Art and Power / Kunst and Macht - A four part Film Screening

Art and Power / Kunst und Macht


Four screenings of Lutz Dammbeck's documentary tetralogy Kunst und Macht / Art and Power at The University of Melbourne's Arts West (Building 148).

Convened by Giles Simon Fielke (Writer, and Nicolas Hausdorf (Curator, Writer, Arena - Australian Magazine for Political, Social and Cultural Commentary - In cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, The University of Melbourne and the Artist Film Workshop. With Francis Plagne, Claudia Sandberg, Justin Clemens and David Homewood.


Art and Power

How and when do artists become complicit in power, entangled in its strategies that sometimes surpass their awareness? German filmaker Lutz Dammbeck's perspective is a unique one. Perhaps it is the result of Dammbeck being part of a minority of artists that were able to leave Socialist East Germany in 1986 for the Western liberal-capitalist part of the country. The director allows us to share his viewpoint which, although highly subjective, appears nonetheless cautiously observing, impartial and even strangely ahistorical at times.

From 1992 -2003, Dammbeck created a four-part series in which he traces the ways in which art merges with power, talking to artists and intellectuals who, after the heights of their careers, sometimes abruptly find themselves marginalised and sidelined by an unforeseen historical change. In the process, he uncovers a complex of creators, institutions and a legacy of ideas from Nazi to GDR art, Viennese antimodernist actionism, to Silicon Valley Hippies and cybernetics, and invites us to step outside, to estrange ourselves from our own historical context. This is why Australian audiences will want to engage with Dammbeck's simple premise, which examines how far these powerful images can be transmitted across time and place, and what remains of their influence at the end of the 20th century and beyond.

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Date and time of screenings

4 Screenings in August 2018.

Time of the Gods: 2 August, 2018 - 6.30pm
353 (Interactive Cinema Space)
Arts West (Building 148),
Royal Parade, Parkville VIC 3052

Arno Breker (1900-91) was a talented sculptor with a promising career when Adolf Hitler told him in 1936: "Young man, from now on you will only work for me." What the Führer commissioned from his Phidias is, of course, now inextricably bound up with the notorious aesthetics of the Third Reich. But what about Breker’s talent, his artistic allegiances, and friendships with other celebrated Modernists and admires, from Jean Cocteau to Picasso? What became of his studio - a mansion gifted to Breker by Hitler on his fortieth birthday? Can his legacy be framed beyond the obvious tragedy of his work for a despotic regime?

Time of Gods is the first episode of Art and Power, a four part series by media theorist Lutz Dammbeck. Throughout the investigation Dammbeck does not shy away from the difficulties faced by the passing of the generation of Germans who not only witnessed, but often participated in a culture that facilitated and monumentalized an ideology which led to the destruction of millions of Europeans.

Dürer's Heirs: 9 August, 2018 - 6.30pm
353 (Interactive Cinema Space)
Arts West (Building 148),
Royal Parade, Parkville VIC 3052

What happens to culture after the breakdown of the state? With the collapse of East Germany in 1990 and subsequent German reunification, the country found itself confronted with a re-assessment of GDR art. Opinion was polarized: on the one hand, artistic production without the ideological support of the socialist state suddenly appeared to be highly suspicious, on the other hand, the artistic heritage remained particularly aesthetically valuable: not least for the afterlife on socialism in Germany. Nobel Prize laureate Günther Grass, for example, called these paintings "more German" than the art produced in West Germany after 1945. To this day, painters from the tradition of the East German Leipzig School, like Neo Rauch, continue to be highly-prized internationally.

In the second part of Art and Power, Dürer's Heirs (1996), Dammbeck talks to former state-sponsored painters like Werner Tübke and Bernhard Heisig, Rauch's teachers, alongside unique footage from East and West Germany between 1945-1961. By returning to this interstitial moment, he raises the question of how artistic history, memory, and value are created and transformed by the state.

The Master's Game: 16 August, 2018 - 6.30pm
353 (Interactive Cinema Space)
Arts West (Building 148),
Royal Parade, Parkville VIC 3052

Who are the enemies of modernism? In 1993, paintings by Austrian artist Arnulf Rainer (1929-) were vandalised at the Viennese Art Academy. On one of the paintings, an altered quote by Adolf Hitler was made to read: "And this is where he decided to become an actionist." A mysterious intervention, the vandalism set out to mirror Rainer's own practice of painting over other artists' works. Claims of responsibility emerged, seemingly from an obscure clique of Viennese right-wing intellectuals, the contemporary avant-garde. In a letter sent to the press, they challenged the very tenets of modernism for accommodating the dissolution of national traditions. Others suspected Rainer himself of being responsible for the incident.

Dammbeck's investigation delves deeper into the fringes of conflicting facets of 20th century art, its ideologies and histories, informing the emergence of what today is often called the alt-right.

The Net: 23 August, 2018 - 6.30pm
PAR-Arts West North Wing-153 (Forum Theatre)
Arts West (Building 148),
Royal Parade, Parkville VIC 3052

What is the connection between computer technology, hippies, psychedelic drugs and terrorism? In 1995, from a single room cabin in an isolated part of Montana, the mathematical genius and former teacher at the University of Berkeley, Ted Kaczynski, mailed his manifesto 'Industrial Society and Its Futures' to the New York Times and the Washington Post, where it was published in September in a desperate attempt to mitigate the domestic terrorism of a mysterious organisation called the Freedom Club. It eventually lead to Kaczynski's arrest. The Unabomber, as Kaczynski is now known, had been the sole agent of a twenty-year mail-bombing campaign which targeted prominent members of the technology community, eventually killing three people. It was driven by Kaczynski's dystopian vision of a society inexorably determined by technological progress leading to widespread psychological suffering.

In this final episode of Art and Power, Dammbeck shifts his focus to the USA, exploring the links between the axiomatic philosophical statements of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the sociology of Horkheimer and Adorno, as well as the systems theory of Heinz von Foerster, seeking to place the American exceptionalism of Kaczynski within the expanded techno-industrial environment of the digital age.