HGCEA at CAA 2012 Los Angeles
Picturing Urban Space in Central Europe since 1839
Chair: Miriam Paeslack, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
When the daguerreotype took Europe and the world by storm within weeks of its publication in Paris in 1839, a tremendously powerful tool for the urban imagination was born. While veduta- and street-painters had been meticulously documenting and spontaneously sketching the city in the earlier decades of the century, photography soon was able to capture motion and urban life. This opened up a whole new range of topics and issues in city imagery.
This panel investigates the cross-fertilization between 19th century city photography and urbanization in central Europe, for example in Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna, Prague and or other Central European cities. It addresses the “pictorial turn” in urban representation that was triggered by the arrival of photography, and its repercussions for other visual media. More specifically, it asks about the different visual languages, expectations, and functions of urban representations found in diverse media – photography and film, but also drawings and paintings – since the 1840s. How have these different media impacted our perception of the city, and what were their respective means of “constructing” the city? How did urban growth, the urbanite’s sense of identity, and the image of the city interact? How did the urban image’s evolution relate to urban development?
Visual and architectural historians, human geographers, and artists are encouraged to submit proposals for presentations studying the spatial, structural, social and/or cultural encoding generated by urban imagery. Such studies could focus, for example, on the way that urban imagery addresses relationships of space and time/history or how national identity figures into such imagery. Proposals comparing two or more cities, and urban imagery from the 19th through the early 20th centuries respectively are welcome, as are proposals by artists working with historic imagery or relying on historic urban imagery as a point of reference.
“The Invisible City: Architectural Imagination and Cultural Identity Represented in Competition Drawings from Sibiu 1880-1930”
Timo Hagen, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Sibiu, the European Capital of Culture in 2007, was the center of Transylvania for centuries, and around 1900 characterized by its population’s cultural diversity. At this time the townscape was changed substantially by a wave of new building projects. In addition to the buildings actually built, drawings submitted to architectural competitions provide a deeper insight into contemporary architectural discourses: often revised or dismissed, these sketches form the image of a city existing only on paper. In my presentation I explore principles, which led to the selection of the drawings for those buildings that were eventually executed. I analyze how architects tried to affect decisions through elaborate drawing designs, highlighting the buildings’ aesthetic value and the associated concepts of cultural identity. The broad spectrum of building types shed light on the diversity of competing cultural identities in Sibiu during the period, while drawings reveal how visual representations helped communicate such identities.
“Picturing the Nation: The Multifaceted Image of Hungary at the 1896 Millennium Exhibition in Budapest”
Miklós Székely, Ludwig Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest
This presentation discusses and critically reflects on the meaning and importance of ephemeral exhibition architecture at the 1896 millennial festivities in Budapest, Hungary through its photographic representation. The lecture aims to show how politics influenced not only the architecture of the exhibition venue – a city within the city – but also its photographic representation, which was used to convert it into a national lieu de memoire. Pavilions were dedicated to express the nationalist politics of the re-emerging Hungarian political class, which aimed at reinstalling the country’s image as independent, economically and politically strong European nation. For that purpose, surviving monuments were re-erected in ephemeral versions for the millennial festivities. This exhibition and its pavilions was also one of the last examples of historicism-based cultural policy at the turn-of the century. After 1900, the Hungarian pavilions in universal exhibitions emphasized the vernacularism based modernist side of Hungarian culture.
“Architecture, Monuments, and the Politics of Space in Kolozsvár/Cluj”
Paul Stirton, Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture
In 1902 János Fadrusz’s equestrian statue of the Hungarian Renaissance king Matthias Corvinus was unveiled on the main square in Kolozsvár, Transylvania, marking out this central locale as a distinctively Hungarian space in a region with an increasing majority of Romanians. It also inaugurated a competition for cultural dominance of the urban landscape by rival ethnic groups that lasted throughout the inter-war period (when Transylvania was ceded to Romania), the Communist period, and even after 1989. This paper addresses both the transformation of the city squares and their interpretation through ritual celebrations and photographs that served to focus attention on certain features and to heighten their symbolic importance.
“Urban Space as a Visual-Haptic Experience: Stereoscopic Views of German Cities, 1880-1910”
Douglas Klahr, University of Texas at Arlington
In the second half of the nineteenth century, stereoscopic views of European cities became immensely popular, and those of German cities dominated the market in Central Europe. Stereographs often delivered sensations of depth that were haptic in intensity, a result due not merely to binocular optics, but also to the kinesthetic relationship between viewer and device. The stereoscopic experience therefore was phenomenological, establishing a realm of psycho-corporeal space unlike any other visual medium, in which the sensation of depth was corporeal rather than intellectual. Stereoscopy therefore seemed ideally suited to provide an illusion of depth, which is the sine qua non in pictorial depictions of urban space, yet consistently delivering this illusion was problematic. This talk addresses the challenges that stereographers encountered when photographing urban spaces, which lead them often to depart from iconic images of German Cities that were marketed in widely-distributed viewbooks during the same period.
“Picturing Contested Space and Subjectivity in the Urban Milieus of Budapest and Vienna”
Dorothy Barenscott, Simon Fraser University
Examining the powerful role that urban spaces have played in the social imaginary of nation and Empire, this paper explores the new media forms of photography and film as they appeared at key historical moments in the interconnected development of Budapest and Vienna’s urban character in the fin de siècle period. Arguably, these new media forms operated as a powerful visual patois that celebrated and exposed the most pedestrian and de-institutionalized visions of a modern world—ephemeral and fleeting moments that competed with and broke the illusion of grand monuments dedicated to abstract concepts of nationhood and citizenship. What were the new spaces produced by photography and film in the dual capital cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? And how did they affect the difficult histories and distinct perceptions of time-space, but also the competing theories of modern subjectivity and picture-making, that would emerge out of both places by WWI?
HGCEA Emerging Scholars
Chair: Timothy O. Benson, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
“Viva Durero! Albrecht Dürer and German Art in Nueva España”
Jennifer A. Morris, Princeton University
In the early modern period, settlers and missionaries from the farthest reaches of Europe traveled to the Americas with the goal of converting the New World into a Christian paradise. With them came a number of artworks that circulated widely and served as prototypes for the “hybrid” art forms of colonial America described by George Kubler and others. This paper examines the presence and impact of German art in the New World in particular, using the transmission and imitation of Albrecht Dürer’s prints in Nueva España as a model for the interaction between Indo-American and German art in New Spain and hence for the reception of Central European styles in colonial art at large. By considering the afterlife of Dürer in the New World, this study demonstrates that Central European art was pervasive and continuously influential in the Americas, serving important artistic, religious, and political functions in a spiritual battlefield.
“‘Opium Rush’: Hans Makart, Richard Wagner, and the Aesthetic Environment in Ringstrasse Vienna”
Eric Anderson, Kendall College of Art and Design
In 1871, critic Wilhelm Lübke characterized the paintings of Viennese artist Hans Makart as “gemalte Zukunftsmusik.” Lübke intended no compliment. Drawing a comparison to composer Richard Wagner, Lübke denounced Makart’s art as mere surface, lacking intellectual or moral value. Both Wagner’s “colossal masses of sound” and Makart’s “nerve-tingling colors,” he wrote, offered only a stupefying narcosis for the sensation-addled parvenu of the Ringstrasse: “an opium rush, received through the ear or the eye.”
Around 1900, the Viennese critic Ludwig Hevesi offered a striking reassessment, celebrating the decorative, psychologically immersive character of Makart’s paintings, and especially his decorated interiors, as a sophisticated and elegant means of escaping the crises of modernity. Taking Hevesi’s remarks as a starting point, this paper will reconsider the relationship between Makart’s interiors and Wagner’s concept of immersive experience, taking into account links to Aestheticism, the Secession, and fin-de-siècle theories of mental life that informed Hevesi’s analysis.
