Articles

What Do You Do with White Nationalist Art Once the Irony’s Gone?

by Jillian Steinhauer on February 25, 2013

Charles Krafft, "Forgiveness" perfume and soap

Charles Krafft, “Forgiveness” perfume and soap (all images via charleskrafft.com)

Charles Krafft’s artwork would be creepy no matter what. The artist makes porcelain ceramics in the traditions of Dutch Delftware and Italian maiolica pottery, but with a postmodern twist: the pieces are shaped like guns and grenades, or feature scenes of warfare and death (Disasterware), or portraits of Hitler and Charles Manson. There is a soap and cologne set called “Forgiveness,” which features swastikas. And Krafft creates china pieces — memorial and reliquaries, according to his site — using human cremains instead of calcinated cow bone.

But the work of the artist, a leading figure in the Seattle art scene, has become a whole lot more disturbing, with the publication of The Stranger art critic Jen Graves’s exposé of Krafft as a white nationalist and a Holocaust denier.

The piece is definitely worth reading in its entirety, but the basic story is this: for the past few years, Krafft’s work has been accepted and celebrated as being darkly ironic. Galleries and museums have shown and purchased it, as have Jewish collectors, and in an interview with Salon in 2002, Krafft seemed to affirm this interpretation, saying, “I’ve always had a knack and a penchant for going toward humorous irony.”

A porcelain statue from Krafft's "Pitchfork Pals" series

A porcelain statue from Krafft’s “Pitchfork Pals” series

Recently, however, it’s become increasingly clear that Krafft isn’t actually skewering Hitler; in fact, he’s probably celebrating him. Graves compiles Krafft’s own words from his Facebook page, a white nationalist podcast he was a guest on, in July 2012, as well as an email exchange she had with the artist, and the results are damning. “I believe the Holocaust is a myth,” he says on the podcast. “It’s not just the Jews that are promoting this thing,” he goes on to say. “Yeah, it’s their little myth. But we’re going to be rounded up not by Jews, we’re going to be rounded up, if it comes to this, by people just like ourselves.”

Krafft also wrote to Graves about the evolution of his views. Referring to a book he read about a Romanian archbishop prosecuted for crimes against humanity, he said: “Understanding the nuts and bolts of this complex civil case, the Romanian history behind it and its geopolitical ramifications ultimately served to awaken my racial self-awareness as a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant).”

But part of what’s most fascinating, and disturbing (to me, at least), is not Krafft’s response but those of his friends. They generally come off as ambivalent to the point of tolerance: one “feels extremely torn on the subject”; another stopped socializing with him but told Graves, “Be sure to say I love Charlie” (!) ; another lamely responded, “I try not to pay too much attention.”

There seems to be a lot of willful ignorance going on here, bordering on denial. A blog post at the website for Feral House, an independent book publisher run by Adam Parfrey, claims, “It appears that Charlie lost control of his Facebook page, which was often hijacked by a couple mental cases who spoke of ‘kikes’ and such, with some of those comments directed at me.” Lost control of his Facebook page? I’m not even sure what that means. The post ends, “Feral House doesn’t shy away from points of view we don’t necessarily agree with, and so do some of our friends. Despite his occasional idiocy, we love Charlie Krafft.”

Hijacked or not, that’s generally the sentiment on Krafft’s Facebook page, too, where recent friend posts on his wall include, “Remember what they say Charlie, ‘Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.'” Someone else posted a link to a piece written by a fellow white nationalist defending Krafft (it has 25 likes and two shares). “The Persecution of Charles Krafft,” published at a site called Counter-Currents Publishing, starts off quite bluntly:

Whenever a person of any prominence expresses interest in or agreement with tabooed ideas like White Nationalism, anti-Semitism, or Holocaust revisionism, the standard Judeo-Leftist strategy is to destroy him socially and economically — unless, of course, there are no legal barriers to outright murder.

