like a rock: not quite white hope

“Men give meaning to their lives by realizing. . . creative values, by achieving tasks,” wrote Viktor Frankl.  The will-to-meaning, a push to articulate the vague, foggy but lighted material of sustenance,  was more basic and essential to Frankl than the will-to-pleasure and the will-to-power, which was decried as a dead end; an empty morbid self-inflicted wound that could not be bandaged and healed; a slow bleeding to death. “The will to meaning is the most human phenomenon of all, since an animal certainly never worries about the meaning of its existence.” “Frustration of the will-to-meaning” or “existential frustration” is a “spiritual” sickness, asserted Frankl. In this context, what is considered “‘spiritual’  may hover over the idea of religiosity, but does define itself through  a religious connotation in the conventional sense.  It refers to the specifically human dimension, rubbing on the essential of individual identity expressing itself as namely, the human need for meaning.

Lotte Lenya:Kurt ( Weill )wanted to forget everything German – that’s how hurt he was. He never spoke German again – even with me. Only English.

I was so proud of my English until I came to New York. One day I went into Saks Fifth Avenue to buy a sweater and I said, “Will you please rape it for me?” And the salesman said, “Sorry, madam; it’s not my type.”

I remember one time dreaming in English. In my dream, I spoke English. Kurt said that meant I found my new home, at last. All the actors who came here, it was difficult. Peter Lorre. Marlene Dietrich. Everybody. They all had to start from scratch….

---Kuspit:The self is at risk in modernity: it has fewer and fewer social supports, and no transcendental ones at all, and thus little to facilitate its development and give it strength and self-belief. It must address its own riskiness if it is to survive, if only in a risky art. The self -- and the art that supports and even seems to invent it in the course of dealing with the annihilative anxiety aroused by its awareness of its riskiness -- is a tightwire act over a social abyss. It must realize its precarious social position -- acknowledge its suffering -- if it is to find the courage to continue its act of being a self. Read More: image:,_Kurt_Weill.jpg

…We lost friends, too, because of the immigration. Everybody went in different directions. Wherever you found work, you went there. If it weren’t for The Eternal Road, who knows where Kurt and I would have been, or if we would have been there, together.

Kurt didn’t want anything to do with the refugees – he called them “the crybabies”. They would sit around and say, “Oh, in Berlin, we were so famous, oh, oh, oh”, so he stayed away from them. Kurt wanted to be an American – he was so grateful to this country taking him in and giving him another chance. One of our best friends was George Gershwin and we went to see Porgy and Bess and I could see Kurt’s face and how sad he was because that’s what he wanted – he wanted to write operas, too. He was called the White Hope of Germany, and he had to leave.

Amselm Kiefer. Jerusalem.---German Neo-Expressionistic painting is urgently modern because it presents the self at its most nihilistic -- dangerously defiant and above all outraged by the world, whose violence and death wish are satirically mimicked by its artistic violence. It is as though it is compulsively expelling the world's violence in the act of angrily assimilating it. Neo-Expressionist violence is a kind of pyrrhic victory over the world's violence, artistically transcending it in the act of emotionally submitting to its inescapability. The Neo-Expressionists are angry fatalists, acutely aware of death. But their consciousness of death is a source of self and artistic renewal -- indeed, the only consciousness that prods them to ecstatic life. Underneath their sardonically violent surface and seemingly ridiculous images, they are eschatologically serious and sublime artists.--- Read More: image:

I get so angry when the Germans say, “Of course, our Weill was much better. He sold out to Broadway.” What the hell does that mean? A lot of people think Kurt became softer in this country. I don’t think so. Street Scene could have been written by Brecht. It’s about those poor people in that tenement house. If Kurt’s American music sounds different, it’s because the problems in America were different from the problems in Germany. And he worked with different collaborators. In Germany, he had Georg Kaiser and Brecht. Here, he had Ira Gershwin and Ogden Nash and Langston Hughes – all of them, very different men. And what’s so wonderful is Kurt could adapt to all of them. But no one ever thinks of that – they want everything to sound like The Threepenny Opera, or it’s no good. Kurt didn’t change – he grew. But you still read in the German papers that he got cheap, he sold out – they even said it about Lost in the Stars. My God, it’s about the poor blacks in Johannesburg. “No. No good.” It still makes me angry.

Jorg Immendorff. ---The unresolvable problem of being a unique self in the ever more anonymous modern world is articulated through avant-garde methods that make a fetish of unresolvability. They continue to be the best means of artistic and self survival in the postmodern world, where empathy has become rarer and rarer because administration has become total -- including administration of the self (perhaps the ultimate administrative feat). Avant-garde means continue to de-administrate art, even as the avant-garde -- and art in general, like the self -- has become overadministered in the postmodern world, intensifying the malaise of the self and subverting creativity while seeming to support it. Thus the avant-garde remains a symbol of alienation, even when it is no longer esthetically and emotional alien. It continues to testify to the incompatibility of self and society in a world in which each seems to have outgrown the need for the other. --- Read More:

People said Kurt was arrogant, which was

stupid. He was not arrogant at all – he was shy. Kurt was terribly, terribly shy, and he had been so hurt when he had to leave Germany, so he built this wall around him, which kept people away from him. That’s why they say he was arrogant. But Kurt was never shy about his music. When he sat at the piano, he was like a rock. The passion that came out of that little body – it always thrilled me….

