archive - issue 14

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  • /

    By Ruth Barker
    On the QWERTY layout of my computer keyboard, the symbol / appears beside the questioning symbol ?. They are represented together on the same key, and
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  • Apartment / Containers

    By Vincent Bezuidenhout
    These diptychs are the start of a series of images I have been working on regarding the visual landscape we choose to surround ourselves
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  • I returned home after my first year in college to discover my younger sister had turned gorgeous. This was a disappointment, but not an
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  • Butterfly

    By Adriana de Barros
    The pupa, a silk wrap of emotionsIsolated, within breathing, wanting to bethe intense pronoun of selfIt is silly to be one's own pronounShe giggles
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  • Collage

    By Claudio Parentela
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  • Drag and Snap

    By Leigh-Anne Niehaus
    This series is inspired by the childhood game of "snapdragon", which allows for simplistic and delightful decision-making through random selections of colour and number.
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  • Evidence of Life

    By Tamlyn Martin
    Below is an extract from a series of 11 poems created in parallel with visual artworks. 5. Memories laced with visceral realityFlooding herThe gentle
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  • Forward! Slash!

    By Travis Lyle
    You think you're a forward-thinking kinda person, do you? Lemme be the one to break it to you, sunshine – you're as lame as the
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  • Human/Nature

    By Lydia Anne McCarthy
    This series explores moments between nature and human beings that are at once idealistic and unsettling. Each picture is an independent narrative, but placed
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  • Immigrants

    By Stanley Onjezani Kenani
    you want to livenothing leaveto liveyou swimor like fresh sardinesyou are packedin boatsyou leaveto live.  you leavegold in the belly of Africaoil in
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  • In Between

    By Tania van Schalkwyk
    Raised in an Arabian land of heat, fire and temper,sometimes the calm of England clamps downlike damp in a bathroom with no windowand a
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  • Letter to the Editor

    By Elan Gamaker
    Dear Sir/Madam I should like strenuously to object to the subject matter ("/") of your current issue. It must first be mentioned, however, that it
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  • Or: a line drawing

    By Gabeba Baderoon
    Pencil and nothing. Her face turned almost entirely away. Forehead, cheekbone,jaw,the bun low in her neck,shoulderand down,the long linejust enoughthen left alone.
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  • p u n c t u a t i o n

    By Ula Einstein
    Einstein works with a diverse range of media, including drawings and installation with fire, thread, and blades. The series of drawings and installations with
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    By Sean Hampton-Cole
    Keys. John speaking. 'Lo?Good morning. May I speak to Bob Mitchell please?Bob in Bonds?I'm not really sure. I'm trying to...You want extension 125. This
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  • Pretty Babies

    By Peregrine Honig
    With the premise that "/ " presents what is IN and what is OUT, the "Pretty Babies" series explores the fashion industry's well-published and syndicated DOs
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  • River Bank

    By Mario Sughi
    The symbol / is intended initially as a symbol of division. A real or unreal line divides the girl from the water, the girl from
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  • Scissor

    By Charlotte Gait
    There was a time when you and I were connected by iron, acid, vitamin and blood. Where every mouthful I took was with the
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  • Seasaw

    By Sol Kjøk
    Here, the motif is conceived of as a seesaw (the typo in the title is intended, as this drawing is part of a series
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  • Series Seven Up

    By Noel Fignier
    Text by João Branco Kyron, HipnóticaThe collision is imminent and in the fraction of time left, the eyes shut and the vision is superbly
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  • A battle over samoosas between the snobbish Cinderella and a homeless electrician is mediated by Cinderella's boyfriend JJ. The samoosa battle is conflated with
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  • Wayne Porter, freelance journalist, donned his anthropologist's birthday suit and hit the bowling alley. Bar the bowlers hat tipped gently off centre, the man
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  • The Incised Wound

    By Joanne Hichens
    "Please, for me, Dave," I placed my hand on his, and really, no begging, just asked him nicely, "Lay off the booze tonight." Whether
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  • He had been driving for hours through that unstable, somnambulist night when he fell asleep at the wheel. He awoke with a start and
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  • The space between.

    By Mehita Iqani
    It's a handy little line, the one that we use to make our options known. Either/Or. Paper and ink or binary code? Its clichéd,
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  • Un Hombre Fuerte

    By Tamo Vonarim Written these words are, at times of a subconscious flow – whether they are mine, I don't know. All I know is that I
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  • Unbroken Awareness

    My life is now a floating shellI am a vessel on that river.The storm, the ship, the sea,Whose shores we lost in crossing.  I
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  • Untitled

    By Wilhelm Saayman
    This series of images, made using pen and ink, photographs and Photoshop, explore alternate/dream realities.
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  • Untitled

    By Aryan Kaganof
    /At R550 rand I thought I'd rather die/ My mother: can I trust this woman?/ I thought the Romans were coming, dinkum/ …and always
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Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

Fade to Grey

As this is my debut for ITCH magazine, the first column of many I hope, it would do well for me to introduce myself and my intentions for this small universe of paragraphs, spaces, words and dots. I am a twentieth century historian by training and I will be moonlighting as a cultural critic while writing for ITCH. My qualifications are a Masters degree in Art History, some gallery work experience, and a dash of decidedly dishevelled old-fashioned enthusiasm. These columns are not designed to be objective or definitive. Rather they represent my own partial opinions and will sometimes be laboratories or testing grounds for ideas on culture and/or representation that I may work up into more formal academic theses at a later date. With this in mind, I will begin with the latest display of works by the German post-war artist, Gerhard Richter, a figure brought up at the fault-lines of modern European history: a child and teenager in Nazi Germany, a student and Socialist Realist mural painter in Communist Dresden, a post-1961 avant-garde émigré to West Germany and a contemporary artist of international acclaim.

