all the butcher’s helpers

In socio critical terms, the emphasis is always to focus on the victims.Perhaps our relation to them. All is enhanced and detracted by the problematics of memory. Very little stares squarely at the locus of the problem which is to transform the existing narrative as commodity into a critique of the financial/market based system that almost comprehensively rules our lives. Bizarrely, symbols of power and oppression are weaved into a cathartic experience that ultimately numbs the senses. The recent movies The Help and Sarah’s Key are good examples.

Sarah’s key is a holocaust based drama covering the French internment of Jews in 1942 in the Velodrome d’Hiver. Sarah’s apartment was taken over by a journalist’s in-laws and the plot moves back between the bravery of the child and the domestic drama set in the present. It’s all very well executed, moving in the right emotional triggers, but devoid of any broader understanding of the economic contexts these atrocities took place ultimately place the film as more holocaust fodder in the victim industry. The key is obviously more about turning a key than about opening a door to one’s future. But the future laden with a rupture from the past, disconnected from continuity becomes a sham product, disposable. It has to be questioned whether film’s like Sarah’s Key are guilty of child exploitation and sexualization whether consciously or not in its exposure to juvenile sadism.

Read More: two statements—the first about the ‘magical force’ of ‘the child’s world and ways’, the second about the ‘great and irreplaceable’ achievement of children and their capacity to reconcile modern technology and ancient symbolism—point to the powerful example Benjamin saw in the toddler’s interaction with the objects of the world (‘messy antics’ as we will call them). Children approach the objects of the world as things imbued with remarkable—indeed revolutionary—possibilities. For children, the most valuable objects are the very things that adults consider useless trash. Benjamin saw in children and child’s-play the emancipatory potential that was once the promise of the Marxist project of social renewal...

But in representations like Sarah’s Key the anger is muted and neutralized. The antithesis to the sanitization would be the art of a Boris Lurie. With Lurie, an insertion of imagery pertaining to the Holocaust is integrated into a current attack on the Western capitalist system that hegemonically follows its own narrative in playing a leading role in world politics. What this means, is a jarring contradiction when the viewer is faced with non-aesthetic content devoid and with an antipathy towards memory and a lack of heroization of victims and of sorrow. Rather, when dealing with signs and a coded visual language that connects death camps, slave labor camps and other genocides, the imagery of the angry victim, defiant and provocative offends most sensibilities. Sarah’s key is about a door into a previously forbidden place: acceptance and actor into the mainstream culture while Lurie may want to dynamite the whole building.

In order to represent the sickening excesses of such atrocious politics,  Lurie grouped into  his art photographs and headlines dealing with the  Holocaust, A-Bombs bombs on Japan as well as conflicts triggered by imperial and colonial interests. His art does make one cynical about the Arab Spring and how the heavy lifters will be shunted aside, and the aims of Western elites can be continually reinvented to coalesce into the accepted norms of individuality, liberty, etc.

Read More: ---Lurie. 1962.---Lurie's art, misunderstood and condemned (when it wasn't utterly neglected), carries a single-minded integrity of purpose missing from art today -- negation screaming out against the inauthenticity of the marketplace and the art world system that supports it. The truth the artist proclaims through this negation is that art cannot proceed forward until we address the degradation and denial of the dark feminine in Western culture. The feminine face of divinity hidden beneath the commercial exploitation vehicles - the American pin-up and its iconic flattening via sixties pop glorification - the artist was condemned to expose by way of his tortured personal history.---

Thus, the power of Lurie’s  work is an extraction from the exclusive context of the category of “art and Holocaust.” Most viewers to a holocaust memorial, or films like Help or Sarah are geared emotionally to having a very emotional experience, a somewhat perverse kind of pleasure, even a joy in a cleansing undertaking as if part of a confessional ritual.  So, the experience of the concentration camp is supposed to have a hint of the vicarious and cathartic; the emotions of the visitor or viewer and not the structural basis which produces the events.

Read More: ---Although Benjamin was pessimistic about the historical domination of mass technological culture, he had hoped that returning to the ‘matter’ of history could awaken the ‘new nature’ of technology, and thus reawaken the slumbering forces of the proletariat revolutionary consciousness. Benjamin was convinced that children not only pointed toward this revolutionary potential, but that in childhood revolutionary emancipation was both a theoretical potential and empirically actualizable....

Almost all holocaust memorials and related cinema, try to evoke emotional capital from the work. Boris Lurie’s art and that of the NO!art movement in general of which he was a key figure, do not  permit  this emotional  catharsis, this seduction of the senses and superficial atonement. Ironically, this results in accusations of denigration of holocaust victims.

Read More: ---On an entirely different level, and do not be surprised! -- the pinups constitute the contents of unaccounted mass-graves of executed Jewish women of World War Two. Their physical sensuality, their feminine gigantism, their pure anger masquerading as ecstasy in their twitching orgiastic faces, is nothing but a cover-up then for sublime affirmation, of anti-death procreation, of pure though hysterical, death frightened, pre-execution protestation. -- Boris Luie, SELECTED PINUPS, 1947-1973---

…It is well documented that Pitt, the daughter of a Polish Jewish mother and German father, survived the Stutthof concentration camp during the second world war. Now a US film-making team has

ealed that prior to her death, the Hammer horror favourite collaborated on an animated short film about her experiences. Pitt provided voiceover narration for Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest, working with twice Academy award-nominated film-maker Bill Plympton, director and co-producer Kevin Sean Michaels and a 10-year-old animator, Perry Chen….

