But ....but ..but.. is this fascism?

(My apologies for a longer than expected hiatus. Now back to work)

Is this political correctness run amuck (it is The Guardian) or is there some flesh to it-

Russia's Winter Olympics slips into controversy over 'Nazi images'

A promotional campaign linked to the 2014 Winter Olympics is stirring debate in Russia because of its use of allegedly "fascist" imagery.

The campaign employs images of blue-eyed, blond sportsmen and women which have been described by critics as "neo-Hitlerite" and "like something from a Leni Riefenstahl film".

Images of an Aryan-looking snowboarder and an ice-skater gazing into the middle distance dominate giant billboards in Moscow and feature on the cover of brochures to advertise Gorky Gorod, an elite housing complex being built at Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi on Russia's Black Sea coast. The complex is a private-public partnership which will be the Olympic media village at the 2014 Games.

"Without doubt the authors of this advertising were inspired by Nazi art," said Ekaterina Degot, a well-known art historian and former curator at the State Tretyakov Gallery.  

Here are a couple of images from the campaign-

Russia's Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics 'fascist', 'Nazi' image

Russia's Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics 'fascist', 'Nazi' image

On aesthetic merit only the artwork is certainly catchy. The 'heroic' style has been condemned to the gulags of culture by Culture Nazis(aka contemporary art establishment) since long. Contemporary culture vultures prefer shit, semen, urine over the mastery of pigments and putting up senseless contraptions ('installations') supposedly saying something profound. Yawn.

Horridly distorted bodies strewn over each other? Yes!
Well drawn figures? No!

Miserable creatures putrefying in gutter?  Yes!
Heroic,confident protagonists radiating self-esteem?  No way!

And heroic,confident protagonists radiating self-esteem who are also athletic, fair-skinned, blue-eyed and blond ?  QUELLE HORREUR!!! C'EST LE FASCISME!

But are images of heroic, athletic, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, blond people automatically fascist ?

Would the Guardianistas have objected if the persons were curly haired Blacks or tan Asians? One suspects they would then be congratulating the artists for celebrating diversity even if that image would not have been representative of Russian demographics.

But maybe there is more to it-

The Guardian has learned that the images of the sportsmen were produced by Doping-Pong, a St Petersburg-based design company which uses a swastika as one of its online "banners".

One of the company's recent projects is a series of erotic photographs of two young women, one called a "fa" (fascist), the other an "antifa" (anti-fascist activist), who grapple with each other in a wrestling ring and tear off each other's clothes. The "fa" appears to win the fight and triumphantly wraps herself in a Nazi flag.

Doping-Pong also works closely with Katya Zashtopik, a Russian artist in her 20s who is known for her sympathies with the ultra-right, and who uses the online avatar Dopingirl.

On 20 April, Adolf Hitler's birthday, she published a yellow "smiley" on her blog embellished with a toothbrush moustache and a slick of black hair. The caption read: "Happy Birthday."

 Here is the Fa vs Antifa project. A sample-

Doping-Pong Fa vs Antifa
'Fa' wins

 This is what passes for 'art' today. Again can we reasonably suspect that had the winning girl been wearing keffiyeh (the fashionable symbol of resistance) and the bashed up girl wearing the mask of George W. Bush the Fa vs Antifa project would have found a favorable mention in The Guardian's art section?

Having had a look at the works of  Doping-Pong, one finds them a confused amalgam of genuine talent blighted with contemporary fetishes and there is something or the other there to tickle your average, leftist(I repeat myself) art critic. However where the  Doping-Pong fall out of cultural goosestep is in some of their 'commercial' work. Like the 2014 Winter Olympics above or perhaps this -

Doping-Pong heroic art cd cover
Future Sound of Russia - CD cover by Doping-Pang
 Or perhaps not. This is inspired by heroic Soviet imagery which, you see, is different from heroic 'fascist' imagery. Even if Stalin competed with gusto with Hitler on exterminating peoples and nations, communism never went out of fashion at The Guardian.

But there is another 'but' to it-

Dima Mishenin, one of the designers at Doping-Pong, denied a report that Zashtopik was personally involved with producing the Gorky Gorod images. "It's our work, not hers," he said.

Mishenin claimed he had no sympathy with far-right ideas, but said he believed "the Olympic aesthetic starts in Berlin in 1936 and is created by Leni Riefenstahl".

He added: "For me this is about the aesthetics of beauty."
Asked about the use of Nazi iconography in his other work, he said: "When I use a symbol of culture of Nazi Germany like a swastika then, of course, I use it as a representative of the victor nation."

But(yes, another one!) as Richard Spencer comments-

I have no doubt that the Dopingpong firm was, in some fashion, gesturing towards the “fascist” aesthetic of the '20s and '30s. A glance at its catalogue reveals that it does quite a bit of this. The degree to which these references are ironic or tongue-in-cheek, I’ll leave up to the reader. Since the images are overtly “retro,” Dopingpong has certainly applied at least one layer of irony. One might also add that the connotation is more of an era than an ideology: Stalinists were also keen on evoking a certain strong, wholesome, defiant aura; moreover, some public architecture of the New Deal era is cut from the same cloth of Albert Speer’s “Nazi” Classicism. (The offending poster also reminds me of those vintage mountaineering posters I always see on sale every winter.)

"But," says Spencer (this is his but now), " in the end, all of this is besides the point."

What we glimpse in this episode is the degree to which egalitarianism is propagated—and the war on Whiteness, wagedaesthetically. A poster that displays blond, blue-eyed Slavs in heroic postures is deemed, by our opinion- and culture-makers, as a few steps away from Auschwitz. Other cultures are allowed to be grand: Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, can be glorified in gargantuan kitsch. Heroic art featuring White people, on the other hand, is viewed as immoral.

This trend in public display mirrors that in high art, in which centuries of neo-Classicism and Romanticism were, in essence, cancelled in favor of abstraction and modernism’s anti-aesthetic. As Wilmot Robertson noted, “In the dispossession of the [American] Majority, it is the Majority artist who so far has been the greatest casualty.”

Which is sad, no? We lost the Winslow Homers and the Edward Hoppers and we gained (not the right word, I know) the Andy Warhols and the Robert Rauschenbergs. Actually, we lost and then lost some more.

(all emphasis mine)


CortM said…
You make some excellent points. The artists exploit Nazi era images, but there's also a heavy dollop of New Soviet realism in there, as well. The disturbing part is that these people clearly have no sense of history, no sense of context, and I am not sure you can create anything worthwhile without that perspective. I remember hearing a young graphics design student say, not too long ago, "Hey, the Nazis were bad and everything, but you have to admit, they has a great sense of style." He was designing red and black, swastika and eagle adorned hockey sweater.

These are people too ignorant to be fascists...