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A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing

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An essay on art, identity and fascism. In an era where identity politics is being weaponised against the very people it has sought to make visible, how can we reclaim complexity? In 1937 the Nazis staged an exhibition of seized artworks to showcase the 'perverse Jewish spirit' pervading German culture. It contained work by Jewish artists, but also those were queer or foreign An essay on art, identity and fascism. In an era where identity politics is being weaponised against the very people it has sought to make visible, how can we reclaim complexity? In 1937 the Nazis staged an exhibition of seized artworks to showcase the 'perverse Jewish spirit' pervading German culture. It contained work by Jewish artists, but also those were queer or foreign. It was an event that sought to define degeneracy and put it on display. This exhibition, Entartete Kunst, is just a single episode in a long running culture war, one that has always been fought on terms set by fascism. Drawing on the work of dissident sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, South African artist Zanele Muholi as well as key proponents of queer cinema such as Pedro Almodovar and Derek Jarman, So Mayer demonstrates how artists have snuck things out of the traditional canon, playing against the grain to defy the patriarchal, imperialist and colonial terms which have been imposed on them. A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing is a call to arms. It asks, how might we create a joyous riot? How might we use pleasure to decolonise gender and sexuality and refuse the prevailing fascist, box-ticking taxonomies?


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An essay on art, identity and fascism. In an era where identity politics is being weaponised against the very people it has sought to make visible, how can we reclaim complexity? In 1937 the Nazis staged an exhibition of seized artworks to showcase the 'perverse Jewish spirit' pervading German culture. It contained work by Jewish artists, but also those were queer or foreign An essay on art, identity and fascism. In an era where identity politics is being weaponised against the very people it has sought to make visible, how can we reclaim complexity? In 1937 the Nazis staged an exhibition of seized artworks to showcase the 'perverse Jewish spirit' pervading German culture. It contained work by Jewish artists, but also those were queer or foreign. It was an event that sought to define degeneracy and put it on display. This exhibition, Entartete Kunst, is just a single episode in a long running culture war, one that has always been fought on terms set by fascism. Drawing on the work of dissident sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, South African artist Zanele Muholi as well as key proponents of queer cinema such as Pedro Almodovar and Derek Jarman, So Mayer demonstrates how artists have snuck things out of the traditional canon, playing against the grain to defy the patriarchal, imperialist and colonial terms which have been imposed on them. A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing is a call to arms. It asks, how might we create a joyous riot? How might we use pleasure to decolonise gender and sexuality and refuse the prevailing fascist, box-ticking taxonomies?

44 review for A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alwynne

    So Mayer takes as their starting point ways in which the Nazi regime set out to classify, shame and ultimately eradicate people, ways of being, ideas and work that they considered undesirable, all grouped together under the category of ‘other.’ Mayer examines the nature and purpose of seemingly symbolic acts carried out by the Nazis, such as book-burning, although they focus on the exhibition of ‘Entartete Kunst’ (degenerate art) which toured German towns in 1937. Mayer’s specific interest is th So Mayer takes as their starting point ways in which the Nazi regime set out to classify, shame and ultimately eradicate people, ways of being, ideas and work that they considered undesirable, all grouped together under the category of ‘other.’ Mayer examines the nature and purpose of seemingly symbolic acts carried out by the Nazis, such as book-burning, although they focus on the exhibition of ‘Entartete Kunst’ (degenerate art) which toured German towns in 1937. Mayer’s specific interest is the attempt to erase the queer and ‘non-normative’ cultures which had briefly flourished in the Weimar era. Mayer explores forms of destruction that were inextricably interwoven with anti-Semitic narratives and concepts of ‘ideological Jewishness’ often building on so-called science including eugenics, Lombardo’s concepts of the criminal body and wilful mis-readings of theories such as Nordau’s ideas of the degenerate. However, Mayer isn’t just documenting these activities but reflecting on how they might exemplify the workings of power particularly the limiting of access to certain histories or types of information – strategies still visible in today’s culture wars, the concept of cultural Marxism (akin to what the Nazis referred to as ‘cultural Bolshevism') fake news, and the machinations of contemporary right-wing groups seeking to silence, marginalise and ‘other’, even targeting the same people as the Nazis did in Germany. Mayer then explores the ways in which these forms of power can be, and have been, resisted by writers, film-makers and artists working within the fractures and lacunae in official histories and fragmented archives in order to transform these into pieces that actively reframe both past and present. All part of a series of ongoing challenges to ‘official’ histories and to dominant cultures’ repeated, violent, erasures. Mayer discusses numerous examples of productive ‘reading against the grain’ including campaigns by ACT UP in the 80s, queer film-makers Barbara Hammer, Derek Jarman, Pasolini, Fassbinder and Pedro Almodovar; texts such as Madchen in Uniform and Looking for Langston; and Saidiya Hartman’s recent resurrection and re-reading of the lives of ‘wayward’ black women often only briefly documented in archived court records of their ‘transgressions.’ Mayer draws on a variety of theoretical frameworks and historical material, deploying ideas taken from theorists like Derrida and Mayer’s background in film studies. I found Mayer’s approach fascinating and I appreciated the range of material that they’re drawing from here but their essay’s short and incredibly compressed – sometimes making it difficult to fully engage with or evaluate the core arguments. At times the spirit of Mayer’s debate was clearer than its intricacies, perhaps inevitably the restricted space available resulted in a glossing over of complex ideas/positions. But Mayer doesn’t represent this as a finished or ‘fixed’ interrogation of their territory but rather a contribution to a series of ongoing conversations, and viewed in that way I found it compelling and fairly effective. Rating: 3.5