You can imagine how it continues from there. The writer, Greg Johnson, parses the differences between neo-Nazism, white nationalism, and historical revisionism in order to try and discredit Graves. (Another warm and fuzzy sample line: “But Krafft’s art is attractive to people like me, namely White Nationalists who feel what I call ‘the burden of Hitler,’ i.e., people who wish to distinguish their views from National Socialism while also giving just acknowledgement to what Heidegger called its ‘inner truth and greatness.’”) He concludes by encouraging people to buy Krafft’s art, show support and defend him, and letting “this controversy [die] in the pages of The Stranger.” Not if I can help it.

I wrote to Graves asking what kind of response she’s gotten to the piece, in addition to the 200+ comments online. “Lots and lots of response,” she wrote. “Kara Walker, Jerry Saltz chiming in. Plenty of people on all sides. Was the art ever good? Could this have happened on the East Coast? ‘The natural outcome of white Seattle irony,’ a friend said to me last night.”

One of the more astute online commenters echoed that sentiment, writing:

Here we have another case of something extremely common in Seattle. People granting a pass to bigotry by explaining away the obvious as ‘sarcasm’ or ‘hipster-ia’ or ‘edginess’. Not all bigots and antisemites are toothless southerners or mountain hillbillies. Some are actually fairly talented. Others are mildly intelligent (in non-historical/sociological/analytical fields). … [S]omehow the Seattle art scene and the region in general are given a carte blanche ‘tolerant’ rating…mostly by the very people who either fit into Krafft’s type of anti-social normative behavior or from the endless number of people who excuse it.

As Graves mentioned, artist Kara Walker, whose name is invoked in the article by one of the curators interviewed, also commented online, several times. In one of her entries, after complaining about her name being “bandied about in this article as an example of the ‘good negro,'” she makes a great and necessary point:

But I don’t think this is the first time this has happened, that a successful white male artist is proven to have racist sexist ideas! It never fails to surprise me how willing some folks are to render such racism invisible.

And it does seem as though Krafft’s views have been a kind of open secret known by some people for a while. Graves sent me this note, which came via Facebook, from an owner of one of Krafft’s pieces:

Jen, I want to say thanks in regards to your article on Krafft. I came to realize what his beliefs were a few years ago; I packed away the two pieces I own. Now and then, I would check (mostly FB) to find evidence to make sure what I suspected was true. I finally talked about it at a dinner with some other collectors (one of whom is Jewish) and was met with skepticism and disbelief. I am thankful it is now out in a more open and public forum. Again, Thanks.

This dovetails with the words of Seattle blogger Clark Humphrey, who wrote, in a short post on the whole saga:

Like many participants in and observers of the Seattle visual-art scene, I’ve long known about Krafft’s open admiration for neo-Nazis and Holocaust revisionist pseudo-scholars. He didn’t keep his views secret. They just hadn’t been written about in the local arts media, prior to Graves’ article.

So basically, an all-too-common mixture of ignorance, denial, hyper-tolerance, and fear led everyone to this tenuous point, until Graves wrote her article and everything exploded.

One of Krafft's porcelain guns

One of Krafft’s porcelain guns

Or did it? Because the real question is: now that Krafft is outed, what happens to his art, especially the works owned by museums? The San Francisco curator told Graves the museum would likely keep its piece — “he [the curator] values the perspectives brought by artworks.” In other words, we need to parse the art from the artist, at least to the point where we can still display and engage with it. On the one hand, I want to be open-minded enough to agree with this, and some of Krafft’s work is undeniably powerful, for instance, his Delftware guns. On the other hand, the whole “the creator isn’t the work” thing strikes me as pretty flimsy here, since the art seems to be very much a representation of the artist’s skewed views. How do you show a Nazi teapot now, knowing that its creator is a Holocaust denier (and that the man who bought it didn’t know)?

“The line on separating the man from the art feels to me in this case like a diversionary tactic our brains do to us to make the simple less simple because simple is dull and in this case kind of horrible,” Graves wrote to me. “The fact is, he’s selling World War II satire portraits where the satire turns out to be a tactic to fool a world full of dumbshits.”

