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Organisation: Inga Schwede and Eiko Grimberg
Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst | Wächterstrasse 11 | Leipzig
June 18 til 24, 2002
Flyer +++ Preface +++ NO!art and the Dialectic of Enlightenment
Program +++ NO!art and Jew Art +++ Lurie & Stein
NO!art and the dialectic of enlightenment
Too many pictures + Vomit or Play

Flyer, frontsideFlyer, backside
click on image to enlarge
Flyer, 8 pages, 29,7 x 21 cm, images, front and backside

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"Articulating the past does not mean recognizing it 'as it actually was.' It means seizing a memory as it flashes at the moment of danger." - The fear of the old in the new evokes terror. Walter Benjamin has the awareness of the progression of the catastrophe and he had it before the catastrophe.

His historical materialist knows that the extermination of the deportees was stopped militarily, without the Germans, and they have not found any reasonable reason against the murder except that of the threatened punishment until today. Their thinking has not been able to detach itself from that of terror, not from blood and soil, not from the "actual", "natural", "original".

The world as a state of nature, in which people do not make their history of their own free will, does not provide a guarantee that it could not be repeated and inhumane is any thinking that wants to make us believe that it will change for the better: This is the ideology of the state of nature, that of the enemies of emancipation. - "even the dead will not be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to conquer."

The Germans have won, they have won the war, and they will manage to bend in your favor even the slightest objection that their inhumane practice arouses in the world - they will track it down. They will mock and ridicule even the last dead person. The German is the anti-emancipation made flesh. His greasy craft is the "culture of memory", in his mouth the facts turn into lies, a clever word: it becomes stale and stinks, a German says it. In his victorious mood he grants "coping with the past", the Wahrheil costs nothing, it is all "depressing", "terrible", "inconceivable": this is the repertoire of that gutter poetry that every German, bragging abroad about grandpa's deeds, recites unasked.

The Germans are not interested in the reconciled humanity they want the state of nature. - "The spoils are carried along in triumph, as has always been the case. They are called the cultural goods." -- Still the documents of barbarism are good for booty, in the triumph of having survived Auschwitz they exhibit their instruments of torture. They document their culture of murder -- that is what they have since they destroyed emancipation and they call it cultural property. "Memory, responsibility, future", that is the vocabulary of the extermination profiteers: they shit on the victims, they are the patronizing masters who distribute alms - they whine, someone demands more than they allow him. If someone is stubborn, he becomes the perpetrator: If the Jew refuses the reconciling hand, then woe to him! One has pity on the dead.

All quotations from: On the Concept of History, Walter Benjamin, 1940

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Notes on NO!art and the
New York exhibition "Mirroring Evil
by Inga Schwede

The New York Jewish Museum is currently running Mirroring Evil, an exhibition that caused much uproar even before its opening this March.

Members of the Jewish communities and survivors' organizations protested with comments and letters to the editor in the New York Post, in the traditional Jewish organ Forward, and later in front of the museum's entrance against the "mockery of the victims" and the "desacralization of the Shoah" that was presented to them in the exhibition's catalog. Even into the European feuilletons, there was debate about whether Mirroring Evil was a "trivialization of National Socialism" or rather a "bold exploration of the media's fascination with evil."

In addition to the works exhibited by American, European, and Israeli artists, all between 30 and 40 years old, such as Alan Schechner's It's the Real Thing - Self-Portrait at Buchenwald, Elke Krystufek's Economical Love series, and Zbigniew Libera's LEGO Concentration Camp Set, the catalog reproduces several works by older artists, including Saturation Painting by survivor and NO!art artist Boris Lurie.

"You can't shock us, Damien. That is because you haven't based an entire exhibition on pictures of Nazis" Elke Krystufek makes reference to Damin Hirst, whose animal bodies pickled in formaldehyde turned the 1999 exhibition Sensation into an avoidable scandal, with this text fragment in her collage Economical Love (Pussy Control), which shows her squatting naked with her camera drawn, surrounded by portraits of Nazi actors from Hollywood films. In fact, Mirroring Evil enjoys a similar kind of attention as Sensation, in which Catholic groups, including then-New York Mayor Giuliani called for a boycott of the exhibition, announced legal action against the Brooklyn Museum, and thus made Sensation a draw for a mass audience.