“Architecture on Moscow Standard Time”
Richard Anderson, Columbia University
Focusing on the 1930s, this paper explores architecture’s relationship to the Communist Party’s politics of time. After the competition for the Palace of the Soviets of 1932, Party officials prescribed the use of “both new techniques and the best techniques of classical architecture” in future projects. Although this event has long been interpreted as a negation of the agency of the avant-garde, this paper presents the architectural debates that followed as symptoms of the chronotope—the time-space—in which they unfolded. Concretely, it traces the ways that leading architects—Moisei Ginzburg, Aleksandr Vesnin, Ivan Leonidov, among others—responded to the proposition that a progressive, socialist architecture could arise only from the “critical appropriation of architectural heritage.” By attending to rarely-discussed projects and texts, this paper shows how Soviet architects articulated a theoretical program that would position socialist architecture ahead of the West, paradoxically, by turning to the past.
HGCEA at CAA 2011 New York
The Display of Art and Art History, From the Premodern to the Present
Chair: Karen Lang, University of Southern California
Alois Riegl’s engagement with Late Roman antiquity in Vienna’s Museum of Applied Arts stimulated a new art-historical method of relative values. Aby Warburg’s experience as a student in Florence of Italian quattrocento art resulted in a novel approach to the “afterlife” of antiquity. The young Wilhelm Worringer, contemplating medieval cast reproductions in the Trocadéro, chanced upon the sociology professor Georg Simmel; their meeting sparked the conception of Worringer’s Abstraction and Empathy. Despite attention to foundational moments such as these, we have yet to learn in depth and across time about interrelations between the exhibition of art and the history of art history as a disciplinary practice. This panel draws on exhibition histories and historiography to address the multidirectional and reciprocal ways the display of art and art-historical methodologies have shaped each other in Germany and Central and Eastern Europe, from the premodern to the present. Previous scholarship has focused on the museum and the university as art history’s “two cultures.” This panel explores relations between exhibition history and art history to open a new stream of research.
“Virtual Display: The Role of Drawing in the Early Modern Art Collection”
Susan Maxwell, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh
Works on paper did not became part of the culture of collecting until the late sixteenth century, but even then, patrons valued them differently than in contemporary practice. For example, Duke Philipp of Pommern-Stettin had his art agent commission drawings that documented works of art in the ducal collection in Munich rather than commissioning new works himself. When the drawings were assembled into albums, Philipp possessed a virtual re-creation of his rival’s art collection. In 1565 Samuel Quiccheberg wrote the first theoretical text on the organizational structure of the ideal museum for Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria, who created the first Kunstkammer, or ducal art collection, north of the Alps. Quiccheberg’s theory provides insight into how these patrons may have valued drawings and prints. This paper analyzes primary sources to determine whether drawing was viewed as a creative endeavor or a tool in organizing and possessing knowledge within a collection.
“Pattern Book, Museum, and Ethnographic Village: Intersections of Art History and Ethnography in Austria-Hungary”
Rebecca Houze, Northern Illinois University
The development of art history coincided with that of ethnography in the Dual Monarchy, Austria-Hungary, at the end of the nineteenth century. The relationship of the two fields at that time was especially evident in the diverse modes of display employed in their publications and exhibitions. Illustrated albums from the 1860s and 1870s, with luxurious color-lithograph printed plates, catalogued embroidery and woven textile designs from various sources. These pattern sheets, produced for industrial designers, foreshadowed Alois Riegl’s theoretical treatises on ornament and folk art based on his own observations of textiles. At the same time, installation practices from the realm of fine and industrial art lent themselves well to ethnographic comparisons by scholars such as Michael Haberlandt and János Jankó in the 1890s. This paper considers three examples—the pattern book, the comparative installation, and the ethnographic village—in an effort to better understand the intersections between them.
“An Art History of the ‘Most Neglected’: Art History and Ethnology in German-Speaking Scholarship”
Priyanka Basu, University of Southern California
One important consequence of assembling the data of the earliest surveys of art history was that lacunae became visible. Art historians in the following generations elevated these unknown areas and periods to objects of study, many claiming to renounce previous norms and personal taste and give attention to the previously marginal. One of these gaps was occupied by “primitive” art, encountered in ethnological studies and museums and which gained visibility in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries along with other nonclassical artifacts and prehistoric art. This paper deals with a number of theorists and historians who attempted to determine the relationship of these to art history, as part of a broader enterprise of negotiating disciplinary boundaries and methodologies. It attends also to the representation of these objects in publications, sometimes as reproductions of fragments of patterns and ornament, from which art-historical beginnings and ur-motifs were extracted.
“Expansion of the Discursive Field: Harald Szeemann’s documenta 5 (1972)”
Ursula Frohne, University of Cologne, Germany
Arnold Bode’s documenta sought to reconnect Germany to international avant-garde positions in the aftermath of World War II. In the climate of the Cold War, he reestablished the autonomous, abstract, and form-genealogical idea of art within the art-historical canon of medium specificity and originality. By contrast, Harald Szeemann’s concept for documenta 5, with its programmatic “inquiry of reality—image worlds today,” presented a heterogeneous ensemble of visual artifacts from diverse cultural contexts. Emphasizing the notion of “parallel visual cultures,” Szeemann broke with the modernist principle of the artwork’s autonomy and the traditional order of images. This paper examines Szeemann’s transformation of exhibition display and its historiographic, cultural, and epistemological orders. It argues that documenta 5’s scenography anticipated the new horizon for art history’s methodological expansion toward Bildwissenschaften (science of the image).
“Raphael and Stalin in Dresden: Art, Display, and Ideology”
Tristan Weddigen, University of Zurich
On Stalin’s instructions, a list was made of two thousand artworks to be seized in Germany as trophies for a World Museum of Art. The most sought after was Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. In 1945 the Trophy Brigades found Dresden destroyed, but they discovered the hidden art depots. Two hundred thousand objects were sent to the Soviet Union, especially to the Pushkin Museum. These formed a secret museum within the museum, and the spoliations were denied. After signing the Hague Convention in 1954, and following Khrushchev’s De-Stalinisation, the Soviet Union began to return this booty (estimated at $2.5 million) to the West. The repatriation of the Dresden Picture Gallery in 1956 was accompanied by massive propaganda in which the work of the Trophy Brigades and the Soviet art restorers was touted as a rescue operation from the barbarism of the Nazis and the Allies. The paper investigates how the Stalinist aesthetic legacy still defines Dresden’s cultural identity.
HGCEA Emerging Scholars Session
Chair: Mitchell B. Merbeck, Johns Hopkins University
“The ‘Ghostly Semblance’ of the Modern: Deformation and Transformation of Images in Der Blaue Reiter”
Charles Butcosk, Princeton University
The 1912 publication of Der Blaue Reiter presented an almanac of essays and works of art as eclectic as the book’s eponymous exhibition society. The range of works reproduced in the book is vast, including not only paintings by Pablo Picasso and Paul Cézanne but also Iberian masks, Gothic prints, Egyptian shadow puppets, and children’s drawings. These latter images, often cropped to the point of being unreadable fragments and seeming to float enigmatically in and around the text, defer and mediate the works they reproduce, often reducing them to art-historical emblems. This paper examines the transformation and deformation of images in Der Blaue Reiter and their relationship to figurations of the past in essays by Franz Marc and August Macke. In so doing, it reconsiders the relationships between painting and the present in a project that was at the core of Der Blaue Reiter.
“Painting in Arcadia: Kirchner and Male Friendship, 1914–17”
Sharon Jordan, Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London
Throughout the vast literature on the German Expressionist artist Ernst Kirchner, the psychologically devastating experience of service during World War I is regarded as one of the defining aspects of his biography. This paper sheds new light on this crucial period by examining images depicting the artist’s fleeting friendship with Botho Graef, a classical archaeologist and art historian, which coincided with the duration of the war. An iconographic analysis of these artworks reveals the foundation of the men’s friendship in their mutual engagement with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and shows how Graef’s devotion to the ancient Greek tradition of pedagogical male friendship proved inspirational. By considering the interrelationship between Kirchner’s extreme mental difficulties and the war’s ultimate ruination of this vital friendship, this discussion further expands our understanding of the artist by offering additional interpretations for self-portraits relating directly to his profound period of crisis in 1915.
