L'ombelico di Svesda




Una delle krautrock band più influenti degli anni ’70, i Can nascono a Cologne e si affermano nel panorama musicale europeo come gruppo d’avanguardia fusion capace di grande estro e maestria.
Di recente il German Rock Museum ha dato modo alla band di portare all’attenzione del pubblico tutto il materiale da loro prodotto e registrato tra il 1969 e il 1977. L’esperimento segna la nascita e il lancio di un nuovo progetto musicale, un cofanetto delle meraviglie contenente all’interno 3 cd di tracce rare e pezzi inediti. Millionenspiel e Dead Pigeon Suite fra questi. Your next psychedelic freak out
Can, The Lost Tapes
BBC – Music – Review of Can – The Lost Tapes.


John Heartfield And The Anti-Nazi Political Artivism

Of the Berlin group, John Heartfield remains the best known and revered as a result of his single-minded devotion to anti-Nazi political activism. However, his early montages were collaborative efforts that resemble the work of all the other Dadaists. He and George Grosz experimented with cut-up pieces of newspaper and photos of their fellow artists, and produced many of the early designs for Dada posters and manifestos.

He had never been afraid to express his views, even to the point of anglicising his German name in response to the horrors of the First World War. Heartfield and his brother Wieland Herzfelde founded a publishing house Malik-Verlag, which provided an outlet for his highly provocative propaganda. Much of Heartfield’s best work was for the front cover of the newspaper AIZ (Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung) which continued to publish in Germany until 1933, when artist and newspaper moved to Prague to escape Nazi persecution.

Whereas all the other Dada exponents of montages produced art, for Heartfield the message was always primary, and most of his output has the appearance of newspaper photographs. He avidly collected thousands of photos of all the leading political figures of the age, and conveyed his messages with the minimum of artistry, but with great technical precision. In many ways he acted more as an originator of ideas, and as film director, since he employed professional photographers to carry out his detailed darkroom instructions.

For Heartfield the definition of “photomontage” was wider than for most, insisting that it should include the single photo with caption, since text and image interacted with each other in a similar way to multiple images. Heartfield’s use of captions was, and perhaps still is, unsurpassed. Many of his best works utilise famous quotes of leading Nazis, and subtly undermine the intended message by quite ingenious visual puns. So, when Hitler said, “millions stand behind me”, he was boasting of his popular support, whilst Heartfield used this to reveal the fact that the Nazis were being bankrolled by leading German industrialists.

via Cut And Paste: John Heartfield

“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers. ”Erich Fromm

taken from The Fear Of Freedom by Erich Fromm
First published in Great Britain in 1942

[..]To understand the dynamics of the social process we must understand the dynamics of the psychological processes operating within the individual, just as to understand the individual we must see him in the context of the culture which moulds him. It is the thesis of this book that modern man, freed from the bonds of preindividualistic society, which simultaneously gave him security and limited him, has not gained freedom in the positive sense of the realization of his individual self; that is, the expression of his intellectual, emotional and sensuous
potentialities. Freedom, though it has brought him independence and rationality,has made him isolated and, thereby, anxious and powerless. This isolation is unbearable and the alternatives he is confronted with are either to escape from the burden of this freedom into new dependencies and submission, or to advance to the full realization of positive freedom which is based upon the uniqueness and individuality of man. Although this book is a diagnosis rather than a prognosis–an analysis rather than a solution–its results have a bearing on our course of action. For, the understanding of the reasons for the totalitarian flight from freedom is a premise for any action which aims at the victory over the totalitarian forces.
[..]Modern European and American history is centred around the effort to gain freedom from the political, economic, and spiritual shackles that have bound men. The battles for freedom were fought by the oppressed, those who wanted new liberties,against those who had privileges to defend. While a class was fighting for its own liberation from domination, it believed itself to be fighting for human freedom as such and thus was able to appeal to an ideal, to the longing for freedom rooted in all who are oppressed. In the long and virtually continuous battle for freedom, however, classes that were fighting against oppression at one stage sided with the enemies of freedom when victory was won and new privileges were to be defended. Despite many reverses, freedom has won battles. Many died in those battles in the conviction that to die in the struggle against oppression was better than to live without freedom. Such a death was the utmost assertion of their individuality. History seemed to be proving that it was possible for man to govern himself, to make decisions for himself and to think and feel as he saw fit. The full expression of man’s
potentialities seemed to be the goal towards which social development was rapidly approaching. The principles of economic liberalism, political democracy, religious autonomy, and individualism in personal life, gave expression to the longing for freedom, and at the same time seemed to bring mankind nearer to its realization.
One tie after another was severed. Man had overthrown the domination of nature and made himself her master; he had overthrown the domination of the Church and the domination of the absolutist state. The abolition of external domination seemed to be not only a necessary but also a sufficient condition to attain the cherished goal: freedom of the individual.The World War was regarded by many as the final struggle and its conclusion the ultimate victory for freedom. Existing democracies appeared strengthened, and new ones replaced old monarchies. But only a few years elapsed before new systems emerged which denied everything that men believed they had won in centuries of struggle. For the essence of these new systems, which effectively took command of man’s entire social and personal life, was the submission of all but a handful of men to an authority over which they had no control.
At first many found comfort in the thought that the victory of the authoritarian system was due to the madness of a few individuals and that their madness would lead to their downfall in due time. Others smugly believed that the Italian people, or the Germans, were lacking in a sufficiently long period of training in democracy, and that therefore one could wait complacently until they had reached the political maturity of the Western democracies. Another common illusion,perhaps the most dangerous of all, was that men like Hitler had gained power over the vast apparatus of the state through nothing but cunning and trickery, that they and their satellites ruled merely by sheer force; that the whole population was only the will-less object of betrayal and terror.
In the years that have elapsed since, the fallacy of these arguments has become apparent. We have been compelled to recognize that millions in Germany were as eager to surrender their freedom as their fathers were to fight for it; that instead of wanting freedom, they sought for ways of escape from it; that other millions were indifferent and did not believe the defence of freedom to be worth fighting and dying for. We also recognize that the crisis of democracy is not a peculiarly Italian or German problem, but one confronting every modern state. Nor does it matter which symbols the enemies of human freedom choose: freedom is not less endangered if attacked in the name of anti-Fascism or in that of outright
Fascism. This truth has been so forcefully formulated by John Dewey that I express the thought in his words: “The serious threat to our democracy”, he says,”is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states. It is the existence within our own personal attitudes and within our own institutions of conditions which have given a victory to external authority, discipline, uniformity and dependence upon The Leader in foreign countries. The battlefield is also accordingly here–within ourselves and our institutions.”
