Unit 8 Assignment 2 by Lydia Catterall

Gerhard Richter’s “October 18, 1977” series has one consistent theme: confusion. The blurred nature of each piece conveys to the viewer a sense of disconnection from reality, as though one cannot focus on the world around them. It makes the paintings seem almost unreal, like a hallucination or a dream. Upon closer inspection, it seems that the unfocused confusion in each painting is not a disconnect from reality, but rather a reflection of the state of reality in the moment the photograph was taken. The era in Germany from which the photos arose was filled with disorder, with voices of the government presenting a story that did not align with the reality of the country. With the addition of Ulrike Meinhof and her fellow revolutionaries making waves in the news, few people knew what to believe about the world around them. The paintings represent this blurred sense of reality in Germany during this time. For instance, the photos titled “man shot down 1” and “man shot down 2” are some of the most blurred in the collection, for the death of Baader showed that the reality he fought for went unachieved and the reality presented by the government was farther from the truth than ever. 

In particular, the paintings of Ulrike Meinhof’s life become increasingly blurry as her state of mind deteriorates. The paintings depicting Meinhof in her youth are only slightly fuzzy, indicating an era of stability in her life. The “confrontation” paintings, depicting Meinhof in prison, are so blurred it’s difficult to make out many details. This suggests Meinhof felt highly unsure at this point in her life, not knowing if or when she would be released from prison.

Unit 8 Assignment 1 by Lydia Catterall

  • The Baader-Meinhof Komplex
    • ! – It’s interesting that Meinhof and Gudrun abandoned their children for the cause. 
    • ? – Were all the rebels in it for the cause or for the thrill?
  • The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
    • ! – It’s shocking how quickly her life went downhill. 
    • ? – What is the significance of accusations turning an innocent woman into a criminal?

Unit 8, Post 2 – Emily Ezell

The film Never Look Away provides recounts how a fictional artist’s experiences influence his work. The viewer follows the relationship between Kurt’s childhood in Nazi Germany and the evolution of his artwork. As Kurt tries to break from his training in Socialist Realism and discover his artistic voice, he combines his traumatic childhood memories with the experience of post-WWII Germany. Kurt combines photographs from his childhood with clippings from newspapers to create photorealistic paintings. Kurt’s artwork resembles that of Gerhard Richter. Both the fictional artist Kurt and the real artist Richter appropriate existing photographs to create paintings that almost perfectly resemble its source imagery. However, both artists question the potential of their work to fully represent a specific moment. The gap between reality and representation exists in the differences between an original experience, the moment a photograph captures, and a painted adaptation of the photograph. Art captures a moment, but it fails to truly depict the emotional and narrative contexts. Richter argues that reality is more dreadful than the moment a painting captures. The more an artist appropriates or recreates a moment, the more they remove the experience from its original context. The appropriation of photography in both Kurt and Richter’s paintings reflect the claim that as a work of art extends further away from its original context, the easier the viewer accepts the artwork. No matter the distance between the original moment and the representation of that moment, the resulting artwork is an abstract interpretation unique to the artist’s experience and the viewer’s interpretation.

Richter -4/20/20-Robert Sparks

In an interview Richter stated that he detested gruesome from page magazine covers but he nonetheless looked at them. In his art you can see this desire to evoke curiosity from the viewer rather than the aggressive voyeurism given to images of violence. When Meinhoff hung herself in Stuttgart the scene of her dead body on the floor would be troubling for anyone to see. Through Richter’s painting of the image at varying levels of clarity and different angles he abstracts suicide. In this abstraction the image of Meinhoff is looked at with curiosity rather than just a dead body.

Blurred Reality: Unit 8 Assignment 2 by Alec Stimac

“Yes it bothers you. But with painted photographs, so many details are left out or blurred that it all becomes a little more bearable, and one perhaps becomes a little more curious.”

