George Grosz August 2, 2012Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Art, Culture, The Left.
‘Knowledge is power’ [board reads] The future of the working class lies in the blossoming of entrepreneurs (10% wage deduction) (United front) (piece-work) (12-hour day)
Popped in the Galway Museum last week to have a look at The Big No, an exhibit of two collections from satirist George Grosz. Founding Dadaist and revolutionary famed for his incredibly sharp depiction of Weimar Germany, particularly the inequality and human wreckage he found in Berlin post 1918.
‘Toads of property ‘The war did me a lot of good’
The Dadaist manifesto set out the stall that art which tries to separate itself from or does not address circumstances that surround it only maintains the status quo
“Expressionist artists and writers have grouped together into a generation which is already looking longingly for literary and artistic esteem and honourable recognition from the bourgeoisie. Under the pretext of propagating spiritual values they have retreated, in their struggles against Naturalism, into a set of abstract and sentimental postures which are based on a life which is cozy but devoid of content and action.
while emphasizing the “feverish interrelatedness of everything”.
“The highest art is one that manifests in its consciousness the countless problems of the present day, that seems to have risen out of the explosions of the previous week, and that takes its form from immediate contact with the conflicts of the present.”
Grosz’s work was a direct contrast to an idealistic picture of German life.
Raking up “the contradictions that capitalist society hides.”
‘Two chimneys. One Soul’ ‘Stinnes and his President’
Grosz was member of the KPD from it’s inception though sometimes at odds when it came to portal of class.
I do not consider it necessary to satisfy the demands of a ‘Hurrah’-shouting Bolshevism which images the working man with his hair neatly combed and dressed up in archaic heroic costume… I absolutely reject the idea that one can only serve the cause of propaganda by producing a one sided, flattering and false idealization of life…
The task of art is the help the worker understand his exploitation and his suffering, to compel him to acknowledge openly his wretchedness and enslavement, to awaken self-consciousness in him and to inspire him to engage in class warfare
He resigned from the party in 1923 (apparently following a visit to Russia, though I haven’t tracked down much detail. He is quoted opposing the manifesto of the election that year) but continued his agitation forming the Red Group, the first formal organisation of Artists the following year and later part of the Federation of Revolutionary Visual Artists of Germany, producing pamphlets and graphics for Communist organisations.
As Berlin moved more and more to the right Grosz was frequently targeted. He left for the States when the writing on the wall was becoming clear in 1933. His studio was one of the first to be raided under the new Chancellor and his work featured prominently in the Entartete Kunst of 1937.
The exhibit is showing at Antrim Castle from the 7th. Well worth a look if you’re in the area as only a fraction covered here. I’ve spent the week thinking about contemporary satire and struggling to think of much that comes close, at home at least.
We get plenty of send up but very little edge. Impersonations remain popular but since the demise of Scrap Saturday have lost a lot of the bite or at least the cleverness necessary to subvert and get away with it. Often by their nature impressions engage in stereotyping leading to the type of reinforcement Grosz went against. Turner is about as challenging as the paper he appears in while beside the occasional nugget Goldhawk have six jokes. There has been varying success online but you always have question the true reach or impact. Hopefully we will see more from DoleTV as the referendum commission parody was a great example of what can be done.
Howling laughter was heard from several fairways when the bankers learned of the eh, robust Garda operation on Conor Casby and the infamous painting of Brian Cowen ‘Master of his Brief’, a phrase coined by Harry McGee the year before. Perhaps events like this have delayed the emergence of Swift’s heir. Despite a wealth of material where do you begin to parody Ireland in 2012?