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Anselm Kiefer and the Art of Allusion: Dialectics of the Early Margarete and Sulamith Paintings

Anselm Kiefer and the Art of Allusion: Dialectics of the Early Margarete and Sulamith Paintings N A WORLD WHERE ATROCITIES HAPPEN on a scale that would have been unimaginable prior to the twentieth century, we must contend with the inadequacy of language, whether visual or textual, to account for the horror of these experiences. What is the use of art, poetry, or, we might add, criticism, in light of these events? Theodor Adorno grappled with these questions when he commented that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. In contrast, Anselm Kiefer suggests the possibility that through art we can begin to be redeemed from these horrors. But because Kiefer’s philosophy relies on art’s representation of even the most reprehensible perspectives of history, he places some heady responsibilities on his critics—both to decide if “good” politics is essential to “good” art and to assess whether Kiefer’s art reflects “good” politics, even if it is “good” art. Though his art is now rarely viewed as controversial (see Hutchinson 2), Kiefer’s notorious Besetzungen or “Occupations” photographs, in which he performs the taboo Sieg Heil gesture at major World War II battle sites and domestic spaces, provide a useful example of what is at issue in his work (see, especially, Arasse 3840). These smaller works were http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Duke University Press

Anselm Kiefer and the Art of Allusion: Dialectics of the Early Margarete and Sulamith Paintings

Comparative Literature , Volume 58 (1) – Jan 1, 2006

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2006 by University of Oregon
ISSN
0010-4124
eISSN
1945-8517
DOI
10.1215/-58-1-24
Publisher site
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Abstract

N A WORLD WHERE ATROCITIES HAPPEN on a scale that would have been unimaginable prior to the twentieth century, we must contend with the inadequacy of language, whether visual or textual, to account for the horror of these experiences. What is the use of art, poetry, or, we might add, criticism, in light of these events? Theodor Adorno grappled with these questions when he commented that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. In contrast, Anselm Kiefer suggests the possibility that through art we can begin to be redeemed from these horrors. But because Kiefer’s philosophy relies on art’s representation of even the most reprehensible perspectives of history, he places some heady responsibilities on his critics—both to decide if “good” politics is essential to “good” art and to assess whether Kiefer’s art reflects “good” politics, even if it is “good” art. Though his art is now rarely viewed as controversial (see Hutchinson 2), Kiefer’s notorious Besetzungen or “Occupations” photographs, in which he performs the taboo Sieg Heil gesture at major World War II battle sites and domestic spaces, provide a useful example of what is at issue in his work (see, especially, Arasse 3840). These smaller works were

Journal

Comparative LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2006

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