Dix & threepenny opera: an explicit body politic

The classic Bertolt Brecht question was an examination of the inconceivable; two forces in which it was not possible to reconcile: how can people be dignified and ethical under capitalism? The stock market as a Three-Penny Opera. The petty thieving, and ruminations, minor scams, disingenuous strategies, tax evasions and various and sundry other acts of the petit bourgeoisie pale in comparison the higher up one climbs on the food chain. Like a Jacob’s ladder into the higher realms of the double-cross and oozy maneuverings where hot potatoes like mortgage crises and interbank lending is crapped onto the public in a classic pump and dump with the government blinking first in the crisis. Matt Taibbi  called Goldman-Sachs a blood-sucking squid and who can actually refute him, after Lloyd Blankfein positioned himself as the messiah’s creditor of last resort:

Kuspit: However different the societies they picture, both Dix and Toulouse-Lautrec show us a society in which the proletariat underclass serves the bourgeois upperclass. In Dix, the poor proletariat serves in the military -- as he did as a machine-gunner in World War I -- that supports the wealthy bourgeois, among them the fat cats pictured in the central panel of his masterpiece Grossstadt (1927-28) image: http://strawberige.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html

…”Rolling Stone magazine ran a story that described Goldman as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”….But what about the charge sheet? Bankers brought the world to the brink of bankruptcy and instead of doing the decent thing and jumping out of the nearest window, they turned up cap in hand to governments to hoover up taxpayers’ money to save their skin. … Read More: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6907681.ece?token=null&offset=12&page=2 …He goes on to admit to being the focus of public outrage–”I know I could slit my wrists and people would cheer”–but then blows the attempt to reconciliation by saying he is “doing God’s work.” But in his own perverted way, Blankfein is totally coherent, and worse, probably believes it, providing an illuminating argument in favor of atheism:

Kuspit:For both Dix and Toulouse-Lautrec, the underclass -- exemplified by the black jazz musicians performing for the white fat cats and their bejeweled and gowned white ladies in Dix’s triptych and the black dancer Toulouse-Lautrec depicted -- is more vital than the upper class, which borrows, exploits, and finally cannibalizes its life. Even the prostitutes both artists depicted are more vital than their customers -- vitalize the sexuality of their male customers with their female sexuality, as though recharging a failed battery -- however more grotesquely vital Dix’s prostitutes are than Toulouse-Lautrec’s. read more: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp

Cain slew Abel Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:

“Man means nothing he means less to me
than the lowiliest cactus flower
or the humblest yucca tree
he chases round this desert
cause he thinks that’s where i’ll be
that’s why i love mankind

I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
from the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That’s why i love mankind”… ( Randy Newman, God’s Song )

Kuspit: For both Dix and Toulouse-Lautrec, the underclass -- exemplified by the black jazz musicians performing for the white fat cats and their bejeweled and gowned white ladies in Dix’s triptych and the black dancer Toulouse-Lautrec depicted -- is more vital than the upper class, which borrows, exploits, and finally cannibalizes its life. Even the prostitutes both artists depicted are more vital than their customers -- vitalize the sexuality of their male customers with their female sexuality, as though recharging a failed battery -- however more grotesquely vital Dix’s prostitutes are than Toulouse-Lautrec’s. His are famously at rest between customers, while Dix’s strut their stuff on the wings of the triptych, along with crippled veterans ... read more: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec_012.jpg

Some of the work of Werner Fassbinder acts as a mirror of what an Otto Dix might have seen. For Fassbinder, there is the reestablishment of post Marshall Plan  German capitalism as a central motif in Veronica Voss. Here it is the medical mafia equation that predominates where a reporter, Krohn, attemps to expose a Dr. Katz  who is dealing in narcotics  to save the life of  faded actress Veronika Voss, whom he is in  love. For her part, she is  dependent on Katz’s  furnishing drugs. Also,  Katz’s clinic is a front for a more serious crime:  Dr. Katz blackmails her patients, forcing them to will their assets to her, and the city’s narcoticsofficer, is also in cahoots with the corrupt doctor, throwing a road block in front of the investigation.  Krohn also  fails toestablish  Katz’s guilt in the death of Krohn’s girlfriend and later of the actress. Fassbinder achieves a  symbolic criticism of Western materialism and the ends to which bourgeois appearances control behavior within the economic realm.

