This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Buchloh Reviewed work(s): Source: October, Vol. 16, Art World Follies (Spring, 1981), pp. 39-68 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/778374 . Accessed: 20/08/2012 06:34
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com.
The MIT Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to October.
Ciphers of Figures of Authority, Regression
Notes on the Returnof Representation in European Painting*
BENJAMINH. D. BUCHLOH
The crisis consistsprecisely in the fact that the old is dyingand thenew cannot be born; in this interregnuma great variety of morbidsymptomsappears. -Antonio Gramsci,Prison Notebooks How is it that we are nearlyforcedto believe that the returnto traditional in painting around 1915,two yearsafter theReadymade modes of representation and theBlack Square, was a shiftof greathistoricalor aestheticimport?And how come to be understoodas an autonomous achievement did thisshift of themasters, who were in fact the servantsof an audience cravingfor the restoration of the forthe reinstatement If the percepvisual codes of recognizability, of figuration? tual conventions of mimetic representation-the visual and spatial ordering systemsthat had defined pictorial production since the Renaissance and had in turn been systematicallybroken down since the middle of the nineteenth was reafcentury-were reestablished,if the credibilityof iconic referentiality and if the hierarchy of figure-ground on the firmed, relationships pictureplane was again presentedas an "ontological" condition,what otherorderingsystems outside of aestheticdiscourse had to have already been put in place in orderto imbue the new visual configurations with historicalauthenticity? In what order do thesechains of restorative linked?Is phenomena reallyoccur and how are they there a simple causal connection, a mechanical reaction, by which growing
* I wish to thank Jo-Anna Isaak for reading the manuscriptof this essay. I have limitedmy hereto European phenomena,even thoughI am aware thata comparable movement is investigations emergingin NorthAmerica.The reasons forsuch a limitationare best describedby Georg presently to Germany, Lukaics:"We will restrict our observations even thoughwe know thatexpressionism was an international in phenomenon.As much as we understandthatitsrootsare to be foundeverywhere imperialism,we know as well that the uneven developmentin the various countrieshad to generate various manifestations. a concrete ofexpressionism has been made Only after studyof thedevelopment can we come to an overview withoutremainingin theabstract"( "Grasse und Verfall des Expressionismus" , in Probleme des Realismus, vol. I, Gesammelte Werke,vol. IV, Berlin, 1971,p. 111).
and irreversibly generatestraditionalrepresentapolitical oppression necessarily in socio-economicand political life tion?Does the brutal increaseof restrictions unavoidably result in the bleak anonymityand passivityof the compulsively mimeticmodes that we witness,forexample, in European painting of the mid1920sand early 1930s? It would certainlyappear that the attitudesof the Neue Sachlichkeitand authoritarPitturaMetafisica cleared theway fora finaltakeover by such outright as Fascistpainting in Germanyand Italy and socialist of representation ian styles realism in Stalinist Russia. When Georg Lukaics discussed the rise and fall of expressionism in his "Problems of Realism," he seemed to be aware of the the actual system relationshipof thesephenomena, without,however,clarifying artpractices:"The realismof and reactionary betweenprotofascism of interaction the Neue Sachlichkeitis so obviously apologetic and leads so clearlyaway from any poetic reproductionof reality that it can easily merge with the Fascist legacy."'1Paradoxically,however,both traditionalMarxismand standardliberalism exempt artists from their responsibilities as sociopolitical individuals: liberalism Marxism throughits reflection model, with its historicaldeterminism; freedom to and unlimited uninhibited its notion the artist's of produce through theprivilegeof assuming and express.Thus both political viewsextendto artists of theideologto produceunconsciousrepresentations theirdeterminate necessity ical world. of the But would it not be moreappropriateto conceiveof theseradical shifts period betweenthe wars,with such decisiveselectionsof productionprocedures, and perceptual conventions,as calculated? Should we iconographic references, not assume that everyartistmaking these decisions would be aware of their would be takingin theprocessof and consequences,of thesides they ramifications and ideological representation? aestheticidentification therediscovery and recapitulation The question forus now is to what extent in present-day of these modes of figurative European painting representation or to and dismantle the ideological impact of growing authoritarianism; reflect of thisincreasingly whatextentthey apparent simplyindulge and reap thebenefits political practice;or, worse yet,to what extenttheycynicallygeneratea cultural to familiarizeus with the political realitiesto come. climate of authoritarianism In order to analyze the contemporary phenomenon, it may be useful to realize that the collapse of the modernistidiom is not without precedent.The has been of capitalisteconomics and politics in the twentieth century bankruptcy of a certain and rhythm aesthetic consistentlyanticipated accompanied by of artisticmovementswith great First thereis the construction manifestations. potential for the critical dismantling of the dominant ideology. This is then who act to internalizeoppression, at negated by those movements'own artists,
1. Lukaics,p. 147.
then it will become complicit in the creation of a climate of desperationand passivity. If thecurrent if debatedoes not place thesephenomena in historicalcontext." it should not be forgotten paradigm is as much a cyclicalphenomenon in thehistory artas is thecrisis of twentieth-century of capitalist economics in twentieth-century political history:overproduction.WalterBenjamin's The Origin of German Tragic Drama. oppressionwhich is necessary Only in such a climateare thesymbolicmodes of concrete into allegorianticipationtransformed If one realizes thatmelancholyis at the cal modes of internalized retrospection.It seems necessaryto insistupon seeing presentdevelopments in theirnature as responseand the largercontextof thesehistoricalrepetitions.as is confirmed by Benjamin's friendAsja Lacis: He said that he did not consider this thesis simply as an academic with acute investigationbut that it had verydirectinterrelationships of literature. dealt so extensively with the artisticproblems of allegory. Revolutiondrim Beruf.The ideology of postmodernismseems to forgetthe subtle and manifestpolitical to save theexistingpowerstructure. reaction to particular conditions that exist outside the confinesof aesthetic discourse.ed. He insisted problems contemporary explicitlyon thefact that in his thesis he definedthe dramaturgy of the baroque as an in its quest fora formallanguage. in the outright adulation of manifestations power. In the present excitementover "postmodernism"and the "end of the avantthatthecollapse of themodernist garde. so he said. was writtenduring the dawn of rising fascismin Germany. . Asja Lacis. and the managed unemployment. 44. Therefore analogy to expressionism I have.p. as George Steinerdescribesit in his introduction of Benjamin's study: 2.and rituals. 41 in hauntingvisions of incapacitatingand infantilizing first melancholyand then.What is takenas one of thekeyworksfor aesthetics and thecentralreference forany contemporary of postmodernist theory the returnto allegoryin aestheticproductionand reception. Hildegard Brenner. Munich.Its author was well aware of thework's allusion to contemporary artisticand political events. origin of the allegorical mode.the need for expanding marketsand profits the a final resultant as secret of solution for late promise capitalwar-mongering in ism's problems. it does not see throughtheeagernesswith which we are assuredfrom all sides that the avant-gardehas completed its mission and has been accorded a position of comfort within a pluralism of meanings and aestheticmasquerades. of reactionary at a laterstage. 1971.emblems.2 to theEnglish edition Or.Ciphers of Regression Figures of Authority. one should also realize that this melancholy is enforced byprohibitionand repression.
