When I arrived in New York in 1945, quite broken, art was certainly not a business here. There was a group of "academics," rather serious professors and not so much working artists. Alongside them existed "modern" artists who were established but unlikely to make much money from their work, the former beneficiaries of the Roosevelt WPA projects. Anyone who wanted to become an artist was declared crazy by the immigrant society - but this was done with respect "A mad idealist who is just messing up his life!" At the same time, this made him a standard-bearer who already sensed the futility of the early consumer society. But one could also proudly say, "I am an artist." Before that, one first had to break with bourgeois society: It was practical to move to a poor neighborhood, to the "slums," not necessarily and solely for economic reasons, but also to draw the "creative" out of the lumpenprole life, in the knowledge of the - no longer so flourishing - Parisian avant-gardes. De Kooning said, "My heart is under 14th Street!" Among the apolitical and the naïve, the class difference was only in geography. Rothko as well as Motherwell lived uptown, so they were not so "pure." It would have been best to move right into the "Cedar Bar" anyway, and some almost lived there.
In the abstract expressionist art world (the "Cedar Bar" and the "10th Street Artists Club"), people were heterosexually oriented. (The superficial "macho" stuff was overdone. It was big fashion among the "action" painters to fight and talk foul among themselves). The underclass of the art world, however, who could help a painter to a career, were mostly homosexual and mostly in the "closet" (closet), i.e. the members of this class kept their inclination strictly hidden, but suspected everyone of being homophobic (whether they were true or not). They then reported to "the top," the curatorial element in the museums and the few galleries that had an interest in avant-garde art, most of whom were also homosexual, who was "good" or "not good." The top of the pyramid, however, the collectors, were business people and mostly heterosexually oriented.
The artists, in order to get up there, had to be on friendly terms with the "thumbs-up-thumbs-down" people who passed up the information about who had talent, and "play along" (join in at gay parties, etc.). This was also true of the extremely well-known Abstract Expressionists, who already had great reputations at the time. And woe to those artists who were suspected of being homophobic.
Then came the great triumph of American art in the now American universe. After that, the businessmen declared Abstract Expressionism dead, although it had not died at all, but had been killed, in order to install "America above all" in a business-like and propagandistic way with Pop Art and to create new fashions with it. When the American art business was thus boosted internationally, the profession of the "artist" even became desirable, and the art academies and universities began mass-producing artists. It now became quite legitimate to pursue "art" as a desirable graduate profession. And why not? After all, the "greatest American artist", Jasper Johns, is being auctioned off today for US $27 million! Parents, in their "urge to go up", can't refuse their children to become Jasper Johns instead of just a doctor or a lawyer, as it used to be.
Hordes of aspirants come to the Soho and Lower East Side mecca (renamed "East Village" to make it more attractive), galleries blossom and fade en masse. The newborn artist likes to be regarded almost like a pop music star. But the lads and lasses are badly tormented. The cost of living is very high: it takes almost $800 a month to rent a studio or an apartment on the Lower East Side, and then some for food and clothes and, yes!, entertainment. A hamburger with Coca-Cola costs $5 in the new coffee shops, and kids from the suburbs are used to eating well. They don't just come in the usual jeans and fancy poverty wear, they come complete with their coffee houses, boutiques and galleries. This effeminate Beatles generation is not used to the lumpenproletarian. And how is the business with their art going? For the majority quite badly, well only for the two or three people who were chosen. And these people have no time! The support from home is only enough for one or two years. They have no time to develop. That is why they do everything they are told to do. The main thing is that it is right and a la mode. The art establishment can quietly choose the one or two most worthy from the thousands. Those who don't succeed have to go home again, or take up a less admired profession.
We were much better off then. Nothing was expected of the artist until he was about 40 to 50 years old. Rocco Armento's and my studio cost $15 a month, not including heating and electricity (in New York in 1947!), or $7.50 per person. You could get by on $100 a month, and you could get that with little side jobs. You didn't have to sell artwork or chase after collectors, who were few and far between in those days. If you were energetic enough, you could exhibit, confront your works with an audience, and gain a reputation. The reputation was acquired not by means of "investors" but by means of colleagues (and, yes, the critics, who were almost always guided by the artists' opinions). Thus, one could "mature" like a cognac, 40 to 50 years old, then by serving for a long time as an honorable and stubborn believer in religion art (mostly just because of that, but without payments) one was certified as an "old master". - What fun! But one could say with dignity: "I am an artist."