[..]These are the outstanding questions that arise when we look at the human aspect of freedom, the longing for submission, and the lust for power: What is freedom as a human experience? Is the desire for freedom something inherent in human nature? Is it an identical experience regardless of what kind of culture a person lives in, or is it something different according to the degree of individualism reached in a particular society? Is freedom only the absence of external pressure or is it also the presence of something–and if so, of what? What are the social and economic factors in society that make for the striving for freedom? Can freedom become a burden, too heavy for man to bear, something he tries to escape from? Why then is it that freedom is for many a cherished goal and for others a threat? Is there not also, perhaps, besides an innate desire for freedom, an instinctive wish for submission? If there is not, how can we account for the attraction which submission to a leader has for so many to-day? Is submission always to an overt authority, or is there also submission to internalized authorities, such as duty or conscience, to inner compulsions or to anonymous authorities like public opinion? Is there a hidden satisfaction in submitting, and what is its essence? What is it that creates in men an insatiable lust for power? Is it the strength of their vital energy–or is it a fundamental weakness and inability to experience life spontaneously and lovingly? What are the psychological conditions that make for the strength of these strivings? What are the social conditions upon which such psychological conditions in turn are based?
[..]Freud always considers the individual in his relations to others. These relations as Freud sees them, however, are similar to the economic relations to others which are characteristic of the individual in capitalist society. Each person works for himself, individualistically, at his own risk, and not primarily in co-operation with others. But he is not a Robinson Crusoe; he needs others, as customers, as employees, or as employers. He must buy and sell, give and take. The market, whether it is the commodity or the labour market, regulates these relations. Thus the individual, primarily alone and self-sufficient, enters into economic relations with others as means to one end: to sell and to buy. Freud’s
concept of human relations is essentially the same: the individual appears fully equipped with biologically given drives, which need to be satisfied. In order to satisfy them, the individual enters into relations with other “objects”. Other individuals thus are always a means to one’s end, the satisfaction of strivings which in themselves originate in the individual before he enters into contact with others. The field of human relations in Freud’s sense is similar to the market–it is an exchange of satisfaction of biologically gives and needs, in which the relationship to the oilier individual is always a means to an end but never an end in itself.Contrary to Freud’s viewpoint, the analysis offered in this book is based on the assumption that the key problem of psychology is that of the specific kind of relatedness of the individual towards the world and not that of the satisfaction or frustration of this or that instinctual need perse; furthermore, on the assumption that the relationship between man and society is not a static one. It is not as if we had on the one hand an individual equipped by nature with certain drives and on the other, society as something apart from him, either satisfying or frustrating these innate propensities. Although there are certain needs, such as hunger, thirst, sex, which are common to man, those drives which make for the differences in men’s characters, like love and hatred, the lust for power and the yearning for submission, the enjoyment of sensuous pleasure and the fear of it, are all products of the social process. The most beautiful as well as the most ugly inclinations of man are not part of a fixed and biologically given human nature, but result from the social process which creates man. In other words, society has not only a suppressing function–although it has that too–but it has also a creative function. Man’s nature, his passions, and anxieties are a cultural product; as a matter of fact, man himself is the most important creation and achievement of the continuous human effort, the record of which we call history. It is the very task of social psychology to understand this process of man’s creation in history. Why do certain definite changes of man’s character take place from one historical epoch to another? Why is the spirit of the Renaissance different from that of the Middle Ages? Why is the character structure of man in monopolistic capitalism different from that in the nineteenth century? Social psychology has to explain why new abilities and new passions, bad or good, come into existence. Thus
we find, for instance, that from the Renaissance up until our day men have been filled with a burning ambition for fame, while this striving which to-day seems so natural was little present in man of the medieval society.l In the same period men developed a sense for the beauty of nature which they did not possess before. Again, in the Northern European countries, from the sixteenth century on, man developed an obsessional craving to work which had been lacking in a free man before that period. But man is not only made by history–history is made by man. The solution of this
seeming contradiction constitutes the field of social psychology.Its task is to show not only how passions, desires, anxieties change and develop as a result of the social process, but also how man’s energies thus shaped into specific forms in their turn become productive forces, moulding the social process. Thus, for instance, the craving for fame and success and the drive to work are forces without which modern capitalism could not have developed; without these and a number of other human forces man would have lacked the impetus to act according to the social and economic requirements of the modern commercial and industrial system. It follows from what we have said that the viewpoint presented in this book differs from Freud’s inasmuch as it emphatically disagrees with his interpretation of history as the result of psychological forces that in themselves are not socially conditioned. It disagrees as emphatically with those theories which neglect the role of the human factor as one of the dynamic elements in the social process. This criticism is directed not only against sociological theories which explicitly wish to eliminate psychological problems from sociology (like those of Durkheim and his school), but also against those theories that are more or less tinged with behaviouristic
psychology. Common to all these theories is the assumption that human nature has no dynamism of its own and that psychological changes are to be understood in terms of the development of new “habits” as an adaptation to new cultural patterns. These theories, though speaking of the psychological factor, at the same time reduce it to a shadow of cultural patterns. Only a dynamic psychology, the foundations of which have been laid by Freud, can get further than paying lip service to the human factor. Though there is no fixed human nature, we cannot regard human nature as being infinitely malleable and able to adapt itself to any kind of conditions without developing a psychological dynamism of its own. Human nature, though being the product of historical evolution, has certain inherent mechanisms and laws, to discover which is the task of psychology.
At this point it seems necessary for the full understanding of what has been said so far and also of what follows to discuss the notion of adaptation. This discussion offers at the same time an illustration of what we mean by psychological mechanisms and laws. It seems useful to differentiate between “static” and “dynamic” adaptation. By static adaptation we mean such an adaptation to patterns as leaves the whole character structure unchanged and implies only the adoption of a new habit. An example of this kind of adaptation is the change from the Chinese habit of eating to the Western habit of using fork and knife. A Chinese coming to America will adapt himself to this new pattern, but this adaptation in itself has little effect on his personality; it does not arouse new drives or character traits.By dynamic adaptation we refer to the kind of adaptation that occurs, for example, when a boy submits to the commands of his strict and threatening father–being too much afraid of him to do otherwise–and becomes a “good” boy. While he adapts himself to the necessities of the situation, something happens in him. He may
develop an intense hostility against his father, which he represses, since it would be too dangerous to express it or even to be aware of it. This repressed hostility, however, though not manifest, is a dynamic factor in his character structure. It may create new anxiety and thus lead to still deeper submission; it may set up a vague defiance, directed against no one in particular but rather toward life in general. While here, too, as in the first case, an individual adapts himself to certain external circumstances, this kind of adaptation creates something new in him, arouses new drives and new anxieties. Every neurosis is an example of this dynamic adaptation; it is essentially an adaptation to such
external conditions (particularly those of early childhood) as are in themselves irrational and, generally speaking, unfavourable to the growth and development of the child. Similarly, such socio-psyc ho logical phenomena as are comparable to neurotic phenomena (why they should not be called neurotic will be discussed later), like the presence of strong destructive or sadistic impulses in social groups, offer an example of dynamic adaptation to social conditions that are irrational and harmful to the development of men.

