Art that wants to shock after Hitler is a horrible thing


Boris Lowry, The Fight, 1951.Boris Lowry Art Foundation Statue

On September 16, 1975, the Leningrad-born artist Boris Lurie in 1924 climbed to Lermontov. This Russian ship was to take him from America to Riga, the capital of Latvia, where he spent his childhood and where the most important people in his life were killed because they were Jews, one of his sisters, his mother, his grandmother, his first love. The massacre took place in the Rumbula forest near Riga. On November 30 and December 8, 1941, approximately 25,000 Jews were shot by the Nazis and the Latvians who had collaborated with them, mostly women, children and the elderly.

In Lowry’s work, in texts relating to his work, the word Rumbula appears repeatedly, almost as an incantation, but also to indicate the presence of one before and one after Rumbula. (By the way, the largest mass murder of Jews in Latvia took place in the Berniki forest near Riga, where from twenty to forty thousand Jews, Russian prisoners of war and political opponents of the Nazis were killed.)

Thank you, Adolf Hitler.

Lowry became an artist after the war while living with his father in New York, where he earned money as an advertising artist. In his spare time he made drawings about ghettos and concentration camps. His graphics are still reasonably realistic, and he remains confident that he can depict drastic destruction in a relatively traditional way.

He became a writer upon his return to New York in 1975 after his visit to Riga and the Rumbula Forest, and began writing his memoirs in English, German and Russian, totaling about 700 pages entitled in Riga† Picture of dream and reality, fantasy and eyewitness account are indistinguishable from each other.

The first volume of those memoirs was published in 2019 and begins wholeheartedly from Laurie: “I thank you, Adolf Hitler, for making me who I am, for the fruitful hours I have spent in your hand, for the precious lessons I learned through your wisdom, for all the tragic moments, hanging between life and death.

Camp, as we know, can become part of one’s identity, but as far as I know, none of the survivors have gone further than Lowry in declaring that it was made by Hitler, from which he deduced: Hitler’s child. I believe that we can only understand Lowry’s comprehensive and complex work if we take his statement seriously.

Boris Laurie in his studio in 1962. Image Boris Laurie Foundation for the Arts

Boris Lowry in his studio in 1962.Boris Lowry Art Foundation Statue

Lori’s father, Ilya, was an industrialist who had to leave Leningrad after the Russian Revolution because industrialists had become enemies of the peasant and workers’ paradise, and Boris’ mother was a dentist. They fled to Latvia.

After the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Latvia became a Soviet republic in the summer of 1940. A year later, the Germans arrived and were warmly welcomed by a large section of Latvians.

Laurie divides victims in Latvia into four categories.

Jews killed almost immediately after the German invasion in the summer of 1941.

The Riga Jew, who, it was said, was largely murdered in two days, November 30 and December 8, 1941.

Working Jews from the ghetto, who were assigned to work in the so-called Arbeitslager near Riga. When the Red Army advanced, most of them were “evacuated” to Germany. About a thousand people survived, including Boris Lowry and his father.

Then about five hundred Latvian Jews remained in hiding or lived under an assumed name; Only a few of them survived.

Moreover, during the war, from fifty to one hundred thousand German, Austrian and Czech Jews were transferred to Latvia, and almost all of them were destroyed there.

It is worth describing some of Lowry’s scattered memories of the time before he became a child of Hitler, that is, before Rombola.

Damn parties last year

Boris was nicknamed “Borya-why” because he was always asking questions. The maid at Loris was called Bronya, and, according to Boris, she constantly flirted with him. He designed a mirror system so he could spy on her while she was taking a shower, and collect the clothes she was wearing for him to smell and imagine. She was eventually separated by Boris’s mother, because she was afraid that her son would carry the maid.

He also describes what he calls the “damned parties” of Latvian youth. The girls choose the boys and then everyone disappears into their own room. Boris is picked up by a girl from among what he calls a “working class” – he wrote that during attempts to make love, she would make noises “he had never heard before” – but when he tries to put on a condom, she gets angry and yells at him: “You bastard, aren’t you good?” enough for you?”

Boris Laurie, Susan Sweet, 1963. Image Boris Laurie Art Foundation

Boris Lowry, Susan Sweet, 1963.Boris Lowry Art Foundation Statue

Lori’s grandmother was the only one in the Orthodox family. As a child, he hated her for her arrogance and condemnation. He enjoyed eating pork precisely because it was the only remaining Jewish taboo in his family.

His memoirs are a series of larger and smaller border crossings with war and mass murder as border crossings for border crossings.