Today, if someone asks me what I do, I coyly answer, "I'm an artist," and get red in the face. After all, I know exactly what people think of my answer even before they ask, "Where do you exhibit?" (This, of course, is asking about the world-renowned galleries of New York, not my restroom or workshop). "Not with anyone in New York for thirty years." And that's on principle. You wouldn't believe me after all. Principle, what's that? You should be ashamed of being a glutton artist today: instead, you should take up an honest profession, like murderer. After all, to be able to aim at the essential, you need a lot of talent.
About German language
I went to a German-speaking school in Riga and had German-speaking teachers. For this reason, German is almost my second mother tongue, the language of Goethe, as they say, and of Hitler, although I unfortunately did not read Goethe, I did get a lot of exposure to Hitler. That's why the German language is so dear to me. In spite of Hitler.
One cannot negate Hitler and the intelligent Germans who followed him. Although it was only a small period of time, one cannot say generally, it had lasted only 12 years. This period was decisive! What unbelievable stories had happened there! That is mainly the problem of the Germans.
They have to analyze intensively together with the Jews (both are great book people): What happened there? Was it to be expected?
And the Jews, who are now considered as the historical "winners", who survived everything and believe this themselves? In reality, however, they are the losers, not the smart ones - only the losers! They are losers in the Holocaust (the "clever and skillful!"), despite the seemingly victorious-heroic warfare of the Israelis (who now give away the land to the Arabs), despite the economic boom of the American Jews in suicidal assimilation.
What is in my blood is the Baltic German language (which almost no one speaks today), it belongs to me, although I wanted to forget it after the war and almost succeeded. It is in my German (Russian-Jewish) bloodstream. That's why I get such a "kick" now to write in my Himmeldeutsch! Just wait until I make speeches in German in the stripped Reichstag, then next to my good uncle Hitler.
About the Lower East Side
How's business, my partners in New York's Lower East Side (also called the East Village)? Very well, front comrades! But not exactly for us ... When it came to real estate purchases, we missed the timing. The right time was the seventies, when almost three quarters of the district burned down. That was not recorded by university historians or literature. There is an artist boy here Yuri Kapralov, who wrote a book about the Lower East Side fire after all, but who, despite thousands of Kluge book-makers publishing thousands of books a year in the U.S., could not get it published by a publisher. It would have been such a unique opportunity for us to get rich! But you had to have strong nerves (and muscles) and a little money to get rich there. What happened was that in the late fifties and early sixties, whoever could (many if not most) moved out of this multi-ethnic white neighborhood to the suburbs for better air (and less danger in the streets). Puerto Ricans and some blacks moved into the housing that became available. The immigrants from Puerto Rico lived with their many-headed families in small apartments that held only cold water ("cold water apartments"). Then, as the drug trade flourished, so did the addicts. It got so bad that the landlords didn't dare go into the houses to collect the rents. On the other hand, the city government granted many benefits to people whose apartments had burned down, such as the ability to move into new apartments in the high-rise projects of the suburbs or money for furniture purchases.
The Lower East Side had also been a dangerous neighborhood in the past, even when only white immigrants and their descendants had lived there - but there was also a center of immigrant culture then, with many Jewish theaters on Second Avenue, libraries and newspapers, and educational institutions. There were also gangs fighting among themselves over ethnic conflicts (like Irish with Jews, and everyone with each other in general). At the same time, however, everything was quite well regulated by the Democratic Party bought by "Tammany Hall". For example, an old pensioner did not have to go to court and get a lawyer, which he could not do - the Tammany Hall Democratic politicos regulated everything as long as people only gave them their votes in elections. After that, of course, they did their own business; just as we would like to do now, but with less success.
So the area was always dangerous. If you went for a walk in the evening, you were well advised to have your eyes open all over your head, especially in the back.