“Some Uses of Photomontage in Soviet and German Periodicals in the 1930s”
Katerina Romanenko, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
This paper questions the persisting perceptio that Stalinist and Nazi regimes rejected photomontage because of its association with modernist experimentation and with the political Left by tracing some of the ways the medium was appropriated for the totalitarian modes of expression associated with the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The discussion reveals that for magazine designers, photomontage was mostly a technical tool enabling the organization of visual material in a dynamic yet also concise and economic manner. This suggests that while both regimes rejected the radical language of photomontage characteristic of the 1920s, the technical and visual flexibility of the medium, coupled with photography’s documentary quality, were regarded as useful despite the controversial associations of the medium. Various uses of photomontage throughout the decade, using examples from periodical press of the 1930s—USSR in Construction, Krestianka, Rabotnitsa, Illustrierter Beobachter, Frauen Warte, and others—are compared and analyzed.
HGCEA at CAA 2010 Chicago
Transformation Reconsidered: ‘Utopias’, Realities and National Traditions in post-1989 Central Europe
Chair: Andrzej Szczerski, Jagiellonian University, Cracow
Twenty years of post-Cold War transformation in the Central European region had been marked by recourse to lost identities and renewed interest in national histories and traditions. Concurrently, new questions have been posed regarding regional experience, including whether remnants of the communist system and the incoming capitalist globalization can provide a new socio-political and cultural model for contemporary Europe. In both instances, retro- and prospective ones, art, artists, and critical/historical discourse play a crucial role in forging new and questioning old identities. The session will analyze attempts to regain or reinvent national and individual histories, lost or destroyed during the Iron Curtain era. It will also look at the idea of remembrance about the communist ‘utopias’ and realities, their relevance, persistence and rejection within contemporary societies, as reflected in current art production as well as historiography. Since attitudes towards the recent past are highly politicized and often mutually exclusive, the question will be asked to what extent art, art history, and criticism can provide a platform for negotiations within the emerging civil society. The session will also consider the problem of how the post-communist transformation has been perceived as a lived reality, with its own cultural models and hierarchies.
“Work with Drawers, Slide Trays, Files, and Boxes!”
Georg Schoellhammer, Springerin, Hefte fur Gegenwartskunst
Twenty years after 1989 neo-avant garde and post conceptual art from the so called Former East is still confronted with a stereotypic reception elaborated in the early 1990s. Already by then the Western efforts of presenting a comprehensive reading of the avant gardes that had worked behind the Iron Curtain was palimpsested by its reception as a mere mirror of Western art practices. The paper will look at the histories of exhibitions of Eastern European art in Western institutions vis-à-vis materials that still hide away in private archives in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Its aim is to show how these archives have enabled communication, and how their forms and formats have themselves influenced the macro-structure of some of the exhibitions. Question will be asked about the strategies available to counter hegemonic subordination to the rules of the Western canons.
“Continuity of Art Informel and Artistic Self-Assertion in the GDR after the Cold War”
Sigrid Hofer, Philipps-Universitat Marburg
Since the nineteen-fifties numerous artists gathered in Dresden to cultivate forms of abstraction and to developed Art Informel. While Informel Art in the West was considered to have degenerated into a fad only after a few years it maintained its actuality in the East for several decades and was not even abandoned after the Wall came down. In the years of state-ordered Socialist Realism the decision for Informel was at the same time an expression of latent resistance. Therefore it seems that this distinctive approach influenced the artist’s self-image in a more crucial way than this appears to be the case in non-obstructive contexts. The presentation will investigate whether and to what extend new impulses brought change to Art Informel after 1989, and especially how adhering to tradition and continuation was a necessary condition for artists to affirm their own identity.
“‘The Future Is Behind Us'”
Edit Andras, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
In the turbulent period of transition, in the ex-East Block, contemporary art faces utopias in two ways, artists revisit the past searching for the moment when utopias went wrong, or, they eagerly look for new utopias in the condition of global capitalism, analyzing and adapting the enormous heritage of utopian thinking of the region for a disillusioned time, obsessed with dystopias. The paper is to peel off the layers covering the origins of some basic utopias, the ruins and remnants of which are still in our midst. The paper focuses on works which redirect the attention to the need of a retrospective analytical work, a kind of therapy of wounds and failures of the past. Some artists are eager to take responsibility of conscience of the societies that tend to forget their dreams of a better future. The presentation concentrates on video and conceptual art.
“The Possibility of the Postnational in Contemporary East European Art”
Maja and Reuben Fowkes, Translocal.org and University College London
The art history of the countries of Eastern Europe before 1989 was written, according to Piotr Piotrowski, more on the basis of ‘state apparatuses’ than ‘ethnicity’. Immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the afterglow of the internationalist ideals of socialism could still be felt, while the desire for free and open communication across state, ideological and national borders was predominant. Subsequently, the first post-communist decade saw the rise of identity politics, during which a national prefix became an obligatory addition to survey exhibitions of contemporary art in the countries of the former Eastern Blok. This paper discusses the changing understanding of the national in contemporary art since the End of Communism and the shift of interest during the second post-communist decade away from issues of identity in both its national and regional formulations towards an exploration of the possibilities of a post-national sense of belonging.
“The Situation: Contemporary Art Practice in the Post-Cold War Era”
Elizabeth M. Grady, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York
The contemporary moment is rife with “posts”: Post-Cold War, post-Communist, post 9-11, post-colonial, and even post-national. Blogs embody decentralized communities of identity-shifting “post-ers” who together determine the parameters of everything from what’s hip to the next revolution, often offering a faux-reality of democratic access and collectivist practice. But what is left when we’re offline? How do we come to terms with the reality of our decidedly non-ideal or falsely idealized cultural, social, political, and even material positions? And what role does art play in exposing or perpetuating this disjuncture between ideology and reality, virtual and real existence, mediated and actual experience? This paper will demonstrate the current efforts of artists to expose the disjuncture between the ideologically loaded virtual and media-driven models of reality that govern our collective cultural consciousness and the possibilities for individual agency and personal freedom of movement outside these powerful but ultimately hollow models for living.
HGCEA at CAA 2009 Los Angeles
Forging California modernism: Central European émigrés on the West Coast between 1920 and 1945
Chair: Isabel Wünsche, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany
At the beginning of the twentieth century, California was a cultural melting pot in which the local traditions of Native American, Hispanic, and Asian cultures mixed with the diverse influences of European modernism. The multitude of cultural influences as well as the relative immaturity of the California art scene attracted numerous European émigré artists and intellectuals and enabled them to become a driving force in introducing and establishing modernist art and design. This session will discuss the contributions artists, architects, photographers, and filmmakers from Germany and the former Habsburg Empire made to the emergence of modernism in California. Particular emphasis will be on the role European émigré architects played in shaping modernist architecture and design, the incorporation of modernist idioms into photography, the development of hybrid photographic styles that merged European modernist aesthetics with the American social documentary approach, and the influence that Central European avant-garde filmmakers gained upon Hollywood.
“A Position ‘Neither Here nor There’: Hansel Mieth’s and Otto Hagel’s California Photographs, 1928-1936”
Dalia Habib Linssen, Boston University
Arriving in San Francisco at the outset of the Depression, German-born photographers Hansel Mieth and Otto Hagel began chronicling a California they experienced as both active participants and perceptive observers. Forced to pick crops and work in factories, this émigré pair produced a distinctly modernist and politically-minded body of photographic work between 1928 and 1936. In directing their cameras toward those with whom they shared their struggles, including migrant laborers, Chinatown residents, and maritime workers, Mieth and Hagel skillfully negotiated the boundaries between worker and photographer, immigrant and resident, and European and American stylistic approaches. They developed a hybrid photographic style that merged the aesthetics of European modernism with the humanism of American documentary practices. Though known mostly for their photojournalistic work, I introduce Mieth and Hagel’s early contributions to show how their work complicates and expands our understanding of 1930s California photography.
