Was Otto Dix first and foremost a critic of capitalism? A critic through the bias of the industrial/military/cultural complex that was the beast carrying the burden of material comfort for the lambs. He made sermons without preaching and an artistic expressionism without a baggage of romanticism so dear in the literary world to a Hemingway or Faulkner. Dix was not a let-me-show-you-the-hair-on-my chest type. This is not Billy Bishop marking up another kill. There are no good war good war stories to tell, and hopefully traumatize the children with; no band of brothers bonding in the trenches. No smoke signals from the Vatican that this time its different.
Donald Kuspit: Any art that contradicts it by showing its contradictions — the unresolvable tensions that make it erratically tic(k) — must be contradicted: debunked as a distortion — erratic in itself — and with a worse, and more incurable, tic(k) than society’s. More particularly, any art that highlights capitalist society’s dirty underside of perpetual war, emotional terror and traumatic ugliness, and the desperate pursuit of pleasure that seeks relief from them — that dares to function as a social conscience, that places blame where blame must be conspicuously placed, that dares to tell truth to power, that accepts responsibility for its crimes against humanity when power will not accept them — must be prettified into inconsequence, treated as a kind of misplaced glamorization of society. Any art that fearlessly exposes its inherent barbarism — with an uncompromising, vehement realism more than equal to its own uncompromising, toxic character — is its enemy, and must be defeated by being re-made as a silly joke, a fatuous burlesque, a media caricature of itself, an artistic folly rather than an exposure of its own folly. Read More: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp a
Regardless of style, the Verists were hardly objective. They were prejudiced and bitter,marginalized and denied: more interested in peeling away surfaces than in representing them. The main question seems to have been: How many ways can the truth be twisted and be made truer still? Nearly every artist has a different answer, and often more than one. But much of it turned on the axiom, the hinge that equated democracy with capitalism,the endless ecstasy of the bourgeois that animated Disney; and the commodification of all aspects of life, with Germany given the role of the bad cop and the fall guy in this war of villains and heroes:
…During this time, leading political writer Walter Lippman spearheaded the idea that if, as Freud suggested, human beings were driven by irrational forces, then perhaps it was necessary to rethink democracy. What was needed, he said, was a new elite to manage “the bewildered herd.” This would be done through psychological techniques that would control the unconscious feelings of the masses. In Propaganda (1928), Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy:
…“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government, which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.” Read More: http://taicarmen.wordpress.com/tag/edward-bernays/
Meanwhile, back in Germany, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproductionwas probably the most influential of Walter Benjamin’s essays, in which he sensed and saw the shift in the status and role of traditional art as technical means of reproduction: photography and film begin to dominate the imagination of a mass public. Benjamin defined the characteristic of manual production of the traditional artwork as a historical process unique to the original object, manifest in the object as its “aura,” later disputed by Koestler; the subsequent proliferations of technical reproductions of a traditional artwork bear only an “imagistic” similitude to the original, lacking an “aura” and therefore any relation to the actual historical dimension according to Benjamin.
The real issue was the dumbing down of culture, a pop reification and repackaging in diluted form to a wider and less sensitized audience; defended as democracy, but really the hegemonic process of large commercial enterprises. The fast developing preference of technical media by the public- Mr and Mrs. John Q Public- signified for Benjamin a radical shift in the arts to the political in the Marxist sense, although, it may have been more of a political desentization, a numbing based on object fetish; though Benjamin is probably correct is claiming it allows aesthetic contempln to become dissociated from the properly lived experience of the autonomous individual.
The viewer of art,according to Benjamin, from the detached, dissociated position of the technical media itself, becomes a disinterested critic, evaluating a reproduced object merely in terms of its aesthetics. Hence, Benjamin notes the various attempts by political parties, namely the Fascists whom Benjamin feared and despised, to aestheticize politics, or as he put it: “All efforts to render politics aesthetic leads to one thing: war.” There have been variations on this theme since, but none really undermine the idea of the “spectacular” as well as the now obvious totalizing, and all-absorbing nature of media mass culture:from Adorno, to Guy Debord, to Gilles Deleuze, Mcluhan and others, there is the inescapable link of the Edward Bernays theory of fusing culture/commerce and propaganda into a many headed beast.
Michael Brenson: Dix served in the German Army from 1914 to 1918. He was trained as an artilleryman and a machine gunner. In the trenches, with all the dead time between apocalyptic explosions, he made several hundred drawings. In 1922, clearly sensing that he could exorcise his demons only in a graphic medium, he moved from Dresden to Dusseldorf to learn printmaking. ”The War” was published in 1924 as a portfolio: the etchings were meant to be as intimate as a book.
There is neither relief nor redemption here. Even when it is daylight, it is night. When soldiers are carousing, they are throwing up. When eyes are open, they do not see. When soldiers are on leave, survival of the fittest is still law. The land, like the body, is wounded. The earth is clearly female for Dix, and from its unending violation by men in war, it is a short step to his postwar scenes of grotesque sexual violence. This is a world that has lost its soul.Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/03/31/arts/review-art-otto-dix-s-one-sided-view-of-war.html a
By stimulating people’s inner desires and then sating them with consumer products, Bernays argued, he was creating a new way to manage the irrational force of the masses. This way the masses remained docile, while the economy remained stimulated. Bernays called this marketing strategy,“The engineering of consent.” …If that term doesn’t give you the willies, the following quote by leading wall street banker, Paul Maizer, ought to do it:
“We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”
These words were spoken the better half of a century ago in the 1930′s, and it appears the manifesto has become prophesy. Read More: http://taicarmen.wordpress.com/tag/edward-bernays/