Graves and I agreed that at the end of the day, Krafft himself is far less interesting than the larger issues raised here. “Exiling a person is a way of pretending the whole society is not infected,” she said, “but he comes from a backlash to multiculturalism that we’re seeing all over the place out here.” Not just out there, I would add, but all over; any country that’s perpetuated and grappled with as many ridiculous myths and conspiracy theories surrounding its President as we have in the past five years is battling some serious demons.

I reached out to one gallery, Stolen Space, that lists Krafft as a represented artist on its site, but no one has responded. Graves said she hasn’t heard from Krafft since the story ran, either. As for whether her article will affect his market — I don’t know. I told Graves I feared people would just ignore it and keep buying and showing his work. She disagreed: “I think they will stop buying it … Or at least, as Greg Johnson urges, a different kind of person altogether will start.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

    Hmmm… so is artwork only deserving of critic / museum attention if it embraces a social message that everyone can agree with (or should I say, the politically left-leaning circles of the art world can agree with)? I mean, I don’t agree with his vision of the world… that said, to suggest that his work should be ignored because of his political / social stance is kind of absurd. It reminds me of what a few Republican politicians have tried to do over the years concerning the NEA, specific artists, and specific exhibits (Hide / Seek comes to mind)… they have made the same argument — that specific artists / themes should be ignored, black-balled, what have you, because of the social views behind the artwork. Do we really want to go down that road?

    • kenneth shropshire

      Actually we aren’t dealing with someone’s social/political stance here. We are dealing with someone’s embrace of evil. To characterize what occurred in Europe before and during WWII as anything but, is to parenthesize the loss of 45 million humans in the language of political science. The question is – does one embrace the art of someone who embraces evil? Should someone compromise their moral compass for the sake of art?

      • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

        “Should someone compromise their moral compass for the sake of art?”… we have seen that same argument raised from the far right concerning art — seriously, do you want to get into the game of ‘silencing’ artwork that you don’t agree with?

        • samktg

          Yeah, let’s play that game. First off, this is not like the culture wars. We have yet to hear the opinions of any elected officials, and we have yet to see museums with Krafft in their collections threatened with cuts to their endowments. The art world is independently policing itself, which is fundamentally different from the kind of censorship elected right-wing officials were engaged in.

          Beyond that is the issue of why someone (like myself) might want this art taken off display. It’s not that I disagree with Krafft’s views, it’s that I find it existentially threatening. Even if the intention behind the art is somehow disconnected from these views, the works are inherently imbued with Krafft’s Holocaust-denying persona. Sure, the right-wing ideologues of the culture wars felt threatened by the art they saw, too, but there isn’t much evidence that artists like Mapplethorpe or Serrano have really done anything to further the proliferation of evil. On the other hand, the kind of rhetoric Krafft and his like-minded fellows traffic in (though I have yet to hear of him committing blood libel) have resulted in century after century of crusades, pogroms, and events like the Holocaust. And lest you think this is irrelevant in America today, in 2011 63.2% of victims of religiously motivated hate crimes were Jewish, a group comprising about 2% of the US population. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2011/narratives/victims

          • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

            It gets tricky though. Think of the number of artists — both past and present — who embrace Communism. Communism, as a whole, has arguably killed more people. Are those works dangerous because the artist supports Communism? Should those works be removed from museums as well? Or should we only target Nazi supporters? Where does it stop?

      • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

        ” We are dealing with someone’s embrace of evil.”… so we should judge artwork based on if it ‘embraces evil’ or not? Who determines what is evil in other situations? An extreme right wing individual may suggest that an artwork championing gay marriage is evil. An extreme left wing individual may suggest that an artwork championing gun ownership is evil. Again, I just don’t want to go down that road.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690014049 Ross Griff

      I agree. And don’t Krafft’s white nationalist views qualify him as an “outsider
      artist”? Don’t the themes of his work make him a “transgressive artist”?
      If anything, his work exposes the art world’s problematic definitions
      of these terms which, in theory, embrace views that challenge
      convention, but in practice, are tightly constrained to conform to
      particular political viewpoints. And isn’t the unsettling quality of his work the whole point of transgression?

