grey tones: before the law

…show an unmistakable love of death — a romance with death, indeed, a seduction by death, in which life seems beside the point. The vacuum of feeling. The vacuum of void, of loss, of death. Lifelessness. A broken will to meaning. Nowhere to hide. Not truth, but rather a void, a space of total silence where one surrenders oneself to the nothing and death itself as a surrender of the nothing to the nothing. In the work of Franz Kafka, writing and death lose their antagonistic quality, and the writing eventually submits itself to the death drive, assimilating a death instinct. Kafka, in his diaries, described how his writing branched into a force siphoning off his energy, an addictive, seductive force, a dependency that contributed significantly to the process of dying by causing his life affirming gestures to simply lose their spark, their animation, and wither away….

---Anselm Kiefer Die Himmelspaläste 2002 oil, emulsion, acrylic and lead objects on lead and canvas. Read More:

Nothing else will ever satisfy me. But the strength I can muster for that portrayal is not to be counted upon: perhaps it has already vanished forever, perhaps it will come back to me again, although the circumstances of my life don’t favor its return. Thus I waver, continually fly to the summit of the mountain, but then fall back in a moment. Others waver too, but in lower regions, with greater strength; if they are in danger of falling, they are caught up by the kinsman who walks beside them for that very purpose. But I waver on the heights; it is not death, alas, but the eternal torments of dying…( Kafka Diaries, 1914)

Anselm Kiefer’s is also tapping into the same theme, but slightly askew from a Christian perspective. In his “Kabbalah” inspired series, we see perhaps an adoption of some of the most rigid stereotypes of deep conservative Judaic tradition- maybe Sanhedric, but definitely Babylonian inspired- of eternal punishment while ignoring the more lenient, compassionate strains which run further back to the origins of antiquity. There might be a using of his construction of Judaism and Nazism as metaphors for the “unjust machine” to work through his own identity issues since both spoke of alchemical properties of purity with no signs of promised redemption for those outside the grade, left to marinate in Kafka’s eternal torment…

---Paraphrasing K.’s thoughts in those final determinative moments before the knife finds its mark; where was the judge, the jury, the courtroom? What were the charges? Who had made the accusation? Yet even if these questions had been formulated at the proper time what answer would have come? An inhuman, phlegmatic wheeze, Gros’ ridiculous croaking, followed by a silence not so total as to obscure the sound of the hangman tightening the knot. The man from the country and K. thus remain forever “isolated, bent upon an anxious solipsism. The law, haunted by the void, dissolves into absence, becomes pure emptiness, anomie.”Read More: image:

…The sense of loss in Kiefer’s gray cosmos is so complete that no amount of mourning can liberate one from it. The light that flickers in it, the tide of stars that rises and falls in it, are hardly enough to lift — brighten — one’s spirit. Mystically marked with numbers, as though to give them a Pythagorean heritage, the constellations remain grand illusions — ironical oases — in the gray desert. Kiefer’s cosmos is not the fulsome space of a cornucopia, and his stars are not its ripe fruit. Kant once said that the heavenly stars suggested that the cosmos had a moral order, but Kiefer’s stars have lost the moral innocence we once imagined they had to console us for their indifference to our lot. We once made the remote intimate by imagining that it was inhabited by gods who cared for us, in their own sloppy way — better than none — but the gods have departed from Kiefer’s cosmos. He may be struggling to re-enchant it, but it remains disenchanted. Kiefer seems to agree with Shakespeare: the fault is not in the stars but in us — in our fantasy, indeed, our fantasy that the heavens are the utopia that our wretched earth will never be. For what Kiefer represents is the primordial dream of the city of God, in Kabbalistic disguise. …Read More:

---He studied with Joseph Beuys during the 1970s. His works incorporate materials such as straw, ash, clay, lead, and shellac. The poems of Paul Celan have played a role in developing Kiefer’s themes of German history and the horror of the Holocaust, as have the theological concepts of Kabbalah.---Read More:

…The key to Kiefer’s allegorical cosmos is the idea of the seven heavenly palaces — the “Hekhal” of Sefer Hechaoloth (2000) is Hebrew for “palace” — in which wise and good men will dwell, along with God. (What happened to the women? Is there no place for them in sacred space? Not even as concubines and servants, which is what they were — with a few notable exceptions, and when they weren’t perpetuating the tribe — in the Old Testament.) Kiefer seems to think he is one of these holy men — indeed, he identifies with God, as his mimicry of the divine act of creation suggests. “The earth was without form and void,” Genesis tells us, until God gave it form (and with that significance), and Kiefer shows us the emergence of differentiated form from formless chaos or undifferentiated matter. He shows us the formative process itself — the creative, “originative,” mysterious moment which is a revelation, sign and proof of God’s power. Thus we have the divine Kiefer, along with the divine Michelangelo, and a perpetuation of the myth of the artist as mini-God, or God’s representative on earth, his surrogate presence. But Kiefer gives the myth a devious twist, subtly debunking it. Indeed, he punctures the balloon of his own — and German — grandiosity, for he implies that the dream of the primordial palace of everlasting life has perversely faded. We can no longer even dream of realizing it, however much we try to hold on to it. Read More:

---The waiting, undertaken in the hopes of a desire that remains contingent and ambivalent, is the very crisis point at which the man reaches the law, a point endogenously distinct from formulaic imperatives. The law for K. becomes his despair, living as he is “outside desire, on the slopes of death.” There is no longer hope, even if failed leads and other potential actions race frantically through his mind as the curtain parts and the apparition glances down at him from the distance. His despair, his law, is the failing of desire, a nihilistic resignation, the emotive impulse that forces the last humiliating cry through his lips: “Like a dog!”---Read More: image:

Kiefer’s is an art of disillusionment, for all the illusions it creates. It is a demonstration of the truth of Robert Jay Lifton’s remark that historical catastrophe — annihilation on such a grand social scale that it seems to end history — shatters the belief in symbolic immortality…. are about the spiritual nihilism, not to say spiritlessness, that follows in the wake of earth-shattering catastrophe, ironically underlined by an abortive, futile attempt at regeneration, that is, a mystical return to origins. For Kiefer, the defeat and collapse of German imperialistic ambition — the imperialism ironically survives in the all-encompassing gray — announces the failure of Western civilization as a humanizing endeavor, however much the creative spark of its Faustian spirit seems to survive in the gray ash of its art — the gray ash that is Kiefer’s art. It offers the dream of resurrection in the midst of the reality of spiritual ruin — a wish-fulfillment, like all dreams, that can never be fulfilled in reality. Read More:

tyle="width: 272px">

---Read More: Robert Crumb. /2010/01/before-the-law-with-ghosts-on-trial/

Related Posts

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Literature/poetry/spoken word, Modern Arts/Craft and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.