---Celebrated geneticist James Watson, codiscoverer of the double helix and president of Cold Springs Harbor Laboratories, told a British film crew in 2003, "If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease. The lower 10 per cent who really have difficulty, even in elementary school, what's the cause of it? A lot of people would like to say, 'Well, poverty, things like that.' It probably isn't. So I'd like to get rid of that, to help the lower 10 percent." For the first half of the twentieth century, Cold Spring Harbor focused on the "submerged tenth"; apparently, the passion has not completely dissipated. Following in the footsteps of Galton, who once amused himself by plotting the geographic distribution of pretty women in England, Watson also told the film crew," People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great." Watson gave no indication of what the standard for beauty would be. War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race. By Edwin Black. Pg. 442-443---read more: http://ce399.typepad.com/weblog/operant-conditioning/ image: http://www.artknowledgenews.com/2010-03-13-21-03-13-otto-dix-one-man-exhibition-at-the-neue-galerie-new-york.html?q=neue+galerie+york

Lola was Fassbinder’s final stab at capitalism, a close-up of its economic and social organization. It is based on Adenauer’s 1957 free-market restoration which was to make Germany an economic exporter that was to be a luxury ghetto, a golden ghetto for the allied victors. Call it Versailles II

la is the star  attraction in a small city night club. Lola’s married friend, developer Schuckert, profiteers from the “economic miracle” of fiscal stimulus which permits  him to afford Lola. However, building commissioner von Bohm not only wants to stop local graft, he also wants Lola, falling in love with her before comprehending her role in the “Villa Fink” establishment.

Pecora Commission. 1933. "The Morgan testimony was so outrageous that Senator Carter Glass quipped, “We are having a circus, and the only things lacking now are peanuts and colored lemonade.” A press agent for the Ringling Brothers Circus took advantage of this quote to put a midget (one Lya Graf) on Morgan’s lap. To compound the error, the committee chairman, Senator Duncan Fletcher of Florida, asked with newspapers not to print the pictures, which only made them rush to do so. Senator Glass later barred cameramen from the committee room. The photo of Morgan with a circus midget became the symbol of everything that was wrong with Washington. However, the Pecora hearings were successful in creating financial regulations that existed until Clinton and Bush administrations abandoned them. A similarly sad end came to Graf, who returned to her native Germany only to be put inside a concentration camp and she died at Auschwitz in 1941." read more: http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/jack-morgan-and-midget/

Von Bohm’s love corrupts him. He gets Lola; she gets a privileged position in society as well as Schuckert’s night club/brothel as a wedding present; and the developer continues to extract an advantage from the municipal building boom, which pretty well explains how the system works on the larger national and international level. Again, Fassbinder plays with the pretense of death as a preachy T.S. with all its metaphysical enigmas and poetry, to be devoured by the Otto Dix version of death as haunting, unsoftened, raw, everyday reality.

Okay, forget bail-outs, forget bonuses, forget all the money stuff, if you can. Surely Blankfein cannot dodge the playwright David Hare? Through his latest work, The Power of Yes, which tackles the issue of the credit crunch, Hare argues that it is “blackmail” to say that there cannot be a recovery unless we let bankers get on with what they have always done and pay themselves squillions. It’s like what the miners did in the 1970s, only this time the National Union of Mineworkers is the City and Wall Street. Blankfein has no time for such soft talk. Bankers are not miners. “I’ve got news for you,” he shoots back, eyes narrowing. “If the financial system goes down, our business is going down and, trust me, yours and everyone else’s is going down, too.” Read More: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6907681.ece?token=null&offset=12&page=2a

Madness was made possible by all that milieu that repressed in man of his animal nature...madness then became the other side of progress. By multiplying mediations, civilisation offered men ever increasing means to become insane - Michel Foucault. History of Madness. Pg. 374 The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective. Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electronically control the brain. Someday armies and generals will be controlled by electric stimulation of the brain. - Dr. Jose Delgado, Director of Neuropsychiatry Yale University Medical School - Congressional Record, No. 26, Vol. 118 February 24, 1974 ... read more: http://ce399.typepad.com/weblog/operant-conditioning/ image: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp

Like a patient who has survived a near-death experience, for Blankfein the credit crunch has rekindled his innate passion for moneymaking. Talking to him is like talking to a man who has greenbacks, not blood, running through his veins. He believes he’s good at what he does and what he does is good. He has his supporters. …Others, such as the New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, argue that the public “cannot have it both ways”. At the height of the crisis last year, Sorkin recalls, “many crossed their fingers, hoping Goldman and the rest of Wall Street would be saved to halt the downward spiral. But now when the banks finally get back on their feet, we want them to fall flat again”.

