Monday, January 3, 2011

Chaos and Classicism

It is disconcerting to find oneself enchanted by the images of Leni Riefenstahl’s prologue to the Festival of Nations, from the 1936 Olympics, which is literally the apex of the current Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy and Germany 1918-1936 show at the Guggenheim. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia, the Acropolis and the famed Discobolus superimposed over a shot of the German decathlete Erwin Huber all serve to tie Teutonic with classical Greek and Roman culture. It’s also a testament to the profoundly immoral intelligence of the fascist project and propaganda machine that aestheticization of the human figure was conscripted in the war against mankind. “I love Caesar,” the curators of the exhibit quote Musssolini as saying. “He was the only one who united the will of the warrior and the genius of the wise man.” Mussolini coined the term “uomo nuovo” to characterize the classical model for the new superman during his march on Rome in 1922. Ironically, the futurist Marinetti, who was a follower of Mussolini, eschewed classicism, but the flirtation with classical forms in the work of Italian artists like Morandi, De Chirico and Severini, and amongst Picasso and other artists and filmmakers who were anti-fascist (segments of Cocteau’s surrealist film masterpiece The Blood of a Poet are shown in the exhibit) are indicative of how pervasive the aspiration to what Cocteau termed the “rappel à l’ordre” was on both ends of the political spectrum during the interwar period. Interestingly, representations of ideal forms could apotheosize the human face or return as satiric jeremiads against regimentation amongst those who foresaw the looming threat of totalitarianism. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.