Gerhard Richterh

Photography can be extremely cruel, super up-front and in our faces. There is something unavoidable about the reality that is captured – that millisecond of a memory that stays ingrained into one’s mind. However, reality is even more unbearable, knowing that the photograph itself only allows us to see a fraction of the beauty and the pain behind each frame. But once that still image is blurred, smeared onto the canvass, something else comes into focus: curiosity and attraction. We all of a sudden what to understand a deeper meaning or try to look away but not necessarily know what we are looking at. That is when our curiosity gets the best of us and we can’t look away.

Kurt and Richterh don’t necessarily have an agenda with these paintings, rather just representing periods of time captured in a capsule. All of these images begin to weight you down, because it feels like there is something missing, like they are unfinished. It is up to our imaginations to evoke meaning, with the art standing in as a symbol of the pursuit for truth. As Richterh himself states, “since there is no such thing as absolute rightness and truth, we always pursue the artificial, leading, human truth. We judge and make a truth that excludes other truths. Art plays a formative part in this manufacture of truth.” He isn’t making statements, he makes art. The art itself does the work.

What is consistent behind these images is one thing: simpleness. They are not meant to be grand. They are a simulation. They are photographs of objects, people, who are simply part of history. We, the viewer, give the power to the art. It becomes a relationship where art manufactures the truth and we declare it. The art captures a perspective, a moment, where we complete it and widen it. Just as Kurt did with his art series in the movie “Never Look Away,” Richterh in his whole series on October 18, 1977, stood as an understanding of reality, capturing numerous moments to create one overarching story. It never was just about Meinhof or the RAF, it was about something more, what they stood for and what effect that had in 1977 and today.

Richterh is trying to understand what is, just like the rest of us living our lives. He just does it through painting. It’s not purposeful or personal, its an analogy. It is for us to contribute to and figure out the truth alongside him.

“Theory has nothing to do with a work of art. Pictures which are interpretable, and which contain a meaning, are bad pictures. A picture presents itself as the Unmanageable, the Illogical, the Meaningless. It demonstrates the endless multiplicity of aspects; it takes away our certainty, because it deprives a thing of its meaning and its name. It shows us the thing in all the manifold significance and infinite variety that preclude the emergence of any single meaning and view.”

Richterh’s Notes, 1964-65

Unit 8 Post 2 – Andrew Denny

After watching Never Look Away and analyzing many of the paintings by Gerhard Richter, I believe the connection between reality and his paintings is that the paintings evoke the feeling and emotion of reality from the viewer. Two stills from the movie jumped out at me the most while watching the film, the scene when Kurt stands in front of the bus as they blare their horns and the scene when young Kurt puts his hand in front of his face as his Aunt Elisabeth is dragged away. In both of these scenes, “reality” seems to blur away, the sense of sight of what was happening in the moment disappeared. In both scenes, while his vision is blurred Kurt seems fully present in the emotion of the moment. In my interpretation, this is what his Aunt Elisabeth meant when she said “Never Look Away” ; allow yourself to be present in the moment and acknowledge the feelings that you experience. The effect of blur in Richter’s painting allows the viewer to explore their emotions within a fleeting moment of reality he creates. Richter’s painting have no intrinsic meaning or statement, so the viewer is allowed to use their feelings or life-experiences to interpret the blur in whatever way makes most sense to them.

Richter’s painting of Ulrike Meinhof’s dead body is not intended to depict the actual reality of her death. However, Richter’s painting of Meinhof allows the viewer to ignore the visual subject matter and replace the blur with their feelings about Meinhof and construct their own image within his painting. In the movie, Kurt is told to “Never Look Away” and with the blur in these paintings the audience isn’t forced to look away like they would if they were presented with an accurate image of Meinhof’s death. The blur creates an image that allows the viewer to be present in the moment contrasted from photography or realistic photos which leave no room for the opinions of the viewer.

!&? on Meinhof readings and the two films, Unit 8, Nikolaos Paramythiotis

Shadows of the Summit Pointing West:

!: The perception of the Soviet Union’s reduction of military as a proof of the Communist regime’s endurance and applicability is a very interesting insight by Meinhof!

