life on parade: playing dress up

It was the Aryan myth. It was born as a minor issue in comparative linguistics, grew into a full-fledged racial theory of history, and ended by almost devouring European civilization…..

Steven Heller: In fact, Hugo Boss was the designer back in the 1930s of the SS uniforms. It’s not the same Hugo Boss that exists today, it’s a totally different company. But people made these garments. They made the jewelry. They made the flags. This is all part of everyday life. These materials were so integrated into everyday life yet they had this charged symbolism….Once the crimes of the Nazis were exposed they also became representative weapons of those crimes. If one is involved in understanding the power of design the power of symbols the power of typography to alter behavior, to influence behavior which it does everyday on a corporate level, on a nonprofit level, on a benign level, on a malicious level, you have to understand what went on with the Nazi practices. Read More:

"This is a somewhat more accomplished attempt at portraying the themes of "simple country life", muscularity, collective action, and a union between the people and the soil. While most of these "rural nazi" attempts were embarrassingly clumsy, Junghanns is quite effective. I included this example as a counterpoint to the Wissel painting to highlight the difference between similar political themes and a skilled and unskilled approach to their portrayal. " Read More:

…By the turn of the century, Aryanism, like the true monster it was, was busy replicating itself. Adapting to the increasingly acrimonious political climate in Europe, it multiplied into sub-myths: Celticism, Teutonism, Nordicism, and Anglo-Saxonism, each claiming authentic Aryan descent for its own particular tribe. These new monsters began to grapple with one another, but the Aryan myth remained the supreme racial ideal. It was now part of common parlance, even among those who were never consciously racist. And we all know that a racial drama requires villains, heroes, and victims.

"Between sadomasochism and fascism there is a natural link. "Fascism is theater," as Genet said. As is sadomasochistic sexuality: to be involved in sadomasochism is to take part in a sexual theater, a staging of sexuality. Regulars of sadomasochistic sex are expert costumers and choreographers as well as performers, in a drama that is all the more exciting because it is forbidden to ordinary people. Sadomasochism is to sex what war is to civil life: the magnificent experience. (Riefenstahl put it: "What is purely realistic, slice of life, what is average, quotidian, doesn't interest me." As the social contract seems tame in comparison with war, so fucking and sucking come to seem merely nice, and therefore unexciting. The end to which all sexual experience tends, as Bataille insisted in a lifetime of writing, is defilement, blasphemy. To be "nice," as to be civilized, means being alienated from this savage experience—which is entirely staged." Read More:

In the late nineteenth-century the theme of Aryan supremacy over such peoples as the black Africans bulked large among the motivations of imperialism. As white men took up their burden, Aryanism echoed the dramatic confrontation between Prospero and Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Certain Americans also sensed the drama of the confrontation between Black and White, Vice and Virtue. The American version of the myth stressed Anglo-Saxon and Nordic supremacy over the African-American. Its most famous spokesmen were Madison Grant, who in 1916 wrote The Passing of the Great Race and Lothrop Stoddard, whose RIsing Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy appeared in 1920.

---But one important thing is being forgotten here, and left out of the quotefest from Sontag's landmark 1975 Sontag's landmark 1973 article: What is interesting about art under National Socialism are those features which make it a special variant of totalitarian art. The official art of countries like the Soviet Union and China aims to expound and reinforce a utopian morality. Fascist art displays a utopian aesthetics—that of physical perfection. Painters and sculptors under the Nazis often depicted the nude, but they were forbidden to show any bodily imperfections. Their nudes look like pictures in physique magazines: pinups which are both sanctimoniously asexual and (in a technical sense) pornographic, for they have the perfection of a fantasy. As a special subset of "totalitarian art" – which she defines as having a specific, official message, "fascist art" is especially employed as part of an argument that physical perfection in the individual is in itself a sign of the overall perfection (health and superiority) of the body politic. ---Read More:

In Europe, however, the alleged enemy of the Aryan race was neither black nor yellow. Here, the villains role in the great exchatological drama of Aryan redemption was generally assigned to the Jew. Anti-Semitism, with its long history, remained a valuable political weapon in a secular age that was nevertheless wedded to myth and unreason and in search of vivid confrontations between Good and Evil.