    • http://profiles.google.com/joshsteich Josh Steichmann

      So, the first comment is from a white guy who thinks we should give Nazi art a pass under some tolerate intolerance jive. “Look, I’m open minded! I’m not one of those stuffy liberals who sees the actual harm that racism still inflicts on people of color!”

      The false equivalency here is particularly weak — only a fool can contend that there’s no qualitative difference between the NEA 4 and Krafft’s bullshit. Really, only a privileged, oblivious fool. It’s OK to be against Nazis; all viewpoints aren’t equally valid, and it’s mealy-mouthed tacit support like this that made the Holocaust possible in the first place.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

        Josh, surely you can do better than that? Lame tactic… ‘white guy’… and implying that I agree with Nazi rhetoric. Trying to silence me, eh? First off, I’m technically not ‘white’ considering my families background. Lets just say that there was some interracial loving going on during a time when it was really, really, really not acceptable. Ha. Privileged? I was raised in one of the poorest counties in my state… I’ve worked for everything I have. Your assumptions are just as dangerous as Krafft’s rhetoric… but you know what — you have the right to your opinion. Paint it. Exhibit it. Let all of that inner guilt / self hate out, buddy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthewwlangley Matthew Langley

      Brian:
      I appreciate your continued approach towards an inclusive art world. However I think you might be missing the point a bit. Initially we, as viewers, were served Mr. Kraft’s artwork within a particular stance – one of irony and cultural critique (on a fine platter of bone china), what we have now learned is that the work is neither of these.

      The works is actually about something far different than what was initially proposed. This dishonesty, at least to me, is far more distasteful than anything else involved in the story. The fact that this is based around Nazi and white supremacist imagery only heightens the “news worthy-ness” of the story. (Irony intended on the news worthiness part)

      I do not want to ban artworks outright, however I do want the work to be honest in it’s representations. As that representation changes – so does the work, and our evaluations of it.

      On a more personal point: I read from your comment that you might represent a more conservative (read: republican) viewpoint about inclusion. While I agree that fair is fair on both sides of the aisle, it’s awfully hard for me to get behind someone who wants to argue in favor of the ideas behind Nazi-ism and white supremacy.

      To be clear, I do not believe that you believe in these ideas, but that I find it a very strange choice to post your argument on said inclusion.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

        I agree that he should have been upfront. I’m simply pointing out that if we start disregarding artwork because of hidden motives / personal stances… well, the same charge could be made of other artists. Should we ignore those works as well?

        • http://www.facebook.com/matthewwlangley Matthew Langley

          It’s not about ignoring the art – clearly we are not ignoring the art here. What we are doing is re-examining the work under the newly discovered information put forth in critical study of the work.

          Yes, the same could be made of other artists, and no doubt will be. However this change in position (of the artwork) is so very egregious that it does lead us to re-evaluate the work and the man. In this case now that the language of irony and cultural critique are off the work, the work seems to be far less interesting.

          If we can say that the work has now changed in it’s approach from what we initially understood it to be, to something that is far less interesting, should we continue to think of it as having value? Clearly not, nor should we, this is simply a re-evaluation of the work.

          • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

            I’m sure the far right will love this re-evaluation idea concerning artwork in museums based on political / social stances. Load their guns if you wish.

          • http://www.facebook.com/matthewwlangley Matthew Langley

            All art can and should be re-evaluated.

      • E.J.S.

        That’s what’s so pathetic – groupthink hiveminded individuals entrenched in “irony” pat themselves on the bag for being high-brow art collectors, until they actually educate themselves, and now they distance themselves from it. Spineless.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690014049 Ross Griff

      If it were in my collection, I’d be happy to see it all burned. But is the argument here that art is only legitimate when it embraces an anti-racist stance, or remains neutral on the subject? Or that art is ethically obliged to embrace and uphold cherished values? Or that artists are ethically bound to articulate their deepest motives before selling their work? (If it were revealed that Lucian Freud had lied on his artistic statements, I doubt there would be much hand-wringing on “what to do with it all”) The art world–coteries of galleries, intellectuals, scholars, and artists–have been championing boundlessness and transgression for a generation now, and complaining loudly when social conservatives have attempted to constrain them. Now those same voices are arguing against the
      legitimacy of this work because of its offensive social context. I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. Either art must be boundless—even when it’s shocking or offensive—or art must conform to social norms. It cannot do both.

