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.