“Camera Infirma: John Gutmann in California”
Miriam Paeslack, California College of the Arts, Oakland/San Francisco
Berlin émigré John Gutmann arrived in San Francisco in 1933. Although he had been trained as a painter by German Expressionist Otto Müller and intended to use the camera only commercially, he became best known for his intriguing, subjective photographs of mid-century American culture. In California, he used photography not just as a means of income but as a documentary tool, revealing as much about the place documented as about the documentarian. This paper examines Gutmann’s use of photographic qualities as a language of signification; it asks about the visual indicators for displacement and how Gutmann’s photographs, shaped by the outsider’s perspective, contribute to the development of California modernism. I will discuss how Gutmann’s photographs fit into the aesthetic and cultural discourse of Northern California photography between Dorothea Lange’s social documentary approach and the f64 group’s meticulous sense of aesthetic and technique.
“The Photographs of Arthur Luckhaus and the New Architecture of Richard J. Neutra”
Ruben A. Alcolea, School of Architecture, University of Navarra, Spain
The series of pictures taken by Arthur Luckhaus in California in the first half of the twentieth century illustrates both the changing of American society as well as the turn to New Objectivity in photography. Arthur Luckhaus, a photographer unknown until today, was the official photographer of the early works of the well-known Californian and Austrian-born modernist architect Richard J. Neutra, who introduced the idea of integrating industry and the machine into the modern languages of architecture and spatiality. In my paper, I will show some of the recently discovered photographs by Luckhaus in the context of the transition from Pictorialism to New Objectivity in California and also discuss them in relation to the development of early modernist architecture in Los Angeles, especially the work of Neutra. I thus will establish that both Luckhaus and Neutra are key figures for understanding modern photography and architecture.
“Artistic Survival in Paradise: German-Speaking Architects in California after 1933”
Burcu Dogramaci, University of Hamburg, Germany
Two factors were significant for the success of German and Austrian émigré architects attempting to establish a new existence in California in the 1930s: a high level of flexibility and the ability to network. Fritz Block and Ernst Hochfeld quickly adapted to the new situation by temporarily taking up photography and stage design; Oskar Gerson and Liane Zimbler found their most important clients among the German-speaking émigrés on the West Coast. This paper will focus on the émigré networks in California and their importance for the exiled architects. I will discuss why émigrés commissioned other émigrés and examine the clients’ wishes with respect to the design of their private homes, including the desire to aesthetically relate their new surroundings to the European Heimat versus attempts to adapt local architectural styles.
“The Unlikely Director: Paul Fejös and the Hollywood Connection, 1927-28”
Dorothy Barenscott, Trent University, Canada
In histories of early Hollywood, the community of Hungarian filmmakers, directors, and moguls, who played a decisive role in American filmmaking from its earliest inception, remain among the most misunderstood of all Central and Eastern European émigré groups. This paper focuses on one such related figure, director Paul Fejös, and his brief yet meteoric rise to fame in 1927-28. After leaving positions in Hungary, Austria and Germany, Fejös arrived in America and produced a low budget avant-garde film that garnered broad critical acclaim and led to a lucrative contract with Hollywood’s Paramount Studios to begin producing what would be understood as “cross-over” films linking European and Hollywood filmic approaches, techniques, and philosophies. Through a discussion of Fejös’s professional background and projects, I will explore a range of modernist and avant-garde techniques often overlooked in the visual, narrative, and contextual elements that make up his category of Hollywood films.
HGCEA at CAA 2008 Dallas
Feminism and Modernity in Central Europe
Chair: Adrienne Kochman, Indiana University Northwest, Chair
The association between feminism and power, and modernity with patriarchal systems represents a set of long established binaries addressed years ago in Broude and Garrard’s Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany (1982). Women’s forays into modernity and the ‘art world’ were conditioned and/or filtered by male-dominated expectations concerning quality, productivity, the media with which they worked, and their relationship to women’s traditional roles as mothers, wives and partners. Recent research on women artists of Central Europe, including Germany, indicates that some of the values, morals and societal expectations around these issues were particular to the region as was perhaps the very concept of woman herself. Studies of collaborations by artist couples, women as patrons and artists, and women’s participation in artist groups are some of the frameworks around which their contribution is being explored as is the role of class, privilege and economics. Differences in labor demands between urban and rural environments, as well as gender identities encoded in the cultures of Catholicism, Judaism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism and Islam also affect concepts of woman and feminist artistic behavior. This panel focuses on the 20th century, from pre-World War I Germany and Austro-Hungary to the First Czech Republic, Weimar Germany and the G.D.R.. It includes methodological reappraisals of stylistic movements, the inscription of gender in modernist discourse and the redefinition of subject matter and themes traditionally appropriate for women artists to pursue.
“Paula Modersohn-Becker: the national, regional and the Modern”
Shulamith Behr, Courtauld Institute
Since the publication of Alessandra Comini’s essay “Gender or Genius? The Women Artists of German Expressionism”, in Broude and Garrard (1982), the task of “recuperating” the histories of women artists has been brisk. However, the problematic manner in which gender is inscribed within modernist theory and practice still lies at the heart of evaluating women’s role in Expressionism. Besides Käthe Kollwitz the view exists that women artists functioned outside public debates on the direction that contemporary art should assume. This paper focuses on Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907), a timely intervention given the hundredth anniversary of her death. It explores the maternal line in generating Becker’s reliance on conservative models of national identity. Critical reading of her writings– as societal and performative genres – reveals her encounters with the “peasants” in Worpswede are encoded in a language that shows the artist’s roles as explorer, ethnographer and colonizer. The excursus suggests her paintings in Paris were audacious in ways that escape circumscription by the more predictable discourses of her writing. This paper considers posthumous canonization of Modersohn-Becker, the visibility of her works in the public sphere (prior to 1933) and concordant engendering of Expressionism warranting an overhaul of the movement and its history.
“Rediscovering Helene Funke: The Invisible Foremother”
Julie Johnson, University of Texas at San Antonio
Helene Funke (1869-1957) was an Expressionist painter who exhibited with Matisse and the Fauves in 1907 before moving to Vienna. In Modernist aesthetic terms, Funke was one of the most advanced painters in Austria. Her nudes and still lifes are not allegorical, and call attention to the production of art in the space of the studio. When Herbert Boeckl acknowledged Funke as “significant for the entire community of artists” in 1945, there was then no preexisting framework in public memory or histories of art that would make comprehensible the art of a woman as a producer of new forms, and she was promptly forgotten. It is entirely unexpected to place a woman in the role of a foremother, a transmitter of and producer of the most Modernist art in Austria, or anywhere else, for that matter.
“Re-thinking ‘virility and domination’ in German Vanguard Painting: The Case of Marta Hegemann (1894-970)”
Dorothy Rowe, University of Bristol
This paper will consider the work of Marta Hegemann (1894-1970) within the context of the construction of the German avant-garde during the 1920s. Hegemann was a Cologne-based painter who was married to fellow artist Anton Räderscheidt (1892-1970). By 1919 they had become central to the new circle of avant-garde artists emerging in Cologne after the First World War. In proto-Dadaist manner, the new group called themselves Gruppe Stupid and membership included Hegemann, Räderscheidt, Max Ernst, Heinrich Hoerle and Angelika Fick-Hoerle, amongst others. Gruppe Stupid was fairly short-lived, producing only one catalogue entitled Stupid 1 in 1920. During its existence, the group used to meet at the Hegemann-Räderscheidt apartment at number 9 Hildeboldplatz, where they held joint exhibitions of their work. Images by both Räderscheidt and Hegemann dating from this period are frequently read autobiographically. However, in this paper I would like to suggest that elements of autobiographical self-presencing in their work have more currency if placed within a psychoanalytically informed interpretative strategy. This might also enable a consideration of the personalized symbolism embedded in Hegemann’s work to operate within a wider contextualized reading of Neue Sachlichkeit and Magic Realism in 1920s Germany.