Repression and Representation It is generallyagreed that thefirst idiom major breakdownof themodernist in twentieth-century painting occurs at the beginning of the First World War. 1976. Alreadyby temologicalconsequences artists in further cultural contexts which offered by younger developed working of broaderhistorical." published in a special issue of Camera Workin 1913he was even more explicit: "One has said of Picasso thathe studiesobjects in theway a cadaversanymore surgeon dissectsa cadaver. We do not want thesebothersome which are called objects.p. as you know."5 3. even in Paris. 68. he wrote. Carrd. FrancisPicabia. bythevery Facing thedeadlockof their own academicizationand the actual exhaustion of the historicalsignificance of theirwork. Francis Picabia. London. Having drawn the miseryare reflected analogy. Thus a studyof thebaroque is no mereantiquarian archivalhobby:it it anticipatesand helps grasp the dark present.Picasso. a mode of beforepushed to its verylimits. The Origin of German Tragic Drama. 5. p.I have come to realize that one cannot always make cubes expressthe thoughtsof the brain and the feelingsof the psyche. such artists as and Malevich and the constructivists FrancisPicabia recognizedtheimminentdemise ofcubism."in WalterBenjamin. George Steiner. 24.3 mirrors. 4.. "Commentje vois New York.Upon his return from his first journey to New York in 1913. 1977.This is particularly thecase withDuchamp in America in Russia. Benjamin closes with hints towards a recursivetheoryof culture:eras of decline resembleeach othernot only in theirvices but also in theirstrangeclimateof rhetorical and aestheticvehemence.42 OCTOBER As during the crisesof theThirtyYears' War and its aftermath. . Paris.. they insisted upon the continuation of easel painting.p. Creating the myth of a new classicism to disguise their condition.From commoditywhich was therefore proved refusalto facetheepisthissituationthereoriginatedtheirincapacityor stubborn 1913 theirideas had been of their own work."Introduction." in FrancisPicabia.and Severini-to name but a fewof the most to call for a returnto the traditional prominentfigures-were among the first values of high art..social."ibid. and theabandonmentof criticalideals signaled by theend ofcubismand futurism artists who had initiatedthosemovements.. Derain. "But. "Manifestede l'Ecole Amorphiste. so in Weimar Germany the extremities of political tension and economic in art and criticaldiscussion. I have at all as a cubist myself surpassed this stage of developmentand I do not define anymore.MusheNational d'Art Moderne. 66. But.but which now productionthat theyhad shortly to be a valuable to be revalidated."4And in his "Manifestede l'Ecole Amorphiste. and political options to dismantlethecultural tenets theEuropean bourgeoisie.
" written in 1919 and published in 1924. in its attemptto legitimizethe academicizationof an aging and of the ailing cubist culture. published in 1920. get a first impressionof the degreeof eclecticismthatis necessaryto createthestylistic and historical and equilibrium. Maurice Raynal. without. forexample. no. His downfallis one of themostupsetting problemsofour era" (Germain Bazin.necessarily advocatinga return " published in 1919. Blaise Cendrars. Among the many documents of the new attitudeof authoritarianclassicism are a pamphlet by the cubist dealer Ldonce Rosenberg."7 If properly this statement. and then.Ciphers of Regression Figures of Authority.. Cubisme et Tradition.and respectfortradition read. Museum of ModernArt. performance brokeout in theaudience "Coeur ai Gaz" at the Soiree du Coeur ai Barbe. as a resultof Picasso's journey to Italy in thecompany of 6. 277).Then as now.which stated. . "Quelques intentions du cubisme. 224.).On theotherhand.in theguise of a Bretonpeasant.1980. 4.Subsequentlythishistoricist principle.p.it is declaredthenew avant-garde program.. to thepast.alreadyreveals the inherentauthoritariantendency of thisideological backlash mythof a new classicism. .This unfathomable of a failed past historythen servesas a screen upon which the configurations historicalpresencecan be projected. culturaltradition.drawnin themannerof converted we Ingres.a fistfight when one of the artistspresentjumped onto the stage and shouted. The awarenessof Picasso's declineeventuallydevelopedeven among arthistorianswho had been previously committed to his work:"Picasso belongs to thepast.as in Jean Cocteau's "Rappel a l'Ordre" of 1926. "Picasso is who had been allied with thecubist dead on the fieldof battle. See William Rubin." Bulletin de l'effort 7."6 But even artists movement realizedby theend of theseconddecade thatit was exhausted.when Picasso signals his returnto a representationallanguage by portrayingthe cubist poet Max Jacob. New York. authority etc. 4 (1924).rightunderstanding of their works. recently to Catholicism.with pose of classical simplicity its claim to provide access to the origins and essentials of universal human eclecticismbecomesan artistic experience. Picasso. in theverysame year a number of ideological justifications appeared for the regressionthat had begun around 1914-15.announced theend of in his text"Pourquoi le cube s'effrite? the relevanceof thecubistlanguage of form. p.In 1915."I continue to believe that knowledge of the Masters. quoted in Rubin. In Picasso's work the number and heterogeneity of stylistic modes quoted and appropriatedfromthe fundof arthistory increasesin 1917:not only Ingres's classical portraits but. the keyterms are theidealizationof theperennialmonumentsof arthistory and itsmasters.the of history. mightprovidestrongsupport. It is endemicto thesyndrome ofauthoritarianism thatit appeal to and affirm the "eternal" or ancient systems of order (the law of the tribe. however. and Maurice Raynal's "Quelques intentionsdu cubisme. thepaternalprincipleof themaster. 43 Even in 1923 these polemics continued among various factions of the On the occasion of the first of Tristan Tzara's Parisian avant-garde. moderne. the and thedemand forrespect forthe attemptto establisha new aestheticorthodoxy.
the iconographyof the Italian commedia dell'arte and the frescoes of Herculaneum (not to mentionthesculptureof theParthenonfrieze and thewhite vasesat theLouvre. Again it is Maurice Raynal who naivelyprovidesthe clue to an analysisof these works when he describesPicasso's 1921 Three Musicians as "ratherlike magnificent shop windows of cubist inventions and discoveries.thepeasant drawingsof Millet. Ibid. 1915.as Blunt. which out)."8The freefloating indicate availabilityof thesecubistelementsand theirinterchangeability how the new language of painting-now wrenchedfromits original symbolic function-has becomereified as "style"and thusno longerfulfills anypurpose but to referto itselfas an aestheticcommodity within a dysfunctional discourse. And.there lend themselves so easily to the high sensuousnessof Picasso's decorative styleof the earlytwenties. Cocteau.and otherPicasso scholarshave pointed is theself-quotation ofsynthetic cubistelements. figure thepointillismof Seurat.44 OCTOBER Pablo Picasso.thelate nudes ofRenoir.and objets d'art. This transformation of art fromthe practiceof the materialand dialectical of ideology to the staticaffirmation of the conditionsof reification transgression and theirpsychosexualorigins in repressionhave been described as thesourceof a shifttowardsthe allegorical mode by Leo Bersani: 8. of course. Portraitof Max Jacob. It therefore entersthose categoriesof artisticproduction thatby theirverynature eitherwork against the impulse to dissolve reification or are oblivious to that impulse: the categoriesof decoration. .Green.fashion.
As the Italian historian Umberto Silva pointed out.we have an immobile and immobilizingtypeof abstraction. Giorgio de Chirico. which is happen in thisjoyous world. . "Uber die metaphysische Berlin. Leo Bersani. 11. UmbertoSilva.9 This becomes even more evidentin the iconographyof PitturaMetafisica. parallel to that of the cubists. And we move toward an art of allegory. But with the negation of desire.n. Even more conspicuous perhaps is the case of Carrd.p. and insists on the in theobjectsofrepresentation: demonsthatare inherent "The metaphysical work of art seems to be joyous.They further rejectedthecollage techniquesbywhich they had forced the simultaneous presence of heterogeneous materials and procedureswithin the painted surface. Berkeley. who had been one of the most important futurists due to his of nonmimetic his ofverbal development pictorial signs.but the fearof its dawn.1977." in WirMetaphysiker. 98. 1975. systematic transgression and visual codes throughthe insertionof verbal fragments within painting. Kunst. abstraction now a transcendence of thedesiringprocessitself. Frankfurt.Instead of imitating a process of endless substitutions is (desire's ceaseless "travelling" among different images). which de Chirico and the formerfuturistCarrd initiated around 1913. 45. represents sucklingan infant in the traditionalpose of the Madonna. Yet one has the impressionthatsomethingis going to ofjoy. p.Baudelaire and Freud.It is phenomenawith their no accident that one of Severini's first his returnto surely paintings to manifest a work is called which a mother history Maternity.and his mechanizationof pictorial productionprocessesand theirjuxtaposition with pictorializedremnantsof mechanical productionprocesses.and the canvas now becomes the stage upon which the futuredisaster can be enacted.d. The conversionof the futurists. involved not only a renewed venerationof the cultural traditionof the past-as opposed to their original fervent antipathyto the past-but also a new iconographyof haunting.Ciphers of Regression Figures of Authority.De Chirico describeshis paintings as stages decorepresentational rated for imminent but unknown and threateningacts. 10.and throughwhich theyhad underlined theinteraction of aesthetic social and political context.""'1 As was the case in Picasso's conversion. pointlessly assembled quotidian objects painted with meticulous devotion to conventions. 45 It is the extensionof the concreteinto memoryand fantasy. 9.the futurists now fullyrepudiated their earlier nonrepresentational modes and procedures of fragmentation and pictorial molecularization. "De Chirico is the personification of Croce's Italian disease: not quite fascismyet. Kunst und Ideologie des Faschismus. 18.."10De Chirico speaks of the tragedy nothing other than the calm beforethe storm.p.Carrd turnedat that time to representational depictions of biblical scenes in the manner of Tuscan painting.