[..]The other aspect of the process of individuation is growing aloneness. The primary ties offer security and basic unity with the world outside oneself. To the extent to which the child emerges from that world it becomes aware of being alone, of being an entity separate from all others. This separation from a world, which in comparison with one’s own individual existence is overwhelmingly strong and powerful, and often threatening and dangerous, creates a feeling of powerlessness and anxiety. As long as one was an integral part of that world, unaware of the possibilities and responsibilities of individual action, one did not need to be afraid of it. When one has become an individual, one stands alone and faces the
world in all its perilous and overpowering aspects. Impulses arise to give up one’s individuality, to overcome the feeling of
aloneness and powerlessness by completely submerging oneself in the world outside. These impulses, however, and the new ties arising from them, are not identical with the primary ties which have been cut off in the process of growth itself. Just as a child can never return to the mother’s womb physically, so it can never reverse, psycliically, the process of individuation. Attempts to do so necessarily assume the character of submission, in which the basic contradiction between the authority and the child who submits to it is never eliminated. Consciously the child may feel secure and satisfied, but unconsciously it realizes that the price it pays is giving up strength and the integrity of its self. Thus the result of submission is the very opposite of what it was to be: submission increases the child’s insecurity and at the same time creates hostility and rebelliousness, which is the more frightening since it is directed against the very persons on whom the child has remained–or become–dependent.However, submission is not the only way of avoiding aloneness and anxiety. The other way, the only one which is productive and does not end in an insoluble conflict, is that of spontaneous relationship to man and nature, a relationship that connects the individual with the world without eliminating his individuality. This kind of relationship!–the foremost expressions of which are love and productive work–are rooted in the integration and strength of the total personality and are therefore subject to the very limits that exist for the growth of the self.
The problem of Submission and of spontaneous activity as two possible results of growing individuation will be discussed later on in great detail; here I only wish to point to the general principle, the dialectic process which results from growing individuation and from growing freedom of the individual. The child becomes more free to develop and express its own individual self unhampered by those ties which were limiting it. But the child also becomes more free from a world which gave it security and reassurance. The process of individuation is one of growing strength and integration of its individual personality, but it is at the same time a process in which the original identity with others is lost and in which the child becomes more separate from them. This growing separation may result in an isolation that has the quality of desolation and creates intense anxiety and insecurity; it may result in a new kind of closeness and a solidarity with others if the child has been able to develop the inner strength and productivity which are the premise of this new kind of relatedness to the world. If every step in the direction of separation and individuation were matched by corresponding growth of the self, the development of the child would be harmonious. This does not occur, however. While the process of individuation takes place automatically, the growth of the self is hampered for a number of individual and social reasons. The lag between these two trends results in an unbearable feeling of isolation and powerlessness,and this in its turn leads to psychic mechanisms, which later on are described as mechanisms of escape.
[..]The history of man can be characterized as a process of growing individuation and growing freedom, Man emerges from the prehuman stage by
the first steps in the direction of becoming free from coercive instincts. If we understand by instinct a specific action pattern which is determined by inherited neurological structures, a clear-cut trend can be observed in the animal kingdom. The lower an animal is in the scale of development, the more are its adaptation to nature and all its activities controlled by instinctive and reflex action mechanisms. The famous social organizations of some insects are created entirely by instincts. On the other hand, the higher an animal is in the scale of development, the more flexibility of action pattern and the less completeness of structural adjustment do we find at birth. This development reaches its peak with man. He is the most helpless of all animals at birth.His adaptation to nature is based essentially on the process of learning, not on instinctual determination.”Instinct … is a diminishing if not a disappearing category in higher animal forms, especially in the human.”Human existence begins when the lack of fixation of action by instincts exceeds a certain point; when the adaptation to nature loses its coercive character; when the way to act is no longer fixed by hereditarily given mechanisms. In other words, human existence and freedom are from the beginning inseparable. Freedom is here used not in its positive sense of “freedom to” but in its negative sense of”freedom from”, namely freedom from instinctual determination of his actions.This concept of instinct should not be confused with one which speaks of instinct as a physiologically conditioned urge (such as hunger, thirst, and so on), the satisfaction of which occurs in ways which in themselves are not fixed
and hereditarily determined. Freedom in the sense just discussed is an ambiguous gift, Man is born without the equipment for appropriate action which the animal possesses;l he is dependent on his parents for a longer time than any animal, and his reactions to his surroundings are less quick and less effective than the automatically regulated instinctive actions are. He goes through ah the dangers and fears which this lack
of instinctive equipment implies. Yet this very helplessness of man is the basis from which human development springs; mein s biological weakness is the condition of human culture.From the beginning of his existence man is confronted with the choice between different courses of action. In the animal there is an uninterrupted chain of reactions starting with a stimulus, like hunger, and ending with a more or less strictly determined course of action, which does away with the tension created by the stimulus. In man that chain is interrupted. The stimulus is there but the kind
of satisfaction is “open”, that is, he must choose between different courses of action. Instead of a predetermined instinctive action, man has to weigh possible courses of action in his mind; he starts to think. He changes his role towards nature from that of purely passive adaptation to an active one: he produces. He invents tools and, while thus mastering nature, he separates himself from it more and more. He becomes dimly aware of himself–or rather of his group–as not being identical with nature. It dawns upon him that his is a tragic fate: to be part of nature, and yet to transcend it. He becomes aware of death as his ultimate fate even if he tries to deny it in manifold phantasies. One particularly telling representation of the fundamental relation between man and freedom is offered in the biblical myth of man’s expulsion from paradise.
The myth identifies the beginning of human history with an act of choice, but it puts all emphasis on the sinfulness of this first act of freedom and the suffering resulting from it. Man and woman live in the Garden of Eden in complete harmony with each other and with nature. There is peace and no necessity to work; there is no choice, no freedom, no thinking either, Man is forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He acts against God’s command, he breaks through the state of harmony with nature of which he is a part without transcending it. From the standpoint of the Church which represented authority, this is essentially sin. From the standpoint of man, however, this is the beginning of human freedom. Acting against God’s orders means freeing himself from coercion, emerging from the unconscious existence of prehuman life to the level of man. Acting against the command of authority, committing a sin, is in its positive human aspect the first act of freedom, that is, the first human act. In the myth the sin in its formal aspect is the acting against God’s command; in its material aspect it is the eating of the tree of knowledge. The act of disobedience as an act of freedom is the beginning of reason. The myth speaks of other consequences of the first act of freedom. The original harmony between man and nature is broken. God proclaims war between man and woman, and war between nature and man, Man has become separate from nature, he has taken the first step towards becoming human by becoming an “individual”. He has committed the first act
of freedom. The myth emphasizes the suffering resulting from this act. To transcend nature, to be alienated from nature and from another human being, finds man naked, ashamed. He is alone and free, yet powerless and afraid. The newly won freedom appears as a curse; he is free from the sweet bondage of paradise, but he is not free to govern himself, to realize his individuality. “Freedom from” is not identical with positive freedom, with “freedom to”. The emergence of man from nature is a long-drawn-out process; to a large extent he remains tied to the world from which he emerged; he remains part of nature–the soil he lives on, the sun and moon and stars, the trees and flowers, the animals, and the
group of people with whom he is connected by the ties of blood. Primitive religions bear testimony to man’s feeling of oneness with nature. Animate and inanimate nature are part of his human world or, as one may also put it, he is still part of the natural world.These primary ties block his full human development; they stand in the way of the development of his reason and his critical capacities; they let him recognize
himself and others only through the medium of his, or their, participation in a clan, a social or religious community, and not as human beings; in other words,they block his development as a free, self-determining, productive individual. But although this is one aspect, there is another one. This identity with nature,clan, religion, gives the individual security. He belongs to, he is rooted in, a structuralized whole in which he has an unquestionable place. He may suffer from hunger or suppression, but he does not suffer from the worst of all pains–complete aloneness and doubt.
We see that the process of growing human freedom has the same dialectic character that we have noticed in the process of individual growth. On the one hand it is a process of growing strength and integration, mastery of nature, growing power of human reason, and growing solidarity with other human beings. But on the other hand this growing individuation means growing isolation, insecurity, and thereby growing doubt concerning one’s role in the universe, the meaning of one’s life,and with all that a growing feeling of one’s own powerlessness and insignificance as an individual.
If the process of the development of mankind had been harmonious, if it had followed a certain plan, then both sides of the development–the growing strength and the growing individuation–would have been exactly balanced. As it is, the history of mankind is one of conflict and strife. Each step in the direction of growing individuation threatened people with new insecurities. Primary bonds once severed cannot be mended; once paradise is lost, man cannot return to it. There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual. However, if the economic, social and political conditions on which the whole process of human individuation depends, do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality in the sense just mentioned, while at the same time people have
lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom.
European and American history since the end of the Middle Ages is the history of the full emergence of the individual. It is a process which started in Italy, in the Renaissance, and which only now seems to have come to a climax. It took over four hundred years to break down the medieval world and to free people from the most apparent restraints. But while in many respects the individual has grown, has developed mentally and emotionally, and participates in cultural achievements in a degree unheard-of before, the lag between “freedom from” and “freedom to” has grown too. The result of this disproportion between freedom from any tie and the lack of possibilities for the positive realization of freedom and individuality has led, in Europe,  panicky flight from freedom into neurotics oral least into complete indifference.
We shall start our study of the meaning of freedom for modern man with an analysis of the cultural scene in Europe during the late Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern era. In this period the economic basis of Western society underwent radical changes which were accompanied by an equally radical change in the personality structure of man. A new concept of freedom developed then, which found its most significant ideological expression in new religious doctrines, those of the Reformation, Any understanding of freedom in modern society must start with that period in which the foundations of modern culture were laid, for this formative stage of modern man permits us, more clearly than any later epoch, to recognize the ambiguous meaning of freedom which was to operate throughout modern culture: on the one hand the growing independence of man from external authorities, on the other hand his growing isolation and the resulting feeling of individual insignificance and powerlessness.Our understanding of the new elements in the personality structure of man is enhanced by the study of their origins, because by analysing the essential features of capitalism and individualism at their very roots one is able to contrast them with an economic system and a type of personality which was fundamentally different from ours. This very contrast gives a better perspective for the understanding of the peculiarities of the modern social system, of how it has shaped the character structure of people who live in it, and of the new spirit which resulted from
this change in personality. The period of the Reformation is more similar to the contemporary scene than might appear at first glance; as a matter of fact, in spite of all the obvious differences between the two periods, there is probably no period since the sixteenth century which resembles ours as closely in regard to the ambiguous meaning of freedom. The Reformation is one root of the idea of human freedom and autonomy as it is
represented in modern democracy. However, while this aspect is always stressed,especially in non-Catholic countries, its other aspect–its emphasis on the wickedness of human nature, the insignificance and powerlessness of the individual, and the necessity for the individual to subordinate himself to a power outside himself–is neglected. This idea of the unworthiness of the individual, his fundamental inability to rely on himself and his need to submit, is also the main theme of Hitler’s ideology,which, however, lacks the emphasis on freedom and moral principles which was inherent in Protestantism. This ideological similarity is not the only one that makes the study of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a particularly fruitful starting point for the understanding of the present scene. There is also a fundamental likeness in the social situation. I shall try to show how this likeness is responsible for the ideological and psychological similarity. Then as now a vast sector of the population was threatened in its traditional way of life by revolutionary changes in the economic and social organization; especially was the middle class, as today, threatened by the power of monopolies and the superior strength of capital,and this threat had an important effect on the spirit and the ideology of the threatened sector of society by enhancing the individual’s feeling of aloneness and insignificance.
Continue to read..Erich Fromm, The Fear of Freedom,  Escape from Freedom.pdf (application/pdf Object).
Erich Fromm: freedom and alienation, and loving and being, in education.

