Is art an effective means of dealing with a painful subject; after all, art’s form does not preclude the possibility of subject matter and emotions of the most intense and and appalling nature leading the aesthetic to serve as basis for moral reflection so that a narrative of suffering can be engaged at multiple levels. But, the opposite is also true, where the structure that put the suffering into perspective become reinforced and we identify with the aggressor.
Marcel Duchamp is often at the center of this issue, since he is an icon for the readymade, the conceptual art that broke from art history and promoted the banal object into the realm of artistic status thus in a sense pushing kitsch and the banal into the forefront of popular culture. Which, along with Bauhaus theory, which arose at the same time, we can see how evil affects through the sensations of design resulting in icons, objects, fetish objects, which compress and condense the sensorial inventory of an event within a structure that gives credence to the idea that all cultures manage their use of terror through ritual and ceremony. Donald Kuspit has made an interesting connection between the terrorism of Duchamp and also the perversion within modern art to that of Hitler, and I’m not sure the argument contradicting him addresses the same issues, though it is complementary and related. As when Leonard Cohen sings in Manhattan, “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.” …
The work in question was a wall-like installation by the contemporary German artist and photo-historian Rudolf Herz, depicting reproductions of photographs of Marcel Duchamp and Adolf Hitler. The work was completed in the late 1980s and, according to Kleeblatt, the images were “probing [a] new aesthetic discourse on Nazi representation.” The work’s raison d’être was the apparent discovery that photographer Heinrich Hoffmann photographed Duchamp when he was in Munich in 1912, and later became Hitler’s official photographer. Both subjects appear to be dressed in a dark coat and tie.
I was puzzled about the work and asked for clarification. In my short discourse I said I thought that the juxtaposition of Duchamp with Hitler was bizarre, and I suggested (tongue in cheek) that it might have been appropriate to also include a photograph of Lee Miller since Man Ray (who had become the (un)official photographer of Duchamp) also photographed Miller. Plus, Lee Miller, who reportedly bathed in Hitler’s tub, was one of the subjects of a presentation by Carol Zemel of the State University of New York, Buffalo. In her discussion of the so-called liberation photographs by Margaret Bourke-White and Miller, Zemel suggested that the two women’s photographs tended to “anesthetize and aestheticize” the Holocaust. I could not agree more and I indeed feel that Herz’s Zugzwang “anesthetizes and aestheticizes” Hitler.
Kleeblatt was confused by my question — indeed he had a right to be — but you, Donald, asked for the microphone and said, “I don’t think it’s so bizarre at all. Duchamp was a terrorist, wasn’t he? [Microphone disturbances] I just wanted to say that I don’t think it’s so bizarre at all. Duchamp was a terrorist and so was Hitler, and Duchamp was a fetish object, as Hitler is. And a lot of art historians, there are a whole group of art historians who click their intellectual heels and make the Duchamp salute these days. They are both fairly disruptive figures. I think Duchamp was an extremely disruptive influence on art, despite the rationalization of it as, quote, conceptual and so forth. So I think it is a wonderful and actually rather insightful connection to put Hitler and Duchamp together.” Read More:http://www.toutfait.com/issues/issue_2/Notes/barowitz.html
It was Duchamp’s attempt to dismiss the aesthetic responsibilities of the artist be feigning a sort of sublime indifference to it—by leeching it of emotion—and by therefore suggesting that a crippling ambiguity is the actual source-condition of existence; that indeed a kind of elemental confusion is the native and eternal condition of mankind. Duchamp intended to strike at the very heart of art itself, by denigrating aesthetics as a farcical absurdity. It is Duchamps’s insistence on a primal ambiguity that exposes his loveless nihilism—he retreated to the rigors of chess after relegating art to a sort of secondary concern—as well as his need to lay waste to the totality of culture which had come before him. Indeed Duchamp’s methods seem to embody what Blake decried as “ a pretence
rt to destroy Art” which has, not surprisingly, devolved over the decades into what Kuspit now dismisses as anti-art, or postart, or mere commercial entertainment and creative degradation.Read More:http://www.dharmacafe.com/culture-arts/postmortem-on-postmodern-art/full/