Three examples from three different decades may serveto illustratethis aestheticstance: are damned to theburial urns. 3-4. Expansion Spherical 1916.Past and Master servestheauthoritarof history To the very same extentthattherediscovery ian purpose of justifyingthe failure of modernism.Like Carlo Carrai also published in 1919. up everybody or painting.The right guaranteeing forthereis an rather these of the artists themselves particularartists.) 1914.-Giorgio de Chirico." with which he concludes explicit manifestation emphaticallyhis call for a returnto the law of historyand classic order. Nos.a manifestocalled "The in his "PitturaMetafisica. Valori Plastici. Giorgio de Chirico.thus and cultural to continued that elite's political leadership.46 OCTOBER ofLight Gino Severini. 1919. de Chirico not only requests the returnto the "classic" traditionand the of "masters"of thattradition(Uccello.(Left." Returnto theCraft"published in Valori Plastici in 1919.but to the specific nationality of in thatauthoritarian construct historicalfictions This is themostobvious of thethree thattradition. (Centrifugal).) Maternity. Rome. . (or language and culture artistic definition of developing simultaneously production opposite connectionbetweenaesthetic reveals the intricate in the Soviet Union) blatantly masteryand authoritariandomination. Art.the atavisticnotion of the to an esoteric to continuea cultureoriented is reintroduced masterartist elite.12 literature.(Right.This phenomenonfinds in de Chirico's declaration "Pictor sum classicus. its earliest 12. Piero della Francesca). I believethat Hysteriaand dilettantism now with dilettantism: fed is whetherit be in politics. 1919. Giotto.
1919. Can you imagine socialism or communismin Love or in Art?One would a returnto the past. .) The ofLoth.. . the fatherland. . published in Valori Plastici in 1921: "Memorygenerates are forever thedevotedand faithful sons of Memory. Mus&eNational d'Art (JeanClair..(Right. which is supposed to explain thesecontradictions and save themfora new reactionary anti-modernist arthistory has to employthesame cliches writing. . 1914. memoryis our religion: religio." It seemsthatwith increasingauthoritarianism in thepresenttheprojectioninto thepast has to be removedfurther and further we away-from Renaissance to antiquityin thiscase.Ciphers of Regression Figures of Authority. .(Left. and thepaternalheritage:"[These painters]come to collecttheir it. since the nation-state as a socio-economicand political orderingsystem did not exist at the timeof thesemasters'production.his terminology. Neoclassicismis lived as a meditation on paternalheritage.1981.) Daughters Socialism has only been inventedforthe mediocreand the weak.Patriotic Celebration. And since memory and thoseof the others. 32)." When the FrencharthistorianJeanClair triesto understand thesephenomena outsideof their historicaland political context. farfromthe lost fatherland which is also thatof painting..p.Paris. of authoritarianism..Memoryis our past. theydo not even dreamof rejecting the exile. The styleof Fascist arthas to orientitselftowardsantiquity.thelost fatherland of paintings" et Unheimlichkeit. More explicitly findthissubstitution of presenthistory fictions of past history in an essaybyAlberto by mnemosynic our thoughtsand our hopes ." in Les Realismes 1919-1939. we Savinio. "Metafisica Moderne. It is onlylogical to find who signedthe"Manifesto Carrn'sname subsequently among theartists of Fascist Painting" in 1933which reads as follows:"FascistArtrejectsresearch and experiments. it is also thepast ofall other is theordered recollection of our thoughts men. of all men who have precededus. 47 CarloCarra.
betrayed to suppress mannerisms.. no. vol. 1927.. . vol.. in conversation withChristianZervos. . A man of genius is responsibleto greatbook may have a very his peers.Order and Myth. S. 1 (1935). Joyceas a prophetof chaos and wailed at the floodof Dadaism which his prescient forth at the tap of themagician's eyesaw bursting rod.pp..to suppress charms. LXXV . "The Returnto Reason" and "The Returnto Order" not only espoused almost identicalprogramsof authoritarian of attack. 1.. to suppressthecheaters. of course. 1942.but also shared the same supposed enemiesand targets was.. a dictatorship of painters . "Francis Picabia contreDada ou le Retour aila Raison.13 and finally. (Right.. 1927. "Ulysses. Picasso's notoriousstatement from1935: There ought to be an absolute dictatorship .) burstinto laughter-if one werenot threatened by theconsequences. us.Dada neoclassicism. 480-483). ..) Printemps. Aldington treatedMr. March 14. Eliot towardsdada: "Mr. p.one of them.to suppress a heap of otherthings. 1919-21. in Cahiersd'Art.so it seems useful in this contextto recall the attitudesof the literary neoclassicistT." in Comoedia. A very bad influence indeed.Francis Picabia.Tabac-Rator Dance ofSaintGuy. to suppress history. to suppressall thosewho have to suppressthe tricks. Pablo Picasso. X... 14.not to a studio fullofuneducatedand undisciplinedcoxcombs" (T. Eliot. a dictatorship of one painter."The Dial.. (Left. S.48 OCTOBER Francis Picabia.'4 13. 173.
...when.thenobviously the same mechanismof authoritarianalienation is at work.1920.) Like senile old rulerswho refuseto step down.And only a good painter is able to paint well.(Right. One has to be borna good painter. In a textfrom1926 Schad deliversa completeaccount of the syndrome's most conspicuous features: Oh. Italyopened myeyesabout my artisticvolition and capacity. In Italy the art is ancient and ancient art is oftennewer than the new art. Ciphers of Regression 49 ofa Woman. See also a Otto Dix: "The new elementof paintingforme expressionist nearlyidenticalstatement by the former . the Neue Sachlichkeitby portraying membersof the Weimar hautemonde and demimonde in the manner of Renaissance portraits. Galerie Wiirthle.) Christian Schad.Figures of Authority. 15. statement Vienna..When..(Left. in 1933.in the theformer GermandadaistChristianSchad attempts a definition of earlytwenties. Because it is so difficult to be a good painter. Kasimir Malevich portrays himselfand his wife in Renaissance costumes. thestubbornness and spiteof the old paintersincreasein directproportionto theinnatesenseof theinvalidity of theirclaims to save a cultural practicethathad lost its viability.. 1927. Nobody will ever be a good painter if he is only capable of painting well. 1927.Portrait Self-Portrait. it is so easy to turnone's back on Raphael.15 in exhibitioncatalogue. ChristianSchad.
. 1927). reaction"(in Das Kunstblatt.and how theyare finally integrated ideologyof culture.Compare thiswiththestatement byGeorge Grosz. 1922.and It seems thatthepolitical reactionis therefore followed Corot. to Poussin. the hypostasisof a past culturethat The idealization of the painter'scraft. is an insidious fashionof Biedermeier. realm of successfulsolutions and achievementsthat have serves as a fictitious theglorification of theOtherculture-in this becomeunattainablein thepresent. It is importantto see how these at the timeof theirappearance. for ofexpression of forms which in nuce existalreadyas givensin theworkof residesin theintensification old masters"(in Das Objekt ist das Primdre.Here.(Right. The concepts of "aestheticparadox" and "novelty. discussed and put into practiceonce case Italy-all of these features--currently threedecades of twentieth-century modernism. Berlin.50 OCTOBER BlackCross.) Portrait.as a replyto Paul Westheim'sinquiry"Towards a byan intellectual New Naturalism?"). Ingres.how they are rationalizedby theartists symptoms into an are laterlegitimizedby art historians. a peer of Schad and Dix: "The returnto French classicistpainting. again-recur through the first and to its historical as well as to to modernism seek halt that deny necessity They life an extreme formof of social and the flux history dynamic through deny authoritarianalienation fromthese processes.1915.(Left."essential featuresof avant-gardepractice.)SelfKasimir Malevich. 1933. serve as explanations for these contradictions.
