The German realist movement or broader German expressionist movement of the post WWI era that popularly characterizes Otto Dix, George Grosz and Max Beckmann, and then links them into a category of depictions of corruption and a largesse of lifestyle is misleading and misses the mark of a more universal and profound articulation of the contradictions and irreconcilable tensions that speak Voltaire’s famous truth to power and a social conscience that is “unconscionable” when juxtaposed with the dominant and hegemonic interests that take offense to having their large flank exposed showing the silent and pernicious war that market economies must inflict on their own citizenry’s : the secular preaching of war , trauma and fear.
The reward for those exploring its absurdity, insidiousness, and pernicious effects on humanity as a whole are reserved the lot of simple characterization and commodification. A repackaging involving exploitation and distortion. The film and cultural industries have always been the loyal foot soldiers here; the clever manipulator of the Jungian archetype that sugar coatingly seduces the viewer at a deep and raw level: their identity.
Guy Debord: As long as necessity is socially dreamed, dreaming will remain a social necessity. The spectacle is the bad dream of a modern society in chains and ultimately expresses nothing more than its wish for sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of that sleep.
The fact that the practical power of modern society has detached itself from that society and established an independent realm in the spectacle can be explained only by the additional fact that that powerful practice continued to lack cohesion and had remained in contradiction with itself….
The root of the spectacle is that oldest of all social specializations, the specialization of power. The spectacle plays the specialized role of speaking in the name of all the other activities. It is hierarchical society’s ambassador to itself, delivering its official messages at a court where no one else is allowed to speak. The most modern aspect of the spectacle is thus also the most archaic. (Societe de Spectacle) Read More: http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/debord/1.htm
Donald Kuspit: There is not a single harmoniously shaped body — any form — in Dix’s art, confirming its anti-Italian Renaissance character, and aligning it with the long tradition of German realism. Where Dürer tried to reconcile Italian idealism and Northern empiricism, making classically proportioned figures that looked like real people, Dix didn’t even bother: his figures are invariably ill-proportioned and oddly off-balance — stably unstable, one might say. Many of his thin Venuses (perhaps most noteworthily Venus with Gloves (1932) owe a conspicuous debt to Cranach’s — ironically update them, as it were — and many of his landscapes are indebted to Danube School landscapes, in particular but not exclusively those of Altdorfer. Read More: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp a
Otto Dix’s figures run counter to the accepted universal norm of classical beauty exemplified by Botticelli’s Vespucci and their subsequent separation into various marketing tropes. The emergence of visual images from the twentieth century on began integrating the grotesque such as Picasso’s D’emoiselles D’Avignon, but they also re-worked earlier themes by Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder within their technological context. In Dix we see the contradictory impulse to simultaneously scream and smile which may be the source of the “primitive ” moniker. Freud’s tapping into the unconscious was embraced and integrated into the grotesque as an accessory: the human being as flawed mendise then what does the disfigured portend when beauty signifies the world has purpose.
Dix’s figures intentionally subvert, through disruptive devices, our expectations; its a reverse or an inversion of the “divide and conquer” where horror and the comic are fused into a peculiar singularity that amuse but equally unsettle and disturb through a testing and provoking of the limits of propriety which seem as flexible and mutable as his character depictions. But this false propriety, a managed, synthetic and artificial creation is also responsible for the deadly flavors- poisons- of nationalism that it manufactured. There is a circus of dark associations:
Guy Debord: Separation is the alpha and omega of the spectacle. The institutionalization of the social division of labor in the form of class divisions had given rise to an earlier, religious form of contemplation: the mythical order with which every power has always camouflaged itself. Religion justified the cosmic and ontological order that corresponded to the interests of the masters, expounding and embellishing everything their societies could not deliver. In this sense, all separate power has been spectacular. But this earlier universal devotion to a fixed religious imagery was only a shared acknowledgment of loss, an imaginary compensation for the poverty of a concrete social activity that was still generally experienced as a unitary condition. In contrast, the modern spectacle depicts what society could deliver, but in so doing it rigidly separates what is possible from what is permitted. The spectacle keeps people in a state of unconsciousness as they pass through practical changes in their conditions of existence. Like a factitious god, it engenders itself and makes its own rules. It reveals itself for what it is: an autonomously developing separate power, based on the increasing productivity resulting from an increasingly refined division of labor into parcelized gestures dictated by the independent movement of machines, and working for an ever-expanding market. In the course of this development, all community and all critical awareness have disintegrated; and the forces that were able to grow by separating from each other have not yet been reunited. ( Societe de Spectacle) Read More: http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/debord/1.htm a
Dix’s narrative also recalls that of another anti-capitalist. Jean -Paul Sartre. Sartre’s antagonistic relationship to god, was the that holy of holys was being used to peddle the notion that He created man for reasons that were selfish. A false premise, gobbled down nearly raw, that god creates the individual with a specific mission in mind thus limiting the possibilities with one big sack over the shoulder: the burden of life. god is then a superior craftsman with certain engineering and design skills. The individual is thus a facsimilie of a ambiguous and variable vision of divine intelligence. Sartre debunked this with the assertion that human nature is the product of the human mind, not some abstract remote controlled idea. Purpose in life becomes a human construction, and more importantly, a responsibility that should not be proxied.