“Prague Strategies: Toyen, Feminism, and the Czech Avant-Garde”
Karla Huebner, University of Pittsburgh
This paper examines the position of Toyen (Marie Cermínová), a member of the avant-garde group Devetsil and a founding member of the Prague surrealist group, in First Republic art, social history, culture, and discourse. While Czechoslovakia retained many legal and social inequalities, it prided itself on its attention to gender equality, and was recognized for its achievements by feminists elsewhere. Nonetheless, few women were visible on the Prague art scene. Toyen and the sculptor Hana Wichterlová were almost the only women artists mentioned in the press.
How, then, did Toyen negotiate her place in Czech culture? Did her avant-gardist direction, image as liberated but not actively feminist, and alliance with male peers, gain her visibility? Did her erotica distance her from Czech feminism and identify her as a New Woman? What was the role of the prevalent modernist belief that Marxism would end gender inequality?
Toyen found a means of making herself known that eschewed obvious self-promotion. Czech society honored verbal, intellectual, extroverted female cultural figures, but perhaps quieter female visual artists needed to ally themselves with highly visible and vocal figures—in Toyen’s case, the artist and writer Štyrský, the poets Nezval and Seifert, and the theorist Teige.
“Gender in the GDR: Ursula Mattheuer-Neustädt’s Conceptualization of the Female Sublime”
Catherine J. Wilkins, Tulane University
The “liberation” of East German women immediately following World War II created a widespread public backlash and a problematic politicization of the private sphere in the 1970s and 1980s. During this period, the landscape drawings with figures executed by Ursula Mattheuer-Neustädt created a “female sublime” that reflected the dichotomy between the rhetoric of equality espoused by the GDR government and the discrimination and inequality that existed for artists as well as individuals. In such images, Mattheuer-Neustädt sought to recover and redeem well-known but troubled German women of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, creating representations that depicted the strengths and struggles of the female subject’s experience to draw parallels with contemporary conditions. By deconstructing the Romantic gendering of the “Fatherland” through alterations in the landscape’s content, style, and composition, Mattheuer-Neustädt also reclaimed and regendered the nation, giving women their share of a rich German legacy but simultaneously problematizing the myth of gender equality propagated by the East German government. In so doing, Mattheuer-Neustädt provided a visual framework for a subversive critique of hegemonic values and rhetoric able to be used by others interested in exposing the values and expectations of Central European societies regarding women as individuals and artists.
HGCEA at CAA 2007 New York
Follow the Red Brick Road
Chair: Katja Zelljadt, Getty Research Institute, and Maiken Umbach, University of Manchester
In four case studies, framed by two overview presentations, this session explores the importance of material in the visual culture and political iconography of central Europe. Since the Middle Ages, red brick had been the dominant material in the ecclesiastical and commercial architecture of North-West Europe. From the mid-ninteenth century, material and stylistic aspects of this ‘red-brick gothic’ were revived in the quest for a place-specific visual idiom. Depending on one’s point of view, this movement culminated in, or was distorted by, the blood-and-soil aspirations of Nazi architects.
The session charts the rise of red brick in modern architecture and sculpture, and the controversies surrounding it. Papers explore different case studies, ranging from architecture and urban planning in Wilhelmine Berlin and Hamburg, via the importing of red brick into Hungarian nationalist architecture, to Bernhard Hoetger’s ‘Niedersachsenstein’ war memorial.
Through these explorations, we hope to address two issues in particular. The first is the relationship between text and artifact. In tracing the influence of contemporary theorists of red brick, such as Fritz Höger, on the artistic and architectural production of their time, we foreground the political subtexts of the ‘material turn’ of post-historicist architecture and art. Yet we also test the limits of written sources in explaining visual and material practices, juxtaposing such texts with an art historical analysis of actual brick structures.
Second, we seek to locate the role of red brick in the transition from historicist to modern visual culture. What motivated the turn away from more conventional allegorical and symbolic means of representation prevalent in historicism, towards a focus on material as the principal vehicle for establishing ‘meaning’? In addressing this issue, we question conventional periodizations. While theorists and practitioners at the time argued that red brick was a unique vernacular material that helped them ditch the universalist legacy of historicism, in fact, red brick quickly became a universal rhetorical topos in its own right. Many of its advocates were conscious of the fact that brick architecture was not unique to any world region or period: it could be traced back as far as Mesopotamia, and, notwithstanding the fact that ‘Northern’ red brick was widely defined in ideal-typical opposition to the Latin world, it was also used widely in Southern Europe, notably Italy and Spain. Like the idea of Heimat, the use of red brick in modern identity politics thus presents us with a paradox: an international vernacular.
Industrial, Ecclesiastical, Monumental? Brick Architecture in 19th-Century Hungary and Central Europe
József Sisa, Research Institute for Art History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest
The status of brick in Hungarian architecture changed substantially during the 19th century. Exposed brick facades traditionally had hardly existed, buildings in Hungarian towns and villages being typically covered with plaster and stucco, rarely with stone. Not surprisingly, brick found its way first of all to utilitarian structures, such as storehouses, industrial structures and railway stations. The first monumental buildings in Pest (Budapest) with exposed brick facades were designed by foreign, i.e. German architects in the mid-19th century, their Hungarian counterparts following suite only a few decades later. In due course buildings of education (schools) and health care (hospitals) tended to be constructed with brick exteriors, where the ideas of practicality, cleanliness, and economy were to be considered, and projected through the very image of the buildings. Another area where brick played a major role was church building, especially the architecture of Neo-Gothic churches. Following North German, and ultimately English, models, these buildings were to conform to the principles of honesty of structure and materials, and for this brick represented the most appropriate medium.
The use of brick went hand in hand with the use of ceramic materials, whose texture and manufacture were analogous to those of bricks. The first impulses and products came from Germany. Initially terracotta features were applied, which blended well with brick facades. Later polychromatic majolica elements appeared in great numbers, their bright colors and shiny surfaces paving the way for new artistic expression. There was one enterprise in southern Hungary, the Zsolnay factory in Pécs, which excelled in manufacturing ceramic materials and even inventing new formulas. Their products influenced greatly the course Hungarian architecture was taking. Zsolnay found congenial partners in some architects, first of all in Ödön Lechner, who, with the use polychromatic majolica elements and gracefully curved brick bands over the facades of many of his buildings, managed to create a highly original national style in Hungarian architecture.
Backstein oder Putzbau? The architectural physiognomy of Kommunale Berlin, 1890-1900
Jennifer Dillon, Duke University
In 1896, when Hermann Blankenstein relinquished his position as Berlin Stadtbaurat to Ludwig Hoffmann after 24 years in office, the Berliner Tageblatt announced that the era of brick architecture in the capital city was finally at an end. A celebratory choir of public officials announced Hoffmann’s appointment to the city, hailing a fresh vision coming to transform Berlin’s public sphere. For 24 years, Hermann Blankenstein’s office had produced hundreds of public structures in a standard vocabulary of brick and terracotta, a signature Schinkel School style that he developed early in his public career. Frustration with the perceived urban monotony among his critics was paired with resentment at the omnipotence invested in the person of the Berlin Stadtbaurat, a position of total control that resonated with the authoritarian politics of the German Reich. Criticism of Blankenstein culminated with his design for the Polizeipräsidium on Alexanderplatz (1886-1890) a massive, dominating, block structure of brick masonry with monumental domed corner pavilions. By the time Hoffmann arrived in Berlin, hopes for reform had been raised to a heady high, but the elation was short lived.
Opposition to Hoffmann arose after his first year in office, identified with a mythic duel between Backstein and Putzbau and informed by their mutual claims to being the true vernacular. Psychological portraits of the architects mirrored their favored material: Blankenstein-brick was seen as the product of a “pattern-book” architect, while Hoffmann was viewed as an artist, whose sculptural works of civic Gemütlichkeit were achieved by integrating Brandenburg styles into the institutions of the public sphere. Hoffmann was portrayed by others as a decadent artist from out of town, with knowledge produced not by honest work like his predecessor but from fancy scholarships to foreign countries. Newspaper accounts, architectural journals and archival records register the public theorization of building materials and their economic and metaphorical importance to the modern city in turn of the century Berlin.
