Nog t/m 3 januari de tentoonstelling Fotografie als Wapen met fotomontages van John Heartfield in Museum de Fundatie, Zwolle.
Ah, musealisering van agit-prop!

fotomontage - John Heartfield


Seeing those [Heartfield] montages framed and annotated along museum walls cannot but be felt as incongruous, given their vitriolic intentions. Of course the enemies have long since been vanquished, and we can now ponder Heartfield’s graphic ingenuity and his aesthetic means, even if it requires a degree of specialized scholarship to understand exactly what was being targeted, and a command of German slang to get all the jokes. Despite the incapacities of most viewers (myself included), it is striking how the work survives as art when the objects of its fierce aggressions are no longer available for artistic injury.

Yet it is no less striking to set Heartfield’s work side by side with so much of what passes as political art today, such as so much of what turned up in the 1993 Whitney Biennial. The difference is that while contemporary political art expresses the political sentiments of its makers, they show no serious intention of changing political reality through that art. That is because they continue to think of the museum as the primary venue within which art is to be experienced, and hence aesthetic appreciation as the primary avenue through which the art is to have its impact. But that makes the museum audience the primary and indeed only target, since no one else is going to see it. Yet the museum audience is typically already fairly likely to subscribe to the artist’s attitudes and values, and while museumgoers may not be quite as “correct” as artists would like them to be, by contrast with the surrounding population they are a fairly enlightened group, likely to experience the art as hectoring, since it is preaching to the converted. We clearly expect something more from political art than that it express the views of the artist. To be seriously interested in politics is to be seriously interested in political change, and that means as a first step taking the art out of the museum and into life.

Arthur Danto over een John Heartfield tentoonstelling (1993); aangetroffen in diens The Madonna of the Future. Essays in a Pluralistic Art World.

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