German extreme right against ‘degenerate’ art

This video from Gerrmany says about itself:

documenta 14 artist Olu Oguibe and The Obelisk

1 September 2017

By Sybille Fuchs in Germany:

Documenta 14 exhibition in Kassel, Germany: The censorship and defaming of art

6 September 2017

Two works of art dealing with the fate of refugees and exiles have become the focus for fierce attacks at this year’s documenta art exhibition in Kassel, in central Germany. …

The second controversy concerned an obelisk by the Nigerian artist Olu Oguibe, which was denounced as “degenerate art” by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. “Degenerate art” was the term used by the Nazis in the 1930s to justify banning and suppressing all progressive art. The obelisk evokes the tragedy of the Nigerian civil war. Its pedestal bears the biblical quotation: “I was a stranger and you cared for me” in four languages.

documenta 14 is one of Europe’s leading exhibitions of contemporary art and takes place every five years in the city of Kassel. This year’s exhibition stood out for the many artists addressing burning social problems such as war, immigration, oppression, the consequences of new walls and borders, and the destruction of nature and culture. The exhibition met with a mixed reaction, with many media outlets denouncing its political nature.

An additional source of controversy was the fact that this year’s documenta chose Athens as a second venue—recalling the country’s historic role as the cradle of democracy, now threatened by vicious European Union (EU)-International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity diktats.

In contrast to the often hostile attitude of much of the media, the public has turned out in record numbers for documenta 14. The artists’ concerns have received a positive resonance, despite the individual weaknesses of their representations. A very diverse public appeared much more willing to engage with the questions and perspectives raised by the artists on culture and society than the media representatives. …

“Degenerate art”

Toward the end of the discussion, the curator of documenta 14, Hendrik Folkerts, drew attention to the other Kassel controversy: “In connection with Olu Oguibe’s obelisk, the AfD has used the concept of degenerate art,” he said. …

Kassel’s culture committee had discussed purchasing Oguibe’s obelisks, which had been erected in the city centre. One city councillor Thomas Materner, a member of the AfD, rejected any plans that the city retain the work of art and threatened to organise protests in front of the obelisk “every time a refugee commits an act of terror.”

Materner then denounced the obelisk in the jargon of the Nazis as “ideologically polarizing degenerate art,” claiming there was much public anger directed against the art work. In the style of the Nazis the term “degenerate” is used to conjure up imagery of sickness, abnormality—something unnatural.

To their credit, other factions on the council were in favour of purchasing the documenta art work. The final location is still unclear and the money required remains to be budgeted. Mayor Christian Geselle said there were no legal or technical reasons to prevent the art work from remaining in the city centre. A survey of over Kassel 5,000 citizens revealed that more than 60 percent favoured retaining the obelisk on the city’s Königsplatz.

The stance taken by the AfD against the obelisk has been criticized in the media, but the party’s open embrace of Nazi-style ideology and language indicates the most reactionary elements of society have been encouraged by the incessant and brutal policy of deportations of refugees combined with the attacks on freedom of expression.

8 thoughts on “German extreme right against ‘degenerate’ art

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