Arthur Szyk. 1942. James Young: But in fact, as historians like George Mosse, Peter Viereck and Saul Friedlander among others have long held, the Nazis not only possessed a highly refined aesthetic sensibility, but unlike most, enacted their aesthetic at every level of politics and policy. Moreover, they not only believed themselves to be artists but were regarded by others at the time as artists whose very ideology was founded in an essentially aesthetic logic. As Frederic Spotts has pointed out in his riveting new study, “Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics,” echoing Peter Vierick’s “Metapolitics” (1941), the artistic ambitions of Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg, Baldur von Schirach, Walther Funk and Julius Streicher were originally deeper than their political ambitions and were essential elements of their personalities. Read more:




Heller:Why do you think the Nazis cared so much about the way they looked? SH: It wasn’t the Nazis per se that cared. It was Adolf Hitler who joined the party and became their ersatz art director by becoming head of a propaganda or publicity division. He had this instinct for uniformity. The Germans were uniform anyway going back to Bismarck. He often said he was influenced by the Soviets. The Soviets had their hammer and sickle which was really a very modern flag, and an anti-coat of arms compared to the monarchies that used the double-headed eagles and all that stuff. read more:

Jonathan Glancey:All this is understandable, but even then a minefield for the unwary. One English Lads’ mag editor lost his job a few years ago when he celebrated the chic military dress sense of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. When it comes to praising Nazi art, architecture and design, the lines are still clearly drawn, and no quarter given. Albert Speer was a lousy architect, by definition, because he was a Nazi. Leni Riefenstahl was a third-rate film-maker because she was the darling of the Third Reich. These assertions might be debatable, but no one must ever say that Speer was anything like a fine architect or Riefenstahl an impressive film-maker. Anyone making such claims will automatically be dubbed anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi and, more realistically, insensitive, or plain wrong….

"And speaking of which, even in pornography itself, where images are lifted directly from Nazism itself, no one is confusing the fetishization of the body – in its ultimate, pornographic form – as anything remotely fascist, even thought the imagery is clearly such. Sontag notes: Of course, most people who are turned on by SS uniforms are not signifying approval of what the Nazis did, if indeed they have more than the sketchiest idea of what that might be. Nevertheless, there are powerful and growing currents of sexual feeling, those that generally go by the name of sadomasochism, which make playing at Nazism seem erotic. These sadomasochistic fantasies and practices are to be found among heterosexuals as well as homosexuals, although it is among male homosexuals that the eroticizing of Nazism is most visible." Read More: image:

To use phrases, though, like “just amazing” and “really beautiful” when referring to Nazi architecture and cinema remains, as Bryan Ferry must have known, I imagine, pretty much as soon as he opened his mouth, firmly out of court. Nazi design remains a dangerous minefield. As for Nazi art, I leave the last word to Franz Liebkind, the veteran (and happily fictional) Nazi who writes “Springtime for Hitler” in Mel Brooks’s The Producers: “Hitler, there was an artist. He could paint an entire apartment. One afternoon . . . two coats!” Best perhaps to steer well away from the “art history perspective”, and stick with the knowingly bad jokes. Read More: a

Weinbaum:Fascist art (the example Benjamin gives is that of Italian Futurist, Franco Marinetti) supplies “gratification of a sense perception that has been changed by technology” to such an extreme degree that society “can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.”23 Alternatively, liberatory cultural forms (those spawned by a critique of the prevailing property system) respond to changes in perception “by politicizing art.”24 In other words, Benjamin tightly binds human liberation to particular forms of artistic production. In his view, radical politics require art that reflects and refracts transformations in the mode of production and perception, and channels these changes into critical consciousness, which, for Benjamin, was tantamount to class consciousness. Read More: image:

“( Walter)Benjamin displayed two rival aspects in his utopian project. In his essay “On the Critique of Violence,” Benjamin presents the positive utopian framework of his thought. Principally, he did not reject political violence, but analyzed its status and its foundations within the pessimistic context. Accordingly, the struggle between the divine and the mythical serves as the cornerstone for the political struggle and necessarily collides with the law. The law, instead of implementing justice, represents the violence which instituted the law in the first place. However, Benjamin implicitly abandoned the naive revolutionary demand for justice, which is satisfied simply by replacing the present laws with others conceived as being more just. Such a demand appears as a mythical, violent contention, opposing the divine one.

The pessimistic dimension in Benjamin’s thought is revealed in his claim that the divine alone enables us
to speak of “justice.” Since there is no place in (secular) history  for this dimension – sometimes referred to as “messianic” – his utopianism strongly suggests a transformation of the utopian project. Real change is now conceived as possible only by the overthrow of history. From this perspective, each revolutionary effort to realize utopia – with which he explicitly identifies – is revealed as a vanity of the mythic force that confronts the messianic. In contrast to Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s positive utopianism, in their early thinking, Benjamin incorporated two elements within the framework of his fundamentally pessimistic negative utopianism: the tradition of thought on redemption, and the utopian tradition.Read More:

Read More:


This entry was posted in Cinema/Visual/Audio, Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Miscellaneous, Modern Arts/Craft 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>