Bernhard Hoetgers “Niedersachsenstein” (1915-1922): Fantasies of Rebirth and the Use of Brick
Arie Hartog, Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, Bremen
In 1915 the sculptor Bernhard Hoetger was commisioned to design a war-monument to the village of Worpswede, near Bremen. Between 1915 and 1919 the design was altered from a flying human figure in limestone to a brick construction without obvious iconography. It was named “Niedersachsenstein” and finished in 1922. The missing visual clues in the monument have lead to its popular interpretation as an abstract antiwar monument. Recent research demonstrated on the other hand that the signs Hoetger uses in this sculpture have an esoteric and nationalist background.
The renovation of this large expressionist sculpture between 1998 and 2001 showed that the construction has a limestone core and this combined with newly found sources indicates that the sculpture was started in limestone and later changed to brick. Most of the alterations to the design were made after the actual building process had started, which lead to the delay of its completition.
In my paper I wil relate the change of materials to the change of iconography. The “Niedersachsenstein” marks the transition between esoteric and nationalist imagery that is typical of northern german expressionism around 1920. In Hoetgers case brick is the bearer of a new iconography that by its material characteristics obscures the figurative signs involved (the sculptor opposed to any carving in the structures built). While this seems to be a disadvantage of the material it can be argued that the caused vagueness suited Hoetgers search for a monumental, religiously laden language of form for a Germany, he hoped to be born out of the ruins of the empire.
Brick as ‘Bauedelstein’
Claudia Turtenwald, University of Bielefeld
Originally, there were practical reasons why brick was preferred in Norther German architecture, and the brick eventually gave the region its characteristic appearance. During the 1920s and especially in the 1930s, the use of brick and clinker became increasingly ideological. Competing with favored “international building styles” and fighting the mechanization of craftsmanship through standardization and substitute materials, architects also argued that brick should be used for “national” reasons. Based on what was known as the “Heimatschutzbewegung” or “homeland protection movement,” it seemed to them that craftsmanship was the only guarantee of a flourishing future, and brick was the only legitimate building material in the north. During the early 1930s, the arguments for brick mutated, becoming even more closely aligned with politics through the emphasis on “Blut und Boden” (or “blood and ground”) for the nation.
We can trace the path of these arguments all the way to a metaphorical understanding of brick as a material, in particular, through the career of architect Fritz Höger, who celebrated many successes, especially after completion of his “Chilehaus” in Hamburg. Contemporary reports say that the “strict gesture”—closely linked to the use of brick as the primary building material—was interpreted as a symbol for Germany’s unbroken strength, despite its loss in the war and the rampant inflation. Over the ensuing years Höger devoted himself to lectures (as far away as Persia), publications, and architectural exhibitions featuring brick and clinker. He promoted brick sculpture, as well as creating initiatives for the purpose of founding a school where students could learn to master brick. Höger described brick and clinker with an increasingly ideological, almost spiritually transcendent term, calling it his “Bauedelstein.” His battle on behalf of brick became mission-like. Höger changed from an architect loyal to his homeland to an agitator caught up in National Socialism. At the end he was both, unsuccessful and incomprehensible. The Nazis refused brick nearly totally for their architecture and Höger was therefore unable to become the star architect he´d wanted to be – because of his arguments for using brick.
Concluding Remarks: Mesopotamian, Hanseatic, or Modern? Arguing about Brick in Germany around 1900
Maiken Umbach, University of Manchester
HGCEA at CAA 2006 Boston
Art and Democracy in Central Europe
Chair: Piotr Piotrowski, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland
The session address the relationship between art and democracy in Central Europe in the course of the 20th century. Of course in Central Europe democracy has always worked as a utopian and political counterbalance to authoritarian ideological discourses and social practices. This is true almost from the beginning of modern history, i.e. from 18th century, when democratic social structures emerged, however, it is particularly important in the 20th century, in terms of tensions between art and nationalism, art and constructing new republics just after World War I, art and totalitarianism, both before and after WW II, as well as after 1989.
“Imaging Universalism: Democracy and National Style in Central Europe ca. 1900”
Andrzej Szczerski, Jagiellonian University, Cracow
In Central Europe around 1900 the debate on nationalism, democracy and art acquired an unprecedented status. The debate concentrated around the concept of national style, understood not only as an artistic, but also a political manifesto. The “national style” could express a nationalist rhetoric yet was also perceived as an attribute of the inclusive national community bound by common cultural heritage and history, rather than ethnicity. This latter national utopia embraced principles which were democratic in spirit, envisaging the egalitarian solidarity of free individuals who would unite to create new societies and, in some cases, new nation-states.
Central European national/democratic utopias varied, though generally they had a strongly romanticized flavor and were based on historical myths, spirituality, as well as an interest in folk art. In Poland, Stanislaw Witkiewicz based his concept of the Zakopane Style on the idea of a unified nation made up of different classes and different ethnic groups. In Witkiewicz’s eyes, the Zakopane Style transgressed simple “Polishness” and reflected the cultural affinities found in the lands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, perceived as a democratic community of equal nations. In Hungary, artists from the Gödöllo colony turned to Transylvanian peasant culture in order to find not only visual sources for the national style, but also the role-model communities living according to the principles of equality and freedom. The Czechs and the Slovaks looked to peasant art, in order to emphasize their sense of belonging together. The artists associated with Tomaš Masaryk promoted pre-modernist architecture as a symbol of the democratic principles of the future republic.
The Central European national utopias tried to counterbalance social and political tensions within society with the idea of a democratic community. The national revival was perceived as the condition for the establishment of an egalitarian democracy, which in turn could secure the existence of a civil society in the lands of complex ethnic and religious structure. Elaborated under unfavorable political circumstances, those utopias often turned into romantic escapism or paternalistic teaching. However, it appears that Central European artists created a hybrid narrative, where “nation” and ‘democracy” were perceived as coherent, mutually conditioned and dependent forms of social life. In their aspirations, this narrative expressed universal principles not only of morally superior societies but also of the public role art should play in the modern age.
“Designs for a Modern Republic. Art and Architecture in the Baltic”
Steven Mansbach, University of Maryland, College Park
Democratic government in the eastern Baltic was coincident with the independence that was won as a consequence of the First World War and the immediately ensuing civil strife. To consolidate these costly freedoms and to secure the respective republics, Baltic artists were enlisted to articulate and reflect the political aspirations of the emergent new states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Significantly, associations of intellectuals, commercial enterprises, and government authorities turned to modern art, architecture, and design to articulate domestically a national self-image and to signal internationally republican values.
“Expressionism as Democratic Art: Adolf Behne’s Criticism of Art for and by the People”
Kai K. Gutschow, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
In the years before World War I, the German art critic Adolf Behne synthesized arguments promoting the new art of Expressionism with some of the ideals of social democracy. In harsh critiques of the Kaiser’s conservative art policies, in essays on the value of “populist art,” and in his ardent defenses of radically new art in galleries such as Der Sturm, the young Behne repeatedly tied artistic aims to social and political ones. He heralded the recent art as being more “democratic,” for example, than Impressionism, which he felt was “bourgeois,” “imperialist,” and “undemocratic.” He argued that Expressionism had reached new heights of creativity and a more profound ability to reveal and express a common humanity, in large part because of the greater artistic freedoms enjoyed by individual artists and because it was accessible–both physically and emotionally–to a far greater spectrum of society.
Behne believed that a truly modern art would only arise once an even broader populace had access to and fully embraced the creative and spiritual force of all art. A deeper understanding of art, he felt, would lead the working masses to feel more empowered, spiritually alive, and unified in their common humanity. As a result, Behne worked tirelessly to promote and “popularize” the new art to the widest possible audience, not only in the art and culture magazines of the elite, but more poignantly in mass-circulation newspapers and family magazines, socialist culture and youth journals, and even through extensive teaching in populist adult education schools throughout Berlin. When the decadent and materialist culture of Wilhelmine Germany turned increasing nationalist and reactionary during World War I, Behne turned ever more socialist, eventually becoming one of the leaders of the “working councils” that arose in Berlin in 1919. Although Behne is better known for this later work, this paper seeks to show how Behne’s unique critical perspective before the war aligned modern art with a more humanistic and “democratic” social vision than was often the case in the revolutionary fervor of the post-war period. In the process he set the intellectual framework for him to become one of the most influential critics of modern art and architecture, an instrumental force in setting up the close alignment modern art with left-leaning politics in Weimar Germany.