?: Why would the Federal Republic make efforts to acquire a nuclear arsenal, since it is not currently entangled in any conflict and the possibility of having to use it for defense is almost zero?

Hitler Within You:

!: When it comes to reforming a society and its ideology from its roots, then truly no matter how many initiatives are taken, there even more that need to be done!

?: Can a society function if the majority of its older generation that comprises the backbone of the working population is denounced? How can it balance moving forward while simultaneously being dependent on the individuals responsible for its dark past?

Vietnam and Germany:

!: It is interesting how the Federal Republic supports a war that the U.S. is launching to take Vietnam under its sphere of influence which has no direct benefits for the former, in order to ensure advantageous treatment by the this great power!

?: Since the government’s actions are supposed to be in accordance to the public will, is a state justified to start or support a war when it is perceived to be of its national interest, even when there is heavy and wide-spread criticism by the public against this decision?  

Women in the SDS: Acting on Their Own Behalf

!: The same exact behavior of the men in Frankfurt aiming to degrade women and what they advocate for makes up one of the reasons that deem it worth advocating for!   

?: When a private issue is evident in household after household, and affects the life of family after family, then is it still merely a private issue?

Columnism:

!: The fact that a newspaper has certain columns in which different views on events than the one in the main article are expressed does not undermine at all the ability of the newspaper to present its biases as facts, while also offering a façade of pluralism.

?: Is it possible that someone starts a newspaper without having, or seeking, any political affiliation, and even so, is it realistic to hope that it can be established as a mainstream media without the increased funding that the aforementioned affiliation grants?

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum:

!: The Bild newspaper was from the 1950s up until the 2010s the most read newspaper in Germany, despite being widely known for exaggeration of facts, distortion of the truth and political bias!

?: Where should the boundaries of the amount of force the state can use in order to prevent criminal activities and ensure the safety of its citizens be set?

Baader-Meinhof Komplex

!: The convergence in ideology among terrorist groups evident after the 1960s has led to the shaping of terrorism as a truly global phenomenon!

?: 1) West Germany was widely considered to gradually becoming a police state in the “German Autumn” of 1977, as a means to end the activities of the RAF. To what extent is the state justified to sacrifice the privacy and freedom of individuals in the name of “public safety?”

    2) As we saw in Locke’s theory of the social contract, the state should be considered the product of an agreement between individuals to abandon some extent of their “total freedom” in order to be able to coexist and form a society. To this, Rousseau introduced the more radical idea that when the government does not act in accordance to the interest and desires of its citizens, they have the right to overthrow it and establish a new one. In this respect, if we accept that West Germany was a state sheltering Nazi sympathizers and there was no way to achieve its reformation through the existing state structures, then are extrajudicial means towards reform justified? Should having the support of the majority be considered a needed condition?

Reflection on Richter’s “October 18, 1977”, Nikolaos Paramythiotis

For artists occupying themselves with visual art, whether that is painting, sculpture, photography or something else, the question of the connection between reality and its representation is of great importance. Gerhard Richter’s approach to the question of mimesis can be witnessed in his October 18, 1977 cycle, a series of 15 paintings representing blurred photographs related to the Baader-Meinhof RAF group. In his 1993 discussion with Stefan Weirich about these paintings, he characterized photography a rather “useable or acceptable” mimesis of a reality that “moves on,” yet is “much more dreadful.” For the artist, the value of painted photographs lies on the fact that violent photographs that are repelling to the viewer, become “a little more bearable”, causing the viewer to be “a little more curious.”