The point that Frankl is making is deceptively simple and paradoxical: there is no guaranteed foundation of meaningfulness in modern society, which is why the self is forced to create the meaning of existence, including its own, or become sick unto death, that is, spiritually hollow to the extent of losing value to itself and others.

Martin Kippenberger.---and the Germans are virtuosos of gesturalism, suavely mingling garish, raw and refined, even elegant brushwork -- but their artistic know-how and ideological interests are the means to a bitter end: the representation of the Tragic Self. An identity is artistically performed -- a social role is played, with whatever irony -- to hide the absence of a True Self. This is the case even when the True Self seems viscerally expressed and spontaneously performed, as in the German painters: they invoke it with their painterliness, but what arises from the passionate depths is the Tragic Self -- the ghost of a True Self that has lost its bearings and meaning in a false world. On the surface Neo-Expressionist works are social critiques of standard modes of prejudicial representation, but underneath they enact the emptiness of a self that has no meaning to itself. The defensive irony of the Neo-Expressionists gives the game away: there is nothing behind the irony but a void of human meaning. Irony is the intellectual filler of the empty self. It is a weak finger in a poorly built intellectual dam holding back a world that seems overwhelming in its insanity. --- Read More: image:

…Really – nobody knew Kurt Weill. I wonder, sometimes, whether I knew him. We were married for twenty-four years and we lived two years without being married, so twenty-six years together, and when he died I looked at him and I didn’t know him. Does anyone really know another person? I doubt it. Read More: a

This is our last goodbye
I hate to feel the love between us die.
But it’s over
Just hear this and then I’ll go:
You gave me more to live for,
More than you’ll ever know.

Well, this is our last embrace,
Must I dream and always see your face?
Why can’t we overcome this wall?
Baby, maybe it’s just because I didn’t know you at all….( Jeff Buckley, Last Goodbye )


Jean Genet:I give the name violence to a noble boldness that hankers for danger, and I have seen it in many of the pimps and thieves I have worked with, men whose authority and beatific treachery bent me to their will. Rene, Stilitano, Guy … I could describe them, but I won’t. I am too much of a literary outlaw for that. Instead, let me take you back to the Barrios in 1932, where I used to jerk myself off into a sperm-spotted handkerchief, while thinking of my mother.

Oui. I am my own Dieu, I fashion my vanity, delighting in the vicarious transgression that has fashionable artists like those fools Cocteau and Picasso, who have never dared to have oral sex with a leprotic geriatric vagabond….

Juergen Teller photography. ---What is the meaning of the self in post-Nazi Germany?, the Neo-Expressionists ask. More broadly, they deal with the self's loss of the will-to-meaning -- its will to give itself meaning -- in contemporary society. Neo-Expresssionism shows the failure of heroism in modern life, to recall Baudelaire's phrase, or rather the meaninglessness of heroism in modern life -- certainly in view of the grotesquely distorted form it took in Hitler and the Nazis. (For the Neo-Expressionists fascism seems to be a perverse longing for a perverse version of the mythical hero. The Aryan hero is a perversion of the classical heroic ideal, just as Aryan architecture is a perversion of heroic classical architecture.) In short, the self portrayed in Neo-Expressionism is a self in the throes of an existential crisis of meaning....Read More: image:

…Is any of this true? Who cares? It is if I say it is, for I define my existential self. Je suis what I say je suis, I beat up queers and stole from churches; burglary became a religious rite, elevating me to poet of the underworld even as I willingly debased myself in pissoirs…

…Stilitano and I travelled through Czechoslovakia, Poland, Italy and Germany, becoming spies and finding a purity of evil idealism in the SS. I longed to play with the cellulose grapes that hung from his member while he pushed me away like the bitch I was. I wanted him to beat me. I became his noble valet, reduced to even greater humiliations, and even now I am reduced to verbal automatism in thrall to his deity….

Eric Fischl.---The Neo-Expressionist self transforms meaninglessness into meaningfulness through a process of suffering, expressed by the turbulent painterly process itself, with its self-conflicted Dionysianism, throwing all esthetic caution to the winds in an effort to achieve a new esthetic urgency and poignancy. The most annihilative suffering is the experience of the loss of meaningfulness -- of overwhelming spiritlessness. Ironically, Neo-Expressionist painterliness makes the loss of meaningfulness vividly meaningful, as though the resulting emotional vacuum had special existential presence. One might say that Neo-Expressionism gives meaningless existence meaning by artistically recreating its meaninglessness in art. Acquiring absurd artistic value, it becomes creatively valuable. --- Read More:

…Can you feel the degradation? Allow your hands to wander inside your uptight bourgeois pants and feel the excitement of my squalor. But don’t stop there! I can give you so much more if only you will open your flies to me. Lose your suburban values and embrace the negative hell of the poet of the woebegone…. Jean Genet, 1949. Read More:

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