Saturday, July 19, 2008

That mad game the world so loves to play

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.

9 comments:

TimT said...

Ah, modern art - so deliciously masochistic! "War is horrible - so horrible, that I'm going to make you look at a whole series of pictures detailing that horror."

I like these, and so want to go to this exhibition now.

Have you been to the Art Deco exhibition at the NGV? I always intended to go, but after reading John Armstrong's excellent review in The Oz, I - still want to go, but now, even more so.

Tim said...

I'm thinking about going to the Art Deco show, but as always with these big shows the cost and the crowds put me off. Hence the appeal of the Dix exhibition - not exactly crowd-pleasing stuff.

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