‘For people who have no critical acumen, a state is a mythical entity, for those who think critically it is a rational fiction, created by man in order to facilitate human coexistence’ Friedrich Dürrenmatt

Rodney Smith Photography

Friedrich Dürrenmatt, (born Jan. 5, 1921, Konolfingen, near Bern, Switz.—died Dec. 14, 1990, Neuchâtel), Swiss playwright, novelist, and essayist whose satiric, almost farcical tragicomic plays were central to the post-World War II revival of German theatre.

Dürrenmatt, who was educated in Zürich and Bern, became a full-time writer in 1947. His technique was clearly influenced by the German expatriate writer Bertolt Brecht, as in the use of parables and of actors who step out of their roles to act as narrators. Dürrenmatt’s vision of the world as essentially absurd gave a comic flavour to his plays. Writing on the theatre in Theaterprobleme (1955; Problems of the Theatre), he described the primary conflict in his tragicomedies as humanity’s comic attempts to escape from the tragic fate inherent in the human condition.

His plays often have bizarre settings. His first play, Es steht geschrieben (1947; “It Is Written”), is about the Anabaptist suppression in Münster in 1534–36. In it, as in Der Blinde (1948; “The Blind Man”) and Romulus der Grosse (1949; Romulus the Great), Dürrenmatt takes comic liberties with the historical facts. Die Ehe des Herrn Mississippi (1952; The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi), a serious play in the guise of an old-fashioned melodrama, established his international reputation, being produced in the United States as Fools Are Passing Through in 1958. Among the plays that followed were Der Besuch der alten Dame (1956; The Visit); Die Physiker (1962; The Physicists), a modern morality play about science, generally considered his best play; Der Meteor (1966; The Meteor); and Porträt eines Planeten (1970; Portrait of a Planet).

In 1970 Dürrenmatt wrote that he was “abandoning literature in favour of theatre,” no longer writing plays but working to produce adaptations of well-known works. In addition to plays, Dürrenmatt wrote detective novels, radio plays, and critical essays.

via Friedrich Durrenmatt (Swiss author) : Introduction — Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
Friedrich Durrenmatt.com

Die Brücke: Origins of Expressionism – review | Art and design | Guardian Weekly

Dresden Street, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1907

Until the 1970s and 80s, French museums showed little interest in Die Brücke, a group of artists formed in Dresden, Germany, in 1905. They made the mistake of surfacing at the same time as Fauvism in Paris.

This led to comparisons that patriotically concluded that Matisse and Derain were better than Kirchner and Heckel. The argument was always the same: the French had a sense of harmony and balance, the Germans were brutal and exalted – in a word, expressionists.

Only in 1992, with the remarkable Figures du Moderne exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, did things started to change. But slowly. Matisse has had four shows at the Pompidou Centre since 1977, whereas neither Kirchner nor any other Die Brücke artist has ever had a look-in.

Since 1992 the only attempt to remedy this omission has been the Emil Nolde retrospective at the Grand Palais in 2008. Otherwise works have been loaned by German museums to Strasbourg or the Musée Marmottan in Paris. So the current exhibition in Grenoble (until 17 June) is all the more valuable. The Brücke-Museum in Berlin has loaned a substantial part of its collection, with more than 120 paintings, drawings and woodcuts, from the beginning of the movement till 1914. That it should have happened at all is gratifying, but the exhibition is well designed too, bringing out the common ground among the artists.

Kirchner, Heckel, Pechstein and Schmidt-Rottluff did not only agree on aesthetic issues. All four were born in the early 1880s and grew up to reject the world as they found it. They did not want its principles or its mores, nor its art. The form of impressionism that was then spreading through Germany seemed emblematic of a bourgeois society ruled by money and Christian morality. In opposition they advocated bodily freedom, life in the wild, communion with the elements. They spent the summer painting in the countryside, setting up temporary communes. Their shows were collective too and it is hard to distinguish a Heckel from a Pechstein, a Pechstein woodcut from one by Nolde, who joined the group in 1908.

Their unity of style reflected their common aspirations. They painted nudes, landscapes and nudes in landscapes. The intensity of the colours bore out the force of their desires and pleasure. The models were very youthful, shameless and mocking. Forms were defined by just a few lines, interspersed with red or yellow patches worthy of Van Gogh and Munch. Outlines hardened when the group started taking an interest in art from Africa and Oceania examples of which they saw in the ethnographic museums of Dresden and Berlin.

To satisfy their curiosity they travelled abroad. In 1913 Pechstein sailed to the Palauan archipelago in Micronesia; the same year Nolde visited New Guinea where he was horrified by the effects of colonisation. Later, in 1917, Kirchner retired to a chalet in the Swiss Alps, where he sculpted wooden effigies of women and encouraged his female friends to dance naked, as a distraction from Europe and modern warfare.

Today, when society is beset by doubts about what science and technology have done to the world, Die Brücke seems to have been one of the 20th century’s earliest movements of revolt, advocating and practising revolt by art and in art. The anger and provocation that inspired its founders has lost nothing of its force. Perhaps it is because the artists still scare some people that their work is shown so little.

This article originally appeared in Le Monde

via Die Brücke: Origins of Expressionism – review | Art and design | Guardian Weekly.

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig (1880 – 1938), was a German Expressionist painter who was an original member of the Brücke. From 1917 Kirchner lived in Switzerland suffering from tuberculosis until his eventual suicide in 1938. Many of his pictures were confiscated by the Nazis, but the best collection is now in Stuttgart. He also made a large number of woodcuts and some sculpture. Kirchner formulated the programme for the Brücke in 1906 and wrote its obituary in 1913, although his close friend Heckel was the most enterprising member.
It’s said that Kirchner occasionally deliberately dated some of pictures too early in order to claim priority. There are works by him in Edinburgh and New York and other American museums as well as those in Germany.

Taken from Dictionary of Art and Artists, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959

The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin

sculpture by Brian Dettmer

Sto leggendo un saggio profezia del filosofo tedesco Walter Benjamin,’The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, scritto al tempo in cui Hitler era stato già elevato Chancellor of Germany e l’Europa si ripreparava alle armi. In questo Benjamin spiega le ragioni del postmodernismo a partire da un’indagine all’avanguardia marxista d’esito nella produzione delle arti e della riproduzione delle arti, l’impatto delle arti nella sfera politica e sociale. Meglio questo saggio delinea una teoria
[..]a theory of art that would be “useful for the formulation of revolutionary demands in the politics of art.In the absence of any traditional, ritualistic value, art in the age of mechanical reproduction would inherently be based on the practice of politics. L’arte come atto di ribellione.
Ho trovato un articolo di Claudio Bianco (FILOSOFICO.NET – La filosofia e i suoi eroi) che ne fa una critica molto interessante
Il saggio L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica viene scritto da Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) nel 1935 subito dopo aver partecipato come uditore al I Congresso internazionale degli scrittori, organizzato a Parigi al fine di dar vita a un’ampia mobilitazione intellettuale contro la diffusione del fascismo . Nel 1936 il saggio è pubblicato, nella traduzione francese di Pierre Klossowski , sulla celebre rivista Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung , che in quel periodo si stampava a Parigi e il cui gruppo dirigente era costituito da Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (1903-1969) , Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) e Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) , fondatori dell’Istituto per la ricerca sociale di Francoforte. In una lettera del 16 ottobre 1935 a Horkheimer, Benjamin descrive il saggio come “una puntata in direzione di una teoria materialistica dell’arte”; in effetti la sua problematica adesione al marxismo e i rapporti con il gruppo di Adorno e con Bertolt Brecht costituiscono un quadro di riferimento imprescindibile per comprendere un testo che lega il problema del mutato statuto dell’opera d’arte – a seguito della diffusione di nuove tecniche di riproduzione- a considerazioni di carattere politico e sociale.