“Does Democracy Grow under Pressure? A Case Study of the Strategies of the Hungarian Neo-Avant-Garde”
Eva Forgacs, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena
The classic avant-garde of the 1920s as artistic language and political statement was vigorous in post-1956 Hungarian art, but the generation of the 1960s had their own say in their own language. They broke up rigorous geometry and breathed fresh air into Hungarian art and culture inspired by their own rebellious ideas, idiosyncrasies, and contemporary Western art. What they were also looking for but did not find was a tradition of introducing new concepts and new artistic languages.
Their strategies throughout the late 1960s and 1970s included an array of new formats and locations. They organized happenings, home theater, art exhibitions in private apartments and a rented lakeside chapel, and harnessed the loopholes of censorship to bring out ephemeral publications. The Hungarian neo-avant-garde, as their other East European counterparts, was thoroughly politicized. It emphatically expressed political opposition until the emergence of the samizdat culture.
A remarkable feature of the Hungarian neo-avant-garde was its curious mirroring of the oppressive state bureaucracy it was tackling. The revolting artists also needed one central authoritative personality – a tradition originating from the classic avant-garde – but that person had to come from the ranks of the neo-avant-garde itself. The rise of the charismatic artist, architect, and poet Miklós Erdély was an interesting process, since it was the making of the Budapest art world almost more than his own endeavor.
Erdély’s becoming the central figure of the Hungarian neo-avant-garde throws light to the fact that the counter-cultural art world had a tendency to stay unified and focused on the common ideas of various groups rather than the differences. The general understanding was that debates, emphasis on differences, and fallout’s would have weakened the positions which were rather weak in the first place; which led to the practical elimination of inner criticism. Groups and individuals with very different concepts and art had a basic, tacit agreement to keep disagreement under wraps. Art critics became part of the art world. This strategy blurred the differences between the leading agents of the new art and did not help to create the culture of debates or the articulation of different outlooks. It was not an exercise in democracy, although every participant believed so. It was a heroic, failed attempt at creating a democratic model in an undemocratic context.
“A Socio-Cultural Impulse of Neue Slowenische Kunst: Between Transgression and Candidness”
Gediminas Gasparavicius, State University of New York, Stony Brook
There is a significant disparity in how the art production of the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) collective has been received in the West and the East. When the music band Laibach and the visual arts group Irwin, two key members of NSK, were beginning to get international exposure in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they were most often presented in the western media as deeply ironic and critical commentators of the corrupt socialist system. In former Yugoslavia, however, the artistic actions of NSK stroke a rather different, and definitely more complex note. Within NSK itself, beyond the layer of apparent irony, there was a conviction that art can replicate and engage the state structure itself, instead of simply following it as an accessory. This was not done in a merely ironic guise but with a great deal of belief in the possibility of superseding the contradictions between socialism, romantic nationalism and the aesthetic demands of artistic production. The NSK enterprise appears symptomatic of the peculiar type of socio-cultural imagination that took socialist heritage seriously instead of simply dismissing it or assuming a dissident stance. Mostly associated with the artistic production of the Irwin group, the notion of ‘retro-avant-garde’ denotes a renewed interest in making a historic experience relevant for the late socialism in Slovenia. Of the two critical aspects of classical avant-garde – confrontation with the tradition and the commitment to expand the artistic impulse toward broader social transformation – the Irwin’s retro-avant-garde espoused only the latter. NSK advocated transformation without a revolution. A definitive characteristic of classical avant-gardes, the cult of the new and inexperienced (and of the outside in general) was given up for the unprecedented recycling of national and socialist motifs from the past.
My presentation will discuss the critical aspects of the socio-cultural imagination that underlie the NSK’s aspiration to create an aesthetic state of arts within an existing socialist state. It will also analyze why the NSK enterprise outside of the former Yugoslavia has mostly been viewed as an active undoing of the socialist system, and its participants as messengers of approaching pluralist democracy.
DISCUSSANT: Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Princeton University
HGCEA at CAA 2005 Atlanta
Nationalism, Internationalism, and the Arts in Central Europe during the Cold War
Chair: Barbara McCloskey, University of Pittsburgh
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of the European Economic Union has ushered in a new wave of thinking about Central Europe that vacillates between a remystification of the East/West divide (often under the rubric of Ostalgie), on the one hand, and a critical dismantling of Cold War assumptions, on the other. In the cold warrior imagination, East and West became identified by the reified styles—Socialist Realism and Modernism—with which opposing sides of the Iron Curtain laid political claim to freedom, progress, and the goal of human emancipation. Since the opening of borders and archives in the 1990s, however, such monolithic notions of the artistic cultures and political projects of the Cold War antagonists have come under scrutiny. Emerging instead are more nuanced understandings not only of their changing historical character, but also of their dialogical relationship to one another.
The papers included in this session contribute to this critical project in a number of ways. By looking across and through the Iron Curtain they reveal the manner in which memory, specifically of World War II, played a vital role in shaping the visual regimes and cultural politics of the Cold War era. Such investigations also reveal, contrary to prevailing assumptions, that exchange, however mediated by the antagonisms of the era, continued to take place via state sanctioned international exhibitions, forced expulsions, travel, and migrations in which the cultural certainties of the East-West divide were simultaneously projected and undermined.
Taken together, these papers suggest that our object(s) of study must also be broadened in order to pursue the task of critical historical engagement with the Cold War and its lasting effects in our current moment. Family photographs and public monuments, the work of well- to lesser-known or non-artists each become important vehicles for an exploration of the period. Panelist contributions point to the manner in which the ongoing obsession with memory—whether of the Nazi or Communist past—might be liberated from nostalgia and seen instead in its historical instrumentality for the Central Europe of today.
“Toward an Iconography of the Iron Curtain”
Yuliya Komska, Cornell University
Drawing attention to a vast number of sources that traditional scholarship of the Cold War has left out, some recent publications have suggested that a cultural history of post-war decades, one informed by anthropological, literary, and visual studies approaches, is long overdue. Similar disciplinary shortcomings have plagued a recent reexamination, in Germany and beyond, of the significance, causes, and outcomes of the post-WWII expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. These new analyses have consistently dismissed works of art and literature produced by those publicly identifying as expellees as merely revisionist, blocking cooperation between Germany and its East European neighbors, or inconsequentially sentimental and nostalgic.
I argue, however, that the cultural production of the fiercely anti-communist and traditionally Christian expellees may provide clues to some of the Cold War studies desiderata. Indeed, their settlement in post-war Germany may be said to have ushered the Cold War, situating the group as a self-proclaimed bulwark of Germany against the communist East. Winston Churchill’s memorable speech in Fulton, Missouri, juxtaposing the treatment of ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe with his statement about the descent of the Iron Curtain, was notably the first to gesture toward a link between these two. Initially metaphoric, the expellee self-understanding as a bulwark turned acutely material and performative for the former Czechoslovak (Sudeten) Germans who have, in the wake of 1945, continued to visit and shape the Iron Curtain on the West German side of the Czechoslovak-Bavarian border. A chain of new pilgrimage shrines along the border, many accompanied by lookout towers to provide a good view of both the former “homeland” and the Iron Curtain, spurred a new visual environment largely unexplored to date.
My examination of the imagery of the East-West divide integrated into Sudeten expellees’ histories of westward flight and their ideology of the “return to the homeland” challenges the single-minded focus of German Studies on the Berlin Wall (1961-1989). By addressing the Sudeten representations of the Iron Curtain in drawings and family photographs at the border, I hope to underscore the understanding of the separation line as a non-metaphoric, intensely material environment geared toward visuality. Formulating an approach to an iconography of the Iron Curtain, I argue, could provide for a productive angle at a consideration of multiple intersections of anti-nationalism (regionalism) and nostalgia, nationalism, internationalism and, nowadays, transnationalism alike.
