Friday 12th of August 2022

degenerate and futurist art, the caffeine of europe... and the cybermen...


Night, street and streetlight, drug store,

The purposeless, half-dim, drab light.
For all the use live on a quarter century – 

Nothing will change. There's no way out.

You'll die – and start all over, live twice,

Everything repeats itself, just as it was:

Night, the canal's rippled icy surface,

The drug store, the street, and streetlight.

Alexander Blok — Night, street and streetlight, drugstore... (1912).  Note: drugstore is a general retail shop which provides prescription drugs, amongst other products

Алекса́ндр Алекса́ндрович Бло́к — Alexander Alexandrovich Blok (1880–1921) — was a Russian poet, writer, publicist, playwright, translator, literary critic. Blok supported the 1905 and 1917 Revolutions… By 1921, Blok had become disillusioned with the politics, and delivered a celebrated lecture on Alexander Pushkin, the memory of whom he believed would unite White and Soviet Russians...

Blok had not written any poetry for three years. He complained to Maksim Gorky that his "faith in the wisdom of humanity" had ended. He told his friend Korney Chukovsky: 

"All sounds have stopped. Can't you hear that there are no longer any sounds?

Blok was sick. His doctors requested that he be sent abroad for medical treatment, but he was not allowed to leave the country. Maksim Gorky wrote to the Bolshevik Soviet People's Commissar, Anatoly Lunacharsky: "Blok is Russia's finest poet. If you forbid him to go abroad, and he dies, you and your comrades will be guilty of his death". An authorisation for Blok to leave the country was signed on 23 July 1921, but was only delivered on 10 August, after Blok had died.


In 1918, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, poet and thinker, founded the Partito Politico Futurista, which a year later merged with Benito Mussolini's Fasci Italiani di Combattimento

Marinetti was one of the first affiliates of the Italian Fascist Party. In 1919, he co-wrote, with Alceste De Ambris (an Italian syndicalist), the Italian Fascist manifesto. Opposed to Fascism’s glorification of existing institutions that he saw as “reactionary” he left the party in 1921, but still inspired it...

In his campaign to overturn tradition, Marinetti rejected traditional Italian food. His Manifesto of Futurist Cooking was published in the Turin Gazzetta del Popoloon, in December 1930. "People think, dress and act in accordance with what they drink and eat”... Marinetti condemned pasta, blaming it for lassitude, pessimism and lack of virility. He promoted Italian-grown rice. Futurist cooking was nationalistic, rejecting foreign foods and food names, and designed to encourage men to be fighters.

Marinetti was fascinated with the idea of processed food, predicting that pills would replace food as a source of energy, and was for the creation of "plastic complexes" to replace natural foods. Food would only be for artistic expression. Many of Marinetti’s meals resembled performance art, such as the "Tactile Dinner” — re-enacted in 2014 for an exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum — where participants wore pyjamas decorated with sponge, sandpaper, and aluminium, and ate salad, without cutlery.

Mussolini supported many styles to keep artists loyal to the regime. “... it is far from my idea to encourage anything like a state art. Art belongs to the domain of the individual. The state has only one duty: not to undermine art, to provide humane conditions for artists, to encourage them from the artistic and national point of view." Mussolini's mistress, Margherita Sarfatti, promoted the Novecento Group, persuading Marinetti, the Futurist, to be on its board.

In Fascist Italy, modern art was tolerated and even approved by the Fascist hierarchy. Towards the end of the 1930s, some Fascist ideologues wished to import "degenerate art" (modern art) from Germany to Italy and condemned modernism ("brutal art"). Their demands were ignored.

A few quotes from Marinetti:

"L’esthétique du futur”… (in French)


“... It is not a question of the machine alone, but of the human body. The human body must become metallic like the machine, in order to subjugate it.”

“Through living dangerously, life must become hard, metallic…”

“War is beautiful. It is not merely beautiful; it is essentially aesthetic. We Futurist have been saying that for years. It gives us new materials, creates new architectures. The poets and artists of Futurism know this. It is the principle that guides them in their search for a new poetry, a new plasticity…”

“A dreamed-of metallisation of the human body… War is beautiful for the reason it fertilises a flowering meadow with the flaming orchids of machine guns… for the reason that it combines in symphonic form the rain of riffle bullets, cannonadings, and momentary cessation of firing with the perfumes and odour of decomposition… for the reason it creates new architectures, such as that of great tanks, geometrical squadrons of airplanes, smoke -spirals rising from villages in flame… We shall attain before long a new and plastic extra-terrestrial state of mind…”

Entartete Kunst ("degenerate art")

In the 1920s, under the Weimar government, Germany emerged as a leading centre of artistic avant-garde. It was the birthplace of Expressionism in painting and sculpture, of the atonal musical compositions of Arnold Schoenberg, and the jazz-influenced work of Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill. Films such as Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) brought Expressionism to cinema.

