|The entire world is yours!
1: Christmas Eve in the bunkers (you can lose your way!)
2: The image hurricane (open real-time)
You can get lost, of course.
How do you find your way back?
It was a wretched Christmas celebration in”Festung Stalingrad”. Kurt Reuber, Theologian and a Doctor in Wehrmachts 6th army was transforming his bunkers northwest of Stalingrad into an art studio. Reuber, an amateur average talented artist, had like many of his frontier comrades seen through Hitler’s hysterical speeches concerning rescuing the ”heroic soldiers” surrounded at Volga. It was all a deceit, because the situation was hopeless.
While heavy grenade shells made the bunkers shake he was drawing on a large conquered Soviet map the only piece of paper available. Late this holy night he would hang the drawing up. The thermometer showed 34 degrees bellow outside this Spartan den. Among the soldiers, all severely undernourished and ridden with a number of known and unknown diseases, most of them with various degrees of frost-bite, the rumour spread; during the sudden and devastating soviet bombardment, the red army’s reminder that the intruders where doomed, foot soldiers and officers where streaming in small groups down to Reuber`s bunkers. On one of the timber walls hung the drawing”Festung Madonna”, a protecting mother with her child, and the worlds of the evangelist Johannes,”life, light, love”. The bunkers became a sort of holy sanctuary for the soldiers that for the first time in their miserable situation felt free to openly break down and cry, embracing each other. Just a few weeks later the remains of the surrounded army capitulated at Stalingrad. Only approximately 4000 of over 300.000 soldiers survived the war and the captivity that followed.
The amateur artist Kurt Reuber did not survive the war, but ”Festung Madonna” was rescued and flown out on one of the last German planes, leaving the soldiers doomed to die almost 63 years ago. The drawing is displayed in the severely war damaged Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche in Berlin, describing the event that seems unbelievably remote to most of us privileged in the west. It is not a great drawing, in size or artistically, but it’s fascinating and at the same time repulsive. Despite its obvious formal flaws it tells us quite a lot about art, and how human beings can create spiritual space by using quite simple effects. ”Festung Madonna” was created as a sanctuary for people in an impossible situation. Its difficult to determine Reuber`s political motive in the drawing. He had at that point probably lost most illusions concerning ”Lebensraum”, but the drawing is still influenced by the sentimental art expression of Nazism. At the same time an honest expression of the total downfall of this ideology, in its authentic portrayal of the state of things this last Christmas for the 6th army. It is a deeply stirring drawing, conveying the remains of human expression in an inhumane but man made situation, the total break down of all human values.
You are in the midst of a mystical timeless saga.
You are the narrator,
you are on your way.*
In recent years something has happened to culture. This is not unusual, and nothing to make a fuss about. We know times change all the time. Anyhow, it’s not that usual that the culture has a change of paradigm and it is most likely that this has already occurred. Text is superseded by the visual image, especially in those parts of the world that are online, have satellite television, and computer games. What’s the impact of this on how we think, feel and sense things? How does it affect the way people understand themselves, and how they understand the surrounding reality? The economical force behind the “neo-gothic” picture culture, meaning a primarily iconographic culture, is the dynamic capitalistic economy and its investors. Investments in the development of broadband, mobile networks, hardware and software are immense. But the real edges, the premise distributors in this culture, are the innovators residing in the boys- and girl’s rooms surfing on the global web, the nerds, the neo-hipsters and the urban roamers. The cultural tide of present cultural jugglers, the crossovers, the crocked outsiders, emerged in the 70`s when self-confident young New Yorkers made text a visual image. They gave the trivial graffiti “style”, inspired by easily recognisable commercial logos, - and yes gothic calligraphy. In a few years European techno-pop and disco integrated with acapella rap, mixed real time by disc jockeys. Break-dance (feeding of expressions like the Brazilian ”martial art dance" capoeira) developed as the bodily expression for a street movement that later in the 70`s and 80`s became known as Hip Hop.
