lenin road show: the neverending tour

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.

---Das Kapîtal "Lenin on tour, a road show" ---Read More:http://unavisenpassant.blogspot.com/2008/11/630-das-kaptal-lenin-on-tour-road-show.html

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.

---Thomas Elsaesser:which led Gennan filmmakers to take up historical topics in the mid-1970s, when for the previous decade, neither the commercial nor the art and avantgarde cinema seemed particularly interested in any aspect of the past, least of all the fascist past. Wemer Herzog's work rarely featured Gennany even as geography. Fassbinder, too, preferred to explore in his first films the one-dimensional, unreflecting state of mind of his heroes, rather than the possibility that they might have a history beyond the moment. But when Wim Wenders was asked why American music, comics and movies had been, during his adolescence, what he called his 'life savers' he replied: 'Twenty years of political amnesia had left a hole: we covered it with chewing gum and Polaroids. , Fassbinder, who filled the void with movie-going, might have replied in a similar vein....Read More:http://www.rodenkirchen.de/html/shownewsarchiv.php?id=1464

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

Herz: " I am searching for images, I am exploring the life in our globalised, capitalist world, am enquiring after memories and current views of utopia. We drive through communities, different cultures, places of consumption and of work, the arenas of mass culture and the flow of people and goods. Our journey takes us through contemporary everyday life, high-tech zones, and desolate industrial areas in the East and the West. A change of locale engenders a change of references and perspectives, Prage is not Zurich, Dresden is not Rome." Read More:http://www.museenkoeln.de/museum-ludwig/default.asp?s=2665

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.

Maurizio Cattelan. Him. Read More:http://andreysworld.blogspot.com/2009/04/i-love-you-maurizio-cattelan.html?zx=26d40b525447e23b

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.

---Another intellectually inspiring installation is Rudolf Herz’s “Zugswang,” a room wallpapered with unbroken portraits of Hitler and avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp. The deadlocked repetitiveness of the two men’s juxtaposed images creates a kind of concious acceptance of Nazi atrocities....---Read More:http://www.middleburycampus.com/2002/04/03/controversial-exhibit-mirrors-holocausts-evil/ image:http://www.toutfait.com/issues/issue_2/Notes/barowitz.html

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…

Tom Sachs. The biggest story about "Mirroring Evil" is that it warrants no story. The right-wing press and the Wall Street Journal may be in a tizzy, branding the exhibition "insulting" and "an affront." At the press preview, thought-police types scrutinized works for "questionable content." Last week, "outraged" groups protested and one camp survivor displayed a placard that said "Genocide Is Not Art." But really, you want to say, "Neither is most of the work in the show." The Jewish Museum is to be solidly applauded for mounting an exhibition of this kind and in this way. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/features/jsaltz/saltz3-26-02.asp

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.

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