The Nazis viewed this culture of the Weimar, especially Entartete Kunst, with disgust. Their response stemmed partly from a conservative aesthetic taste and partly from their determination to use culture as a propaganda tool. On both counts, a painting such as Otto Dix's War Cripples (1920) was anathema to them. It depicts four badly disfigured veterans of the First World War, then a familiar sight on Berlin's streets, as caricatures. 

Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix (1891–1969) was a German painter and printmaker, noted for his ruthless and harshly realistic depictions of German society during the Weimar Republic and the brutality of war. Along with George Grosz and Max Beckmann, he is widely considered one of the most important artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they regarded Dix as a degenerate artist and had him sacked from teaching art at the Dresden Academy. He moved to Lake Constance in the southwest of Germany. Dix's paintings The Trench and War Cripples were exhibited in the state-sponsored Munich 1937 exhibition of degenerate art, Entartete Kunst. War Cripples was later burned. The Trench may have been looted during the confusion at the end of the war. It has been called "... a masterpiece of unspeakable horror".


Storm of Steel — Stahlgewittern — is the memoir of German officer Ernst Jünger's experiences on the Western Front during WW1. It was self-published in 1920. The book is a graphic account of trench warfare. It was largely devoid of editorialisation, but was heavily revised several times.

One of the most important contributions of Jünger's literary production is the Anarch, an ideal figure of a sovereign individual, conceived in his novel Eumeswil (1977), which evolved from his earlier conception of the Waldgänger, or "Forest Fleer" — influenced by Max Stirner's conception of der Einzige (the Unique). 

Jünger develops the Waldgänger from an Anarch in Eumeswil, when the Anarch is an autonomous free man within society; The Anarch becomes a Waldgänger when he is uncovered as an "outsider free spirit" and forced to flee society to preserve this autonomy. An Anarch sees a Waldgänger as a weaker form of freedom, only to be resorted to in an emergency… Of course this concept inspires some religious nuts with hypocritical reactionism to jump from the under-attack mainstream organised religion, into a cut-down version of the said religious beliefs for the isolated self. Isolation becomes the option.

As an aside, Johann Kaspar Schmidt (25 October 1806 – 26 June 1856), known as Max Stirner, was a German philosopher who is seen as one of the precursors of nihilism, existentialism, psychoanalytic theory, postmodernism, and anarchism. We’ve already mentioned him on this site. Stirner’s main work, The Ego and Its Own (The Unique And Its Property) was published in 1845 in Leipzig and has since appeared in numerous editions and translations.

In 1981, Jünger was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca. In 1984, he spoke at the Verdun memorial, alongside his admirers, French president François Mitterrand and the German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, where he called the "ideology of war" in Germany, before and after WW1, "a calamitous mistake”.

Ernst Jünger's die Waldpassage (The Forest Passage) explores the possibility of resistance: how the independent thinker can withstand and oppose the power of the omnipresent state. No matter how extensive the technologies of surveillance become, the forest can shelter the rebel, and the rebel can strike back against tyranny. It is a defense of freedom against the pressure to conform to political manipulation and artificial consensus. A response to the European experience under Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, The Forest Passage is still relevant today, wherever an imposed uniformity threatens to stifle liberty.

We are the forest and we have the duty to protect Julian Assange.

the wisdom of humanity...

The double-debacle of President Trump’s impeachment and the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate race shows the limit of an American article of faith: that its democracy is founded on the principle of “we the people”.

“We the people” is more an aspiration, even a myth, rather than the existing reality. The reality is that citizens’ votes are not the primary driver of democratic rule. The nature of ruling power is determined by the elites: the tiny minority of ruling class that comprises super-rich political donors, corporate executives, Wall Street banks and highly concentrated news media.

America is not a democracy – at least not yet anyway – despite nearly 244 years of history as a modern state. It is a plutocracy run by an oligarchy. Such an observation is not a radical criticism. Former President Jimmy Carter came to the same conclusion. So did a study conducted by researchers from the prestigious US universities, Princeton and Northwestern.