Then came the fires at the end of the sixties and all through the seventies. The Lower East Side burned slowly, I would say 70 percent. That was the result of a quiet agreement between the city government, the homeowners and the tenants. The city government got rid of a problem. The homeowners, who could no longer collect rent, received money from the insurance company. The tenants were happy to get out of the Lower East Side and into new apartments, plus money for furniture. The drug addicts were not doing so well because, like some tenants who had not known about the arson date, they had either lost their homes or perished in the fire. They were also the ones who either perished accidentally (while disinfecting their needles with fire), or who were paid to start the fire. Thus, this problem was also solved. Although these conditions lasted for many years, nothing was reported about them (as far as I know). There we could have had the half-burned or the isolated detached complete houses, between which the homeowners begged to have their property bought from them for next to nothing. Understood too late! The clever free market entrepreneurs were already moving in to acquire the houses and open new coffeehouses as quickly as possible, anticipating the new-young culture that was approaching from the provinces and would move into the houses. From then on (i.e. in the seventies and after) business went very well! So well that rents became as high as on the more luxurious Upper East Side. Also, there was not the extreme slope here that the Upper East Side faced. The housing business was as good here as it was during the real estate crisis of the early 1990s, when the biggest oligarchs in Uptown and the Midtown and Wall Street financial area went bankrupt.
You see, my partners, art, culture and everything connected with it is always a good business; one only has to have the tenacity and the financial strength to endure it. There it goes through thick and thin, and wars and uprisings, if they are only ingeniously planned or used, can also be useful to us in unexpected ways. (Also, when art burns down, the remnant becomes all the more valuable - but, alas, only in the case when enough of an artist's work remains to promote it afterwards). Anyway, I can report that business is very good on the Lower East Side. Although many of the galleries that opened as fast as they could with the influx of the masses of artists in the eighties are no longer there. They've gone bust or moved to Soho, where no decent Lower East Sider goes anymore. There's an awful stench of art there! There are too many of the "movers and shakers" among the gallery owners, the successors of Castelli and Sonnabend. How they manage to stay in business, I don't understand at all, since the business in contemporary art has been almost non-existent for several years. However, they still keep their heads above water with hope. There are probably still enough rich people who can't resist investing new money there, only to lose it; the art business is fascinating for such after all (it helps that if you have a very high income, you can write off losses from your taxes for a few years; so besides the hope of a favorable speculation, another attraction of art comes into play). For now, I advise my business comrades to stay away from such investments. It seems to me that there is little chance of creating a new Jasper Johns. Then, right now, after the complete and worldwide victory of democracy (!) there are also incredible terrorist intellectuals who insist that all art investors should be hung from Soho's street lamps. Well, can you understand such a thing? They all want to commit suicide, just like the Soviet Russians! Without our combine there would be no beautiful art.
What's important are the numbers, my business friends! (Behind us creative entrepreneurs sit the merciless accountants and control everything). In the New York art concentration camp, it's like this: We can use so many artists to set up a good work team, that's all! So some to the left, others to the right. If we have foolishly chosen too many, then in order to get the right number, we have to make another roll call. Then we can choose again, with all the nice justifications: please no more red-haired geniuses, we have enough of them, now rather some with long hair or blue eyes, or with names that don't sound so awfully foreign. Time also plays a role, everything has to be right on time. The roll call for the selected team lasts only a moment. If you're late, you've missed the selection. Sometimes, fortunately, it can be said for the artists. It sometimes happens that being selected leads not to fame and continued life, but to artist death. (Or even to fame ... with artist's death.) But those who try to hide from the selection are found by us before the end of the selection and taken to the roll call square ... then Jesus Christ himself comes, disguised as a motorcyclist from the police, and hands over the order that he is sorry, but the action is about to end. Such artists must remain in the muck of the Lower East Side for life, for now.
