Lurie: first they came for…NO!

Who owns identity? Who claims authority over the owner of an identity to grant it,  withdraw it, delete it, or void it  from a person in accordance with their own definition? Who sets the rules of the game? Who seals the boxcars? This is what the “male gaze” is in its pure and most insidious state; a disease that permeates the conscience without roots; toxic because it plays with the sensitive and complex emotion of acceptance and rejection while sapping the strength of the spirit down to the level of existential struggle with identity and against myriad forms of labels, categories and cataloging that reduces to the individual to the legal entity of “human”, another commodity to be passed through the filter of the culture industry.

Kuspit:But like all moralists—like an Old Testament prophet—Lurie implicitly deplores the lack of morality, cursing the Hitlers who rule the world—the lifeworld in which they let pornography flourish, an opium for the male masses; the artworld in which they let Pop Art flourish, mocking creative art by its dependence on ready-made photographs from mass culture (as mechanically made and reproducible as pornographic photographs)-- with their immorality. To me, the collages in which Lurie cuts up pornographic photographs of the depersonalized female body, using parts of it in a personal fantasy, is as much an attack on photography and the mass media used to distribute pornography as it is on the mistreatment of women implicit in presenting them as purely sexual objects and as such non-persons. Read More: image:

Boris Lurie did not reject who he was, the concentration camp number on his arm, the legal authority of his owners was burned into him; the hick was this ethnic i.d. imposed on him by gentile society; this invisible constraint facing an identity struggling to define itself outside of the “gaze”, the objectification by outsiders, and as Raul Hilberg asserted, an unconscious complicity by those of official authority within his Jewish identity. If we peel back the element of isolation here, the dynamic is almost universally applied, duping and doping of something more profoundly systematic.

Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

KIND, 1972 mixed media on cardboard, 80 x 60 cm---In his art Lurie in effect evacuates the need, pain, and hatred he felt in the concentration camp, projecting into the Nazis who ran the camp, turning them into the bad and fragmented object he unconsciously (and consciously) felt he was. As Segal says, the object is reintrojected, “resulting in an increase in fragmentation of the self.” But “a good experience can modify the perception of the object and the self.” According to Bion, the good experience is afforded by the mother’s breast, eventually any woman’s good breast—including the good breasts of pornographic pin-ups.---Read More:

Norman Finkelstein:I once asked my late mother, who survived Maidanek concentration camp, about Dawidowicz’s depiction of all the Jews in the ghettos and camps furtively staying faithful to their religion until their final steps into the gas chambers. “When I first entered my block at Maidanek, all the women inmates had dyed-blond hair,” my mother laughed. “They had been trying to pass as Gentiles.” The shocking accounts of Jewish corruption that could be found in conveniently forgotten memoirs like Bernard Goldstein’s The Stars Bear Witness were deleted in Dawidowicz’s fantasy. Read More:

The most public trial of the holocaust was Eichmann’s in 1961 after being kidnapped, tried, and then dispatched to the hangman. The Eichmann trial was, in a sense, a trial on the inability to think. No communication was possible with Eichmann, not because he lied, instead he was wrapped by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others,the inability to think, and hence insulated against reality as such . It was a proof against reason and argument and information and insight and empathy of any kind as Hannah Arendt asserted.

---It is worth noting that Lurie did not find the artworld particularly nourishing—it was a deceptive cornucopia, like the pornogra

ized breast. Abstract Expressionism was a facilitating artistic environment for Lurie, but Pop Art turned the art world into a pornographic place, a sort of brothel in which star-struck artists marketed themselves like prostitutes. For Lurie, there was seductive populist pornography, and there was repulsive arty pornography.---Donald Kuspit. LOAD, 1972 mixed media on canvas, 68 x 94 cm Read More:

As witness to the trial, Arendt saw that the banality of evil is potentially of unlimited extent; the evil perpetrated by an Eichmann can be blown to the four corners of the earth like a “fungus” precisely because it has no root. Seen in this sense, evil actors like Eichmann were not technically or legally “corruptible”. Having overcome or in his case forgotten any inclination he may have had to halt or hinder the organization and transportation of millions of innocent Jews to their deaths, Eichmann boasted that he had done his duty to the end. The sad aspect is that psychological testing of Eichmann declared him frightingly normal; a theme later further enigmatized by the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments.

NO poster #7, 1963 overprinted misprints, 91 x 71 cm Read More:

Donald Kuspit:It is no accident, as the art critic Harold Rosenberg observed, that the great majority of innovative American artists in the postwar period were Jews. As Max Horkheimer points out, because the Jew by definition can never fit into Christian society, however hard he tries to assimilate and conform, he is by definition a nonconformist, and has the opportunity of becoming a creative nonconformist—a nonconformist who can transform society by introducing unexpected ideas and new possibilities into it. In a sense, the Jew is destined to be avant-garde whether he wants to be or not. Perhaps Barnett Newman was the most forthrightly Jewish avant-garde American artist working at the same time as Lurie. Newman designed a synagogue and one of his major abstract paintings alludes to Abraham, 1949, the patriarchal founder of Judaism. He led the way beyond Abstract Expressionism with his innovative “zip” paintings. Newman’s abstract sublime paintings, to use the art historian Robert Rosenblum’s famous term, have been understood as quintessentially Jewish in their iconoclasm….