1920.. 218.) for Cocteau's and Picasso's neoexample. Ciphers of Regression 51 AlexanderRodchenko. 1976. Green. Christopher .. London.. that by turningback he did achieve noveltyand that his perversedevelopmentof SyntheticCubism and representational stylesalongside one anotherbetween1917 and 1921 was calcumove backwards lated to throwtheparadox implicitin his progressive into the highestpossible relief.Figures of Authority. . Oval Hanging Construction. (Left.p. (Right. possible turned that Picasso sense of leastpartiallyout of a against the paradox revive to Cubism with associated Ingresin dogma antirepresentational become had that where Cocteau 1915. but the factremains.16 16. is ChristopherGreen's justification classicism: For Cocteau a returnto narrative clarityand to formin the novel did did a return not mean a denial of paradox.Leger and theAvantgarde. theartist could evenmoredramatically evidencethatPicasso consciouslyaimed to createsuch a paradox. and in thesameway neither it was at that it in Indeed seems to representation painting. 1935. audacity suggests of theold convention-as in theParisian avant-garde-theresurrection modes could createa special kind of novelty:thatlooking backwards There is no direct look forward..) Romance (Circus Scene).
the verygem of reified thinking.the betweentheneoclassicistsof the 1920sand thecontemporary congruity figuration is even more astounding. availability indicating a historical moment 17. implication Picasso's needs."The brightcolor planes of Cubism are right for the carnival brilliance of the 1918 Arlequin. could be adapted to any style. "All the wasms have become isms. and theywish to share in the benefits on those who as it is culture bestows false consciousness bourgeois support embodied in cultural conventions. of course. and we are to understand extreme social factors.52 OCTOBER The Carnival of Style The degreeof congruity betweenCocteau's antimodernist stance(or should we say clich6 of ahistorical thought?) and the argumentsagainst avant-garde is striking. the sheer figurative weight of Roman frescopainting and of Ingres' Madame Moitessier were rightforthemonumentalstability ofLa Femme assise lisant. Intellectualacrobaticsare needed to make theideologias opposed to a construct cal stance look like an organic historical necessity.the old was that or new.the fictionthat there could be a pictorial mode or a discursive practice that might function rejectedby artists-is now applied by the artiststo autonomously--traditionally imbue these exhausted modes with historical meaning. Jencks. could be made subject to his will. Whatever determined by political a move backwards" or as a novelty. With regard to historical eclecticism." is a vulgarcontemporary variationon thethemeof historicism put forwardby the self-styled Charles spokesman of postmodernistarchitecture. . it becomes even more evidentthat the art historian'smaneuvers when we read: cannot explain the contradictions His [Picasso's] work between 1917 and 1921.The practice in the art press's currentdiscussion of postmodernism of the avant-garde'saudacityhaving become conventionis. its univerStyle thenbecomes the ideological equivalent of thecommodity: its freefloating sal exchangeability.ranging as it did froma Cubism to a sober Classicism repeatedlyconfirmed the gay Synthetic irrelevancefor him of having a style and the relevance for him of Cocteau's idea of "style. They deny the factthatconventionalization that silence any formof criticalnegation. Ibid. stereotype as its own used primarilyby those who want to disguise theirnew conservatism kind of audacity (Cocteau at the time of "Rappel itl'Ordre" had just turnedto itselfis a maneuverto Catholicism)."7 art-historical Style." and however by "progressive "paradox Green's observationof Picasso's "perversedevelopment" indicates his limited awarenessof the contradictions resultingfromthe art historian'sneed to accommodate a cultural notion of the masterwho necessarily moves fromachievement to achievement.
p.Ciphers of Regression Figures of Authority.originatingfromboth shopwindow decorationand fromthe props of the classical artist'sstudio. .From thisstemsthemythof the artistas pagliaccio and mountebank. This new icon of theclown is only matchedin frequency in thepaintingsof thatperiod by the of the manichino. The secretattraction of for at that time Italian theater Picasso and others becomes more iconography in a such The perspective. and Pulcinelles invading the work of Picasso. They serveas emblemsforthemelancholic infantilism who has come to artist his historical realize failure. unpublished notes on quotation). and others in the early twenties(and. Or.Bajazzos. a more of thesephenomena: "In anotherof a long stringof ironic(?) refusals adequate criticalunderstanding of virtuosity and 'sensitivity. which theyconfirm from theintentions be read differently of theauthorsor theinterests may. "The Artistin the Modern World. When Max Beckmann in the twentiesreferred to himselfas the "alienated clown and the between mysterious king" he expressedpreciselythe unconscious dilemma of the artist'sfluctuation authoritarianrule and melancholy.p.as George Steinerputs it in his introductionto The Origin of German Tragic Drama: "Prince and Puppet are impelled by thesame frozen violence" (p.18 18.stick figures. Pierrots. even the work of the former in Rodchenko can be identified as ciphersof an constructivist/productivist Russia) enforced of the regression.Cambridge. loom verylarge (and verysmall in the work of many recent artists).docile. dimpled dollies." As describedin thefollowingexample: "The comic and the self-effacing aspects. When the only option left to aestheticdiscourse is the maintenanceof its own distribution systemand thecirculationof its commodity it is not surprisingthatall "audacities have become convention"and that forms. micro freaksand the humanoid progenyof is very Krazy Kat are all part of an everincreasingLilliputian population.The discovery manifests affirmation necessarily troveinto which one mightdip fortheappropriationof of "history"as a treasure of the abandoned elementsof styleis but one obvious step." in The Spirit of theLetter. None of the manifoldfeatures one another in an intricatenetworkof historicalmeaning. November 1980. and entertainingfigureperforminghis acts of subversion and mockeryfrom an undialectical fixation on utopian thought. the doll house syndrome much with us" (Klaus Kertess. comprehensible Harlequins. Beckmann. The clown avant-garde of the artistas an essentially functions as a social archetype powerless." Artforum. 18). 327).Between the alternating extremes of self-criticism and self-pity. Renato Poggioli described this dilemma without coming to an adequate understanding: "Aware that and ostentatiously assumes the bourgeoissocietylooks at him onlyas a charlatantheartist deliberately role of thecomic actor. With due historical transformation we can observeparallel appears on the stage set of reification. If the first icon appears in the contextof thecarnivaland thecircusas themasqueradesofalienation from thesecond present history.although the latterseems to be predominant" (Renato Poggioli.Severini.Derain. 53 of closure and stasis. 1965. the reified representation body..Miniaturization. phenomena in theiconographyof the "New Painting. in the mid-thirties. of thiseclecticism should be seen as random. . of theiraudience and the art historianswho constitutetheircultural reception. This transformation of the subversivefunctionof aestheticproduction to plain itselfin every detailofproduction. the artist comes to see himself as a comic victim and sometimesas a tragicvictim. the wooden puppet.' paintershave recently adopted a reducedbrutishfiguration (seemingly chosen froma lexicon of thedrastically whose nihilismstrikes not at any society in damaged mentally) particular but at 'civilization'--a familiar desperatemove" (Martha Rosler.however. 30)."Figuring It Out. and quotapaintings startlooking like shop windows decoratedwith fragments tions of history.