About the real art in life
What is the thing with art ... Sh-art? When I was about 14 and visiting Italy, there was an exhibition of Veronese, and I said to my sister that I didn't like him. "How can you say that? The Veronese! The Veronese!" He reeks of sweet, gray-pink death, I thought to myself. I still don't like him today. How many great works of art are there (that we know of)? How many are there in the greatest museums that are not merely good craftsmanship, but have that fire? In the Blessed Ones, only a few works. The Supreme took the brush from the artists for a few minutes and painted alone. A Goya who escaped from the Goya ... The old Titian, who suddenly saw through the woman's flesh ... Van Gogh, who at times did not control his madness ... Chardin, who unconsciously inserted the agony of humanity into his floral still lifes and fruit baskets ... Too few of these things exist: the rest are horse's hindquarters relied upon by an English lord (Joshua Reynolds). Today's equivalent is the blown-up Warhol photography of Jackie Kennedy. In the few great things, therein falters the deed that surely comes from above. If this is so, why not compare it with other deeds that are outside of art: How about the deed of the quiet lady (a neighbor of ours) who got on her bicycle, rode to the Jewish ghetto and POW camp to throw packages of food over the fence at the risk of her life (Olga Penerdzhi in Riga)? What about the wounded German POW who gave his boots to the freezing Stanley Fisher (our late artist) after the Normandy landings? How about the act of the concentration camp prisoners in the center of the city of Magdeburg who (apparently liberated; the SS guards had fled) celebrated and lifted into the air a decent SS man who had stayed behind, as the first gesture of their (apparent) liberation, even though they were parched skeletons? (He is said to have put on convict clothes afterwards ...) How to evaluate the "action art" of the nameless woman in the column of the Great Action in Riga, who, driven on Moscow Street to the Rumbula grove, had somehow got the inspiration and who, during the kilometer-long march, had also managed to write a note, and to throw the note, on which she wrote: "Avenge us!", on the street unnoticed by the Latvian Guard? She could have been beaten to death for it, like my grandmother, still on the street, before the final destination of Rumbula. How is this action to be compared with the works of the highly famous New York "action" artist H.F., also a Jewess, whose mile-sized and artistically bloodless smearings are to be digested in the museums? These are only a few examples: Where is the great artistic deed? Not necessarily, hardly, rarely in the so-called art. The art hides outside.
I speak too much of the past? Here is the great art of "today": the French writer Christian Didier (he was an untalented writer and also crazy, wrote the New York Times) visited the old Vichy collaboration minister Bousquet, who had convinced the Gestapo that not only Jewish adults but also underage children should be "deported" to Auschwitz. Monsieur Bousquet was already 84, but he had never been brought to trial, he had many friends, including, as it turned out, the Socialist President Mitterand, who often had lunch with him. Now the writer (untalented, the press said) went to Mr. Bousquet's luxury apartment in the 16th arrondissement and pierced him with a pistol, that is, he made a work of art influenced by Lucio Fontana, who poked holes in stretched canvases ... Then he organized a happening in a hotel room where, in the presence of the Parisian press and television, he declared that he was proud to have removed the shit from France's face, that this was his art, even if his books, perhaps rightly, were not successful. The Nazi hunters and the bourgeois "Israeli" community chiefs cried tears: what a loss! Another hundred years of legal proceedings missed, to once again stick their nose in the world's shit. And with the help of the law and by the slow shit of the well-paid judges and advocates, the police chief Bousquet would have been released home because of old age. But this Lucio Fontana artist, this madman and untalented scribe, now he has not missed his talent - he has made Holocaustian art instead of yap-yap-yap. This is not murder, this is really how the Dear God wanted it to be in the barren desert. Avant-garde art. It still exists.
Advices for the artist comrades
Attention! Make it as small as possible in scale! The pompous American perverse (from the large-scale abstract expressionism to the pop maestros and to the clever concept-entertainment puzzle-spray makers) should be avoided: the true art of today should not be hypocritically presented at gala museum carnivals (which, after all, only serve the establishment and entertainment and the art market). Therefore: simple, deep, but with modesty. The reaction to all this seemingly wild capitalist-anarchist can already be felt. What is needed is simply silent truth! A thing that almost never exists in the confused tumult! Therefore do not capitulate and throw away immediately brushes and palettes, but use them beneficially for a clarification! Man is not only a production machine even in the democratic stable: it will be difficult to slaughter the urge for personal creativity.
And as for the art historians and "art suckers", they should only write what happens, and not be artist-life-standards for movements (for which they engage the artists to the death) like the Heil-Hitler-Pop and the Arte Povera, which they then lead in firm step and step to the art victory.
How's business? This is a problem, gentlemen. The art, unfortunately, is not a business with which you can earn properly and raise your family (if you do not cry and sleep properly and steal and succumb to the art market, where you also have to have a lot of luck and skill). The human-economic, species-appropriate art has already been tried in the suicidal-socialist countries, with not much success - but, in some ways it was: Sergei Eisenstein and Pudovkin were not bad at all! So don't hope there for food from the democratic freebooter state. (There are only many carnival events and glossy writings there).
Much better is to be rich in the first place, or to marry rich. (As the women's rights activist and sculptor Louise Nevelson so warmly put it, that the husbands of lesbian artists are only good for exploitation for the purpose of art. The "black" lady - she colored everything black, a simple system - also made a contribution on the subject of the Holocaust with the lofty title "In honor of 6 million Jews", which, of course, she painted black. She should spend a whole bright day in a newly built concentration camp, then she would not make such an atrocity.