      • Jillian Steinhauer

        Ross, I think the more interesting and appropriate question is: once it stops being ironic, does it stop being good art? I’m not advocating the censorship of pro-Nazi art, but I am questioning whether, once the fact of its being pro-Nazi is revealed, the art loses its merit and becomes bad, propagandistic art instead of powerfully ambiguous. (This is where some people jump in and say that it can still be that, regardless of its creator’s intentions. I want to agree with that in theory, but I’m having trouble in actuality.)

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690014049 Ross Griff

          I think your question goes to the heart of whether a piece can be judged on its own merits or whether you have to consider its larger context within a body of work by a particular artist with a particular vision. I think every piece is probably approached with both concepts in mind. Absolutely Krafft’s outing radically changes the context of these pieces and the ways in which they’re approached but whether that’s makes it good art or bad art, or successful or unsuccessful–I think that’s ambiguous.

          • http://www.facebook.com/steven.ketchum Steven Ketchum

            It would seem to me that his outing does increase the ability to judge his artwork good or bad, successful or unsuccessful. A gallery who supports his views will support him.

            We make these assessments whenever we look at art and, for the vast majority who KNOW history, his work should be reluctant to be endorsed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

    I mean… should we remove Picasso’s artwork from US museums because he was extremely sexist and leaned toward Communism? Furthermore, I can think of a number of artists who have lashed out at ‘whiteness’… should those works be shunned and removed from museums based on a charge of racism? Again, do you really want to go down this road?

    • http://www.facebook.com/kelly.rule Kelly Rule

      You really are the kind of idiot it is not worth arguing with.

    • Sallynotadude

      There is no reason to approach this with a “fits-all” answer. It isn’t a clear and equal situation so a clear and equal answer is out of the question. Yes, his works should be removed because they are insults to us all. Art needs to be a tad more than dick-waving. What does his art mean? Is it just a troll?

      Also, not to sound crass, we have no shortage of artists. This artist is a schmuck and we aren’t losing anything by not indulging in his junk. The gallery is not the end all be all in a piece of art’s lifespan.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

        I never cared for his work in the first place. I would not want to own any of his work… even when it was thought to be irony. The fact that collectors, museums, and critics found humor in the use of those symbols is kind of sickening in its own way. That said, I’m not afraid of it being exhibited. I’m not going to stop someone else from seeing it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/steven.ketchum Steven Ketchum

      Giving leverage to ignorant people is to indulge in their stupidity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

    I think comments are messed up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steven.ketchum Steven Ketchum

    In media and art the last thing we need is someone who doesn’t keep their eyes open and honest to the truth.

    I like to believe that one of art’s few functions is to enlighten. Promoting ignorance not only reflects stupidity but is dangerous.

  • samktg

    I woud have no problem seeing Krafft blackballed. Holocaust denial crosses the line from being a “disagreeing viewpoint” to hate speech. Denying the Holocaust, insisting on the existence of a worldwide Jewish elite, insisting that Jews incite race and class warfare, the sort of rhetoric Krafft and his like-minded peers engage in is implicitly a threat to Jews everywhere. They aren’t informing us of these beliefs simply for our edification, but to incite action – specifically violence against Jews.

    Just because the left-leaning circles of the art world are tolerant does not mean that it needs to tolerate this kind of extreme intolerance.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

      Would you take the same position on extreme intolerance against Christians? After all, there were over three million Polish Christians / Catholics murdered by the Nazi’s. Yet I don’t see anyone here complaining about artwork that attacks Christians (and we all know that works like that exist). Food for thought.

      • samktg

        Is anyone in the US sincerely advocating for the death of all Christians? Has anyone ever attempted to kill every single Christian on the face of the earth? Do Christians comprise .2% of the human population? Don’t play like it’s the same, or even comparable.