Touring the iconic architectural and cultural spaces of the Tate Modern, London (6 October 2011 - 8 January 2012), the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (12 February - 13 May 2012) and finally, the Centre Pompidou, Paris (6 June - 24 September 2012), 'Panorama' is the most recent major European exhibition of Richter's diverse and dynamic practice. For Tate Modern curator, Mark Godfrey, the organising principle underlying 'Panorama' was to provide a chronological framework for understanding Richter's works which would highlight both the historical context of his visual interventions since his emigration to the West as well as the complex inter-relationships between his many approaches in painting and installation. As a result, the exhibition at Tate begins in the 1960s with Richter's stark yet affecting monochrome photo based paintings, his post-Duchampian experiments as well as his representations of ravaged townscapes and seascapes; before moving on to cover the indifferent ambivalence of the Grey Paintings, the mathematical experiments of the Colour Charts as well as the Renaissance era Titian re-renderings of the 1970s. The show at London Bankside also explores the mirror installations, Candle and Skull still lives and controversial Baader Meinhof portraits of the 1980s as well as the emboldened, seemingly euphoric yet precise squeegee worked abstractions of the 1980s and 1990s. Finally, the exhibition concludes with Richter's painterly homage to American hero of the 1950s and 1960s Avant-Garde John Cage, as well as the German artist's sombre and serious efforts to deal with the legacies of 9/11 and the Iraq War.

As a historian, I can see why this chronological structure for understanding developments in Richter's oeuvre is effective, providing us with insights into the artist's sometimes separate and at other times simultaneous efforts at formal artistic experimentation; the representation of family and friends as well as the interrogation of traumatic personal and collective histories of displacement, violence, terror and war. Within this context, for me, one of the most compelling parts of this retrospective remains the first section on Richter's blurred photo-paintings of the 1960s. Here a diverse range of works are displayed, from those which evoke Richter's experience of the allied aerial bombing raids on Germany during the Second World War (Bombers, 1963; Mustang Squadron, 1964) to those paintings which broke taboos in relation to confronting the Nazi past. This process can be perceived as connecting Richter to figures of his own generation such as Jürgen Habermas who addressed the legacies of the Hitler era as well as historically placing his work in uneasy parallel with a diverse, younger generation of more radical 1960s leftists who revolted in various ways, often peacefully but sometimes violently, against what they saw as a conservative and hypocritical West German establishment. Paintings from this period include Uncle Rudi (1965), a portrait from a family photograph of Richter's Nazi Wehrmacht clad relation which Benjamin H.D. Buchloh has seen as representing, " of the earliest examples in all of German postwar art to introduce the subject matter of Germany's recent Nazi history into a work of the neo-avant-garde." Other powerful works in a similar style include Richter's painting from a personal photograph of his Aunt Marianne (1965) who suffered from mental illness and disappeared from his life during Nazi rule, as well as his rendering of a press photograph accompanying the 1959 re-arrest of a Doctor involved in the Nazi Euthanasia program, Mr Heyde (1965). Indeed, testifying to their power as images these paintings ended up having an unpredictable after-life, with the painting Uncle Rudi being donated to the memorial collection of the Nazi ravaged Czech town of Lidice; while in relation to Aunt Marianne, journalist Jürgen Schreiber confirmed that the ghostly subject had been sterilized and murdered during the Third Reich's Euthanasia program. Furthermore, Schreiber also revealed that the father of Richter's first wife, Ema Eufinger had been an SS doctor employed during the Hitler era sterilization campaigns.

However, although the uncanny subject matter of the past haunting the present renders these works undeniably compelling, the other paintings exhibited alongside these works should not be overlooked. These include the sexual liberation of Two Couples (1966) as well as 1964's, Negroes (Nuba), a work which problematically and provocatively re-frames and re-captions through painterly re-appropriation Third Reich film-maker, Leni Riefenstahl's 1960s photograph of a Nuba tribe funeral in the former British colony of the Sudan. Indeed, one of the things that is arguably most significant about this suite of paintings is not only the subtle emotive power of the images on display, but also the way in which the juxtaposition of the diverse thematics of Richter's photo based works of the 1960s, from former Nazis to youthful erotica as well as the controversial labelling and representation of the Nuba, a group who incidentally have recently been under threat, can also possibly be read within the context of current literature on the memory of Nazism which stresses its relationship to issues such as sex and gender as well as the legacies of modern German and European imperialism and colonialism. For example, historian of sexual politics in the Third Reich and the Federal Republic of Germany, Dagmar Herzog has drawn attention to the way in which for those Leftists challenging the political and social conservatism of the West German establishment in the late 1950s and 1960s, embracing a sexually liberal stance, particularly since the publication of Sexuality and Crime (1963) was also part of their revolt against what they saw as the sexually repressive policies and legacies of the Third Reich. Equally, Uta Poiger has noted that post-1945 German history was marked by a pervasive national amnesia in relation to European colonialism including German brutality in early twentieth century East and South-West Africa and what Jürgen Zimmerer and Isabel Hull following Hannah Arendt have seen as the possible interconnections of this brutality to the racial violence of the Third Reich. As a result, the taboo breaking power of images such as Uncle Rudi and Mr Heyde, the confrontation with the Nazi past that they embody cannot necessarily be disentwined from the sexual politics of Two Lovers nor the uncomfortable confrontation with the Western construction of the African 'other' epitomised by Richter's re-appropriation of Riefenstahl. For these reasons Richter's provocations of the 1960s, often shaded in grey and frequently cascaded in a disconcerting ambivalence remain singular evocations of the 'Heart of Darkness' beating beneath the veneer of European civilization.
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Larissa Allwork

'Fade to Grey: Review of Gerhard Richter exhibition (2012).