Saturday, December 09, 2006

Glitter and Doom


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan is exhibiting Neue Sachlichkeit (matter of frankness) portraits from Germany's Weimar Republic 1919-1933. I liked the mixture of anxiousness of Otto Dix's drawing of Frei Korps recruits to portraits of high rollers. During this time period, there was high economic inflation and yet society seemed to go on just fine in the portraits.

The portraits are meant to show archetypes, much like photographer August Sander from the same era and area. What separates the two mediums though is the former's malleability. The portraits can appear caricature-like, even the ones commissioned by the subject. Is this admission of irony or decadence, maybe the acceptance of impending doom? Both of these examples were eventually suppressed by the Nazis. Otto Dix and others branded as degenerate; August Sanders' book plates destroyed.

Can we predict the future looking at old art? From the paintings we can discern types of people- disfigured war veterans, circus freaks, sick aging prostitutes, middle class professionals, and profiteers. Could these artists witnessing and painting ever predict a war as bad as World War I? Unimaginable I say. These people in the paintings and photographs, I wonder what happened to them once the Nazis took over. Conscriptment, concentration camp, starvation, incineration from bombings?

I was thinking about my go bag for a moment walking past these paintings. Is America headed toward a Fascist Theocracy as Frank Zappa predicted? For me, the unthinkable is nuclear warfare. A domino effect of catastrophic thermonuclear explosions killing billions, poisoning the planet. I fear losing everything to the unthinkable. The remedy for my momentary angst is to give so I may receive, learn so someday I may teach, and to have a peaceful occupation.

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