        Although, if you can actually find a contemporary artist that advocates violence against Christians (not simply extremely intolerant), whose name carries as much or more weight than Krafft’s, I will happily say their art should be returned to storage and publicly censured.

        A bit more food for thought. Christians are a religious group, Jews are an ethnic group (many of us are adherents of Judaism, many of us are not). The two are not exactly always comparable.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

          I don’t like censorship. Period.

      • http://www.facebook.com/steven.ketchum Steven Ketchum

        The history of the world is not as even as you you’re trying to make it.

        The Catholic Church wasn’t even in opposition to the Nazis (many clergy supported them).

        If you can’t make judgements, even these simple ones, then you’re inviting a lot of chaos.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

          That does not change the fact that over 3 million Polish Christians / Catholics were killed by the Nazi’s alongside Polish Jews. Does their murder have less meaning because they were not Jewish? WTF

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.parfrey Adam Parfrey

    This is a lie.

  • disqus_XWAbLFdyBm

    It’s not enough to blackball “hate speech,” I think we must also take out these people. If it’s done with a drone, you can wipe your hands of it cleanly.

  • Lady Ann

    Is this really irony? Let’s elevate the lowest common denominator. Blechhhh

  • samktg

    I’d like to take a moment to comment what an enormous relief it is to see the debate here largely focused on issues of censorship and context. The thread following Jenn Graves’ article (which is excellent, by the way) quickly descended into debate about the actuality of the Holocaust, which is terrifying. Kudos Hyperallergic.

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      Agreed. The comment thread at the Stranger was a scary one to wade into.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

      My grandfather helped liberate one of the camps… I should dig out the photographs he took. Some of the things he observed stayed with him… he had nightmares even in old age. He saw the bodies with his own eyes — it happened.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.mcmasters Aaron McMasters

    Is art moral? I think art should (morally) be INHERENTLY if not overtly anti-facist (this may make me a Jew) and messing with bourgeois morality is one tool to this end (this may make me a degenerate). Sure there’s room for Nazi subject matter but UNALLOYED WHITE SUPREMATISTS AS ARTISTS?- I don’t have to support it, and neither does the (insert conspiracy theory here) puppeted government.

    Is Delftware Ironic? The rise of modern colonialism started with the Dutch, King Leopold II is famous for pioneering efforts in the Congo (innovatively chopping off hands for example). So I fail to see how these pieces are “ironic” in the sense of Dutch guns – sarcastic maybe. In the sense of the violence of subjugation and exploitation vs. the calm domesticity that it supported, it’s been done, but at least it makes sense. These kinds of expected juxtapositions pass for criticality these days. Is it “ironic” that Krafft is using the strategy of identity politics in a Bob Roberts kind of way? Or is it merely “humorous”? Hitler would find Krafft’s crafty chotchkes degenerate – not realist enough, too “hand of the artist”.

    Krafft’s tribe is lost in the wilderness. He is a provincial who will never understand why (New Yorker’s) look down on him (and all the hinterlands) from Mount Olympus. He will hate us more because of this. He will never get a solo show at the WHITNEY. He will enjoy being an outsider, a Lazarus in the desert, a lonely member of his tribe.

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      Aaron, thanks for your comments on King Leopold and the Dutch—that’s a useful context and perspective that I wasn’t thinking about. I meant that some of the pieces work for me in the contrasts that they create/invoke, e.g. delicate porcelain objects made to look like tools for killing. Whether or not it’s been done (I kind of think everything’s been done), that’s potentially evocative for me. But I agree that Hitler probably wouldn’t have gone for them.

      • Bertus Pieters

        Being Dutch, i’d like to add that King Leopold was a Belgian – not a Dutch – king and as such had nothng to do with Delftware.
        By the way, good article and interesting problem. You described the dilemma for the critic (and the viewer in general) very well.

  • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

    The author was assigned the post by the editor, me. So, there goes your dig at her cultural heritage.