L’adesione di Benjamin al “materialismo storico”, ossia alla dottrina associata principalmente alle figure di Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) e Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) , secondo cui le produzioni cosiddette “spirituali” degli uomini – arte, religione e filosofia – sarebbero determinate, in quanto “sovrastruttura” , dalle strutture economiche soggiacenti delle diverse relazioni sociali e dei diversi modi di produzione, è sin dall’inizio assai problematica e originale. Nel saggio Eduard Fuchs, il collezionista e lo storico, Benjamin individua come compito del materialismo storico il superamento dell’atteggiamento “contemplativo” e neutrale assunto dallo storicismo per introdurre una visione dialettica della storia. Il passato non deve essere considerato come inserito in un ordine lineare e progressivo, bensì come qualcosa di unico, un’”esperienza originaria” in cui il presente si incontra con il passato in una “costellazione critica” che “fa deflagrare la continuità della storia”. L’idea di un presente nel quale si incontrano i diversi registri temporali dell’eternità e dell’istante era probabilmente maturata in Benjamin attraverso la lettura di Baudelaire, il quale, come abbiamo visto, nei saggi de Il pittore della vita moderna aveva definito la modernità come coesistenza, nel presente, del transitorio e dell’effimero con l’eterno e l’immutabile.

La critica della concezione della storia come progresso lineare e ascendente ritorna nelle tesi Sul concetto di storia (1940) , dove il compito del materialista storico è descritto come quello di “scardinare il continuum della storia”, a partire da “un presente che non è passaggio, ma nel quale il tempo è in equilibrio ed è giunto a un arresto (…) quel presente in cui egli, per quanto lo riguarda, scrive storia”. Il presente non è un istante astratto e anonimo dell’omogeneo fluire del tempo, né un’agostiniana distensio animi tutta racchiusa nell’interiorità della coscienza: esso è,invece, istanza originaria generatrice del tempo storico, luogo della sospensione e della critica in cui la storia è narrata e costruita guardando al futuro, a partire dalle urgenze dell’attualità (Jetztzeit). Questa costellazione di presente, passato e futuro, implicante al tempo stesso critica dell’esistenze e apertura verso il futuro, si rivela allo sguardo dello storico purificato dalle pecche dello storicismo sotto le sembianze di quella che Benjamin chiama un’”immagine dialettica”: un’immagine improvvisa, balenante, nella quale passato e futuro si illuminano a vicenda a partire dal presente.

E’nella sezione N del libro incompiuto dedicato ai passages di Parigi, intitolata “Elementi di teoria della conoscenza, teoria del progresso” che Benjamin sviluppa questo concetto, sostenendo che è solo attraverso le immagini dialettiche che la storia giunge alla leggibilità in una determinata epoca, là dove improvvisamente il passato subisce una sorta di “teléscopage” attraverso il presente: “Non è che il passato getti la sua luce sul presente o il presente la sua luce sul passato, ma immagine è ciò in cui quel che è stato si unisce fulmineamente con l’ora (Jetzt) in una costellazione. In altre parole: immagine è la dialettica nell’immobilità . Poiché, mentre la relazione del presente con il passato è puramente temporale,continua, la relazione tra ciò che è stato e l’ora è dialettica: non è un decorso, ma un’immagine discontinua, a salti. Solo le immagini dialettiche sono autentiche immagini (cioè non arcaiche); e il luogo, in cui le si incontra, è il linguaggio”. L’immagine dialettica appare là dove il pensiero si arresta in una costellazione, dove passato, presente e futuro si manifestano improvvisamente alla luce di una “vera sintesi” in cui appare ciò che Benjamin , riprendendo un termine fondamentale della morfologia goethiana , chiama un “fenomeno originario della storia”.

La riflessione benjaminiana su cosa significhi un approccio materialistico e dialettico alla storia e all’arte sta sullo sfondo del saggio L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica , che nella “premessa” è presentato come una raccolta di “tesi sopra le tendenze dello sviluppo dell’arte nelle attuali condizioni di produzione”. In apertura del saggio Benjamin cita un passo di un breve testo di Paul Valéry (1871-1945) , “La conquete de l’ubiquité”, pubblicato nel 1931 nella raccolta Pièce sur l’art. In questo testo Valéry si interroga sui mutamenti in atto nella nozione stessa di arte – nelle tecniche artistiche, nella concezione della creazione, nella riproduzione e trasmissione delle opere – in seguito all’incremento stupefacente del nostro “potere di azione sulle cose”. La futura diffusione di nuovi mezzi di comunicazione analoghi alla radio e al telefono avrebbe presto consentito, secondo Valéry, di “trasportare o ricostituire in ogni luogo il sistema di sensazioni – o più esattamente, il sistema di eccitazioni – provocato in un luogo qualsiasi da un oggetto o da un evento qualsiasi”. Nel caso dell’arte, ciò avrebbe significato la possibilità per le opere di avere una sorta di “ubiquità” , ossia di divenire delle “fonti” o “origini” i cui effetti potrebbero essere avvertiti ovunque. Su un piano più generale, lo scenario evocato da Valéry è quello di una società futura in cui sarebbe possibile suscitare un flusso di immagini visive o di sensazioni uditive con un semplice gesto, una società caratterizzata dalla possibilità di una “distribuzione della Realtà Sensibile a domicilio”. In questo aumentato potere di riprodurre e diffondere le opere, che Valéry vede già compiersi nel caso della musica, risiederebbe la “condizione essenziale della resa estetica più elevata”, ossia la possibilità di sganciare la fruizione dell’opera d’arte dall’hic et nunc della sua collocazione materiale o della sua esecuzione per renderla accessibile nel momento spirituale più favorevole e fecondo.

La stessa riflessione sui mutamenti in atto nello statuto e nella fruizione dell’arte in seguito all’elaborazione di nuove tecniche di riproduzione e trasmissione delle opere che anima il breve testo di Valéry è al centro del saggio di Benjamin, che ha come presupposto la grande diffusione della fotografia e del cinema nei primi decenni del secolo e il lavoro di sperimentazione condotto su queste due forme espressive da avanguardie artistiche come il dadaismo, il surrealismo o il costruttivismo. A differenza di Valéry, Benjamin conferisce però alla propria analisi una valenza esplicitamente politica, in quanto nelle nuove forme di produzione e trasmissione dell’arte messe in atto da cinema e fotografia vede la possibilità di liberare l’esperienza estetica dal sostrato religioso-sacrale che ne accompagnava la fruizione da parte della borghesia, impedendo l’instaurazione di un nuovo rapporto tra l’arte e le masse. Quelle proposte da Benjamin, secondo le sue stesse parole, sono tesi “che eliminano un certo numero di concetti tradizionali – quali i concetti di creatività e di genialità, di valore eterno e di mistero -, concetti la cui applicazione incontrollata (…) induce a un’elaborazione in senso fascista del materiale concreto”. Scopo dell’analisi deve essere elaborare concetti “del tutto inutilizzabili ai fini del fascismo”, concetti che consentano, al contrario, “la formulazione di esigenze rivoluzionarie nella politica culturale”.

Una riflessione sulla riproducibilità dell’opera d’arte non può non partire dalla constatazione che, “in linea di principio”, l’opera d’arte è sempre stata riproducibile”. La riproduzione intesa come imitazione manuale di disegni, quadri o sculture è sempre stata parte integrante della pratica artistica, dell’apprendimento e della messa in circolazione delle opere. Nel caso della musica,poi, l’opera stessa esiste innanzitutto come ri-esecuzione . Ciò che interessa a Benjamin , però, non è la riproduzione intesa in questo senso bensì la riproduzione tecnica delle opere d’arte, qualcosa che nella storia si è manifestato progressivamente nelle pratiche della fusione del bronzo, del conio delle monete, della silografia e della litografia come riproduzione della grafica e, soprattutto, della stampa come riproducibilità tecnica della scrittura. Con l’invenzione della fotografia e del cinema, la riproducibilità del visibile attinge a una dimensione nuova, sganciandosi ulteriormente dal condizionamento della manualità e velocizzandosi enormemente. Di fronte a una tale rivoluzione tecnica, il compito del critico, secondo Benjamin, consiste nel riflettere sul modo in cui questo tipo di riproducibilità dell’opera d’arte finisce per imporre una ridefinizione dello statuto stesso dell’arte nella sua forma tradizionale.