Thus, the four-year exercise of citizens voting for president or members of Congress is more accurately a “selection”, not an election.

The selection being made, largely, by the ruling elites and the mass media controlled by a handful of corporations. Before a candidate’s name gets on the ballot paper, there’s a huge filtering process which whittles down the final list presented to voters for their nominal “X”. Big-money donors (billions of dollars), as well as withering and warping media coverage, usually determines who gets selected for voters to “choose”.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016 was something of an upset for the usual process. His then-Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was supposed to be the winner back then, as preconceived by the US elite. A populist insurgency against the establishment politics favouring the outsider Trump overturned the usual predetermined outcome. Trump’s personal wealth also helped him ride out the selection process which would have weeded out a financially disadvantaged candidate.

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The Caffeine of Europe mentioned in the headline at the top was not flippant. It was not about coffee shops, but a descriptive analogy about the energy of the political debate brought on by the fascists and some other groups doing a "futuristicide", while others were completely deluded with useless traditions and beliefs of the past, in a sea of new visions… Author Samuel Putnam though the debate was more like BROMIDE — a substance that kills the libido…

All to say that democracy is a spectacle in which we are simultaneously players and audience, at different levels of our ability with a right to be equal. We are spectators and actors who can hiss, boo, applaud or remove political thieves as we see fit — but often we don't care enough, as long as our bourgeois comforts are looked after. Our self-interest is our main motivator. Is this our relative wisdom for humanity? Do we understand what’s going on?

Most of the time we have no idea. The media adds to this confusion. We have ideals, compromises and changes of heart, while others are only in there for the cash — and we will be primed to believe in fairy tales by the psychological trickery of this media... The elites and their trumpeters have means to climb over us without qualms by telling us they are the only one to defend us from outside and within the borders of our chosen realm.

So where do we find the wisdom of humanity in all this atmosphere (bordering on crap)?

At this stage, we have to come to the simpleton conclusion that what is wisdom for some is nonsense or anathema for others. Thus we seek to find relative common grounds on which to establish a secure and prosperous future for most, with elasticity of ideals. We cannot say “for all”… 

The article at top about a few “artists”, writers and thinker engaged in the politics of the 1920s and earlier, give us a few ideas that can prevent us from becoming fascist "Cybermen" and/or isolationists. 

Democracy is about sharing. We cannot escape this. But the complexity of our choices are often massaged by these political and mercantile elites who by whatever means, sociopathy, systemic and religious, go to the top of the social construct and control us — to make cash. Our own ineptitudes and prejudices also enter this equation.

That the CIA spied on the communications in government of other countries isn’t by itself new. The French did this before the invention of cyber communications. Using the internet or other wireless transmissions to spy "from an armchair" on other countries has been the “lazy” option. “Other" countries should have been aware — and for what we don’t know, they were aware and fed bullshit to the CIA, itself eager to munch on anything. Deception has many channels.

Thus in the "wisdom of humanity", there is far too much deception to reach a simple consensus. We the people, are mostly wise as we prefer peace to war and comforts of home instead of living under the storms of nature — but we often elect the unwise as if an unwise person was needed to manage the wisdom and the hubris, all at the same time. Due to our uncertainty, our commonality grows on many layers, from easy to understand premises to complex convolutions that engender corruption of the “democratic agreement”.
And do we just want to have fun?... Are we awaiting for the next lot of "entertainment"? Or are we going to create it?
Next: Layers...

the saxophone freedom sound...


The saxophone was born in 1841, when young Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax had the radical idea of putting the reed of a woodwind instrument on a brass body.

Sax's hybrid invention had the impressive boom of a trumpet, but the emotional subtlety of a flute.

Military bands loved it — but an established industry of instrument-makers most certainly did not.

When Sax moved to France in 1842, the new kid on the block threatened to take their business.

Sax's furious competitors set about destroying him, stealing his designs, setting fire to his factory and even trying to kill him.

Sax unsuccessfully battled these rivals all his life. He was bankrupted twice and saw out his final days destitute.

"It was pretty vicious business dealings," says Richard Ingham, editor of the Cambridge Companion to the Saxophone.

"It was really evil stuff."


When the saxophone was picked up by dance bands of the early 1900s, the instrument became a star. More sold in the mid-to-late-1920s than electric guitars in the 1960s.