The title Mirroring Evil: Nazi imagery/recent art: Nazi imagery in contemporary art, is deceptive. Mirroring Evil does not mirror evil. The gaze is not directed from the victims to the perpetrators of that time, but rather to the mediated, partly smoothed and commercialized image of the Holocaust. The playful gesture and the visual realization of the artistic works quote the language and imagery of advertising.

For the survivors, this is precisely the "mockery of the victims". The writer Elie Wiesel includes in his commentary on Mirroring Evil Lurie's Saturation Painting. He calls for a minimum of decency towards the survivors and their children. "To turn a Tragedy unparalleled in history into a grotestque caricature is not only to rob it of its meaning, but also to turn it into a lie. I call it a betrayal."(1) The Holocaust was not first caricatured in the exhibition space. The mockery is that so little has fundamentally changed after it.

The collage Saturation Painting (Buchenwald) by Boris Lurie shows the 1945 photograph of concentration camp prisoners behind barbed wire by Margaret Bourke-White, framed by a pin-up in various poses. Both the concentration camp prisoners and the pin-up "return" the viewer's gaze. At the same time, the emaciated male concentration camp inmates, standing in semi-darkness behind barbed wire, seem to gape at the woman presenting herself, symbolizing sex, warmth, and prosperity, too tired for arousal. The viewer of the collage automatically becomes a double voyeur. The gaze, excited by the pin-up, swings to the image of the concentration camp inmates and seems to be caught by them in his voyeurism. "The bourgeois outrage against these attacks on the eye, calculated of course by Lurie, turns out on close inspection to be hypocritical. Lurie only heightens the concept of capitalist print media here to the point of intolerability, sharpening the contrasts and thereby decoupling the politics of the media in a system whose profit maximization compels the optimal compression of profitable advertisements alongside information." (2)

NO!art was, as Lurie once said in a conversation, "against the commercialization of women in the mass media" and "against the commercialization of sex by women themselves."(3) He likes the arbitrary multiplicability of pin-ups. Like the situationist Guy Debord, Boris Lurie uses porn to critique the objectification and commodification of woman in consumer society. Lurie processes masses of pin-ups into collages, sometimes covering them with menstrual blood and shit made of wax and dirt. (Pin-ups in Wax). He enlarges newspaper images of women in S&M poses to 1x1 meters in Love Series and repeatedly contextualizes pin-ups and images of concentration camp prisoners. Debord's film The Society of the Spectacle and Lurie's Saturation Painting amplify the contrast of existing conditions to the point of being unbearable. Both Lurie and Debord stage images of their girlfriends and mix them in with the nude photos. Reification and interchangeability thus reach into the most intimate.

Back to Mirroring Evil: The LEGO Concentration Camp Set by Zbigniew Libera shocks because it reduces the Holocaust to a game, thus taking its trivialization to the extreme in an exemplary way. The game, however, proves to be well-founded and perceptive. Libera takes the existing smoothed and commercialized image of the Holocaust and teases it out to the point where the smoothness and tangibility highlight the disproportion to the incomprehensibility of the Holocaust. Boris Lurie does not have the distance to the object to be able to play with it. He resists the false sacrality of commemorative processing. His work, as Matthias Reichelt writes, refuses any socially prescribed function of memory. As a survivor of the Holo-caust, he embodies the memory with which he will be psychologically confronted throughout his life. What he cannot or does not want to process, he vomits directly at our feet.