La tesi centrale del saggio di Benjamin risiede nell’affermazione che nella riproduzione fotografica di un’opera viene a mancare un elemento fondamentale : “l’hic et nunc dell’opera d’arte, la sua esistenza unica e irripetibile nel luogo in cui si trova”. Nell’unicità della collocazione spazio-temporale dell’opera risiede il fondamento della sua autenticità e della sua autorità come “originale”, ossia la sua capacità di assumere il ruolo di testimonianza storica. La trasmissione di un’eredità culturale poggia infatti sul permanere nel tempo dell’unicità e dell’autorità delle opere e sulla loro conservazione e celebrazione in spazi dedicati, come i musei, o nei quali esse si radicano nella loro unicità (una chiesa, un palazzo). Benjamin riassume i valori di unicità,autenticità e autorità dell’opera d’arte nella nozione di “aura” , un termine ricorrente nel lessico storico-artistico ed esoterico di inizio secolo nell’accezione di “aureola” (come quella che circonda le immagini dei santi) o in quella, assai più ambigua, di “alone” che circonda e avvolge ogni individuo, come negli scritti di carattere misterico o teosofico.

Il “declino”, il “venir meno” dell’aura (Verfall der Aura) determinato dall’avvento dei mezzi di riproduzione tecnica delle opere, sarebbe il sintomo, secondo Benjamin , di un più vasto mutamento “nei modi e nei generi della percezione sensoriale”: a ogni periodo storico corrispondono infatti determinate forme artistiche ed espressive correlate a determinate modalità della percezione, e la storia dell’arte deve essere accompagnata da una storia dello sguardo. Proseguendo la riflessione sul progressivo impoverirsi dell’esperienza avviata nel saggio Il Narratore. Considerazioni sull’opera di Nicola Leskov, in L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica Benjamin constata come nella società a lui contemporanea, mediante la diffusione dell’informazione e delle immagini, tenda ad affermarsi sempre più un’esigenza di avvicinamento, alle cose e alle opere.

Ciò che però viene meno, in un’epoca caratterizzata dal bisogno di “rendere le cose, spazialmente e umanamente, più vicine” e in cui “ si fa valere in modo sempre più incontestabile l’esigenza di impossessarsi dell’oggetto da una distanza il più possibile ravvicinata nell’immagine, o meglio nell’effigie, nella riproduzione”, è quel peculiare intreccio di vicinanza e lontananza nel quale risiede, secondo Benjamin, l’essenza dell’aura: “Cade qui opportuno illustrare il concetto, sopra proposto, di aura a proposito degli oggetti storici mediante quello applicabile agli oggetti naturali. Noi definiamo questi ultimi apparizioni uniche di una lontananza, per quanto questa possa essere vicina. Seguire, in un pomeriggio d’estate, una catena di monti all’orizzonte oppure un ramo che getta la sua ombra sopra colui che si riposa – ciò significa respirare l’aura di quelle montagne, di quel ramo”. Fine dell’aura significa fine di quell’intreccio tra lontananza, irripetibilità e durata che caratterizzava il nostro rapporto con le opere d’arte tradizionali, e avvento di una fruizione dell’arte basata sull’osservazione fugace e ripetibile di riproduzioni.

Originariamente, le opere d’arte erano parte inscindibile di un contesto rituale, prima magico e poi religioso; la loro autorità e autenticità, la loro aura, era determinata proprio da questa appartenenza al mondo del culto. In forme secolarizzate, l’atteggiamento rituale e culturale nei confronti dell’arte sarebbe poi trapassato nelle forme profane del culto della bellezza, che nasce nel Rinascimento e dura fino alle ultime derive del Romanticismo. L’avvento della riproducibilità tecnica e la sua diffusione mediante la fotografia segnano per la prima volta la possibilità di emancipare l’arte rispetto all’ambito del rituale: venendo meno i valori dell’unicità e dell’autenticità, si apre la possibilità di conferire all’arte una nuova valenza politica, al valore cultuale (Kultwert) dell’opera si sostituisce progressivamente il valore espositivo (Ausstellungswert).

Il discorso benjaminiano sulla fine dell’aura non è quindi riconducibile a una forma di nostalgia, bensì è un tentativo di individuare le potenzialità ancora non del tutto esplicitate della riproducibilità. Nella fotografia la dissoluzione del valore cultuale in favore del valore di esponibilità non è ancora completa, in quanto l’aura mantiene una sua ultima forma di sopravvivenza nel “volto dell’uomo”. Non è un caso che le prime fotografie siano state soprattutto dei ritratti, miranti a fissare e a tramandare nel tempo l’identità e lo sguardo dei soggetti fotografati:”Nell’espressione fuggevole di un volto umano, dalla prime fotografie, emana per l’ultima volta l’aura. E’ questo che ne costituisce la malinconica e incomparabile bellezza”. Il profondo legame tra l’immagine fotografica e l’unicità del soggetto rappresentato nell’hic et nunc del suo essere rappresentato, e quindi il legame tra immagine, temporalità e morte- che Roland Barthes (1915-1980avrebbe successivamente tematizzato tramite il concetto di punctum nel celebre saggio La chambre claire – viene meno con il cinema. La rappresentazione cinematografica, a differenza di quella teatrale, è fatta di mediazione , differimento, scomposizione: le azioni che ci si presentano nella loro sequenzialità sono girate in momenti diversi, e ciò che vediamo è il risultato di una serie di scelte legate all’inquadratura e al montaggio. A differenza del pittore – che è come un mago nel mantenere la distanza tra sé e ciò che è oggetto della rappresentazione e nel conferire un’autorità auratica alla rappresentazione stessa- l’operatore cinematografico è come un chirurgo ; penetra nelle immagini, le frammenta, le scompone, ne ridefinisce la sequenza, finendo però per eliminarne l’aura.

Lungi dal condividere il senso di disagio provato da Pirandello nei confronti della presenza del mezzo tecnico nella realizzazione dell’immagine cinematografica, come testimonia il romanzo Si gira del 1915, Benjamin afferma che proprio questa mediatezza consente al cinema di determinare un significativo approfondimento delle nostre capacità percettive. La possibilità di moltiplicare i punti di vista e le inquadrature mediante quella che Benjamin chiama “la dinamite dei decimi di secondo” rende infatti più libero e indipendente il nostro sguardo sulle cose. Lo spazio che si rivela alla cinepresa è, inoltre, profondamente diverso da quello che si rivela allo sguardo empirico: “ al posto di uno spazio elaborato dalla coscienza dell’uomo interviene uno spazio elaborato inconsciamente”. Quello rivelato dall’istantaneità dell’immagine fotografica e dalla sequenzialità dell’immagine in movimento è dunque un “inconscio ottico” che si rivela soltanto attraverso di esse, così come l’inconscio istintivo viene portato alla luce nella psicoanalisi.

La portata “rivoluzionaria” che Benjamin attribuisce alla fotografia come tecnica della riproduzione e,in maggior misura, al cinema, si esplica dunque su diversi piani: dissoluzione dell’aura attraverso riproduzioni che sottraggono l’opera d’arte all’hit et nunc della sua esistenza materiale e della sua fruizione, rivelazione di una visibilità che rimane inaccessibile all’occhio empirico e diventa invece accessibile grazie alla mediazione del dispositivo, contestazione di ogni atteggiamento cultuale e “feticistico”, tipicamente borghese, nei confronti dell’autenticità e dell’autorità dell’opera. Riguardo a quest’ultimo punto, Benjamin sottolinea come il cinema, a differenza della pittura, non consenta un atteggiamento puramente contemplativo, fatto di esaltazione e rapimento. Quella del cinema non è una fruizione fatta di raccoglimento ma una fruizione “distratta” in cui lo spettatore non si perde nell’opera, ma si mantiene in un atteggiamento nel quale piacere e giudizio critico coesistono senza limitarsi a vicenda. Il cinema, in altre parole, si allontana dal naturalismo e dall’illusionismo teatrale e consente di conservare la “distanza” e lo “straniamento” che erano al centro, negli stessi anni, della riflessione sul teatro di Brecht.