But popularity brought with it serious — and seriously powerful — detractors.

By 1933, when the Nazis took power in Germany, the saxophone had become a symbol of jazz music and inextricably intertwined with African-American culture.

The instrument fell under what Nazis referred to as "Entartete Kunst", or "degenerate art", which saw many artforms banned.

One 1938 poster advertising a "degenerate music" exhibition featured a black, monkey-like caricature, wearing a Star of David badge and playing the saxophone.

"The white supremacist concept of the Nazis and the desire to have a pure Aryan culture meant that they didn't want anything to do with jazz because of its African-American history and connotations," Ingham says.

"It's pretty revolting."


The instrument has also been banned in churches — starting with the Vatican in 1914 — perhaps for its association with some of the more sexually suggestive dance moves of the early 1900s.

"Ecclesiastical authorities insisted that the saxophone movement be omitted rather than let the instrument's profane voice speak within the sacred building," Ingham says.

Trouble didn't end there. In the 1930s, Stalin's Soviet Union also persecuted the saxophone.

"The saxophone was the embodiment of jazz, which in turn was the embodiment of bourgeois American imperialist culture, so that would be a good enough reason to ban the saxophone," Ingham says.

Orchestras in the Soviet Union were forced to pull their saxophones, saxophonists had to hand over their instruments, and players were arrested, imprisoned and even exiled.


"What we noticed at the Conservatorium was that, where it used to be a 90 per cent male, 10 per cent female ratio, it completely flipped the other way," Dr Tolmie says.

"We just had this influx of females coming in and auditioning."

Dr Tolmie says that popularity has held and, while other instruments ebb and flow, the number of saxophone students in Australia remains consistently strong.

"It's a very accessible instrument to start off with, so that I think aids a lot in avoiding any kind of attrition of numbers," she says.

But Rollins has a different explanation for the continued popularity of his instrument.

"As long as people hear the saxophone they will be seduced by it ... To me it is a beautiful sound, which is certainly existing in the heavens," he says...



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2021 marks the 100th year since the birth of Joseph Beuys, who died 35 years ago. To celebrate the centenary, his work has been the subject of countless exhibitions around Germany.

Across the decades, many labels have been attached to Beuys: social critic, environmental activist, shaman, media star. But the artist remains the subject of considerable debate. 

One essential part of the Beuys legacy relates to his egalitarian ideas about the role of art in society. 

"Beuys tried to take art off its elitist pedestal with his 'social sculpture' and transfer it to the reality of people's lives," says Bettina Paust, former director of the Beuys Archives of Germany's Museum Moyland and co-editor of a recently published book on the artist.



'Every person is an artist'


The idea of Social sculpture was to move art from the realm of object to concept that anyone could engage in. Developed in the 1970s, Beuys' guiding principle — "Every person is an artist" — states that all hold a creative power through which they can change themselves and the world. More than just objects created to be shown in a gallery, art for Beuys included thoughts, events and conversations. For Beuys, art was an act of participation.

For this reason, Beuys once accepted hundreds of students into his Düsseldorf Academy class, causing him to be expelled as an art professor.

"Beuys' slogan was part of that promise of social participation that even made a democratization of the art business conceivable," wrote art historian Christian Saehrendt in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

"[But] Beuys' most important legacy remained unfulfilled," he added. "A deeper democratization of society did not take place." 



Happenings and social sculptures


As economic recovery and social-liberal politics set the tone in postwar Germany, Beuys was busy critiquing the ruling capitalist system with his countless sculptures and installations, many using grease and felt. Above all, however, he gave expression to his socially transformative, grassroots democratic ideas with art actions and "happenings."

One of the most spectacular performance pieces took place in 1982 at documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany. His 7000 Oaks installation was to plant trees in the city in accordance with the need for "Stadtverwaldung statt Stadtverwaltung," a play on words in German translating as "urban forestation instead of urban administration."

The artist had already attracted global infamy in 1974 with his performance art piece, I like America and America likes Me, in which he locked himself in a New York gallery for two days with a wild coyote. Earning Beuys a reputation for being somewhat of a shaman, the performance also caused a steep hike in the value of his work on the global art market.

There is no disputing the value of Beuys' art. Already by the fall of 1979, the Guggenheim Museum in New York hosted a monumental retrospective of one of the world's most important postwar artists. Today, his works can be found in private collections and major museums across the planet.



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