(1) "When you reinterpret such an incomparable tragedy as this into a grotesque caricature, you not only take away its meaning, but at the same time present it as a lie. - I call it treason." Elie Wiesel, in Newsday, New York, 02/01/02
(2) The Reception of the Art of Boris Lurie and NO!art in the Context of the Holocaust Debate in Contemporary Germany, M. Reichelt and C. Germundson (translation: M. Reichelt).
(3) Boris Lurie in: NO!art. Dietmar Kirves in conversation with Boris Lurie in: neue bildende Kunst,
Zeitschrift für Kunst und Kritik, 1/95, Berlin 1995.

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NO-ART AND JEW-ART | Tuesday, June 18, 2002 #7pm HGB, room 2.41 | Iconoclasm and Blasphemy as a Strategy of Aggressive Incorrectness. [Georg Bussmann, Düren]. A lecture on the aesthetics of shock to produce bewilderment as a contradiction to false knowledge and "false life".

BORIS LURIE | Thursday, June 20, 2002 7pm HGB, room 3.48 | Excerpts from interviews with NO!art artist Boris Lurie and former gallery owner Gertrude Stein, New York 2002

NO!art AND THE DIALECTIC OF ENLIGTHENMENT | By Rainer Rumold | Friday, June 21, 2002 #7pm HGB Room 2.41 | Theodor Adorno and Horkheimer had completed The Dialectic of Enlightenment in 1944, as exiles in the United States, Santa Monica, Cal.  It was first published in 1947 by Querido, a major exile press in Amsterdam, one year after Boris Lurie emigrated to the States in the wake of his experience as an inmate of a camp associated with Buchenwald.

Apparently not very grateful to the American host nation which had sheltered them as German Jews from the Nazis and protected them from Japanese imperialism (ultimately with the Atomic bomb!), Adorno/Horkheimer had come to view American capitalist society (less than a decade before the rise of McCarthyism) in dangerous relation to fascism. They had thereby linked antisemitism with the capitalist mechanism to subjugate the weak, and to ostracize and eliminate the other and outsider as the "enemy." Horkheimer's/Adorno's hermeneutics of suspicion claimed that the capitalist commodification of every vital need and cultural expression had made a victim of individual authentic experience, had led to an unanalyzed discontent in civilization. Protest against the system had been displaced with hatred and aggression against outsiders, foremost the Jews viewed as the original modern entrepreneur without values, abused as scapegoats.

The practice to manipulate the subject's comprehensive needs toward mere objects for mass consumption, Adorno and Horkheimer wrote, had been merely exploited by the Nazis in using "the training the culture industry has given (the masses), in order to organize them into its own forced batallions."  - Some 15 or so years after Theodor Adorno and Horkheimer, exiles in the United States, had completed The Dialectic of Enlightenment in 1944, the  works of “No!Art” would refocus on  the issues  of Jews as objects of ultimate violence and woman as sex objects. In the New York of the early 1960s, Boris Lurie and others brought these problematics into a proximity that would prove - in the space of the visual - to be so explosive that the main stream institution of art to this very day still has not quite absorbed its shock value.

The talk will analyze the problematics  of “No! art’s” negative aesthetics  in  comparison and contrast to the “classical” institutional nature of the “dark” philosophical discourse of Adorno/Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, George Grosz’s  moral dialectic of political criticism and self-critique,  and George Bataille’s aesthetics of transgressing  the moral and aesthetic.  Compared also with recently provocative “Holocaust” shows in New York, the dilemma of an adequate or any significant reception of “No! Art” in the postmodern arena seems to lie in the circumstance that its moral claims are Marxist, and that its imagery is misunderstood as immoral. more
Download Full essay, 9 pages

TOO MANY PICTURES | Monday, June 24, 2002 #7pm HGB, room 2.41 |...seen too often? Against the alleged trivialization of the Holocaust through comics [Ole Frahm/Hamburg]. The discourse on the Holocaust and the discourse on comics intersect on the question of whether too many images are not shown too often. There is talk of a "flood of images" that stultifies the former and prevents historical enlightenment in the latter. The lecture on light pictures with some unknown comic examples will show, based on NO!art, that the criticism of quantity distracts from the question of what the pictures actually say about the Holocaust. As Art Spiegelman's Maus impressively shows,