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MATTHIAS REICHELT: Boris, Epistolary Poem 1998

You black-clad hermit of 66th Street.

You, Nighthawk, turn night into day and seek sleep among stacks of newspapers, Holocaust literature and stock market dispatches, while Giuliani's surface-polished Manhattan goes about its daily business.

Your dark rented apartment, located just below street level but not yet a basement, you regularly leave only to pick up the New York Times, the old aunt, or now and then to go to your studio in the - now hyped by the yuppies - Lower East Side.

Sometimes, when you're in the mood for the old-master canon of fine art, you visit the Metropolitan Museum - strictly bound by the law of thrift - for one cent, the minimum of the obligatory pay-what-you-can.

Your apartment has become a fortress for you, some even say a self-built KaZet. Like a labyrinth, the selected visitors have to find their way to your worn-out sofa. Quickly a pile is moved aside to create a seat vis-à-vis your small historical b/w TV.

Although you could afford an upper-class existence, you lead a completely luxury-free life.

In your well-ordered chaos, whose system you alone see through, you receive us, representatives of the outside world, with extraordinary politeness. You meet lady visitors with old-masterly charm, which is usually found in an upper-class ambience and seems pleasantly out of place in your world.

You keep in touch with the world via newspaper, telephone and fax. You write your critical comments, explanations, reflections and poems standing up on your old typewriter. You are surrounded by hopelessly overcrowded desks.

With almost insatiable interest you devour the reminiscences of left-wing journalism.

Contrary to the contemporary trend in art to stage oneself by means of event marketing and public relations, you remain at a rejectingly critical distance from the art market, which you see only as a playground for tax write-offs and surpluses from hard dollar transactions. You dislike the competition among artists for the better positions.

Your efforts to look behind the facade in order to recognize the real conditions remain unbroken.

Your tragedy is that even the anti-attitude and opposition is marketable thanks to repressive tolerance and postmodernism. The puritanical outcry in the USA against allegedly obscene art is only a ridiculous gesture against the taboo exploitation rage of a completely unleashed capitalism. You are caught in the contradictions of your life.

The German Nazis and the Latvian collaborators, whose murderous anti-Semitism was in no way inferior to that of the Germans, wanted to drive the life out of you as a Russian Jew, ultimately with forced labor in a Buchenwald subcamp.

They did not win.

You survived them. But they haunt you in your dreams.

The Germans are very close to you despite these experiences.

You don't want to know anything about collective guilt. You excuse the turning a blind eye, the cowardice, the functioning of the great majority in the Nazi wheelwork with the cautious consideration of whether you would have been more courageous in their place.

What a magnanimous gesture that absolves a people from guilt.

You send your German friends, descendants of the generation of perpetrators, care packages with vitamins to sustain and prolong their lives. You distance yourself from "Holocaust art". Rightly you reject this label. Nevertheless, your works contain manifold references to the history of the largest organized and industrially executed genocide. How could it be otherwise, because art is always a piece of autobiography.

You make art without a market, you don't want to know anything about the art palaces as temples of bourgeois L'art pour l'art, but you still wait for a positive reception. You tirelessly weave the legend of NO!art to inscribe it in art history.

Working against art, but with the means of art: this is perhaps the greatest contradiction of your life, which demands an enormous productivity from you.

You feel connected to Europe, but you have settled in the New World, forced into exile.

Last communist in the middle of the stock exchange and big city juggernaut Manhattan.

Here, where the threads of international capital, IMF and imperial subjugation converge, you wave the banner of revolution. But this does not prevent you from playing the game of stocks and warrants.

You clever, lovable fighter without party or organization. The party that could cope with you would first have to be invented. Never forgotten are the all-night conversations at the Green Kitchen, one of the rare places with international but bad cuisine, yet offering asylum to the last smokers in health-crazed Manhattan.

Your passion for discussion is boundless! The visitor from the Old World knows a song about it. How often, plagued by sightseeing and jet lag, our eyes fell closed, while you never tired of sketching historical derivations, analogies and connections of art and politics in detail.

Fighting fatigue, we listened to your memories of Riga, the ghetto, Buchenwald and the liberation. We are eagerly awaiting a detailed autobiography, which is hereby encouraged. What happiness and honor to be able to call you a friend, even if you never tire of confronting your friends with ever new tasks.

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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 spiritus rector Dietmar KIrves. NGBK was based on incorrect basic democracy.
 

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