La capacità di ridefinire il rapporto tra l’arte e le masse aperta dal cinema, dunque, risiede per Benjamin nella possibilità di una fruizione collettiva nella quale la critica non è soffocata da una forma di devozione cultuale nei confronti dell’immagine. Certo, anche nel cinema è presente un residuo di aura, in particolare nel culto della personality che trasforma gli attori in divi, e del resto è chiaro che l’”industria cinematografica ha tutto l’interesse a imbrigliare, mediante rappresentazioni illusionistiche e mediante ambigue speculazioni, la partecipazione delle masse”. Alla ricognizione delle possibilità espressive del mezzo cinematografico operata da registi come Ejzenstejn si contrapponeva, in quegli stessi anni, l’impiego dell’immagine cinematografica da parte dei regimi fascisti a fini propagandistici – basti pensare al contributo della regista Leni Riefenstahl nel definire l’iconografia del nazismo – , testimoniando così come questa forma espressiva avesse un potenziale ambiguo, , che sarà poi analizzato da Adorno e Horkehimer , in relazione all’industria culturale americana, in Dialettica dell’illuminismo (1946). Rispetto a questo testo, l’analisi di Benjamin mostra di condividere l’interesse e le aspettative nutrite da diversi movimenti degli anni Venti e Trenta (neoplasticismo, costruttivismo, Bauhaus), oltre che dai giovani Lukàcs e Brecht , nei confronti dei nuovi mezzi espressivi, pur riconducendo la riflessione sull’arte a una finalità prettamente politica: Benjamin risponde infatti all’estetizzazione della politica e della guerra proposte dal fascismo, e condivise da futuristi come Martinetti, sostenendo la necessità di una “politicizzazione dell’arte” proprio a partire dal potenziale rivoluzionario e democratico del cinema.
via WALTER BENJAMIN. L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica (a cura di Claudia Bianco).

Il saggio si compone di tre parti
The Work of Art of Mechanical Reproduction
Franz Kafka: On the Tenth Anniversary of His Death
Picturing Proust
E questa è l’introduzione e il primo capitolo

_________The Work of Art of Mechanical Reproduction_____________

The establishment of the fine arts and their division into various categories go back to a time that differed radically from ours and to people whose power over things and circumstances was minute in comparison with our own.
However, the astounding growth that our resources have undergone in terms of their precision and adaptability will in the near future confront us with very radical changes indeed in the ancient industry of the beautiful. In all arts there is a physical component that cannot continue to be considered and treated in the same way as before; no longer can it escape the effects of modern knowledge and modern practice. Neither matter nor space nor time is what, up until twenty years ago, it always was. We must be prepared for such profound changes to alter the entire technological aspect of the arts, influencing invention itself as a result, and eventually, it may be, contriving to alter the very concept of art in the most magical fashion.
Paul Valery, Pieces sur l’art
When Marx set out to analyze the capitalist mode of production, that mode of production was in its infancy. Marx so ordered his endeavours that they acquired prognosticative value. Looking back at the basic circumstances of capitalist production, he presented them in such a way as to show what capitalism might be thought capable of years to come. What emerged was that it might not only be thought capable of increasingly severe exploitation of proletarians; ultimately, it may even bring about conditions in which it can itself be done away with.
The transformation of the superstructure, which proceeds far more slowly than that of the substructure, has taken more than half a century to bring out the change in the conditions of the production in all spheres of civilization. Only now can the form that this has assumed be revealed. Of those revelations, certain prognosticative demands need to be made. However, such demands will be met not so much by prepositions concerning the art of the proletariat after it has seized power, let alone that of the classless society, as by propositions concerning how art will tend to develop under current conditions of productions. The dialects of those propositions makes itself no less apparent in the superstructure than in the economy. It would be wrong, therefore, to underestimate the combative value of such propositions. They oust a number of traditional concepts – such as creativity and genius, everlasting value and secrecy- concepts whose uncontrolled (and at the moment scarcely controllable) application leads to a processing of the facts along the lines of Fascism. The following concepts, here introduced into art theory for the first time, differ from more familiar ones in that they are quite useless for the purpose of Fascism. They can, on the other hand, be used to formulate revolutionary demands in the politics of art.
____________________CHAPTER 1_____________________

In principle, the work of art has always been reproducible. What mas has made, mas has always been able to make again. Such copying was also done by pupils as an artistic exercise, by masters in order to give works wider circulation, ultimately by anyone seeking to make money. Technological reproduction of the work of art is something else, something that has been practiced intermittently throughout history, at widely separated intervals though with growing intensity. The Greeks had only two processes for reproducing works of art technologically: casting and embossing. Bronzes, terracottas and coins were the only artworks that they were able to manufacture in large numbers. All the rest were unique and not capable of being reproduced by technological means. It was wood engraving that made graphic art technologically reproducible for the first time; drawings could be reproduced long before printing did the same for the written word. The huge changes that printing (the technological reproducibility of writing) brought about in literature are well known. However, of the phenomenon that we are considering on the scale of history here they are merely a particular instance- though of course a particularly important one. Wood engraving is joined in the course of the Middle Age by copperplate engraving and etching, then in the early nineteenth century by lithography.
With lithography, reproductive technology reaches a radically new stage. The very much speeder process represented by applying a drawing to a stone as opposed to carving it into a block of wood or etching it onto a market its products not only in great numbers (as previously) but also in different designs daily. Lithography made it possible for graphics art to accompany everyday life with pictures. It started to keep pace with printing.
However, in these early days it was outstripped, mere decades after the invention of lithography, by photography. With photography, in the process of pictorial reproduction the hand was for the fist time relieved of the principal artistic responsibilities, which henceforth lay with the eye alone as it peered into the lens. Since the eye perceives faster than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was so enormously speeded up that it was able to keep pace with speech. The film operator, turning the handle in the studio, captures the images as rapidly as the actor speaks. Whilst in lithography the illustrated magazine was present in essence, in photography it was the sound film. The technological reproduction of sound was tackled at the end of the last [nineteenth] century. These convergent endeavours rendered foreseeable a situation that Paul Valery described in the sentence: ‘Just as water, gas and electric power come to us from afar and enter our homes with almost no effort on our part, there serving our needs, so we shall be supplied with pictures or sound sequences, at the touch of a bottom, almost a wave of the end, arrive and likewise depart.’ Around 1900 technological reproduction had reached a standard at which at had not merely begun to take the totality of traditional artworks as its province, imposing the most profound changes on the impact of such works; it had even gained a place for itself among artistic modes of procedure. As regards studying that standard, nothing is more revealing than how its twin manifestations – reproduction of the work of art and the new art of cinematography – redound upon art in its traditional form.
Text entirely taken from ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, by Walter Benjamin, 1936

Goodbye To Berlin

Berlin, Unter den Linden, Victoria Hotel zwischen 1890 und 1900 (wiki)