In these paintings, we can see that Richter’s work is in compliance to his perceptions and ideas. He focuses on the 1st generation of RAF, which’s members committed a series of violent acts as part of their protest against what they viewed as the Nazi-led, police state of West Germany in the 1970s. Their death was not peaceful either, as after years of imprisonment and isolation, they ultimately committed suicide, feeling that there was nothing that could be done to help them. The artist has created a series of paintings of photographs, representing mostly scenes and objects from their time in prison. These works feature paintings of Meinhof’s, Baader’s and Enslin’s bodies after their suicide, Baader’s record player, cell and funeral, as well as scenes from their arrest and confrontation. Richter seems particularly interested in Ulrike Meinhof, as there are three paintings of her body after she committed suicide and her confrontation, respectively, and one painting of her in a younger age. Maybe it could be argued that she enjoys particular interest by Richter, as she is viewed as not only a member of the RAF that “acts,” but also as the one that provides the ideological backbone of the group through her writings. With these paintings of blurred photographs, Richter seems to achieve the creation of a consistent (or stimmig) connection between reality and its representation. His paintings are accurate and consistent with the historical narrative, while at the same time, not unpleasant to watch, which would entail the consequence of turning one’s eyes -and mind- away from what they represent. As a result, they present the viewer with a source of remembering and thinking about the essence of the events which they address, without distorting or influencing the historical truth.  

A thought that emerged from looking at these paintings, is that in a way, Richter’s work has a lot of similes to the concept of translation. A photograph of a person, an object or an event as a perfect representation of a moment in time could be considered the accurate, word-to-word translation of a text. Similarly, Richter alters these photographs through his painting, the same way a translator uses tools as the word choice and figures of speech, in order to create a text in the language in which they are translating, more closely related meaning-wise to the original. The goal of the latter is to provide a text that will provide a fuller understanding and evoke the same feelings to the reader, as these evoked by a native speaker reading the original text, while, in the case of Richter, to create a piece of art that “imitates” what happened, yet at the same time is free of its violent or repelling element, providing room for thought and reflection on these events of reality.               

Mary Shandley Unit 8 Assignment 1

Ulrike Meinhof readings:

! : There seems to be a bit of a shift in Meinhof’s tone after the shooting of Rudy Dutschke, especially in “Everybody Talks About the Weather.” Her writings seem to shift from polite social critiques to demands for change.

? : Before she started actively participating in the RAF’s terrorism, I know that she was a highly respected journalist, but how much of the country agreed with her writings outside of the RAF?

The Baader-Meinhof Complex:

! : In the prison scenes, I was appalled to see the difference between German and American federal prisons. The RAF members, even before the government started fulfilling their demands for better treatment, had shockingly luxurious conditions compared to those in American prisons. This speaks to the inhumanity and institutionalized racism in our American prison system.

? : I have spent extensive time living in Southwestern Germany, and have many family friends who were in their teens and twenties during this time. Gudrun Ensslin even attended the university in Tübingen, the town where I spent several years of my childhood – and yet I have never heard anyone speak about the RAF, even when I visited as a teenager. Could this merely be because I lived a sheltered life as an American visitor? Was I just not listening when my parents spoke to other adults? Is it possible that Germans prefer to avoid this topic out of shame, as they do with the Holocaust?

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum:

! : Throughout the entire film, even as I came to realize that Katharina was not entirely innocent, I was horrified at the amount of lies, slandering, and harassment that she received. It seemed almost like a ridiculously unrealistic dystopian tale, which made it strange to imagine that this kind of treatment of people by the press actually happened.

? : Where can you draw the line when the freedom of the press conflicts with a person’s life and wellbeing, whether they are innocent or not?

Vietnam and Germany-Robert Sparks

! The word unconstitutional can only be understood as ironic because not only was the warmongering and militarization increasing but nations were making deals to silence Vietnam war protesters.

? What would a “Vietnam war in Germany” entail

Human dignity is violable- Robert Sparks

!it is impossible to make a good constitution because whenever the constitution stands in the way of policy it can just be bent to incorporate contradictory policy.

? is it possible to make a constitution that can not be torn apart at a governments will but not become outdated as societies move forward

Hitler Within You- Robert Sparks

! The responsibility of the younger generation is not to shoulder the crimes of the past but to not forget and bring those responsible to justice.

? What makes a population care enough to correct the wrongs of past generations and actively make change rather than focusing on the highlights of an era like in Russia or ignoring it entirely like America.