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Valeriano Bozal

Entartete Kunst / Degenerate art URL: http://www.march.es/conferencias/anteriores/voz.aspx?p1=2574&l=2

Entartete Kunst is the title of the expositions exhibited since 1937 in Hitler's Germany showing the art which the regime considered degenerated.  Long queues formed to see the "close relationship", the identity, that existed between the works of the mentally ill, the degenerate personalities, and the works of O. Dix, G. Grosz, P. Klee, M. Beckmann, E. L. Kirchner, E. Heckel, etc., this is, the artists that have a central spot in contemporary art history. The condition of the art of our time was brutally proposed, and brutally resolved. Its hopelessness and critical sense, but also its ludic sense, the rigorous novelty of its language and close condition -social, political, moral- of its topics. The expositions were only a symptom, cruel and violent, of the most common conceptions, while the "popular reply", leaving aside the manipulation that the montage itself implied, requieres of a dispassionate analysis that should allow to understand the magnitude of these events.

This conference proposes the analysis of the origin of this art that national socialism considered degenerate, starting from historical-cultural problems posed by the Weimar Republic, the diversity of it proposals, and consistency of its critical and political sense, with special attention on those topics, such as alienation and nationalism, that were subject of particular attention. Through the degenerate art we perceive both the compromise and the will of resistance that artists show when it comes to developing a ludic and creative sense, discovering new possibilities in the plastic language and elaborating alternatives that overcome the strictly artistic limits.

The degenerate art was classified as grotesque, when not cretin or idiot. Within this classification, built with the aim of condemning and persecuting it, we may find nevertheless an inverted point of view that allows us to get closer to the reality of the European society of the period between wars, all with a comic sense, deeply satirical and ironic. Dix, Schwitters, Grosz, Beckmann, and even Paul Klee himself are the unbeatable manifestation of this proposal. Their work, radically creative, deeply personal, and completely iconoclastic, could not be tolerated by an ideology like national socialism, which eliminated the political, social and cultural conflicts applying a single mindset and brutality: eliminating them, in the literal sense of the word.

Degenerate art can be viewed with this perspective as a misshapen mirror in which the truth of things get reflected much clearer than in any other, perfect shaped, mirror. This is what the art of Hitler became: as misleading as academic and coward, so banal as apparently classicist, so pretentiously idealistic as  actually conservative and bourgeois. In comparison, these were, indeed, degenerate, happily degenerate and deformed, within a world that was identified by purity and the extermination of the other, the land with blood, the everyday life compared to a sublime destiny. They were, and still are, a reference for the entire world of art in the 20th century. 

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