‘Jewish poison,’ the Jewish profiteer.’”
He cites telling examples from Hitler’s rhetoric of the spectral presence of his mother’s medical trauma: “How many diseases have their origin in the Jewish virus!… [The Jews are] poisonous abscesses eating into the nation…an endless stream of poison…being driven by a mysterious power into the outermost blood vessels” of the body politic.
Binion deals with the obvious objection to this theory–Hitler’s profusions of gratefulness to Bloch at the time, the singular protection he extended to Bloch when he absorbed Austria in 1938, the “undying gratitude” Bloch himself later described as Hitler s attitude toward him–by insisting that “consciously Hitler bore Bloch no grudges” because he was both traumatized and knew himself to be implicated in the “order to burn out the abscesses…to the raw flesh” of his mother.
But while the trauma had buried his resentment at the Jewish doctor deep in his unconscious, it festered and metastasized there, Binion insists. “Abusing ‘the Jew’” in his speeches, Binion maintains, “was for Hitler a means of abusing Bloch.” Murdering the Jews in the camps was the ultimate outcome. Read More:http://www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/1299/rosenbaum/excerpt.html