The Holocaust is still not a very good business, not as good as Pop Art and Minimal Art, but it is already attracting a few entrepreneurs (as I noted, there is another lady, this time Polish, who is producing sculptures on the subject en masse). So far, it's only been American suburban girls who could afford the trip to Auschwitz to steal the ashes of the dead and mix them into their abstract expressionist paints to mock the victims: this Minimal business goes all the way to the highest circles (i.e., the circles where any form of doodling is exploited).
But the former sculptor was smart and lucky; so there is a possibility for a business. That's where you always have to do Himmler's marketing research. If you don't do that (even if the goods are very good), then business goes badly. Also, you can't get into avant-garde art too early (like a Kandinsky): the offensive has to fit the times exactly. So keep the bombs in the ranks of artillery, otherwise you will fire them uselessly.
If you don't follow all the rules, your investments will go badly. It also goes badly if you adhere firmly to all the rules, even if your productions really please a lot of people who, unfortunately, can't put moolah in the till. In fine arts it is quite bad, because each object has to be sold separately. How many thousands of lovers there are, doesn't matter (maybe in future generations, if there is something left). Therefore you have only one way, perhaps to insist on reality: shout!
Therefore it is better, not only more honorable - no business! The small children should starve, or not be made by you at all.
The main thing in this time of frozen peace: make it fast! There is no time to lose, otherwise we will stand staring like the Bosnians and the Serbs: jerk-zuck, like in the Prussian armies. And don't think too much about aestheticisms - but much about what is going on in the newspapers and on the screens; analyze that more than your Dr. Freud stories. If you think too much about everything else, you miss the right moment. The Lenin knew that ... also the criminal Hitler. But the "shithead" (New York lawyer type) Gorbachev was too smart to get this. But please do not follow the victor Hitler, although his stink tempts to it!
Then: do a lot. Why? The art market does not wait for your ingenious works - but just because, in spite of it. To prove that not everything works economically after all. "Pull" yourselves the history "purely", not necessarily the history of art, as it is chatted off by the so-called specialists from third and fourth hand. Old Prince Tolstoy had all this to say already around1890 ("What is art?"), Maxim Gorky, still maligned by the contras, also knew some things about art, as did the forward-looking teachers of the Frankfurt School. And Man Ray said to a group of young people, including me: "Do you think that what is currently kept in museums is really the best art? What about the stuff that has fallen victim to fires and floods?" That uncomplicated question opened my eyes like no schooly teaching could. And I now understood that there is no high command among the arts and acted on it liberated!
The best place to meetS
Where will we hold our next general managers' meeting? In the Lower East Side, which was burned down but then rebuilt by yuppies? That might not suit my colleagues at all. Or in my apartment in the Uptown, near Park Avenue, which I acquired in a strange way when there was a particularly fierce fire in the Lower East Side and on the street of my studio in 1974, in violation of the law (as they say) because I opened its lock by hitting it with a hammer? There, too, the compagnons probably don't like the atmosphere. Too many homeless people lie there at night in cardboard boxes in the entrances of French/Milan boutiques, usually on the street grates, where they try to keep warm by the rising steam to avoid freezing to death, which they don't always succeed in doing. When I go out at night to buy the much-maligned New York Times (it's my suicidal drug! Not to get misinformed about what the President and the President don't do, but mostly for the stock market news, which is crucial), the homeless are already asleep, and I don't have to feel guilty about almost never giving them money. ("Go to work, you lazy bums!" and "Let your misfortune lead you to achieve a better social order, as I do heroically with New York Times reading and with art!") The worse it is, the better. But we must at least be warm and have access to food - like Kapos in concentration camps - if we are to affirm human rights and freedom-sexuality through art.
Or should there be a meeting in Berlin, in the newly forged Fourth Reich? There, I hear, there are Chechen Mafiosi (as Russians they hate me after all) and neo-Nazi gangs (as a Jew I am not popular with them either, if they do not, like Himmler, finally change their position) and also newly arrived, spared but unwanted Gypsies and Russian Jews, who are now pushing into consumerism, and Russian Germans, who would have preferred to stay at home after all - and homeless Germans, you have them too. The good wall now runs through the heart. In our country, Professor Gingrich with his holy family revolution will soon put everything in order; the homeless and the stupid artists will then simply be swept away. The homeless to work where there is no work. The death penalty will then take care of everything. Come to New York!
