In search of cultural history: Anselm Kiefer and the ambivalence of modernism

Authors
Citation
M. Rampley, In search of cultural history: Anselm Kiefer and the ambivalence of modernism, OX ART J, 23(1), 2000, pp. 73-96
Citations number
67
Language
INGLESE
art.tipo
Article
Categorie Soggetti
Arts & Architecture
Journal title
OXFORD ART JOURNAL
ISSN journal
0142-6540 → ACNP
Volume
23
Issue
1
Year of publication
2000
Pages
73 - 96
Database
ISI
SICI code
0142-6540(2000)23:1<73:ISOCHA>2.0.ZU;2-T
Abstract
The work of Anselm Kiefer has often been regarded as problematic. Its fasci nation with Nazi history and German myth has been interpreted as reactionar y political recidivism, and the coincidence of its rise to public prominenc e with a rightward shift in German politics only added to this suspicion. I argue that while Kiefer's work is problematic, it is because it raises unc omfortable questions about the relationship between German modernism and Na zism. Though Nazism is often seen as the antithesis of the former, I sugges t that much of its ideological underpinning derived from the same sources a s many modernist writers and artists. In particular, the discourse of roman tic anti-capitalism, which inspired both right-wing modernists such as Stef an George or Ernest Junger and the left-wing modernism of Expressionism, al so informed the pastoral ideology of Nazism. A central part of Kiefer's wor k of the 1970s and early 1980s is an attempt to overcome the notion of repr esentation as a mediated process, through his inclusion of 'literal' materi als such as sand and straw. I argue that this aspect of Kiefer's work mirro rs the discourse of authenticity prevalent in romantic anti-capitalism, mos t obviously, perhaps in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Hence, Kiefer's work, juxtaposing motifs borrowed from the history of modernism with provo cative historical references, indicates that the distance between modernism and Nazism is not as great as often assumed.