voids. and restriction domination of the viewer by the Other. The term"painted collages" was used by Max Ernstin his "Au-dela de la Peinture"in 1936to describe the painting of Magritteand Dali. J'unis un coeur de neige a la blancheurdes cygnes. "Pittura Metafisicaet Nouvelle Objectivite.54 OCTOBER of thistheatrical This carnivalof eclecticism. experience the historicist irreconcilable pure heterogeneity. This and conditionedparticularity. 19. spectacle. least. image pursues particularizations. and style. of theillusorycreationof a unityand totality the opposite aim: thatof synthesis. for example. pictorial representation. Et mon sein. leading to the seductive larization. the notion of the organic unityof the work of art" (Fables of Aggression.p. FredricJamesondescribes this analogous attemptat unificationin literature:". the concept of societyitself. See.The most haunting shimmering image of this idealized classical beautyis given in Baudelaire's poem "La Beaut'": Je suis belle. 8). pleasure as falseconscioussupplyingas it does aesthetic workprovidestheviewer withperceptualclues ness. through absence. 6 mortels!comme un rovede pierre. 1980.which therefore gives the vieweran experienceof increased presence and autonomy of the self. procedural. These "concealed collages" in paintingrepresent a falseunification.p.a surfaceand pictorialspace thatseem to be made of glass or ice.or vice versa. authors have describedthe phenomenon of the "painted collage" in the neoclassicistpaintings and theirpeculiar unreal spatiality. self-quotation masquerade of returnof the repressedin cultural costume. 22. bare.If themodernist to all its material.the mirage of the continuityof personal the organizingunity of the psyche or the personality. It is essential to the functioning of and its staticview of history thatit assemble thevarious fragments historicism historicalrecollectionand incantationaccording to the degreeof projection and identification thattheseimages of thepast will providefortheneedsof thepresent. Je hais le mouvementqui deplace les lignes.thiswindow dressing of a as a alienation from becomes transparent history. Et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris.. olu chacun s'est meurtri toura tour. . of the plastic language. material. Est faitpour inspirerau poete un amour lternel et muet ainsi que la matibre. formal. and not identity. and materialsof unlike the modernist collage. Wieland Schmied. Of course Ernstwas not able to providea historicaldifferentiation of renewedpainterly betweenthe original collage techniquesand theirimplicationsand the attempt and discontinuity unificationof fragmentation. in which various fragments Quite unresolvable revealed as are laid contradictions.and ideological qualities as part of its modernistprogram. then the historicistwork pretends to a dilemmaofaesthetic resolutionof themodernist successful self-negation. This is of course thespatial configuration is fixatedon the authoritarianimages of the alien and the ancient and that recognizesitselfin the surfaceof classicistpainting that seems to contain life in a shrine. as Julia Kristeva has described the experienceof alienation and perversionthatideology imposes on the subject. Je tr6nedans l'azur comme un sphinx incompris. . fissures.19 which conceals its historicaldetermination in of a unified mode. homogeneous appearance is treacherous. Berkeley. particuto detail." in Les Realismes ofthestaticmelancholicexperience which 1919-1939. Since then several fissures.
theseproductionmodes can generate does iconic representationfor an obsolete code." "The Italian New Wave" are some of the labels attachedto recent exhibitionsofretrograde art (as thoughthe contemporary neo did not indicate the restoration of It is significant in prefix forms). "The New Spirit of Painting. 55 The Returnsof theNew The meaning structureof art seems to have been undergoing reorganization while the marketmerelyfalteredbriefly and then regained its stride.Once exhaustedand made obsolete thesame nostalgia as by subsequentmodels.It had seemeduntilrecently.that theybe presentedas radical and new. Historically. to be used to display thewealth and power of the social group thathas appropriatedthem. preexisting this regard that the German neoexpressionists who have recently receivedsuch wide recognitionin Europe (presumablyto be followedby a similar acclaim in North America) have been operatingon the fringes of the German artworld for almost twenty in their current historical years. The secretawarenessof their obsolescenceis belied by theobsessionwithwhich theseregressive phenomena are announced as innovation. the preeminence of painting as artifactual meaning bearerand as tangible investment.not in any actual innovation of artistic practice." "I1 Nuove Nuove. and receives them." "The New Fauves. Emptied of their historical in history functionand meaning. theydo not disappear but rather drift as empty in need of culturallegitimavesselswaiting to be filledwith reactionary interests tion. The '70s may turn out to have been a revanchist period in which controllinginfluences within audience and market elites regrouped to reestablishthe stratification of the audience and its objects. The historicalspecificity of iconographic codes is generallymore apparent than thatof productionprocedures and materials. To investtheseobsoletemodes withmeaning and historicalimpactrequires. thereby reasserting. they lead a life independentof theiroriginal and develop specific contexts can be easilyreinvested withdifferent dynamics:they meaningsand adapted to ideological purposes. -Martha Rosler. for . employs.aestheticproduction modes can be wrenchedfromtheircontextsand functions. however.Their "newness" consistsprecisely availability. Buyers.for example. Like other objects of cultural history.Ciphers of Regression Figures of Authority." "Naive Nouveau. Dealers. Makers:Thoughts on Audience" Perceptual and cognitive models and their modes of artisticproduction functionin a manner similar to the libidinal apparatus thatgenerates. "Lookers.
Ryman's. This process is simply describedby Lillian deprivation.to less conspicuous aspects of pictorial and sculpturalproduction.There is only pure desperationin the claim of "energism. Alienation becomes a heroicdisease forwhich thereis no social remedy. but is a coded structurewhich cannot be an unmediated "expression.This proscription did not extend. experienced by the individual in isolation. no.and "expressive"twenty years perceived "painterly" Richter'sworks demonstrated that the painted sign is not transparent. is perceivedto setsome small group intopower. III.. Everypolitical system so that changing the group will not affect our "real" (that is private) lives.Excited brushwork and heavy contrast colors and dark contours are still impasto paint application. 196. .and loss is reaffirmed. "Modernismand History. an emptymechanics. Arisingout of a system that functionsthroughcorporatecompetitionforprofits.the the bourgeoisieimplytheultimatepowerlessness of public action and the necessity of despair. Thus simply expressed. the ideas of of theindividual. that the representation was landscapes. theysimply shiftedsubversive Lillian Robinson and Lise Vogel. entirely proscribedas an authenticexpressionof individual or collectiveexperience. The human situation is seen as static.though.with certain external forms varying but the eternal anguish remaining."New Literary 20. because contrary to theirclaim to psychicuniversality theyin fact"express" only social group." Through its repetitionthe physiognomyof this painterlygestureso "full of spontaneity" becomes. p. If "expressivity" and "sensuousthe needs of a verycircumscribed ness" have again become criteriaof aestheticevaluation.."which betrays of the reiterated a secretforeboding recently instantreification that awaits such a naive notion of the liberatingpotential of apolitical and undialectical aestheticpractices. Robinson and Lise Vogel: Sufferingis portrayedas a personal struggle.20 futility Modernisthigh culturecanonized aestheticconstructs with the appellation "sublime" when the artistsin question had proven theircapacity to maintain and when.the elementsof bourgeois ideology have a clear role in maintainingthestatusquo. vol.. high as and after Stella's. But theintentions of theartists and their apologistsremainto be understood. if we are once again with depictions of the sublime and the grotesque-complementary confronted experiential states of modernism'shigh culture products-then that notion of sublimation which definesthe individual's work as determinedby alienation.56 OCTOBER of saints and clowns. of female nudes and example.Irony masks resignationto a situationone cannot alter or control. activelyattemptingto change those conditions.in any case. instead of utopian thought in spite of the conditions of reification. History. 1.