Too much knowledge kills feeling
I would like to add something here that has little to do with the actual text; but it is about the "colleagues," a word I use frequently here. It also means "the Hitler and his colleagues." I see them on television all the time, always late at night, when all the righteous, working people are already asleep. At least twice a week, I would say. I never get tired of it. I know the Führer so well, it seems to me that he is a close relative to me. I have good reason to hate him; I hated him even before I got to know him so well through television. Now my former urge to slowly slash him is long forgotten. And I watch him as if I had never known him, with great interest, as if I had never had anything to do with him. He is no longer a stranger to me, it seems to me now, he is an uncle with seemingly unusual traits. That he killed my mother I cannot understand at all. It all stems from the overabundance of information. The details of everything crowd out feeling. It is much more effective to let everything float in a silence, surrounded by mystery. Overexposure kills reality. And this is also true of the Holocaust. (My mother would certainly not have liked that her sacrifice is used to illustrate all sorts of purposes, including selfish ones - even some good ones - and that lying politicians use it for their dirty public relations. She still has to slave for her task force. She is denied the right to vote democratically against it. Her vote has been handed over to the Holocaust museum directors). Knowledge, paradoxical as it seems, puts to sleep what is left of the human being. When I stood for the first time, years after the event, at the mass graves of Riga, in which I too would have lain, there was the way out to measure all the lengths step by step and to make a sketch. Only 8 graves - and in them a whole city!
As a result I became a little specialist of these events. Now I see only the TV reports, and I know so much (so little) that it seems to me that everything has been degraded to the level of a coffee talk.
About the power vacuum
In the Jewish state of Israel, there is no street named after the second most famous Jew (after Jesus Christ), Karl Marx, despite the years of government by the so-called Labor Party, which leased the land, now making it a Jewish ghetto through "peace". The Jew Karl Marx is said to have been anti-Semitic because he attacked the Jewish businessmen. How about the prophet Jeremiah then, who in his time accused the Jews, far worse than the Jew Karl Marx? There are hardly any streets/villages/cities bearing his name, but they could not erase his name from the Bible, neither could the heroic generals and politicians, it is too fixed. And if they had tried, the fanatically religious would have balked, just like the Hasidim who threw themselves into the burned synagogues in praise of God during the Hitler era. (My mother's uncle, Moysche Katz, was among them).
At the same time, it is always the case that the prophets and strong critics are forgotten by a silent agreement. In other places, like Russia, where they were first made gods, they were eventually wiped out by gluttonous yuppie Marxists, like the uber-smart Gorbachev and the little Communist tsar Yeltsin. Jeremiah had better luck in Russia: the religious people believed and still believe in his words, although it was almost forbidden in the past.
In general, everywhere, just like here in the "over-free" West ... only the business; not necessarily the small, egoistic business, which one needs to live: It is about the "free" American struggle for the power, no matter in which garb it comes along. In one place, it's about blood feuds between families and tribes; in others, it's about cleverly contrived democratic elections. The new "international" is the human rights "U.N.," arbiter of jungle warfare (and cover for those behind it).
The power vacuum has to be filled somehow, just like a bad image: and it doesn't matter if it's family/tribe, religion, freedom/democracy or the muscle mafia. To survive in the cave family you need power! In the heroic Yugoslavia the democratic Ustasha, the Muslim SS-unions and the anti-communist Chetniks already manage that, in Russia the democratic Mafiosi.
It is the same with art: we are fascio-falangists, some want one goal, others the other (just as they believe). The art is not only an investment and an aesthetic pleasure, but also teaching and propaganda. The Bible, Prince Tolstoy, the Dadaists and Mayakovsky have known this for a long time. Whoever of them and those who followed could not take root in his time, was lost: Therefore shout! If you have no better weapons! By the blowing of the trumpets the walls of Jericho fell! The cry, the "Never again", even if, as at present, only quietly, has nevertheless sometimes the characteristic that it falls after few years, many times strengthened, like a good bomb on the earth.