“Architects Abroad: Czechoslovakia and the Redefinition of Cultural Exchange in the 1950s”
Kimberly Elman Zarecor, Columbia University
For many people, the phrase “the iron curtain” suggests an impenetrable barrier, the edge of a space that no one could travel into or out of. This black and white image of complete freedom on one side and absolute oppression on the other is increasingly being questioned from a variety of viewpoints. Although one certainly cannot deny the restrictive travel policies of the Eastern Bloc regimes, it must be acknowledged that a few privileged members of the society – most often, but not exclusively, party members – were granted some access to foreign travel. In addition to their personal experiences, they brought back photographs, magazines, books, and professional knowledge that was shared with the public. Within the architectural sphere, travel was supported as a vehicle for sharing technical information and gathering useful research data from colleagues inside and outside of the Bloc. As one might expect, visits to other Communist countries were the most common, but dozens of architects attended trade fairs, professional conferences, and participated in study trips on both sides of the Cold War divide.
This paper will consider two such trips made by architects from Czechoslovakia: the 1953 journey of three architects to Lisbon to represent the country at the 3rd Congress of the International Union of Architects and a 1955 exchange between East Germany and Czechoslovakia when thirty-three architects from each country visit the other for a three-week long study trip.
The purpose of the inquiry is to fundamentally challenge some of our assumptions about the 1950s, which remains the least understood decade of Communism in eastern Europe. Some larger questions about cultural exchange will be addressed through these examples. How aware were Czechoslovak architects, or cultural figures of any sort, of developments in the west? How did they gain access to this information and what affect did it have on their own national practices? Was there interest expressed by western architects in the work being done in the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union and if so, what were the most intriguing developments in the eyes of an outsider? What roles were ascribed to travelers once they arrived on the international scene – for example, disseminator of state propaganda, information gatherer, expert advisor – and what differences were there between traveling in the east and the west?
“Longing for Permanence: The Construction of a Post-War German National Art”
Sabine Eckmann, Washington University in St. Louis
Narratives of 20th century postwar art frequently emphasize the internationalist orientation of the art of the West German democracy while underscoring the nationalist underpinning of social realism produced in the communist East Germany. By engaging with the art and culture of the immediate post war period (1945 -1949), a time of confusion, loss and re-orientation, my paper seeks to complicate the alleged dichotomies of nationalism and internationalism and their interdependence with the prevailing political systems of socialism and capitalism.
Immediately after Nazi Germany’s forced surrender, cultural efforts in the East and Western zones of Germany concentrated on hastily constructing a new national modern German art in order to substitute for the aggressive National Socialist one. Attention was focused to establish a linkage between Wilhelminian and Weimar modernist art traditions and contemporary practices. Exhibitions such as Erste Kunstausstellung nach dem Krieg (1945) and Allgemeine deutsche Kunstausstellung (1946), conceived in the Western and East zones of Germany respectively, forced a straight continuation between pre-war German modernism and postwar art as they showcased German Expressionism side-by-side with contemporary practices. Works by Expressionists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Ruttluff and Erich Heckel entered into a dialogue with those by Hans Uhlmann, Oskar Nerlinger and Heinz Tröckes among others. The newly formed bond between German Expressionism and contemporary practices not only demonstrated a reconnection to an abandoned past but more importantly underscored recent artworks as inherently German, thus solidifying a new national art months after Nazi Germany’s surrender.
However, representative examples of aesthetically moderate postwar modernism by such artists like Werner Heldt and Ernst Wilhelm Nay (as well as those just mentioned), stand in contrast to Expressionism. In these images the ritualized and collectivized life of Nazi society still resonate through pre-individualized, often archaic aesthetics. While exhibition narratives attempted to underscore a national German art that reaches back to the international climate of its pre-war productions, the actual works demonstrate their indebtedness to nationalistic forms of Nazi collectivism.
Considering the art institutions of exhibitions on the one hand, and of aesthetics on the other, two realms repeatedly at odds with each other, my paper will examine how ideologically charged concepts such as nationalism and collectivism versus internationalism and individualism exposed de-stabilizing qualities rather than operating as unifying and powerful cold war forces.
“In Opposition to Ideology: Gerhard Richter’s Style of Resistance”
Elizabeth M. Grady, Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY
Scholars have examined artists’ reactions to the propagation of socialist and capitalist ideologies through cultural policy after World War II, but resistance to the overarching issue—ideology itself—has not been investigated. Gerhard Richter’s work explores the possibilities for such resistance.
Richter’s opposition assumes its full significance in the context of art’s historic use in the service of German nationalism. From its inception the German nation viewed art as the expression of identity, making it a violently contested political battleground. It logically remained a focus of the ideological battles between communism and capitalism as the Cold War increased in intensity. In the FRG abstraction was hailed as a sign of freedom, and in the GDR Socialist Realism claimed to create art for the people. Richter toyed with both before turning to photo-based painting that was neither abstract nor idealist, neatly avoiding the political claims for art found on both sides of Germany’s political and geographic divide, and illustrating his resistance to producing ideologically useful artworks.
Educated in the GDR, Richter had begun a promising career as a muralist in the fifties. However, after visiting Documenta 2, where he first encountered Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel, he resolved to leave the GDR. He moved to Düsseldorf in 1961, quickly absorbing the lessons of abstraction, but apparently was unsatisfied. In a public display that rejected the dominant style in the FRG as decisively as he had that of the GDR, Richter burned all of his work and began again. He now painted from photographs in an effort to avoid ideologically loaded styles. However, he maintained an interest in subject matter, frequently turning to images that recalled nationalist art and National Socialism. In this way, he raised the specter of the past as a way of suggesting that Germany had not yet escaped the burden of its legacy.
Just when it seemed that Richter had settled into a style, he changed radically, skittering wildly between disparate styles. For a German artist working during the Cold War, the role of style was especially fraught with ideological weight. Therefore it was only through an entirely new artistic paradigm—the avoidance of a signature style—that Richter deemed it possible to circumvent art’s political role while exposing the very idea of artistic style as an ideological construct.
“Anselm Kiefer and Helmut Kohl at the End of the Cold War”
Paul B. Jaskot, DePaul University
Anselm Kiefer is one of the most prominent post-war German artists associated with the working through of the National Socialist past in visual culture. From his earliest pieces to his one-person shows in the mid-1980s, the steady rise of his fame also paralleled the expanding public discussion of the National Socialist past in general and the Jewish genocide in specific. And yet, in the literature dealing with Kiefer and his relation to the Nazi past, former atrocities and oppressive policies appear if at all as a relatively uninflected and vague presence. Looking at how the political reception of the Nazi past changed from the sixties to the eighties helps us in modeling a different kind of historical project, one that sees a reciprocal relationship between cultural and political spheres during the Cold War.
In terms of Kiefer, crucial in this regard is analyzing a phenomenon barely mentioned in the literature: the rise of the conservative right up to and after the Christian Democrat Helmut Kohl was named Chancellor in October 1982 and its concomitant Cold War policies. Kohl attempted to negotiate the debate concerning the National Socialist past both to shore up key right-wing elements within his constituency as well as promote the first steps towards what would be called “normalization.” Kohl’s interest in asserting contemporary West Germany’s right to be a “normal” nation again, meant that different elements of the Nazi past became of concern to him than to previous leaders within the CDU.
While Kiefer and Helmut Kohl influenced the public sphere from two very different institutional positions, their shared concern with using the Nazi past can be compared and discussed in terms of this crucial moment in Cold War politics. This presentation questions how the discussion of the Nazi past functioned for Kohl and Kiefer as a means of emphasizing contemporary East/West interests. At stake here is understanding the ways in which history can be manipulated, specifically the very loaded and volatile history of Nazi Germany. By investigating the political reception of the Nazi past and its use by particular interests, we can come to more synthetic conclusions about the function of culture in this process. As a result, we can reevaluate Kiefer, Kohl and Cold War German responses to the Nazi past in more sober and critical terms.