and glorify theritualof instantexcitationand perpetually and energetic. contemporaryart (or at least that segment of it that is currently receiving prominentmuseum and marketexposure) returnsto concepts of psychosexual The organization that date fromthe origins of bourgeois characterformation. not makerof meaning. XVI. Nor figures is it accidental that not one of the German neoexpressionists or the Italian Arte Ciphra painters is female." Screen. if not activelycountering.This bourgeois postponed gratification model of sublimation-which has. formsof signification. . no.a radical denial of thatmodel's perpetrations tradition of theextreme division of labor and specializationof sexual role behavior-findsits appropriate manifestationin the repeated revitalization of obsolete representationaland expressivepictorial practices.Laura Mulvey has analyzed this phenomenon in the contextof the "visual pleasure" of cinematicexperience: Woman then stands in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other.the oppression of traditional role distinctions based on the constructionof sexual difference.At a time when cultural production in everyfieldis becoming increasinglyaware of. German and American. 3 (1975). With Expressionist theory."Visual Pleasure and NarrativeCinema. we are never far removed from its special 21. primitivist perceptually. expressive. The metaphor of sculptural extension or battlingwith the canvas is easily sexualized because it conflatestwo desirable goals associated with the energy of creation. bourgeois concept of the avant-gardeas the domain of heroic male sublimation functions as the ideological complement and cultural legitimation of social repression. experiencedby a certainaudience as sensuous. been counteredby an avant-garde of negation.vol. Laura Mulvey. 57 domain.Ciphers of Regression Figures of Authority.21 and Max Kozloff puts it explicitlyin the contextof the visual arts: Furtherscouting might produce more evidence that virilityis often equated with the probing of space or the masterfulbrushing of a surface. perform the that is bourgeois mode of experience. bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his phantasies and obsessions throughlinguistic command by imposing themon the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearerof meaning. of course. The attitude of individualpowerlessness into theaesthetic intentions and in the resignation implicit in a return to the despair is already reaffirmed traditional tools of the craftof painting and in the cynical acceptance of its and cognitively historicallimitationsand its materially.It is not accidental thatBalthus--champion of the bourgeois taste for high titillationwith his scopophilic picturesof sleeping or otherwiseunaware adolescent female nudes-has recently receivedrenewed acclaim and is regarded as one of thepatriarchal of the "new" figuration. 7. Such paintings.
in his turn. he must be dependenton and servethepleasure of of it thathis artand thisverybourgeoisworld or enlightened segments lifeseem to contest. in earlytwentieth-century painting: expressionist the to liberation of the artistmeans the their paintings.if theartist hierarchy." Artforum. noncoded) representationsof the artist's desire propagate the traditionalrole model. and heavy impasto are immediate (unmediated. of himselfand his intimatelife-on theopen. 9 (June 1974). 1974). According Far from domination of others."Artforum.38. no.This is most evidentin Duchamp's interest in androgyny wish to abolish theproductionmode of theindividual and in the constructivists' masterin favorof one orientedto collectiveand utilitarianpractice. "The Authoritarian vol. are governedby its complicitywith these models of psychosexual organization. Painting. In fact such images are splendid metaphors for what the wealthy collectorswho eventuallyacquired them did to those beneath them in the social as well as the sexual a is willing to regardwomen as merely However. and they do so far more effectively than the painting practices which systematically investigatetheir own procedures.its role and impact withregardto notions of high culture and the hierarchyof the visual arts. "Virility and Domination in EarlyTwentiethCentury 23. means to his own ends. if he exploits them to achieve his boast of mustmerchandise and sell himself-an illusion he. peinture-the Max Kozloff. competitive avant-garde to promote) market.In contradistinction.22 The abandonmentofpaintingas sexual metaphorthatoccurred around 1915 implied not only formaland aestheticchanges but also a critique of traditional models of sublimation.He mustpromote(or get dealersand criticfriends of his special vision. no. male-female social the the established order..is richwith overtones of masculine aggressionand depersonalizationof woman.thosepainting practiceswhich operateunder thenaive assumption that gestural delineation.his freedom requires theirunfreedom. vol. . The imageryof modernart. high contrast color. Carol Duncan has describedhow psychohow theyare concealed and mediated sexual and ideological conceptsinterrelate.23 Inasmuch as this sexual and artisticrole is itself reified. Carol Duncan.58 OCTOBER aura. Personalityin Modern Art. the value of his special credo.40..The former's attraction and success. XII. 8 (May 22.of course.. Ultimately. XII. the authenticity and-most importantly-thegenuinenessof his antibourgeoisantagonism. relationship contesting thatthesepaintings imply-the drasticreductionof women to objects of specialized male interests-embodieson a sexual level thebasic class relationship of capitalist society. virility.
The with which theseworksunderscore theirawarenessof theephemgaudy frivolity eral functiontheyperform cannot conceal the materialand ideological interests nor can their and bravuradisguise the exhaustion of the theyserve.as does theiriconography:thenude.and seriality.Figures of Authority. paintings. and others. aura. Their techniquesrange fromfrescopainting (Clemente) to casting sculpturein bronze (Chia). Only such figured throughcrafted the contemptthatbourgeois character holds for synthetic uniqueness can satisfy the "vulgarities"of social existence. the still life.A variety of productionproceduresand aesthetic as well as the categories.Kiefer). neoexpressionists draw of the stock that the twomajor heavily styles predate painters upon painterly shifts in twentieth-century art history: fauvism. and presence.and Pittura Metafisica before Duchamp and constructivism. aura and commodity coalesce.They postulate an experienceofhistory as privateproperty. scenario of aestheticsurplus: freestanding with combined an sculpture figurative installation of aquatint etchings. architecturalmurals with small-scale easel with iconic objects. historicalproductionprocesses.and replaced by mechanical procedures.The contrivance of aura is crucial for theseworks in order that theyfulfill theirfunctionas the luxury products of a fictitious high culture. surfacetextures. Carri. equal versatilitythey orchestrate a programof dysfunctional oftenintegrated into a plastic categories.reliefconstructions The German neoexpressionists are equally protean in theirunearthingof atavisticproductionmodes. theirfunction is thatof decorum.surrealist automatism and abstract expressionism before Rauschenberg and Manzoni-the two essential instancesin modern art when the production process of painting was radically questioned for its claim to orgainc unity.iconographicreferences. through quotation. Ciphers of Regression 59 mode of artisticproduction-can assume the functionof an aesthetic fetishized culturalidentification fortheviewer. and what theseartistsconceive of as allegory.are now wrested historicalcontextsand reassembledinto a spectacleofavailability. references from of saints (Salvo) to modish Iconographic range representations from Russian constructivism With quotations (Chia). surprisingly. Concomitantwith the fetishization of painting in the cult of peintureis a fetishization of the perceptualexperienceof theworkas auratic.the landscape. including even primitivist hewn wood polychrome sculpture. The worksof thecontemporary Italians explicitly revive.The rediscovery and linocuts flourishes (Baselitz. expressionism.and only this "aura" can generate"aesthetic . heterogeneity.Not equivalent and providea corresponding both German and Italian Arte Ciphra then. fromhighly stylizedprimitivist drawing to gestural abstraction. and aestheticcategories. The contemporary of "postmodernist" regressions paintingand architecture are similar in theiriconic eclecticismto the neoclassicismof Picasso. fromtheiroriginal perceptualconventionsthatgeneratedthem. In the tangibilityof the auratic. aggressivity culturalpracticestheytryto maintain.paraphrasing the expressionist paraphraseof "primitive"art (Immenof ancient teutonicgraphic techniquessuch as woodcuts dorff).
and their relationshipbetweencertainartists MeyerSchapiro saw this symbiotic to in "The asserted artist's 1935: antagonism organizedsociety frequently patrons for sharehis contempt withhis patrons. quoted in Kozloff. That is theprice situatesthemin historicalsecondariness. positions immediately the status quo under the guise of of instant acclaim achieved by affirming is theconfirinnovation. This is not so much because theyactually derive from but because theirattemptto reestablishforlornaesthetic particularprecedents. and traditional representation.The Two Clowns. . MeyerSchapiro.The primaryfunctionof such-cultural re-presentations mation of the hieraticsof ideological domination. modes of production.60 OCTOBER pleasure" in the narcissisticcharacterdisorderthatresultsfromthis contempt. 24.since they does notbringhim into conflict to practical social life. 1922."124 thepublic and are indifferent The aestheticattraction of theseeclecticpainting practicesoriginatesin a refer nostalgia forthatmomentin thepast when thepaintingmodes to which they hovers over every But the specterof derivativeness had historical authenticity. Gino Severini. contemporaryattempt to resurrectfiguration.
