innocent no more

To follow up on Rockwell, and digress further into some of the implications brought up by Richard Halpern in his book, The Underside of Innocence, we of course cannot confirm the theory posited by him, but there does appear to be an erotic charge in much of his work, a tension underlying the kitsch, as if there is a truth to be found in kitsch, or at least that pop culture necessitates a new form of coded language that has to navigate the drivel content inherent in mass distribution.

Sontag:Fascist aesthetics... flow from (and justify) a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, extravagant effort, and the endurance of pain; they endorse two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude. The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication or replication of things; and the grouping of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader-figure or force. The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transactions between mighty forces and their puppets, uniformly garbed and shown in ever swelling numbers. Its choreography alternates between ceaseless motion and a congealed, static, 'virile' posing. Fascist art glorifies surrender,...Read More: image:

Perhaps after all, Walter Benjamin in his “Mechanical Reproduction” essay was not as off the rails as he appeared to be with his assertion of emancipatory and revolutionary qualities being potentially available within the context of the pop culture monster being spawned through wide circulation of images. Rockwell may have been inspired by imagery from Dickens and appropriated the concept, totally artificial and fabricated which Dickens created: the purity of the middle class, perhaps as a response to the Janus face of this being Baudelaire and his netherworld of the urban consumer society; ragpickers, flaneurs, whores and the artist within this context.

---Why has Nazi Germany, which was a sexually repressive society, become erotic? How could a regime which persecuted homosexuals become a gay turn-on? A clue lies in the predilections of the fascist leaders themselves for sexual metaphors. Like Nietzsche and Wagner, Hitler regarded leadership as sexual mastery of the 'feminine' masses, as rape. (The expression of the crowds in Triumph of the Will is one of ecstasy; the leader makes the crowd come.) Left-wing movements have tended to be unisex, and asexual in their imagery. Right-wing movements, however puritanical and repressive the realities they usher in, have an erotic surface--- Read More: image:

So yes, Rockwell is a more complex and subtle figure. We had Grant Wood’s American gothic, but actually went on in that house and barn that serves as background figure? Also, Rockwell’s use of uniforms and costumes reminds me of Sontag’s essay on eroticism in Nazi Germany with relation to dress codes….

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