Rudolf Herz is not exactly a stranger to controversy regarding his unconventional approach to memory and remembrance. His work often attempts to explore the malevolence that underlines the criticisms directed towards him and certain other artists such as in the Mirroring Evil show in New York. This is because artists like Herz who are two or three generations removed from the terror, intentionally depart from earlier documentary-type art that focuses on the victims.By using conceptual art to manipulate the perpetrators’ propaganda in new and ingenious ways, Herz seeks to raise our awareness of modern techniques that shape our perceptions of evil.
In cinema, the equivalent might be Werner Fassbinder who in films like Veronika Voss, portrayed with stinging clarity, the almost piously religious culture amnesia and anaesthetisation in post-war Germany that diluted and disparaged the holocaust into almost souvenir store status. So, there is a desire to efface the past; to avoid a national atrocity that seems to have been essentially suppressed in the era of post-war Marshall Plan prosperity. Fassbinder’s aesthetic nostalgia conjures up a pervasive cinematic past, and a correlative to the antipodal realms of good/evil lost innocence/disavowal and alienating experience.
In 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city council in Dresden decided to remove its statue of Lenin, a symbol of the no longer existent Communist regime. The monument was taken down and given to a Swabian stonemason. In the summer of 2004, Rudolf Herz borrowed this enormous torso of Lenin and placed it, along with two other anonymous statues, on the back of a truck and drove them all over Europe. Each evening the truck would stop in a different city where artists, sociologists, cultural scientists, economists and common people on the streets were asked to give their views on Lenin in the twenty-first century:…And the 21st century to Lenin. Who will explain it to him? This remarkable tour was recorded by a film team and by photographers Reinhard Matz and Irena Wunsch. The resulting images, along with statements from a variety of witnesses form the basis of the Lenin on Tour project, which has taken shape as a documentary film, an exhibition and in the form of a book.( Matthias Reichelt) Read More:http://www.erasedwalls.eu/index_en.php?artist=026
But first of all, how does one depict the atrocities of the Holocaust in a film or in art? No film for example has ever succeeded in being bleak enough, devastating enough; instead, films about the Holocaust often come to seem like traditional war movies, with the camps as one more horror, another prop among many to be resisted or suffered through. I would say Herz and Fassbinder,Tom Sachs, Christian Boltanski and others, depict the Holocaust as a kind of negative presence, a furtive shadow on the present; the reappearance of the repressed, through moments in which violently disturbing unconscious material breaks through the deceptively calm surface of consciousness.
What makes it all work are moments that are like lightning-flashes in a dark sky whereby we can peer at a tiny visceral wedge of the psychopathic, perverse parade that was the Third Reich, and the widespread collective inhumanity that was the Holocaust, but which effectively began with the Lenin purges, the Stalin purges etc. The art then, a flashing exposes of that evil moment; dramatic translations of something vast and unknowable into a something jagged and cutting, something that can be rendered palpable.
This indirect approach to art is even more horrifying because of the matter-of-fact way in which we perceive the brutal act within a larger pattern of brutality and socialization. In other words, the act itself, basically a fait accompli by the time we hear of it, has bec
rationalized and accepted as normal by its witnesses.A gulag becomes just well, a gulag. That even the most violent atrocities and crimes can be justified, that might makes right, that force is fashion, that a veritable true love can only flower from sadomasochistic cruelty:these assumptions underpin the fascist state work with aesthetic power to which the reaction of the larger public is well, often anti-semitic…
Although Mirroring Evil came under attack by some Holocaust survivors as a betrayal of their suffering, the Nazi images allowed viewers to question the evil that pervades consumer culture over sixty after one of the most devastating acts of evil in history. Still, it must be remembered that modern film and advertising, television are still using some of the same techniques of fascist propaganda. So, despite the ambiguities of blurred ethics, challenging works do warn us to be wary of the symbols and associations of oppression. Its a warning that our capacity and sometimes willingness to lower our mental thresholds is a fragile and vulnerable defense and its the path of least resistance to become desensitized to the techniques.