A form play against death metaphors

An artistic collaboration showing anti-cultural and political contradictions in the Weimar republic.
Reviewed by Harald Flor, Dagbladet

Rustan Andersson and Frithjof Hoel have opened a joint exhibition in Oslo Kunstforening in which each interprets influences derived from Germany’s Weimar Republic. Still, there lies a sea of contradictions between Andersson’s base in Bauhaus modernism and Hoel’s starting point in the war journals of a right-wing extremist, Ernst Jünger’s “Storm of Steel”. An artistic contrast is bound to ensue as their video pieces follow each other in a continual loop on the wall.

Andersson cites the avant-garde film-maker Oscar Fischinger’s “Motion Painting No 1" as the inspiration for his abstract animation films "Bobangi/Mohunga". While Fischinger may have used Bach’s Brandenburger Concerto No. 3 as a musical base for his moving-form play, the acoustic foundation in Andersson’s work is derived from the music of African pygmy tribes. The rhythmical repetitions work as a striking accompaniment to the animation, depicting expanding round forms, partly surrounding smaller circles. With this formal pattern Andersson marks another visual kinship, one which harks back to the Bauhaus artist Josef Albers and his series of paintings, “Hommage á Square” with its many colour variations expressed in concentric squares.

Both Albers and Fischinger were declared to be “entartet” (degenerate) during the third Reich, banned from painting, and subsequently ended up in exile in the USA. Ernst Jünger was also eventually banned from publishing his writings by the Nazis, but only after a long period in which he published books which exhibited a contempt for democracy and humanism and an anti-semitism equally as virulent as that in the works of any writer true to Hitler’s ideals. The war hero from the western front refused to stand as a candidate for the brown shirts during the elections in the 1920’s, but the militarily decorated Jünger did serve as a staff officer in Paris during the Second World War, and there he is said to have had contacts with leading cultural figures ranging in political scale from the fascist Céline to the communist Picasso.

Ernst Jünger’s ”Storm of Steel” transcends also any simple ideological framework and has, from different perspectives, been admired for its cool language which so precisely describes the impersonal claws of war. Hoel retains contradictory metaphors in his video, ranging from the fertility of yellow autumn cornfields to the existentialist depiction of cracking ice. A chalk-white shirt with the Ace of Hearts pinned to the chest waves a welcome to the spring sun, before it suddenly becomes a picture of the ruthless liquidation of the firing squad.

When the silhouettes of World War II bombers fill the sky in the end, it is a vision affording a metaphysical glimpse, but only in a most demonic sense. Hoel’s video thus fades out, a lyric without any illusions; before Andersson’s hopeful rhythms again take over.

Last Updated Sunday, August 25, 2013 at 10:56 PM Published by Frithjof Hoel