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  1. #1

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    When I hear "culture" I reach for my gun

    This quote is attributed to Goering, the Nazi war criminal. I use it to start a discussion about a theory of mine. I think that one of the reasons art is so powerful, and hence so threatening to fascist regimes (where intellectuals and artists are the first to be rounded up), is because it reaches poeple in a way no other form of communication can.

    My theory is simply that what we respond to viscerally in photographs is processed on the right side of the brain, and as such transcends verbal or purely rational thought. Stieglitz developed an aesthetic called "equivalence" which meant that he desired to create in a photograph the "equivalent" of certain feelings or impressions. No words, no title, are involved - just the communication from the artist to the viewer, and utilizing only the non-verbal side of the brain. In this way, I think photography, and all art, is "subversive". This might go a long way to explaining the otherwise irrational response of law enforcement and such toward photographers setting up tripods. Something about people wanting to create pictures threatens the authorities.

    The bright side of this is that, through photography, I can actually SAY something from my non-verbal, intuitive (even spiritual) self to another human being, and they can understand it in their intuitive self -- no words exchanged. That is a very powerful and beautiful thing.
    Robert Hunt

  2. #2
    Pastiche's Avatar
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    "Right brain communication, threatening the State without words." - just to paraphrase the idea behind your post (sorry, this is an echo of a thread I read earlier about titles for forum threads... descriptives work best)

    You may say something - and part of the magic is that you have no control over how that will be interpreted on the other end...

  3. #3

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    This quote is actually taken from one theater piece, popular in 1920s... but the very word Kultur in German, as I can understand, is more than just a culture - it's between "culture" and "civilisation", a ripe fruit of education, handed down from one generation to another. It's a national summary of attitudes and other stuff, gluing the state and people together. And there was no compromise or amalgamation between German Kultur and the others, that's why Goering quoted this mediocre, as it were, play. All other Kulturs had to be destroyed to preserve Third Reich Kultur, handed to it directly by Hohenzollerns. But the time, fortunately, showed which Kultur was more powerful - the atrocious, but "educated" old European evil, or the Kultur of New World.

    Just a small example of what the Kultur was. Russian famous philosopher Rozanov wrote once: "Let's not be misled by what we see with our eyes. Oh, you say, nice gemuetliche Germany! Clean nice children all go to school, people visit church and read books, the lawns are mowed, the well-dressed farmer doesn't beat his horse with stick! Yes, that's right, but if he would punish it, he would do it sober in his private clean barn on a backyard, and will do it in German way - torture and kill it with brazen iron, not with just a stick like a Russian drunkard". Unfortunately, the WWII showed that the guy was quite right So the Goering quote shows the complete unacceptability of other Kulturs to the Third Reich Kultur, and not the particular aesthetic views - for example, poor Erich Salomon and Hitler's private photographer used the same techniques and lighting, the classical ones, but what fate did they achieve each?

    And you're right about the subversive and non-verbal side of photography - that's where the magic lies

    Cheers from Moscow,
    Zhenya

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noah Huber
    "Right brain communication, threatening the State without words." - just to paraphrase the idea behind your post (sorry, this is an echo of a thread I read earlier about titles for forum threads... descriptives work best)

    You may say something - and part of the magic is that you have no control over how that will be interpreted on the other end...
    You're right, I shouldn't have been so "provocative" with my title . ..
    but I love your point about no control over how my picture will be seen. Excellent.
    Robert Hunt

  5. #5
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    In the 'post enlightenment', the intuitive nature of humanity was subordinated to 'rationality'; giving rise to narrow minded literalism, loss of context to enable critical thinking, and the denial by the 'enlightened' and 'rational' that only that which is quantifiable is of worth.


    An interesting text which examines this, in regard to the interpretation of images, is "Image as Insight", by Margaret Miles.
    .
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

  6. #6
    David Brown's Avatar
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    I don't totally agree or disagree with your theory.

    However, I do feel that the hostility toward setting up tripods (or taking pictures of buildings, bridges, etc,) probably has nothing to do with art.

    Of course, as always, I could be wrong.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by eumenius
    So the Goering quote shows the complete unacceptability of other Kulturs to the Third Reich Kultur, and not the particular aesthetic views - for example, poor Erich Salomon and Hitler's private photographer used the same techniques and lighting, the classical ones, but what fate did they achieve each?

    And you're right about the subversive and non-verbal side of photography - that's where the magic lies

    Cheers from Moscow,
    Zhenya
    I guess I wasn't so much interested in the particulars of the origin of this quote, more that it makes you think a little. But thanks for the very insightful views on where such thinking came from in Germany, pre WWII.
    Robert Hunt

  8. #8

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    Yes, but I wanted to refine the meaning of this quote (Wenn Ich hoere Kultur... entsichere Ich meinen Browning) - you have used it in apparently wrong way, or it's just my English that fails Goering didn't want to round up all the Kulturtraegers, because of their nonverbal powerful magic of art - he wanted to destroy only the wrong ones, not fitting in TR Kultur field. More, the whole set of TR attributes was designed to fully exploit the non-verbal side of human, and to claim to his animal side - remember just the monumental art or giant architecture of the TR period, or the sea of banners in Triumph des Willens... it was all made to break the human, to subverge a person to, say, a buiding representing Fuehrer himself. The same thing was in the USSR at the time, of course.

    So your claim that the fascist regimes felt threatened by art in common (or I have misunderstood you?) and tried to round them up, seems to be incorrect - they didn't want anyone wrong to use the power of art, and cultivated their own Kultur with their full might. For example, Bauhaus people called more to nice shapes and light play in their art, so they were sacrificed to more "meaty", frightening, animal yet more non-verbal art forms that live inside every human.

    Quote Originally Posted by rhphoto
    I guess I wasn't so much interested in the particulars of the origin of this quote, more that it makes you think a little. But thanks for the very insightful views on where such thinking came from in Germany, pre WWII.

  9. #9
    Alex Hawley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eumenius
    Wenn Ich hoere Kultur... entsichere Ich meinen Browning
    HA! Goerring favored a pistol designed by an American over one built by Germany's Walther or Luger? A great many Brownings of many forms made a significant contribution to the Third Reich's demise.
    Semper Fi & God Bless America
    My Photography Blog

  10. #10

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    Oh yes, that made me laughing for many times Not too patritotic for such a guy, no?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Hawley
    HA! Goerring favored a pistol designed by an American over one built by Germany's Walther or Luger? A great many Brownings of many forms made a significant contribution to the Third Reich's demise.

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