The King's New Clothes
"The king has no clothes!" "The king has no clothes!" Yet I see clearly that he is wearing an ermine coat and has a crown sitting on his head. Why do they all see him naked and haggard, with wrinkled skin hanging from his belly due to malnutrition, not much better than an emaciated skeleton and barefoot. So he stands on the steps to the throne, offered as a white slave to the highest bidder. No - I see him robust and round, dressed like a prince, nay, like a tsar; and though he does not look like Moses, who grew horns on his forehead for wisdom, he is really enough for me. A king doesn't have to look like a dramatic figure at all, he has to look like you and me, only better, more confidence inspiring than us crooked citizens, democratic so to speak, with a blessed family of course, since he has to demonstrate his procreative ability all the time.
We urgently need a king, and a well-dressed one at that! Not like Lenin, Che Guevara or Mao. A queen would be even better; but not such a slut as Rosa Luxemburg- the Marxism professor Raissa Gorbachev, well-dressed by Parisian couturiers, would be the best candidate.
For years I have been pinning photographs cut out from newspapers and journals with newspaper texts on the walls of my study so that I do not forget the present that is becoming history. The cutouts turn yellow, fall off; I then reattach them to the wall with tape. This is how collages are created that age in front of themselves, just like the work slaves who put their favorite naughty pin-up girls in their lockers to get something like a spark of love and well-being in their boring daily existence - and then back to the machine with the machine.
I have so two pictures of the father Stalin hung on the wall and still painted over with clear varnish, so that they do not fade: If Stalin had not existed, then I would not have remained alive! And still the newly baptized communists insult him! The Stalins are the only ones who have disappeared from the wall, everything else is always there as before. I have very few visitors - how and why and by whom could they have been stolen? After all, it was only yellowed newsprint. Were they spies of the Russki immigrants or Democrat mafiosi acting on the orders of the cheerful, im-parliament-shooting yuppie czar?
In 1962 I was in Milan, I happened to hear a record by the singer Vanone in the Milanese dialect. It was during the Cuban nuclear crisis. The world was about to blow up - while I didn't even know how serious the situation was. The singer sang a song about an arrested criminal who was forced by the police to reveal the names of his cronies: He said, the and the ... Vanone sang: No! I don't belong to them! "No! lo non so da quell ..."
When I was about 12 years old, I belonged to a leftist Zionist scout organization. You had to hike for miles, were only allowed to wear shorts even in the depths of winter, tie and everything bourgeois was taboo. The same applied to girls, who were not allowed to dress nicely or put on makeup, and everyone had to wear the gray work blouse as a uniform, including, of course, a very long skirt. Now my classmates at that age had pole fever. Being a wandering bird with the aggressive nightly raids on the forest camps of the political competition no longer had any appeal for them, only the screwing of the females, which in principle was forbidden. They left the group, leaving only two. One of them was me. We then became pariahs. I could no longer stand the isolation in the class and gave up. The second one still believed in it and still doesn't forgive me for the betrayal, or at least doesn't want to have anything to do with me. Also because of this ... I cannot afford to sell NO!art to the art world SS. With true partisans there is only the mercy of death for such an attitude. Unfortunately, since I was not fortunate enough to become a partisan, I must now, with less direct physical danger, uphold our cause. Desirable, horny girls are no longer so important, and liberating bordello makeup no longer has avant-garde appeal.
Even if you are alone, without brothers and sisters, in the jungle, wandering there for years with forest ghosts, and if the enemy does not care about you at all, you can still commit treason against yourself - that is, against God; even though it seems that God does not care about you. But maybe he does.
The day of real liberation usually doesn't come; but sometimes it does! With apparent liberations in between. One must always hope for the very last, right deliverance, and thereby stay alive in this Uncertain Hope.... Suddenly, always when one expects it least, it comes nevertheless! Of course not necessarily for me or you.
Where is the avant-garde today, in 1995? Is there an avant-garde? - The pioneer era of (mostly bourgeois) modernism is long gone, and what is left today is simply shearing, archaeology to find something in the graves that these pioneers threw away or forgot in the rubble. Today the academy reigns as it did in the 19th century, only masquerading as modern avant-garde art. This is perhaps natural, after the end of modernism. Of course, today, as always, there are great individual talents. There are some, whether old or new in their style. You can find a genius you don't know yet, possibly rather next door around the corner, but almost hardly in museums. The art market is, or was, too good. The trust from universities, art trade and museums only digests the pre-chewed, the academic is polished into new diamonds.
