Featherstone, M (2019) Prometheus and the Degenerate: Arno Breker, Hans Bellmer, and Francis Bacon's Extreme Realism. In: Representing the Experience of War and Atrocity. Palgrave Studies in Crime, Media and Culture . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 153-177.

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Abstract

The author considers the visualisation of the body under conditions of war through a discussion of two artists, the sculptor Arno Breker (1900–1991) and the surrealist Hans Bellmer (1902–1975), who imagined the fate of corporeality in Nazi Germany and beyond. He sets up the idea of National Socialism as an ocularcentric regime obsessed with spectacle and the experience of power where the powerful are seen and the weak, vulnerable, miserable, and centrally degenerate are not seen. It is possible to read Arno Breker’s sculptures that imagine the idealised Aryan body as superhuman as a form of material dissimulation designed to hide or repress the criminal violence of National Socialism. While Breker imagines the ideal Aryan leading humanity into a future characterised by purity (e.g. his 1935 sculpture Prometheus), the other side of this dark utopian fantasy comprises the repression of the crime that the Nazi does not see or want to see. This criminal other side, it is argued, is revealed by the work of the surrealist Hans Bellmer, who famously opposed the Nazi’s corporeal fantasy world through his Dolls project where the body is seen in its tortured, mutilated, violated, and destroyed real form. After exploring the politics of the Breker–Bellmer couple, and particularly the psychoanalytic dimensions of their opposition that may inform our understanding of body politics today, the author then goes on to compare both artists’ works with Francis Bacon’s rendition of ‘humanity-as-meat’ that both underpins and results from the workings of power, authority and neo-liberal capitalism alike.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is the accepted author manuscript (AAM) deposited in accordance witht the publisher's self-archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online via Palgrave Macmillan at https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-13925-4_7 - please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nazi art, Nazism, Nietzsche, The abject, The real, Bare life
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Science and Public Policy
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 09:35
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2019 09:40
URI: http://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/6344

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