. he became a parvenu. 61 National Identityand Product Protection for a long time.).Its ideological function has been defined competitive by FredricJamesonin anothercontext: National allegoryshould be understoodas a formalattemptto bridge theincreasinggap betweentheexistential data ofeveryday lifewithina of monopoly capital to given nation stateand the structural tendency develop on a worldwide.and materialswhich we have analyzed.. 1919 If theraison d'etreof historicist workis thatof privateproperty. Jameson.p.advertising. -Otto Freundlich.beyond the fetishized conventions.25 has been rediscovered as an inexhaustiblesourceforfictions of Justas history and in commercial culture the so identity subjectivity (fashion.But such a claim cannot hide its economic function as product protectionin the increasingly internationalart market. procedures.thesecliches are most easily recognizedin the artists'call fora returnto national culturewith its "roots and laws. regressive practicesof "high" cultural productionprovideluxurygoods directed at the identityand subjectivity of the managerial class.Bulletin D. thenit is only naturalthat theworkitself of thecliche: compulsively has thecharacteristics repeatedgestures emptied of meaning and congealed into grotesques. ..he is a deracin&. 94. but the European has been unhoused .and as he could in no way face up to it and did not have the courage to admit it."he "Nationality could hardlyhave anticipatedthat"history"would subsequently assume thesame function.Ciphers of Regression Figures of Authority.essentiallytransnationalscale . When Lenin said that and Fatherland are essential formsof the bourgeois system. . Beyond the obsolete and stereotyped conception of the artist'srole and character.. and fashion thediscoursein which it manifests and maintainsitself." Carra's demand for italianitdin the 1920s now recursin both Italian and German painting as the claim of national cultural identity. The verysame call for a returnto the fictionsof national and cultural as we observedin theregressive artof the twenties is now takingplace in identity 25.Fables of Aggression. To be a parvenu means to maintain thepretenseof being at home in the world . The nostalgia of artistic production for its own past conventions correspondsto this class's nostalgia forits past processesof individuationat the timeof its historicalascendancy. etc..
expressionismpresentedan avant-garde position acceptableto thenewlyreconstituted upper middleclass.The first mentof thepresentgenerationoccurredin the earlysixties. Since the Second World War.and philosophical two decades of the century. The generationof contemporary -now in theirfortiesneoexpressionists receivedtheireducation during this period fromartists who had themselves only automatismas represented recentlylearned the lessons of post-surrealist by art "scandals" of individual achieveinformeland abstractexpressionism. It had of lacked course this esteemin thepost-World War I increasing just to its eventual But under fascism.The secondstepwas the century contesting developments intoa homogeneous of theartists conversionof thevarious idiosyncratic activities neoexpressionist style. DilsseldorfAcademyand his subsequentLIDL happening.epistemological.and it thusbecame thekeyobject forhistoricalstudy. qualities "courage" preciselyin committing themselvesto the emergingmythof Germany's cultural heritageand national identitythrough the adoption of the artist's traditionalrole and the willful ignorance or rejection of all the aesthetic. collection. then.62 OCTOBER ArteCiphra and neoexpressionism. teristics The reference to expressionismin contemporary West-Germanart is the natural move to make at a time when the myth of cultural identityis to be establishedspecifically against the dominance of Americanart during the entire of reconstruction.the best of the pre-Fascistheritageof German culture.their devotion to theircritique of technology. and theirromanticization of spiritual regeneration. of the first developments of these artistshad Originally-that is. step streamlining was thereturn to large-scale easel painting.while the current German paintersrefer to thepictorialcharacand productiontechniquesof German expressionism.For thatpurpose individualeccentricito twentiethties of aestheticactivityhad to be sacrificed. has received esteem. in the early to mid-sixties--some of Immendorff at the (The earlyactivities produced workof considerableinterest.thesepaintersunderwent a stylistic by themarket The first thatresultedin the "movement"of neoexpressionism. and theearlyworkof the East German "primitivist" painterPenck are cases in point.and speculation.The apolitical humanitarian stance of the expressionistartists.when they"dared" to reintroduce and highlyexpressive subjectmatter gesturaland chromatic figurative into their Their art. to the late de Chirico and Frequentreferences the painterlymanner of Sironi's work of the twentiesoccur in contemporary Italian painting. the period "German intuition" of early twentieth-century modern painting. exotic and primal experienceperfectly accorded with the desire foran art that would providespiritualsalvationfrom thedaily experience ofalienation resulting fromthe dynamicreconstruction of postwarcapitalism. the prior suppression early period. consisted.) But subsequent to theirdiscovery and museums. expressionism. during sixtiesskyrocketing had achieved thestatusof pricesindicatedthatexpressionism a national treasure. As opposed to the political radicalism of Berlin dada. as did all references thepracticeofpainting. .
Perseus Triptych. Anyartthatwantsto supplant returnto a national the dominance of Americanart throughthe programmatic idiom can only be successfulon the marketif it acknowledges the dominant "foreign" style.Ciphers of Regression Figures of Authority.the major problem facingAmericanpainting beforethewar was attainingthelevel of "quality" of the School of Paris). For example.The large construct). expressionism The successful institutionalizationof neoexpressionismhas required a complex and subtle set of maneuversby the marketand museums. hewn out of a wood block. 63 The neoexpressionists and theirapologists understandably rejectan exclusive alignment with the German expressionist since theirpainterly patrimony. .raisingits rightarm in such a way that hostile critics have called it a Fascist gesture. according to Greenberg.A recentexample of how this authenticationmay be achieved is a spectacular case of Geschichtsklitterung theFirstStudyfora SculpturebyBaselitz. historicalcontinuity had to be establishedin order to legitimizethe neoexpressionists as heirs to the German cultural heritage.whose particularlyevident in the work of the neoexpressionist canvases' size and scale.Afterall it had been the major problem of postwar European painting that it neverachieved the "qualitative" level of the New York School (just as.was recently shown at the Max Beckmann. (eclectichistoricist scale seated figure.and painterlygestureowe as much to abstract as to German expressionism. drawing. This is Georg Baselitz. eruditionand ambitionextendsto an assimilationof thepictorialstandards of the New York School and theeconomic value setbyit.1941.
A typicalformulation versusthe Mediterranean. SiegfriedGohr. Palermo. of such notions as thenordic be employed. desire to have children is only a weaker stimulationof potencyin comparison to the images of the futurethat thissocial fantasyonce engendered." in Markus Liipertz-Stil Paintings. "Zentralpark" to entertheinternational When art emphasizingnational identity attempts most worn-out historical and the distribution geo-politicalclich6shave to system.thecontinutryptichs German art. Thus accredited with authenticity.Bern-one of the catalogue And more overtly. thiscontrived complementing international of carefullyplacing the work in the contextof the contemporary avant-garde.[and] to the mysticismand ecstasyof an exuberantimagination has found expressionhere. forcesof productivity Gemiitlichkeit The specific of themiddle of the centuryresultsfrom this condiThe tionedfadingaway ofsocial fantasy. and ideological symbolism.and Paolini at theKunsthalle.Thus the intellectual subtletyand German analytic clarityof theseItalian artistsis conferred upon the reactionary when the proper German peers of theseItalians are. a reproductionof a painting by the neoprimitivist of a catalogue fora recentexhibition of the Penck appears on the frontispiece Italian artists Fabro. ManufacturedVisions Social reasons for this impotence [of thefantasy of the bourgeois historicism]: class ceases to focus on thefutureof the which it released.For example. -Walter Benjamin.n. artists. and Richter. WhitechapelGallery.64 OCTOBER it was surrounded WhitechapelGalleryin London. the strongholdsof German neoexpressionism. by thelate of Max Beckmann. work introduction to combine statesthemuseumdirector's bythisgroup proposal of trulysignificantItalian artistswith that of the neoexpressionistswho are described as their "nordic" counterparts. . Kounellis.Darboven.p. can succeed on the international A second strategy. the cliched idea of German characterappears in an arthistorian'scommenton a to neoexpressionist painter's work: "The tendencyof German art to literature.And thus we now see theresurrection of the teutonicversustheLatin. 1979. is that national continuity.thusestablishingthehistoricalpedigree. London."26 foroperating Justas the art itselfresortsto cliche as the reliable strategy 26. For thisexhibition. Critical Cliches. Merz. profound allegories.of course. "Remarks on the Paintings of Markus Liipertz. local products ityof specifically market.
