A bit problematic to be German. Still. The long arc of history is easily within an arm’s reach of the old Germany, tortured, and with a romantic sensibility of subject confronted with a bleak Germanism that marked the new realism. There is a protesting of the suppression of subject or a depiction of the toxic underside, which actually forms a conjunction, an inflection point amounting to the recycling of the old theme, reliable, Death Triumphant, a return to the familiar habitat of what is old, narrow and insidious. The haunting of death, newly minted specimens of death; death of the human spirit with all its decorative obedience, conformity, and order one would expect from the well administered,structurally precocious.
Donald Kuspit:Just as Kiefer’s empty landscapes and abandoned buildings are worlds of death, so Baselitz’s figures are personifications of death, indeed, embodiments of death-in-life. They may be heroic, but they are also wounded, like The New Type (1965). A monumental, conspicuously masculine figure — probably based on the statues of soldiers, memorials to the war dead as well as sculptural paeans to victory, that proliferated in Communist East Germany, where Baselitz grew up — he bears the sign of the stigmata on his left hand, suggesting that he has been socially stigmatized as well as crucified by history. Like many of Baselitz’s epic figures, the new type of man — an ironical synthesis of the new man Communism hoped to create as well as the old type of German epic hero who suffers and dies tragically — is a valiant victim, isolated in the wilderness that Germany had been reduced to by war. He remains brave and strong, suggesting that his German identity is intact, and he may still be able to have an erection, out of all proportion to his body, confirming his power. But his penis, however gigantic, is grotesquely misshapen, as though diseased, like the famous penis — it looks like a piece of whittled wood, suggesting that it is a prosthetic device, that is, the dildo of a eunuch — of the diseased little human monster in The Big Night Down the Drain (1962-63). (This seminal work, censored by the German police when it was first exhibited, shows the strong streak of satire in Baselitz’s works.) Baselitz’s figures are a critique of German masculinity, even as they mockingly endorse it. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit7-28-06.asp…
So, we have all these variations on the theme of terror. Unthinkable anxiety mixed with sensuality and death. A holding, in suspense, like a vinyl record stuck, a traumatic moment caught between the nazi symbology of sensual red and traumatic infinity of black. An ecstasy that cannot overcome the distance, a wild form of inertia that is too fettered. It also returns to the issue, culturally, the sticking point of the predominance of structure over emotion, which seems to be a bacterial lair of the phenomenon of obedience. Structural elements built into the culture that suffocate feeling and perception. Like the Milgram experiment showing emotional paralysis in a dismal defense against domineering structure.
There is obviously a powerlessness of the artist, who, though a valiant effort, cannot really articulate what cannot, even what should not be expressed. The guilt of the German psyche, as representation may even be a signifier of a compulsion to reinforce. To seek closure of unfinished business from a warehouse of the unconsciously stored in an effort of catharsis, of purging intolerable old files. This split either results in illness or symbolic expression; the truths however, are too unfathomable to establish a complicity with them, even an antagonistic one. Instead, its a mass of guilt and shame, negative emotions, which are sublimated. So, thee is some banal narcissism at work here.
But, coming back to German obedience and conformity, which appears to be a major source of conflict. There is a tradition of formless German romanticism facing the well documented factors of technical perfection and precision. It could be called stress and storm meet the quality of the rhapsody. The trains run on time, they just tend to run off the tracks at inopportune moments. The mystical and ironical, the utopian and anxiety laden, dare say hysterical fleeing into the arms of the nationalistic, tribal, self-critical and narcissistic. Underlying this is always the fear of insanity, of madness, of lunatism that might break out from being mad which pulls from the deep recesses of romanticism and early expressionism, the first baby steps of trusting the emotions and abandoning sober reason. …
DK: But there is something else going on. Let’s go back to the “Degenerate Art” show. I have this theory which I have written about. I argue that the Nazis were perceptive; they saw something that was there in the art; but what they did not understand what was there in the art was in the society. The artists were talking about – if you want – the degeneracy in the society: the savage etc. So the Nazis – in their corrupted notion
urity or Aryanism – felt threatened. They did not like the underside showing. They did not like their own underside showing – their own aggression, their barbarism. But there it was in the art, so they called it “degenerate” because it was threatening. It was threatening because it touched them on the inside. The fascinating thing about the Nazis is that they had a passion for art. Do you know the book “The Rape of Europa” [Lynn H. Nicholas 1995]?
DT: Yes. Göhering stole a lot of art.
DK: Hitler wanted to turn Linz his hometown and Berlin into big art centers. Speer assimilated a lot of Modernist ideas to make his art. He tried to subsume it, or dialectically sublate it – and some of the structures are still interesting like the Olympic stadium. Read More:http://dks.thing.net/Donald-Kuspit-Diane-Thodos.html
…DK: “The Authoritarian Personality of Adorno” [first published in 1950]. Part of the new Germany is to go against that authoritarianism. Transparency of government – that’s why the Reichstag has a glass dome. The young people are very different. Now the Nazis were not unperceptive about Modern art – it’s just that they did not like what they saw because it was really a split off part of themselves.
DT: Yes – it had power because it was.
DK: Yes, exactly. Unless it had that power they would not have responded to it so negatively. ( ibid. )