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    I loved this essay. So Mayer has given us something so tender and considered, and radical.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book is brilliant from cover to cover. In this book, So Mayer blends their habitual acute observation and clarity of language with an experimental essay form that reflects the subject of erasure and anarchival reconstruction of history that the book centres on. It unfolded me. p.s. I've never enjoyed reading a bibliography so thoroughly. This book is brilliant from cover to cover. In this book, So Mayer blends their habitual acute observation and clarity of language with an experimental essay form that reflects the subject of erasure and anarchival reconstruction of history that the book centres on. It unfolded me. p.s. I've never enjoyed reading a bibliography so thoroughly.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    I read this last week and haven't stopped thinking about it. A must-read book reclaiming queer + Jewish art, history and identities from erasure, exploring queer and antifascist cinema, basically exploding the concept of degenerate art completely. Incredible from So Mayer. I read this last week and haven't stopped thinking about it. A must-read book reclaiming queer + Jewish art, history and identities from erasure, exploring queer and antifascist cinema, basically exploding the concept of degenerate art completely. Incredible from So Mayer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Greg Thorpe

    Totally reinvigorated my enthusiasm for theory (where next?) and I am in love with some of the concepts extrapolated here; 'folding' time; the potential menace of the film camera; and above all the 'anarchives' and our place(s) in them. Mayer has woven together so many of my own creative impulses and favourite artists in a way that makes me see everything that more clearly and this book has revived my feelings of historical connection and queer synchronicity at a moment when Goddess knows I/we n Totally reinvigorated my enthusiasm for theory (where next?) and I am in love with some of the concepts extrapolated here; 'folding' time; the potential menace of the film camera; and above all the 'anarchives' and our place(s) in them. Mayer has woven together so many of my own creative impulses and favourite artists in a way that makes me see everything that more clearly and this book has revived my feelings of historical connection and queer synchronicity at a moment when Goddess knows I/we need all the energy I/we can muster. Joyful riotous writing. Bravo.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    This is an absolutely faultless essay. It’s quite hard to categorise - it’s a historical, critical essay that calls out the violent appropriation of queer art to reinforce an identity politics formed around ideas of “degeneracy” (named “Entartete Kunst”) by the Nazis. However, it also feels like a manifesto that shines a light on queer art and cinema that didn’t achieve recognition in its own time and calls on contemporary artists to reclaim complex personal identities and histories. It is defin This is an absolutely faultless essay. It’s quite hard to categorise - it’s a historical, critical essay that calls out the violent appropriation of queer art to reinforce an identity politics formed around ideas of “degeneracy” (named “Entartete Kunst”) by the Nazis. However, it also feels like a manifesto that shines a light on queer art and cinema that didn’t achieve recognition in its own time and calls on contemporary artists to reclaim complex personal identities and histories. It is definitely a “joyous riot” that merits reading and rereading.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tom De Ville

    A searing, vital examination of the Nazi thinking that tried to destroy queer culture, and the defiant queer cinema that rose to stand against it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Belinda

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pippa Sterk

  10. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

  11. 4 out of 5

    westerbakery

  12. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Impey

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alicia S.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elspeth Mitchell

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zak

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chay Collins

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kashif

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Gilbert

  23. 4 out of 5

    Henrik

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Kiewel

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Anne

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Ford

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura Elliott

  29. 5 out of 5

    A

  30. 4 out of 5

    Calico

  31. 4 out of 5

    Paulina

  32. 5 out of 5

    Marina

  33. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  34. 4 out of 5

    Peter Willis

  35. 5 out of 5

    Pip Monk

  36. 5 out of 5

    Eve

  37. 4 out of 5

    Souky

  38. 5 out of 5

    Cleo

  39. 5 out of 5

    Maria Kaluska

  40. 5 out of 5

    Mirka

  41. 5 out of 5

    Armen

  42. 4 out of 5

    Wiggy's world

  43. 5 out of 5

    Quinn

  44. 5 out of 5

    Emily West

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