Read More: discussion of the reception of NO!art and the art of Boris Lurie in Germany in the 1990s showed the various ways that this art was dismissed, for most critics and viewers did not want to deal with its comprehensive and merci680 less critique of society. Unlike the proposed Holocaust Memorial, which constitutes an attempt for Germany to "heal" itself from the past by feigning solidarity with the victims, NO!art goes against all simplistic efforts of overcoming the past. Also, this art does not allow for the emotion-laden cathartic experience many people expect and want. We are dealing here with an all in all profoundly truth seeking that is incapable of fitting within the context of a ritualized expression of mourning.

“She remained tortured by the horrors of her childhood Holocaust experiences until her sudden death,” said the film’s producer, Dr Jud Newborn, the film’s co-writer, co-producer and historical adviser. “She never exploited or emphasised them in any of her work or public persona, only mentioning them in her memoir long after her film career had waned.”

After her war-time experiences, Pitt lived in east Berlin in the 1950s, eventually escaping by diving into the Spree river in an attempt to flee to the west. She was rescued by an American soldier who took her, eventually, to California, where they married. She spent time in both Europe and the US in the 1960s following the breakdown of her marriage as she sought a career in film, but eventually found fame in her early 30s in a brace of salacious horrors, The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Countess Dracula (1971), for the London-based company Hammer. Read More: 

. Boris Lurie. 1964.Read More: summary, one can say that within the context of the political-cultural situation in the U.S.A., 660 Boris Lurie's work was in the first place provocative, radical and in the truest sense of the term subcultural. With elements full of ugliness, obscenity, filth, and allusions to menstrual blood and excrement (usage of hair glued with paint, plaster, cement), a counter-world to the "clean" official art-world was created. The art-world, to which Pop Art belonged, made use of the advertising- and product-aesthetic of capitalism and pleasurably wallowed in it----

Read More: ---A major problem that visitors to the Lurie exhibition had is that he does not fit the conventional notion of victim. They are not comfortable with facing work by an "angry Jew." Similarly to the criticism we encountered in the 1995 Berlin exhibitions, the visitors by and large dismissed the need to explore the socio-political implications of the work by calling it "distasteful."

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Lurie’s art defies the very act of acquiescence – the numbing and succumbing to the expectations and demands of the marketplace at the expense of crystallizing the form of newly emerging archetype that makes the past obsolete but not forgotten.And this crying out against a system even as the components deny their role in greasing its greedy wheels makes NO! the ultimate affirmation — the impassioned commitment to an authentic art for the 21st century that can unify the opposites into a neo-Joycean divinely inspired YES! Read More:


Read More: Witkin is a master of narrative figuration, not just of everyday figures in everyday scenes, but of people in nightmarish situations. This is apparent from the two unequivocal masterpieces of this exhibition -- a survey of Witkin's production in the 1990s -- both bearing witness to the holocaust: The German Girl (1997) and The Butcher's Helper (1999-2000). In the former work, a German girl cowers in her room, as a line of hungry concentration camp victims reach into it -- one hand breaks through a wall -- for the few potatoes she has placed by an open window. They cherish the humble potato, a typical German food, as though it was the substance of life, which indeed it is for them.

Cornel West: In the way in which our culture of consumption has promoted an addiction to stimulation – one that puts a premium on packaged and commodified stimulation. the market does this to convince us that our consumption keeps oiling the economy for it to reproduce itself. But the effect of this addiction to stimulation is an undermining, a waning of our ability for qualitatively rich relationships…market moralities and mentalities– fueled by economic imperatives to make a profit at nearly any cost– yield unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation, and sadness. And our public life lies in shambles, shot through with icy cynicism and paralyzing pessimism. To put it bluntly, beneath the record-breaking stock markets on Wall Street and bipartisan budget-balancing deals in the white house lurk ominous clouds of despair across this nation..Prophetic pragmatism attempts to keep alive the sense of alternative ways of life and of struggle based on the best of the past. In this sense, the praxis of prophetic pragmatism is tragic action with revolutionary intent, usually reformist consequences and always visionary outlook.” – cornel west
Donald Kuspit:However understood, firsthand esthetic experience is precluded by the secondhand experience of art in reproduction, whether electronically advanced or old-fashioned mechanical reproduction. If the art work is the privileged site of esthetic experience, or at least its repository and trace — the social amber in which it is preserved, the expressive space that contains it — as the quoted thinkers suggest, then its reproduction de-privileges esthetic experience along with it. Reproduction challenges and mocks the skill that went into its making — especially if it was made by hand and eye and not simply dependent on its concept and ideology for credibility — by implying that its own technology is superior to the techniques that inform the work’s artistry.

Reproduction trumps art by appropriating it wholesale — digesting it until it is a shadow of itself. Even in digital art the technology seems to usurp the place of the art. Reproduction levels its sensuality and weakens its emotional effect, subverting its vitalizing evocative power, and making it seem less intelligent than it is, and with that de-estheticizes it, that is, renders it useless as a means to the end of esthetic experience. Paradoxical as it may seem, reproduction, which claims to serve memory, leads us to forget what is most memorable — experientially real — about the art by reducing it to an appearance. The real work is superseded by its cannibalization in reproduction.

Esthetic experience is rare and demanding, for it involves relentless intensification of experience, leading to the dialectical transfiguration and transcendence of ordinary experience. What Mondrian called “man’s drive toward intensification”(7) drives creativity and climaxes in esthetic experience. Reproduction de-intensifies and de-transcendentalizes the art work by reducing it to an ordinary object — banalizing it into another social phenomenon by stripping it of esthetic quality. Read More:


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