NO!art in BUCHENWALD
Boris Lurie: Geschriebigtes / Gedichtigtes 1947 – 2001
[in German language]
Editors: Volkhard Knigge [Weimar], Eckhart Holzboog [Stuttgart], Dietmar Kirves [Berlin]
Compiled by Dietmar Kirves on the occasion of the show
"Boris Lurie: Werke 1946-1998" at Memorial Weimar-Buchenwald 1998/99.
470 p | 135 b/w pictures | 21.5 x 26.5 cm
Eckhart Holzboog Verlag | Stuttgart 2003 | ISBN 3-9807794-0-8
Catalog Book with poems, exhibited works,
and commentaries in German.
click on artist name to see published work
With contributions by his friends Enrico Baj, Paolo Baratella, Herb Brown, Ronaldo Brunet, Günter Brus, Erro, Klaus Fabricius, Charles Gatewood, Paul Georges, Jochen Gerz, Esther Morgenstern Gilman, Amikam Goldman, Leon Golub, Sam Goodman, Blalla W. Hallmann, Allan Kaprow, Dietmar Kirves, Yayoi Kusama, Konstantin K. Kuzminsky, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Martin Levitt, Suzanne Long, Clayton Patterson, Bernard Rancillac, Francis Salles, Naomi T. Salmon, Michelle Stuart, Aldo Tambellini, Klaus Theuerkauf, Seth Tobocman, Jean Toche, Toyo Tsuchiya, Wolf Vostell, Mathilda Wolf.
► click here to read Boris Lurie's text in German
►click here to see the book
Review by Martin Büsser
in: testcard, Heft 13 vom 13.07.2004, Ventil Verlag, Mainz
Until the spring of 1999, the Buchenwald Memorial showed a retrospective of Boris Lurie's visual art works, but it was not until this publication, which appeared in the winter of 2003, that the artistic and poetic work of this exceptional artist was available in book form in this country. Lurie, who was liberated as a prisoner of Buchenwald in the subcamp of Magdeburg in 1945, became the founder of NO!art in New York, a radical (anti-)art movement that had already taken a stand against market- and consumer-friendly Pop Art in the 1950s. Aesthetically, some of Lurie's collages may be reminiscent of the early works of Robert Rauschenberg, but Lurie's subjects are much more radical. He repeatedly recalled the Holocaust in his works, irritatingly combining pin-up girls with images of concentration camp victims. An essential goal of the NO!art group, which for a short time also functioned as a network under the name "Jew Art" ("Jew Art," in contrast to "Jewish Art," was not intended to arouse pity, but to make a radical, confrontational break with society), was not only provocation in terms of content, but also refusal to accept the art market. Lurie refused to sell his works on the market and to this day sees no contradiction in preferring to earn his money through stock market speculation. "Art is art, money is money," comments Volkhard Knigge in the preface. Early attempts by gallery owners to include NO!art in the hip avant-garde circle failed accordingly. Only with Wolf Vostell, one of the most political of the Fluxus artists, was there a loose friendly connection.
Boris Lurie, who wants to remain irreconcilable, is controversial and thus leaves a heavy lump in the throat even of leftists. In 1962, for example, he reprinted a photograph showing an emaciated prisoner from Buchenwald concentration camp and called this work Happening by Adolf Hitler. The provocative interlocking of mass murder and the postwar avant-garde is similarly problematic as the attempt to establish a historical connection between the National Socialists and U.S. capitalism with the juxtaposition of concentration camp and pin-up motifs. If one then also reads that "the worldwide student battle cry USA-SA-SS" had already "been the slogan of the NO!art artists," the question arises as to whether Max Horkheimer's meaningful statement that one cannot speak about fascism without also speaking about capitalism has not been overused here. Even a victim like Lurie has to accept the criticism that with such frivolous equivalences he is supporting a relativization of the Holocaust, which is very convenient for the current German anti-Americanism, which at the same time wants to get rid of its own historical burden. Fascism may be understood in terms of capitalism, but it makes no sense to try to explain or even expose U.S. capitalism by means of fascist comparisons.
Looking at Lurie's work, it is striking how strongly it anticipated the aesthetics of the Industrial movement. It is therefore surprising that this is not mentioned anywhere in the monograph. After all, the constant cross-fading of Holocaust motifs and the image waste of late capitalist industrial society was nowhere so obsessively (and in part naively) acted out as in the late seventies works of Throbbing Gristle, MB, and SPK, who ultimately refused the music industry just as NO!art refused the art market. The primary goal of art, Lurie is quoted as saying, is "to create a network of like-minded artist friends"; this, too, corresponds to the basic ideas of the industrial movement. Much of the criticism that has already been voiced against Industrial in terms of simplification and misunderstanding could thus also be applied to its involuntary pioneer Lurie.
Martin Büsser, born in 1968, studied comparative literature, art history and theater studies. In the 1980s and early 1990s he worked for the "Zap" fanzine, for which he conducted around 100 interviews, including with Henry Rollins, Courtney Love, Sonic Youth, Half Japanese, Flaming Lips, Nirvana and Butthole Surfers. Caused numerous debates within the hardcore punk magazine because he did not accept the narrow musical taste of the scene, but also wrote about artists like Heiner Goebbels and John Zorn. Since the mid-1990s, active as a freelance journalist focusing on music, pop culture and visual arts, contributing to Jazzthetik, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Emma and Die Zeit, among others. Co-founder and editor of the book series "testcard - Beiträge zur Popgeschichte," published by Ventil Verlag since 1995.