The political truth of Europe at this time was that democracy, faint and pale, panted for its life on the fringes of the continent. Meanwhile, two tyrannosaurs conjured by a common revolutionary spirit that had recently destroyed and discarded entire empires, had been set against each other in the historical arena. In this extraordinary situation the even more extraordinary happens: Art, hitherto blowing petrol on every existing revolutionary fire in Europe and elsewhere, ecstatically watching every vestige of old Europe going up in flames, suddenly declares itself innocent. And as though that weren’t even enough, it is now: The Victim!

The paintings of German expressionists — which to Thomas Mann had seemed such dark foreboding of a fascism on the march — were now interpreted as being mere internal landscapes, the objectified agony as it were of the artist having to face the reality, as opposed to the fantasy, of revolution and war. In no way should they be regarded as the very stimulus to the same. Among futurists it was not acknowledged that the adulation of the machine as the incarnation of the zeitgeist was in itself a declaration of war, paving the way for men of action with precisely this in mind. Nowhere was there a sense among artists of having been in the least unfair in their visceral criticism of the bourgeois society. Nor were their unabashed provocations and openly expressed rebuttal of capitalism and liberal republican values seen as instrumental in the rise of European totalitarianism. No, the artists up to this point had remained true to the calling of art by involuntarily turning into the human seismographs registering the subterranean tremors announcing the full-scale arrival of state sponsored political, social, and cultural terror.

Luckily for them, Germanic expressionists — whether an Emil Nolde, an Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, or a James Ensor — were exonerated from the task of carrying on their work in the service of either Nazis or Bolsheviks. Their work was famously dubbed ‘formalist’ by Soviet commissaries of art, and ‘degenerate’ by Nazi experts on eugenics. Likewise the Italian futurists were considered too crazy even by Mussolini to be seriously considered for propagandist purposes. Interestingly, Mussolini held the sound opinion that art and politics were and should be two separate things, never to be combined, and that the state therefore ought not to meddle in the business of art, as art should refrain from getting involved in politics. This might be an important reason why the frozen postures of social realism and propaganda art never became quite the same hit in fascist Italy as in Germany and Russia, where the revolutionary actors were incessantly idolised in this manner. Russian futurists in the Stalin era had little choice but to conform to the nationalistic pathos and its predefined aesthetic standards.

Since both Nazism and Soviet communism have since gone defunct, contemporary democratic consensus takes for granted that there cannot be a grain of historical truth in the critique of art these two systems generated internally. Since fascism and communism obviously didn’t work out, everything found within them must be considered an error and only be interesting insofar as it maps out an historical dead end. It is, on the other hand, assumed that there is no higher truth to be discovered in the realm of aesthetics than the one guaranteeing the artist absolute freedom to do whatever pleases him. More: That only the artist enjoying the highest degree of freedom is capable of producing eternally modern and yet, paradoxically, timeless art. It has thereby also been taken for granted that the artist himself is not going to abuse this unconditional freedom by behaving irresponsibly in his art — as opposed to in his personal life were transgression of bourgeois decorum is almost considered de rigueur.

(…)

John D Rockefeller Jr., founder of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, began to systematically buy up avant-garde art in the 1920s. Over time this resulted in a vast collection of contemporary works, at the time still waiting to acquire political maturity. By the end of the Second World War it was clear that Nazism had been permanently defeated while no more than an uneasy truce had been obtained with Marxist Russia. The fate of precious modernism again seemed uncertain. European modernism certainly had made its mark on the general public. With a once again free and liberal Paris there were hopes of a return of modernism to its most fertile soil. But since the 1920s things had changed. The United States, during its own phase of state autocracy, personified by presidents Hoover and Roosevelt, had seemed to lag behind in artistic awareness, having little more than its own brand of social realism and middle class sentimentality to offer a discerning art world, eager for the new, shocking and surprising. However, with America’s second intervention in European affairs, which decidedly tipped the balance in favour of the Allies, the time had come for the United States to not only demonstrate its political and economic hegemony in the world, but also to become the cutting edge in artistic modernism.

 

This is an excerpt from Hiding in Broad Daylight by Lars Holger Holm. If you liked this excerpt, make sure to get the book.