  • JosephYoung

    what i don’t think we’ve heard asked in this comment stream is, when the art is political–and this art clearly is–then do we get to ask about the politics of the artist? ok, picasso might have been a shitheal to women but isn’t his painting of acrobats still pretty much a painting of acrobats whether he was misogynist or not? i’m not sure art with swastikas is the same whether the artist is a nazi or not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

    I had a feeling someone would go this route. :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/shawn.chapman.9026 Shawn Chapman

    Makes for an interesting question: does art derive it’s meaning from the artist or the viewer? And if Krafft’s work was valued for being darkly ironic, shouldn’t it be even more highly valued now?

  • http://www.facebook.com/anna.e.hall Anna E. Hall

    this controversy illustrates the very essence of conceptual art: in order to be fully appreciated, it must be read “beyond the canvas”, as it were, i.e. with an understanding of its cultural, historical and – the most relevant aspect here – biographical context. – Therefore, it would seem to follow that, rather than resorting to the most obvious and facile approaches in dealing with Krafft’s “oeuvre,” a more effective scenario would be for museums and galleries to continue displaying his works, however, only if accompanied by thoughtfully crafted audio-visuals to illuminate the context in which the piece was conceived.

  • ViktorNN

    Okay, so I checked back to Grave’s original “expose” on Krafft to find out what this guy was up to that was so objectionable. It seems like there are two things 1) he’s a “holocaust denier” and 2) he’s a “white nationalist.”

    Graves got Krafft to say some stuff that definitely makes him sound like a holocaust denier. As I understand it, the problem with denying the holocaust is that it’s insensitive and offensive to jews (and any decent human who is rightly horrified by it) and it usually indicates that the person doing the denying is anti-semitic, that is, someone who is bigoted or hateful towards jews.

    In my experience I’ve noticed another kind of holocaust denier – the conspiracy theory enthusiast who isn’t mindful of how offensive doubting the holocaust is, but ultimately isn’t out to bother anyone, including jews. This isn’t a perfect analogy, but consider 9-11 truthers – their enthusiasm for alternate explanations of 9-11 are probably pretty damn offensive to 9-11 families, but it’s unlikely that the truthers are really out to harm anyone.

    So all this leads up to the question: what kind of holocaust denier is Krafft? Is he the kind that’s doing it cuz he hates jews? Or is he a fan of one of the biggest conspiracy theories of all time? If he’s not an anti-semite, does it make his interest in this particular conspiracy theory more benign? Or is there something sacred about holocaust history that means a public figure should lose their livelihood if they make the mistake of saying the wrong thing about it?

    The next terrible thing Krafft is being accused of is being a “white nationalist.” This particular charge is even more vague to me. All Graves really cites as evidence is that he was interviewed by a “white nationalist” website.

    And even if he is one, before we all agree to kick Krafft out of the Acceptable Art Club, shouldn’t we be told what’s verboten about “white nationalism?” Or are we all supposed to just know what’s so terrible about it?

    I’m guessing it has something to do with stuff like “white nationalists = white supremacists.,” or “white nationalists = hate groups,” or “white nationalists = crazy evil white people who want to kill non-white people” – but shouldn’t we spell out exactly what’s so objectionable? Why should we bother, some might respond. Well, we should bother because then we can turn around and ask Krafft (or look through his interviews and artists statements) whether he actually believes in those objectionable things.

    As things stand now, affixing the tag “white nationalist” to Krafft without much explanation of what the tag means and why it’s being applied to him isn’t fair to both him and those of us following all this who actually care about having justified reasons for thinking and acting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/victorgreeson Victor Greeson

    I assume no-one here listens to Wagner, or reads Celine, Heidegger, or for that matter Fichte or Hegel? And I’m quite sure there are no Roman Polanski fans? (He being distinguished from the rest, including the subject of this article, by actually having DONE SOMETHING BAD OTHER THAN ART.) Granted, no-one actually reads Ezra Pound anyway, but can any of you promise that you won’t? In general, artists and intellectuals are pretty shtty people to begin with, and it usually reflects in their work. If you start consigning all the bad people to the memory hole, you won’t really have much left to look at, listen to, or think about.

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