THE RECEPTION OF THE ART OF BORIS LURIE
AND NO!art IN THE CONTEXT OF THE HOLOCAUST DEBATE
IN CONTEMPORARY GERMANY
By MATTHIAS REICHELT and CURT GERMUNDSON (2002)
Unpublished article, written for a contribution in a proposed NO!art book edited by Estera Milman.
In this essay the authors will investigate the reception of the art of Boris Lurie and NO!art in Germany, using as examples mainly three exhibitions that took place in the 1990s. Hereby we will concentrate on those works by Boris Lurie that touch upon the Holocaust committed by German fascism and its collaborators, for this topic is of special importance regarding the work's reception in the "land of the perpetrators." We are well aware that this is only one aspect of Boris Lurie's complex work, who himself was a victim of the Nazi race-politics, for he and many of the artists associated with him in the sixties dealt in their paintings, assemblages, happenings and installations, intensively with many contemporary political themes.
Exhibitions of Boris Lurie's work in the Federal Republic of Germany took place in 1973, 1974, as well as in 1988. In 1995 a project group of the Neuen Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK) (New Association for Visual Arts) in Berlin organized the largest NO!art retrospective so far. Because there were so many more works by Boris Lurie available, the project group decided to present an additional monographic exhibition at the Haus am Kleistpark of works by Lurie, the central figure and sole survivor of the legendary triumvirate of the NO!art movement (the other two being Stanley Fisher and Sam Goodman).
Antifascism in the Neuen Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK). At the height of the student movement and the extra-parliamentary opposition, the NGBK came forth in 1969 out of the split of the "Deutschen Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst" (German Association for Visual Arts). Another major impulse for the student movement, besides the defining of new scientific goals 25 and contents, was the exposure of personnel-continuities from the Nazi period within the sciences in the Federal Republic in Germany.5 The provenance of the academic personnel was unmasked with the slogan "Unter den Talaren der Muff aus 1000 Jahren" ("underneath the gown the musty smell of 1000 years"). The outrage about the long-held taboo subject matter concerning the involvement of the parentgeneration as perpetrators or tacit supporters was vented in universities. In the home too the parents 30 were more and more intensely confronted with questions regarding their behaviour during the Nazi period.
One of the most well known literary accomplishments coming out of this background is Die Reise by Bernhard Vesper.6 This mixture of critical revision of the up to then celebrated tradition and a decisive will to participate in the association's politics led to the formation of an opposition within the Association for Visual Arts 35 and ultimately to the dissolving of the old association and the forming of two new ones. The grass-roots (basisdemokratisch) NGBK, which was a product of informed individuals who oriented themselves on the student movement, has since then understood itself as a political art association which looks at art within its societal context, and questions the "functions of the visual arts in our society."7 Contrary to the prevailing practice of the mostly conservative museum-world to limit exhibitions to the presentation of artworks 40 and artist-biographies, the NGBK presented the works together with other testimonies and documents of the time.8 In this sense the NGBK dealt in many exhibitions with German fascism, taking on an initially marginal position within the art-world.
►skip to full essay, 22 pages, with corrections and annotations by Boris Lurie
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About MATHIAS REICHELT: Born 1955, lives as a free lance writer, art critic, editor and curator in Berlin. Worked at NGBK and build up a NO!art show in 1995 after kick out the curator Dietmar KIrves. NGBK was based on incorrect basic democracy.
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About CURT GERMUNDSON: He is an assistant professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he teaches art history classes. He presented a paper on "Kurt Schwitters and the Idea of the Cathedral" at the 2002 College Art Association Conference and on Alexander Dorner's "Atmosphere Rooms" at the 2004 CAA Conference.
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