This movement is of interest. Like other sub-cultures it expires to be “authentic”, and at the same time has a semantic expression, in other words its form is created from different substances all adapted from other cultural expressions. Everything, and nothing, can be applied in Hip Hop. Like any other youth culture, the social mechanisms that decide and divide what’s ”in” and ”out” are apparently constructed from banal codes and concepts. As stated you can use anything in Hip Hop, as long as you do it the right way. “The right way” is similar to the free jazz improvisation never changing given musical formula, but here the formula is not based on leading rhythmical keys. The core of Hip Hop is a constant sampling of the environment, presented in a forever changing formula. In other words very distant from the feudal cultural climate of the middle ages in Europe, but somehow similar to early modernistic Dada and the Beat expression of the 50`and 60`s. The strategy of Hip Hop is to copy the logic of the urban city; in form, rythmically and socially. Even if the Hip Hop concept seems archaic to most culturally conscious young artists, this subculture should not be ignored when understanding new images and artistic expressions.
What’s fascinating with the new visual image culture, where icons often have a definite message, compared to mostly analphabetic medieval Europe, is that the population is usually literate, have accumulated extensive democratic rights, and also both accessible and understandable technology for indefinite variable activities. Therefore new meaning can be applied to old pictures, signs and icons, and also create new narrative image structures completely independent of governments, bosses and other authorities. The ideology “do it yourself”, with some of its roots in punk, is strongly integrated amidst young artist today. It’s easy to translate the young artists joggling with signs and symbols as an advanced form of escapism from a reality genuinely frightening. Many of the artists in this exhibition apparently plunge into acid-aesthetics, in the fall evading bourgeoisie etiquette to a world of vulgarity, brutal gay-sex and hard drugs. But at the same time they create viewpoints to observe the real world. This concept summarizes the possibilities in the capitalistic reality of today, whilst criticizing the slick and hyper realistic aesthetics of the commercial mass culture. The piercing aesthetic expression in ”With us against reality or against us” is brutal and direct. Surprisingly enough, “the honesty” of the aesthetics expression what you see is what you see can be directly linked to the modern formalistic prohibition towards illusionism. Even though very few young artists want to be perceived as formalistic moralists they usually are familiar with modern art history. Considering the technological facilities accessible and the technological development towards greater transparency, the design of this catalogue will occur as an advanced joggling with conventions.
It’s a real artistic challenge to cope with the endless stream of visual and other information that not only surrounds us, but everything we do, say and think. If the world seemed chaotic and”the established” alien to the beat-generation and the hippie movement, in our decade we can start talking about a hurricane of signs. It’s interesting to watch spouses of the hippie generation and the following punk generation deal with the new reality. How ironic is it to see acid aesthetics, looted from the west coast of USA, reconstructed digitally and presented in 2005? It is hardly realistic, as a famous post-modern philosopher predicted before the millennium, that all the future has to offer is “more of the same, the same, but more”. What is realistic is to acknowledge that we can’t predict with any accuracy what next year will bring. Hopefully we won’t experience, like Kurt Reuber did, growing up in relative prosperity only to succumb in true barbarism. To predict the future seems useless. That doesn’t mean that we are in the mercy of unknown forces. On the contrary!
2 1/2 Epilogue:
”With us against reality or against us” is in touch with our time. The exhibition presents a number of artists that on their own, and in groups, play important parts on the international art scene. The exhibited art is”up-to-date”. Typical of our time is never the less that two young and almost blank paged artists, Anders Nordby and Ida Ekblad, in the northern corner of the western world, on their own initiative have organized and presented an extensive display of some of their generations most prominent artists. The possibility that we in this exact period of the world history can make a difference, by actively producing new constellations of signs, and by creating entirely new images, is fascinating for optimists.
The entire world is yours! The entire world is ours!
*From Dr. Seuss ”Oh the places you`ll go!” (translated back to English from a translation from Swedish to Norwegian).
Translated by Leonora Coulthard Gurholt