In an attempt to ward off or at least mitigate depression I have been avoiding horror movies, sad songs, news reports of suffering and murder, and anything else that couldn't conceivably be turned into a cheerful Gene Kelly song-and-dance number. All was going reasonably well until today when I made the mistake of visiting the exhibition of Otto Dix's Der Krieg [War] etchings at the NGV.
Who's laughing now?
I'm actually glad I went because it is an enormously powerful exhibition. There is quite a lot of variety amongst the fifty-one prints, in style and focus, which is presumably the consequence not only of Dix's roving eye but also a conscious effort not to routinise the manifold nastiness of war. For the spectator this has the effect of precluding numbness - at every turn there is fresh horror to absorb. It's not all gory battle scenes either - one of the most shocking prints depicts a soldier raping a nun. It's horrific stuff, but that's the point. I found some of the prints difficult to look at, although Dix's skill - obvious even to your know-nothing correspondent - provides enough abstract fascination to counteract at least some of the physical revulsion one experiences.