In the ghetto of the so-called Arbeitsjuden, where Lowry ended up with his father after the rest of his family was massacred, an active trade in food and sex arose, in part due to the arrival of German Jews. According to Lowry, German Jewish women, because they did not speak the language and needed protection and food, and often had their husbands murdered, were available for sex. Lowry writes that German Jews were seen as “interchangeable” by Latvian Jews.

He adds that even at that time he must have had a subconscious fantasy that all women were doomed, that they were all chosen to die and that the almost exclusively male survival of the Arbeitsjuden man would increase if all the women were to disappear. Although this fantasy would be unconscious, it deserves to be taken seriously, if only because there is a certain aggression towards women in Lowry’s work.

Greatest striptease of all time

Now I have to mention Lyuba Triskunova, the girl whom Boris calls his “true love”. For years he coveted her in vain, but soon after the German occupation their love blossomed.

However, on December 8, 1941, Juba, along with her sister and mother, Shayna, Boris’s mother, his grandmother and younger sister Josefina, as well as thousands of other women and children, had to walk through the freezing cold to Rambula, where they had to undress to be finished.

Laurie wrote in his diary that Lyuba did not die in the Rumbula forest, but was only seriously wounded. From the outside she looks healthy, but she cannot hold her urine, and Boris has to change her underwear every day at the age of twelve. The visitors, who are apparently there, hardly pay attention to the spouses, but only murmur: “Life must go on.” The nightmare of reality turns into the consolation of a dark hallucination.

Elsewhere, Lowry states that he has a “psychedelic appeal to the art of striptease” and that he continues to revive “the greatest striptease of all time, that of Rombolabus,” but that he “didn’t know it at the time.”

What did he not know then?

He calls his sister Gina, who shot Miss Rumbula.

One of Laurie’s most famous artworks is a poster titled Railway to America From 1963. In Margaret Bourke-White’s supposed photo of corpses, possibly from a concentration camp, stacked on an open freight wagon, Laurie pasted a pin image in the suspenders, her face turned into corpses. She is about to take off her panties, her long dark wavy hair falling to her shoulders.

Boris Lowry, College of Railways, 1963. Portrait of Boris Lowry

Boris Lowry, College of Railways, 1963.Boris Lowry Statue

Not all nudity is mass murder, of course, but all mass murders are nudity, too.

However, anyone who has read Laurie’s diary can no longer see this collage without thinking of their imagination. This is Lyuba, apparently rising from a pile of corpses unscathed.

There is no real solidarity either in Laurie’s memories or in his artwork, life there is only substitution. This is also the way I explain Laurie’s obsession with nudity, where substitution goes without saying, both for the nude dancer and for the visitor; Everyone can be replaced by each other.

In New York, Lowry has always been an outsider, and he was also an outsider in the art world. However, he has maintained close contacts with some artists, including Wolf Fostel, whose exceptional performance is Boris Laurie Wolf Vostel, Art After Auschwitz It testifies that it can be seen at the Kunstmuseum in The Hague until May 29. Those who consider the Feustel installation from 1970 in Cologne, which can also be seen in the gallery, will not be surprised.

Grinding forks and spoons

The visitor walks over a sea of ​​thorns and spoons along the fence wire, the iconic image of the camp. Before that, he was given a bag and chewing gum, and a microphone stuck to his cheek, so that his loud and clear slap mingled with the creaking of forks and spoons.

The question is how shocking that still is, in times when concentration camps like Auschwitz have become tourist destinations, which I don’t judge, perhaps a better tourist destination than being completely forgotten.

And it’s not about shock either. The art that wants to shock after Hitler is ugly art. Where everything is desecrated, so is the horror of desecration. And where trust in reality has been drastically eroded, resentment of dishonesty has also become unreliable.

Lowry’s work and Fostel’s work is about this breach of trust, about the insight that only the dead are irreplaceable.

Wolf Vostell, 1968. Image Archivo Happening Vostell

Wolf Fostel, 1968.Archivo Statue Happening Fostel

Border crossing of border crossings can only be represented by continuing to try to cross new symbolic borders. Complete desecration is a fact, but it must be displayed in every work of art, so that, as it were, one can always walk towards this complete desecration again and again.

Laurie did so based on his fantasies. He wasn’t afraid of it, probably because he knew he was Hitler’s child. For example, he wrote that surviving victims and perpetrators should gather in Rumbula and have snacks there, says Rabbi Shema in Israel. Countless barrels of vodka should be a soldier so that the victims and offenders roll on the ground vomiting and laughing, so that the dead at least feel the vibrations.

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