30. Gohr. example the British art historian and curator Nicholas Serota discussing the manner in which one of the neoexpressionist painters has adopted the seeminglymore traditionalground of the painterof still life.p. .thosetime honored themesof art. The painter is a guardian angel carrying thepalette in blessingover theworld.27 Rudi Fuchs.writes The relationshipbetweenbeautyand terror.. Take for criticism ogy. Georg Baselitz-Bilder 1977-1978.so the critics and curatorswho have become the a critical language of false naivete and spokesmen of the "new art" resurrect bloated trivialities which formsthe terminology of thenew subjectivity. Ciphers of Regression 65 within an obsolete context." R. 62.29 The lack of formaland historicalcomplexityin thepainters'worksand the attendant avoidance of genuine critical analysis of their contrived "visions" resultsinevitablyin a stereotypical criticallanguage. human emotionsand ideologies and the experience of death. art. It presentsfreedom triumphant expression. in a textpublished by London's WhitechapelGallery.the interaction of natural forces. "Remarks.Figures of Authority. 1980.Eindhoven. Dutch art historianand director of one of Or. Fuchs.n. of researchbearingupon aesthetic radical changes in otherfields practice(semiolof ideology) are particularlyrevealing. 28. Nicholas Serota. They are only meaningful within his pictorial method:as formalpoints of departure. eros and death. He has created for himselfa kind of theatrein which the absurd object.Markus Liipertz-Stil Paintings.Negativity. allegory and metaphor are used to reinterpretuniversalssuch as the creationand awakening of life. For a comparison one has to look back to thetryptichs of Beckmann. are two identical statements two criticswritingabout different virtually by painters: The motifs which Georg Baselitz time and again employs in his paintings are insignificantas content.1979.28 And the German art historian SiegfriedGohr. Here forexample. Anselrnm Kiefer. Maybe thepainteris thedarling of the Gods. more hyperbolically.30 27. 29. Van Abbemuseum. death is introducedas a theme.p.are presented again by thepainting. H... emblems. The lack of historicalspecificity and reflection thewillful ignoranceof upon methodology. R. H.claims that Europe's most activemuseums in exhibitingcontemporary of thoughtof which it is the Painting is salvation.exhibitioncatalogue. Fuchs. Venice Biennale. though Beckmann's use of narrativestructureis quite different. psychoanalysis.
formation of the "here and now".turninga relationThe work is taken ship of quantity into a relationship of intensity.. "The BewilderedImage." "bourgeois. froma socially underprivileged position back to an individual centralthecreative need bymeans ofan image in opposition ity. exhibitioncatalogue.in the explicitlyproto-Fascist language of an Italian critic: The new forceof artis born fromthisverytension. couched in a pastiche of Deleuze advocate thereceivedideas of petit and Spengler. .. which relateto Now it is much more importantto develop new forms of desire and to the unconscious to the indivisibility pure intensity.. its particular fixations in theirtotality...66 OCTOBER The value of the motifin thesepaintings of Liipertz's lay only in the way in which he used it as a starting point forthe developmentof a meaningfulactivity. 33.. of its are taken as excuses forindulging in defeat. critical silencing potential The followingprogrammaticstatements. even if theyare partially"regressive. the discovery present.33 31.reestablishing to the shapeless fogginessof social needs. 96-97 (April 1980). 1979. ArteCiphra attemptsa acknowledgedby this art of the seventies. .proto-Fascist tarianismpreparestheway fortheseizureofstatepower." or The failure of "nonrevolutionary". With the demise of liberalism.And it thuscomes to the fore in the guise of irrationality and the ideology of individual expression. 32." Flash Art. fixations of desire.Withoutquestioning the the end of modernismand theenforced reasons forthe failureof enlightenment.fervently and Guattari. ArteCiphra...p. its underside-authoritarianism-no longerfeelsinhibited." WolfgangMax Faust. .In liberreactionagainst social consciousnessand political awareness. 35. The disillusionmentis the strongest with those who even at immithe beginning of the seventiesstill believed in an immediately nent collapse of capitalism-generated by criticism and revelation. Cologne. "Remarks.. Desire therefore assumes a revolutionary position.. bourgeois anarchismin relation to ArteCiphra: Arte Ciphra exposes itselfas an art of the most extremesubjectivism.3' a As was the case in the call to orderby regressive artistsof the twenties.. in the manner cliches is now that these becoming apparent growingaggressivity of vision and language are propagated.Stirner. But as desire itself is always a part of infinitely complicated and mustcome to bear ambivalentinterdependences. Achille Bonito Oliva. Its aim is the opposite of of the otherin theimmediacyof the utopia-it's atopia.32 And here.nos. Gohr. bourgeoisenlightenment-well understood long ago in political and ideological thought-was not . 14..
57. firstin high art. a pale of black smoke began to rise slowly from thechimneys. The conjunction was typicalof Berlin. and mystified form that the critique does not generatea confrontation of the problems but a parasitic complacencywith the system. or to rendercapitalism in such a spurious. Fire destroys but it also cleanses. emperorburningdown a cityto make way fora new and grander As a theme it belongs of course to a larger topological framework which dates back to the beginning of time: renewal and purification through fire . climate of finality-whentheend of a class is mistakenfortheend of theworldgenerates apocalyptic and necrophilic visions. . It is Lukacs. .. . They have a quality of universal truth.but ultimatelyapolitical radicalism that was doomed to failure.. . by inversion. then spread can be seen as an act of throughout the culture. Ciphers of Regression 67 of political Rather than face up to its own bankruptcyand the necessity elitistnotion of subjectivity ultimately opts forthe destrucchange. we can still recognize the tragicfailureof theoriginal forms of theprotestof expressionism."4 and: Last year. 35.These tendencies ism and its accompanyingcriticism: It representsone of the great tyrannicalgestures in aesthetics: an one. .As we walked slowlydown a wide path to the modern crematorium .distorted. In the patheticfarceof theirrepetition-compulsion. not cultural. Anselm Kiefer.Figures of Authority. once again. Inside the building was the pair of paintings by Liipertz. this frankly tion of the veryhistoricaland culturalrealitythatit claims to possess. Markus Liipertz. who has describedthis mechanism: Mythologizing the problems allows one to avoid looking at the phenomena which are criticizedas being part of capitalism. I accompanied Liipertzto theRuhleben crematorium on the outskirts of the city. Suddenlythesilencewas brokenby thesharpreport of rifles on theBritishartillery firing rangehiddenbehind thecrematorium.in the very retardationand regressionwhich theyenact: the continuing domination of the obsolete.to be appropriated by the veryforcesthat it had set out to oppose..then..manifestsitselfin fantasiesof catastrophy. Fuchs. The secret longing fordestructionas a solution to contradictionsthat can only be met in This political. p. Scrota. In the mockeryand mimicryof contemporary neoexpressionismwe see the afterimage of that anarchic and subversive.. . Eventually self-destruction are again to be foundin thepaintingofneoexpressionheroism.35 The historical"authenticity" of theseworks is contained. terms.even an affirma34.
Without doubt.because its extraordinary of the pretenseof its of marks a blatant contradiction content poverty of the hybridsubjectivepathos of its representation. Lukacs. This schism is deeply inherentin the character not only of and this expressionism abstracting impoverishment content indicatesthe tendency of expressionism. 36..it is fromthe verybeginning its central.. "Gr6sse und Verfalldes Expressionismus..68 OCTOBER tion coming from the "soul" can be derivedfromthis critique.36 performance.."p. expressionism is only one of the many bourgeois ideological currentseventually leading to fascism.insurmountable stylistic problem. and its role as thancurrents ideological preparationis not anymoreor less important of the imperialistepoch. inasmuch as theyexpressdecadentparasitic and oppositional forces. The mock avant-gardeof contemporary European painters now benefits fromtheignoranceand arroganceof a racketof culturalparvenuswho perceiveit the politics of a rigid conservatism as theirmission to reaffirm throughcultural legitimation. features.. 116. . including all the fakerevolutionary of anti-bourgeois .
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.