Quella notte che dormii per strada, a Berlino, fu la notte seguente al primo giorno che vi arrivai, un mattino di sette anni fa. Faceva febbraio fuori. Avevo viaggiato in treno tutta la notte, da Hauptbahnhof Station (Monaco), attraverso la Bavaria, la Turingia, Brandeburgo, fino a Zoologischer Garten, la stazione a ovest di Berlino in cui mi fermai. Non conoscevo nessuno, non avevo un posto dove dormire, appena 250 euro dentro la tasca dei jeans.
Di Zoologischer Garten avevo letto da ragazzina in quel romanzo di Christiane F., poi diventato un film nell’81.
C’è una cosa che caratterizza e distingue i luoghi, e questa è la luce. Berlino è una città di ombre. Profuma di sporco e graffiato. E’ una scheggia tra le costole degli edifici monumentali, le costruzioni moderne, tracce di guerra, avanzi di storia nelle rovine. Il Funkturm, la Neue Synagoge, il Muro, Christopher Street Day, il Checkpoint Charlie, Good Bye Lenin. Ogni angolo di Berlino è rottura e giunzione. Il tempo è una fotografia sgualcita e accartocciata negli angoli.
Qualche settimana fa ho trovato un romanzo che ho pensato sarebbe stato bello leggere a quei tempi, Goodbye to Berlin, dello scrittore inglese Christopher Isherwood. ‘Brilliant skretches of a society in decay’, avrebbe detto George Orwell
Christopher Isherwood nasce nel 1904 a Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire, in North West England, da padre tenente colonnello delle armi inglesi, morto durante la prima guerra mondiale. Dopo la morte del padre, Christopher la madre e il fratello minore si trasferiscono a Londra, dove lo scrittore intraprende un corso di medicina. Isherwood inizia a scrivere da ragazzino, dapprima poesie, poi un primo romanzo, All the Conspirators, del 1928, che non riscuote grande fortuna.
In quegli anni conosce W. H. Auden, di cui si innamora e per il quale abbandona medicina e si trasferisce a Berlino, dove i due vivranno insieme, con spirito da kamikaze, fino al ’38. E’ durante gli anni trascorsi nella repubblica di Weimar che Isherwood concentra la propria produzione narrativa prima di un definitivo trasferimento in America, da dissidente, dove inizia ad occuparsi di cinema, teatro e commedia.
Qualche anno prima, al cugino francese Ferdinand Bardamu, protagonista del romanzo Viaggio al termine della notte, di Louis-Ferdinand Céline, sarebbe toccata ben altra sorte; partito per la guerra, la prima, e rientrato a Parigi dall’America, avvierà uno studio medico a La Garenne-Rancya, rinomato sobborgo parigino che farà da cornice agli sproloqui dello scrittore contenuti  in questo romanzo meraviglioso pubblicato a cavallo fra le due guerre.
Goodbye to Berlin, del 1939, è parte di una raccolta ‘The Berlin Stories’ che inquadra la società berlinese attraverso gli occhi e l’umore della gente che Isherwood incontra per strada, nei campi da golf, nei club, le sale da tea, i salotti. Quasi la guerra fosse appena un contrattempo e un fastidio, e a farla soltanto i soldati e la gente ammazzata oltre il confine. I campi di concentramento uno scherzo d’ebrei, l’omosessualità una malattia infettiva, il nazismo una preghiera, Hitler un messia.

A collection of six overlapping short stories set against the backdrop of the declining Weimar republic as Hitler rose to power. Isherwood, appearing himself as a fictional narrator, lives as a struggling author in the German capital, describing his meetings with the decadent, often doomed eccentrics, bohemians, and showgirls around him. The sense of oblivious naivety to the gathering storm around them gives his characters tremendous pathos and tragedy. The title refers not just to Isherwood’s departure from a city he clearly loved, but also to the sense that the Berlin of the early thirties was irrecoverably destroyed by the rise of the Nazis, and the destruction of the Weimar State. Isherwood is evoking an age that will never be seen again. It’s not so much a story of sorrowful departure as an obituary.


The Berlin Stories ispirò il regista John Van Druten a dirigere il film ‘I am a Camera’, del 1951, una commedia ‘Cabaret’, del 1966, e l’omonimo film del 1972 che valse a Liza Minelli un Academy Award per aver interpretato Sally, una giovane flapper inglese in cerca di fortuna come attrice a Berlino
E’ giusto Sally Bowles il racconto più spassoso contenuto in Goodbye to Berlin, di cui vi propongo una parte
She lived a long way down the Kurfustendamm on the last dreary stretch which rises to Halensee. I was shown into a big gloomy half-furnished room by a fat untidy landlady with a pouchy sagging jowl like a toad. There was a broken-down sofa in one corner and a faded picture of an eighteenth-century battle, with the wounded reclining on their elbows in graceful attitudes, admiring the prancings of Frederick the Great’s horse.
‘Oh, hullo, Chris darling!’ cried Sally from the doorway. ‘How sweet of you to come! I was feeling most terribly lonely. I’ve been crying on Frau Karpf’s chest. Nicht wahr, Frau Karpf?’ She appealed to the toad landlady, ‘ich habe geweint auf Dein Brust.’ Frau Karpf shook her bosom in a toad-like chuckle.
‘Would you rather have coffee, Chris, or tea?’ Sally continued. ‘You can have either. Only I don’t recommend the tea much. I don’t know what Frau Karpf does to it; I think she empties all the kitchen slops together into a jug and boils them up with the tea-leaves.’
‘I’ll have coffee, then.’
‘Frau Karpf, Liebling, willst Du sein ein Engel und bring zwei Tassen von Koffee?’ Sally’s German was not merely incorrect; it was all her own. She pronounced every word in a mincing, specially ‘foreign’ manner. You could tell that she was speaking a foreign language from her expression alone. ‘Chris darling, will you be an angel and draw the curtains?’
I did so, although it was still quite light outside. Sally, meanwhile, had switched on the table-lamp. As I turned from the window, she curled herself up delicately on the sofa like a cat, and opening her bag, felt for a cigarette. But hardly was the pose complete before she’d jumped to her feet again:
‘Would you like a Prairie Oyster?’ She produced glasses, eggs and a bottle of Worcester sauce from the boot-cupboard under the dismantled washstand: ‘I practically live on them.’ Dexterously, she broke the eggs into the glasses, added the sauce and stirred up the mixture with the end of a fountain-pen: ‘They’re about all I can afford.’ She was back on the sofa again, daintily curled up.
She was wearing the same black dress today, but without the cape. Instead, she had a little white collar and white cuffs. They produced a kind of theatrically chaste effect, like a nun in grand opera. ‘What are you laughing at, Chris?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know, ‘I said. But still I couldn’t stop grinning. There was, at that moment, something so extraordinarily comic in Sally’s appearance. She was really beautiful, with her little dark head, big eyes, and finally arched nose- and so absurdly conscious of all these features. There she lay, as complacently feminine as a turtle-dove, with her poised self-conscious head, and daintily arranged hands.
‘Chris, you swine, do tell me why you’re laughing?’
‘I really haven’t the faintest idea.’
At this, she began to laugh too:’You are mad, you know!’
‘Have you been here long? I asked, looking round the large gloomy room.
‘Ever since I arrived in Berlin. Let’s see- that was about two months ago.’
Taken from ‘Goodbye to Berlin, by Christopher Isherwood, 1939

Hyperuranian #3 The Funnel Wall

Sounds like here in Dresden the rain is lots of fun
think about one of this drain and gutter system attached to each single house of the whole vast world, what a crazy gig
It’s called The Funnel Wall and can be seen and heard in Kunsthofpassage, a Dresden’s student district in Deutschland
[image credit: boredpanda]

I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am*

Luis Camnitzer, 1966

Luis Camnitzer has been until very recently an insider’s tip in the field of conceptual art. He may be considered one of the art world‘s key figures in the second half of the 20th century.
Luis Camnitzer was born in Germany in 1937, grew up in Montevideo, and has lived and worked in New York since 1964. He has made his mark internationally not only as an artist but as a critic, educator and art theorist as well. Formally allied with the American Conceptualists of the 1960s and 1970s, over the past 50 years Camnitzer has developed an essentially autonomous œuvre, unmistakably distinguished from that of his colleagues in the US by its acutely observed detail, its acerbic wit, its ludic-lyrical qualities and its ironically metaphorical polyvalence, as well as by its solid socio-political commitment.
Viewers are treated to a pyrotechnical display of intellect: an unusually coherent and principled corpus that is at the same time possessed of a rakish charm and poetic maturity.

Gerhard Richter

Golden Gate, 1989, Oil on photograph
Corvatsch,1989,Oil on photograph
Ohne Titel (9.1.89),1989,Oil on photograph
Ohne Titel (25.3.89), 1989, Oil oh photograph
Ohne Titel,1989, Oil on photograph
Ohne Titel (12.Jan.90), 1990, Oil on photograph
Sils Maria, 1989, Oil on photograph

via Gerhard Richter.

Gerhard Richter was one of the first German artists to reflect on the history of National Socialism, creating paintings of family members who had been members, as well as victims of, the Nazi party. Continuing his historical interest, he produced the 15-part work October 18 1977 1988, a sequence of black and white paintings based on images of the Baader Meinhof group. Richter has continued to respond to significant moments in history throughout his career; the final room of the exhibition includes September 2005, a painting of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001.

via Tate Modern| Current Exhibitions | Gerhard Richter: Panorama.

Raising a flag over the Reichstag[World War II 1933-1945]

Bolshoi Theatre Chorus-Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei
Berlin-Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei
Brelin Ruins-Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei
Berlin-Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei
Raising a flag over the Reichstag,Historic Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei

Yevgeny Khaldei (Russia 1917–1997 Red Army photographer)

Raising a flag over the Reichstag -(Wikipedia)

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