Incidents of Travel in Latin America

Travelling the world, generally speaking, gives a human being an opportunity to free himself from prejudice and to regard the world as it is rather than the way it ‘ought to be’. If that is not in itself reason enough to travel, it also gives him stories to tell. It is my hope that the […]

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Kärringstaten (Swedish Edition)

Lars Holger Holms Kärringstaten är en lika svidande som humoristisk och spirituell vidräkning med den feministiska statsideologi som i ögonblicket tynger den svenska nationen. I satirens form skildrar Holm det narrspel som drar genom maktens korridorer, ivrigt påhejat av en hop kulturmarxistiska journalister som intet högre önskar än att få göra av med andras pengar och föröda […]

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The Owls of Afrasiab: The Secret Story of Constantinople 1453

The battle between Islam and Christianity precipitating the fall of Constantinople was an event that for ever changed the course of history. Breathtakingly rendering the internal struggle of the Byzantine capital under deadly constriction, and the occult high-stake political game surrounding it, The Owls of Afrasiab also tells the story of the dangerous passion uniting […]

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Hiding in Broad Daylight: An Analysis of the Political Radicalisation and Commercialisation of Artistic Modernism

Artistic modernism. To most of us it would seem a separate universe with its own esoteric intention and logic. What Lars Holger Holm shows in this essay, however, is how intimately the development of various modern artistic idioms, and their theoretical underpinnings, have been linked to concomitant social revolutions and to the highly politicised, theoretical, […]

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Gotisk (Swedish Edition)

Gotisk är uppföljaren till författarnas tidigare utgivna Gotiska förvandlingar (Leo förlag). Än en gång befinner de sig på inre och yttre resor i ett på samma gång historiskt, mytiskt, poetiskt och industriellt samtida Europa. Levande scener, visioner av de äldre germanfolkens till största delen oskrivna historia, varvas med filosofiska, estetiska och allmänmänskliga reflektioner som via […]

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Provinsen (Swedish Edition)

Efter att 1884 ha utgivit novellsamlingen “Giftas” åtalades August Strindberg för “osedlighet”. Bakom åtalet låg hans hustrus närmaste väninna, en fin societetsdam… Även denna folklivsskildring – anakronistiskt avhandlande sederna i ett land som officiellt befriat sig från sådana – är för tidens smak omoralisk. Därmed förklarar sig likväl författaren nöjd, för han har uppnått sitt […]

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Helvetets Forgard (Swedish Edition)

Helvetets förgård av Lars Holger Holm är en härligt uppfriskande, insiktsfull, modig och garanterat politiskt inkorrekt analys av socialstaten Sverige. Boken är en fröjd att läsa för alla manliga män. Hans betraktelse, utgående från en analys av Sveriges historiska bakgrund och landets nuvarande andliga, sociala och politiskt-ekonomiska förutsättningar, utmynnar i ett kompromisslöst ställningstagande för ett […]

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Drömmen om ultima thule (Swedish Edition)

Även de kärva nordeuropeiska folken har haft sin beskärda del av drömmare: filosofer, utoper och dystoper har under skilda epoker funnit en plats i det nord- och centraleuropeiska kulturklimatet. I en serie djupsinniga, men likväl stilsäkert och lättillgängligt tecknade essäer, följer Lars-Holger Holm upp några av de viktigaste tanketrådarna i denna tradition. Med utgångspunkt från […]

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Homo Maximus

Homo Maximus is a historico-philosophical essay comprising a discussion of the phenomenon of civilisation. Just as man as a species entered the evolutionary scene very recently, so civilisation entered the history of man only 5,000 years ago. The speed at which society has since evolved, from rural villages to high-tech mega-cities, is staggering. The ideals […]

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About The Author

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Contributor

Lars Holger Holm is a Swedish author and violinist. He has written on a variety of subjects, such as the European musical tradition, for publications like Svenska Dagbladet, Samtidsmagasinet Salt and Expressen, and spent several years as a host on the classical music radio station Stockholm Classic FM. A number of his books are available through Arktos, including The Owls of Afrasiab, Homo Maximus, and Hiding in Broad Daylight.

  • kid_you_not

    “Since fascism and communism obviously didn’t work out…”

    Fascism worked wonderfully. Germany went from a depression worse than the US to the most advanced nation in the world in only a few years. This is what can happen when you have good racial stock and you throw off the yoke of the parasitic bankers.