But there is something new today, perhaps less in the new forms they create than in their way of creating: These are the masterless bands of freebooters. They usually know nothing of the established art milieu. They often don't even know why they paint. Just think of the graffiti artists who often risk their lives to put their signs on bridges or in the dangerous subway tunnels. For whom? Not for gallery visitors or critics, but for themselves and their gang brothers!
Such things do not fit into the so-called history of art. You can hardly exploit such things for the market either. There are other bandit gangs that are less adventurous and breakneck, but can keep themselves in the art business longer. They get their chance when the art market collapses, like now.
The old pioneers also only came up when there was an art market for them. The mavericks outside the industry and maverick bandits can hardly survive. And such a thing is also logical in the historical sense. The modernist/avant-garde struggle is over. The new art industry has absorbed the avant-garde. What follows from this is the new academism. Whoever resists this must go into the forest and form robber gangs.
Beyond the libido
If one has overcome with much luck all hurdles, also concerning the freedom girls who want to kill you still last in her belly (who say everything what is in her body belongs to them ... Whereas the body itself is only borrowed ...) and you have managed to get through to this beautiful earth - where the law is that everyone eats everyone - instead of lying on the sofa and whistling about the world situation, you would have to do something useful to alleviate the difficulties of the underdogs a little: Beyond the feeding frenzy for more justice striving (that progressive lies avoid), toil for the creative (whatever that is),alienate oneself a little from the world of "animal eats animal" (this world the conservationists understand as so virtuous) ... and become a little less bloodthirsty like Himmler, despite the hard struggles this entails. The "weaker animal" must be helped because of his "inferiority", for his defense a strong one must engage himself politically. But the weak little human being must also not be overfed, one should not shower it even more with toys, which take from it the God-given, while constantly sweet words of lies whisper from the summits. In poverty and in the dungeon and in defeats there is still a dignity, but there is none in this thick consumer happiness.
Newsflash at the end
The Politburo and the Central Committee meet at 66th Street & Park Avenue in New York. The address is very posh, but the rooms (2 apartments) are not big enough to comfortably accommodate all the deputies from all over the world and from all the stars ;there are too few upholstered director's chairs, but enough good Cuban cigars (from the nay-saying fidel Fidel Castro, but in a roundabout way, because of the embargo). The women among the NO!artists (about 45%) do not smoke cigars. Now they smoke only men. On the agenda: should art productions be exhibited publicly at all? If so, then how and where? (Because this allows everyone to be falsely incorporated into museum and gallery themed exhibitions and used to support those who are not like-minded). (It is not to say, however, that museums and galleries are chasing NO!artists, this is a matter of principle). The second point is whether works should be sold at all. (This, in turn, does not mean that art collectors are after these works. It is again a matter of principle). The third point is whether to continue making art at all, given what is happening in the art world and in the world. (The weapon of art, some believe, has become too blunt for these times.) (Making art with revolvers, some believe, would be better after all.) After much discussion and after much smoke, including man-smoke, of course - as is to be expected from NO!artists - nothing can be decided in a clear-cut way. Each of the participants should keep the discussed questions in mind and then act according to his needs and conscience. Until the next meeting. That's hardly Stalin-like, that's NO!artistic! So much for the news.
I can only add that the dead NO!artists and the missing ones are also at the meeting. You don't want to believe that after 30 years of oblivion the NGBK/Berlin is organizing a retrospective for the disappeared in the now "New Great Germany". Are the dead and missing (yes and forgotten' ) in the rubble bucket of big city art (without pity or remembrance!) the Unknown Soldiers (only the one of them is celebrated as nameless!), are also the artists such knights? They did not die in battle, but in the fight against windmills from quite normal diseases (and always too young).
Couldn't it be that the suffocating environment contributed to this? The energy that was originally thrown fanatically at the outside world and the work was then used self-destructively when there was no response. If you have ambitions in New York and don't win, you're lost. This is due to the poisoned atmosphere. Whoever is beaten like that must find another faith as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the true artists are generally too emotional, not thinking-oriented enough. One way out can be the illness. Another is to lie down on the tracks in the darkness of the tunnel and wait for the next train (like Isser Aronovici). Still another is to disappear from New York, desert from the front lines. Who bears responsibility for such cultural barbarities? In democracy there is no responsibility. Everyone works rushed to participate in movements that already exist (you can also create movements independently). If you hurt someone in the process: too bad! So nobody is to blame for the artist murders.
Published in: ►NO! [in German], catalog, Berlin 1995