Lurie. MEMO TO U.S. (part 1), 1963. Horkheimer, Adorno:The principle dictates that he should be shown all his needs as capable of-fulfilment, but that those needs should be so predetermined that he feels himself to be the eternal consumer, the object of the culture industry. Not only does it make him believe that the deception it practices is satisfaction, but it goes further and implies that, whatever the state of affairs, he must put up with what is offered. The escape from everyday drudgery which the whole culture industry promises may be compared to the daughter’s abduction in the cartoon: the father is holding the ladder in the dark. The paradise offered by the culture industry is the same old drudgery. Both escape and elopement are pre-designed to lead back to the starting point. Pleasure promotes the resignation which it ought to help to forget. Read More:

…Lurie is one of these Jewish innovators and creative non-conformists, but his Jewish art negates the sublime—just as Newman thought the sublime negated the beautiful—and with that art’s “higher purpose.” Many Jews felt that the Holocaust indicated that God had abandoned the Jews, and they abandoned God in response: holiness has fled the world, leaving only the profane—profane human beings, which is why Lurie never abandoned the figure. Lurie’s art deals in profanities—the profaneness of it all. He curses it all, as his Curse Paintings suggest. There is nothing “high” about art, for there is nothing up high. Art is forced to get low down and dirty because the world is lowdown and dirty.Read More:

---Adorno, Horkhaimer, 1944:Culture is a paradoxical commodity. So completely is it subject to the law of exchange that it is no longer exchanged; it is so blindly consumed in use that it can no longer be used. Therefore it amalgamates with advertising. The more meaningless the latter seems to be under a monopoly, the more omnipotent it becomes. The motives are markedly economic. One could certainly live without the culture industry, therefore it necessarily creates too much satiation and apathy. In itself, it has few resources itself to correct this. Advertising is its elixir of life. But as its product never fails to reduce to a mere promise the enjoyment which it promises as a commodity, it eventually coincides with publicity, which it needs because it cannot be enjoyed. Read More: image:MESS DEATH, 1972 mixed media on cardboard, 90 x 63 cm

…As Boris Lurie clearly knew, the process of dehumanization precludes rebellion. Its a numbing paralysis like Kafka’s Metamorphosis or The Trial.The world is Kafka’s Penal Colony. The most provocative aspect of Eichmann in Jerusalem was its study of human conscience. The court’s refusal to consider the question of Eichmann’s conscience resulted in its failure to confront what Arendt called “the central moral, legal, and political phenomena of our century,”based on the idea that the traditional “voice of god” was not applicable in a Nietzschean context of “god is dead” and within a structure of general moral collapse, even within the Jewish community and their own complicity, though perhaps unconscious in cooperating with authorities.

Collage. 1956. Joseph Heath:We find ourselves in an untenable situation On the one hand, we criticize conformity and encourage individuality and rebellion. On the other hand, we lament the fact that our ever-increasing standard of material consumption is failing to generate any lasting increase in happiness. This is because it is rebellion, not conformity, that generates the competitive structure that drives the wedge between consumption and happiness. As long as we continue to prize individuality, and as long as we express that individuality through what we own and where we live, we can expect to live in a consumerist society. Read More: image:

Eichmann had a conscience, and it seems to have “functioned in the expected way” for a few weeks after he became engaged in the transport of Jews, and then, when he heard no voice saying Thou shalt not kill but on the contrary every voice saying Thou shalt kill, “it began to function the other way around.” – Arendt.

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Hune at Martin Buber Institute: since at least the days of spinoza, jewish identity has struggled to define itself independent of both the gaze of the outsiders and that of the official authorities. the generation of kafka and buber and others, one that will not be repeated in its towering genius, brought this struggle to the fore. spinoza was excommunicated by officialdom (the official “state” literary authorities of his time) (to his eternal glory), kafka was ignored, buber was paid lip service and only for a while. but kafka went beyond his jewish identity. his was a struggle with the futility of life. he was not a nihilist nor a revolutionary. he was a “futilist” and for that, just like spinoza (and also the rabbi from brazlav with whom he share literary forms 200 years beforehand) allowed himself to expire at an early age. i feel personally guilty for his death…kafka once defined himself as a “typical example of a western jew,” “this means that i don’t have a moment of peace, that nothing comes easily to me, not just the present and the future, but even the past, that thing that each man receives as his birthright: even that i have to conquer, and perhaps that is the hardest task.”

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One Response to Lurie: first they came for…NO!

  1. Inès Ortega (Clauni) says:

    You did like that “male gaze” concept; to my observations, is just the effort of normal men/women, more often in men, to evaluate objectively a scene they are watching, before reacting to it.

    Eichmann was a psychopath, many of them flourished under IIIrd Reich.

    Guess Kafka disliked a certain aspect of jew culture; too lucid to live in that specific moment of history, as his friend Milena said.

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