Like it or loathe it, one thing is unarguable: “Tenacious G” does seem to draw the winning hand in good times and, as we have seen recently, in bad. It begs one simple question. How? What’s in the special sauce? To try to find the answer, you have to leave Blankfein’s office and take the lift to the 17th floor. On the way, you hear investment bankers, traders, “strats” — strategists — and “quants”, the mathematical lizard brains who dream up whizzy trading formulae, discussing “interest rate swaps”, “no credit defaults”, “exotic and vanilla options”, “bid-ask spreads”, “bunds”, “bobls” and goodness knows what else. You can’t see the cash whizzing around 85 Broad Street as you walk through the place, but you can feel it being shuffled 24 hours a day between central, commercial and investment banks, vast companies, Russian oligarchs, Middle Eastern movers and sheikhers, Texas oilmen and secretive billionaires in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Read More: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6907681.ece?token=null&offset=12&page=2 a

"What Hollywood accomplished with its brilliant dialectical feat of appropriating Dix’s figures -- banalizing his highly individualized, “scandalous” figures into slick, impersonal, marketable stereotypes -- was to change the Weimar Republic wasteland they inhabited and symbolized into an entertaining paradise: a perverse paradise, no doubt, but still a paradise of free love -- physically free if emotionally costly love -- and, one might add, of “free art.” Without their critical edge and sting, they are fashionable mannequins on a commercial stage, however ostensibly -- superficially -- free spirits, as all figures that seem out of the bounds of social respectability, and charged with raw animal instinct -- all “transgressive” figures that seem to lift the repression barrier -- appear to be. Women in particular, as the risqué, self-destructive, impulsive dancer Anita Berber, depicted in a passionately red body-clinging dress (1925) -- a sort of glistening snakeskin (its redness available in the Neue Galerie shop as glamorous “Berlin red” lipstick, a demoralizing triumph of advertising, packaging and commodification, not to say an “esthetic” cheap shot at Berber and Dix)"... read more: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp

In an office with an ink stain on the carpet, sits Liz Beshel. She’s the first ingredient of Goldman’s witches’ brew. The firm only hires the very, very brightest and they don’t come much sparkier than Beshel. The 40-year-old single mother talks so fast, and with such insight into financial markets, you practically need a degree from Harvard Business School to keep up. She was snapped up by Goldman straight from college and managed to get an executive MBA from Columbia University, New York, “on Fridays”. As you do. She rose quickly though investment banking to become the firm’s youngest-ever global treasurer, the keeper of the cash. Today, every pound the firm invests, every yen it borrows, every dollar that flows on and off its balance sheet, is under her watchful eye, all $1 trillion a day of it. How much cash does the bank have right now? I ask. “$164.2 billion in cash or cash equivalents,” she replies without pausing for thought or breath.

"Paradoxically, the need for a radically new form of theatre became most obvious to him after his biggest financial success. In 1928 The Threepenny Opera made him into a world star. This musical play depicted begging as an organised trade, with criminals working hand in glove with the chief of police. But rather than shocking bourgeois audiences, the play was a huge success. Theatregoers loved its impudent songs, while Brecht’s stinging critique of capitalism did not attract much attention. Brecht developed his theory of “epic theatre” as a response to this. His aim was not to entertain, or to draw the audience into the action - these approaches merely turned them into passive consumers." read more: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=9430 image: http://www.benchtheatre.org.uk/plays80s/3popera.php

The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said “Lord the plague is on the world
Lord no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won’t take care of us
Won’t you please please let us be?”

And the Lord said
And the Lord said

“I burn down your cities–how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You must all be crazy to put your faith in me
That’s why i love mankind
You really need me
That’s why i love mankind” ( Randy Newman, God’s Song)


This entry was posted in Cinema/Visual/Audio, Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Miscellaneous, Modern Arts/Craft, Music/Composition/Performance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>