Anselm Kiefer, Velimir Khlebnikov and Submarines

0
8
views

“Time, Measure of the world – Fate of the people. The New Doctrine of War: Naval Battles Recur Every 317 Years or in Multiples Thereof, for Velimir Chlebnikov.” Inscription in German. (All at sea, Adrian Searle, The Guardian, 5 July 2005.)

Anselm Kiefer: Für Chlebnikov, White Cube, London, 2005

Anselm Kiefer, Image courtesy of Renate Graf / © Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer, Image courtesy of Renate Graf / © Anselm Kiefer

Introduction

When I started writing this post, I wanted to discuss a work of art featuring a submarine. On the way I expanded the scope to include a big work with many submarines, and a poet. So this is a post about works of art with submarines, created by Ansellm Kiefer, and a Russian “experimental” poet, named Velimir Chlebnikov (in German) or Khlebnikov (in English).

Anselm Kiefer i one of the greatest living artists in my book. In the age of the “digital”, he continues the glorious romantic tradition of German art.

Velimir Khlebnikov
Velimir Khlebnikov

Velimir Khlebnikov

Khlebnikov was a “futurist” Russian poet (1885-1922), who asserted that naval battles are cyclical phenomena and they occur every 317 years. The key word here is “naval battles”, because the topic of this post is the depiction of submarines in Anselm Kiefer’s work.

‘What binds together both Kiefer and Khlebnikov is their interest in history and time. The starting point for Khlebnikov’s research of history basing upon mathematical calculation was the defeat of Russia in the Russian-Japanese war in 1905 in the naval battle by Tsushima. After that he tried to deduce a law of time and calculated, for example, that Russian-Japanese war broke out 317 years later after the Anglo-Spanish war. Kiefer also applies to the theme of time in his work: “he utilizes time as the central metaphor in his work as the basic concept in searches for identity”, mentions Paul Ardenne. If Khlebnikov tried to systemize time, Kiefer, in his turn, works “with the concept that nothing is fixed in place and that symbols move in all directions”.'(Pinchuk Art Centre)

“The central paradox of the entire system, and of the obsessive rigour with which the theory was applied, lies in the non-scientific basis of its inspiration, in the form of an overwhelming desire to control the movement of history.  Khlebnikov’s initial motivation was a highly personal response to Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese War: ‘I wanted to discover the reason for all those deaths.’” (Anselm Kiefer, Jesus College, Cambridge)

Kiefer’s relationship to Khlebnikov is peculiar. Here we have a major artist of the 20th – 21st century,being “inspired” by a futurist who tried to combine poetry with mathematics, and create a theory of History, so that Man will know what is coming his way.

This looks like a puzzle, unless you turn it upsode down. Kiefer is actually denying Khlebnikov.

” Kiefer’s ironic use of Khlebnikov’s predictive models reflects his conviction that history can never be programmed or given a fixed form.  Only a few of Kiefer’s ships are overturned or foundering on shoals, but there is an almost uniform sense of futility in the isolation of these vessels amid worsening weather conditions.” (Anselm Kiefer, Jesus College, Cambridge)

Model of U1, presented at the International Exhibition in Milan, 1906. Source: Deutsches Museum, Munich.
Model of U1, presented at the International Exhibition in Milan, 1906. Source: Deutsches Museum, Munich.

Submarines

“The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U Boat peril” – Winston Churchill

In the second world war, the submarine was considered to be the ultimate weapon of destruction at sea.

A submarine in German is U-Boot, a shortening of Unterseeboot, literally “undersea boat” (Wikipedia). Although the word refers to any submarine, it has been linked to German submarines, starting with U1 in 1906.

Kiefer is fascinated by submarines, and he shows it. It may be the critical role they play in naval battles, and/or the dark, claustrophobic aura that makes a submarine so different. In what follows I will show some of the relevant works, starting with the super star, a 17 meter long “installation”, which was first shown in the London 2014 exhibition, and had the super long title “Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . .”

submarines
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014.

Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War…

The monumental work Kiefer produced, honoring Khlebnikov’s theory of recurring cyclical naval battles, was exhibited in Royal Academy of Art’s Kiefer Exhibition in 2014.
“Kiefer celebrates this heroic and ludicrous activity with a work that is both monument and anti-monument. Measuring almost 17 metres in total and consisting of two large glass vitrines, Kiefer creates a transparent, reflective sea-scape in three dimensions that calls to mind the Romantic sublime of painters from JMW Turner to Caspar David Friedrich. Kiefer uses the frames of the vitrines to stage a mysterious drama, in which viewers, seeing each other and their own reflections, become participants.” (Royal Academy of Arts, London)
Submarines in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, Photo http://godsavethescene.me/tag/art/
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014. Photo Credit: http://godsavethescene.me/tag/art/
Time is depicted by rust.
Source: http://artandphotography-uog.blogspot.gr/2014/10/anselm-kiefer-ra-annenberg-courtyard.html
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014. Photo credit: http://artandphotography-uog.blogspot.gr/2014/10/anselm-kiefer-ra-annenberg-courtyard.html
london2
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014. Photo credit: https://www.a-n.co.uk/reviews/anselm-kiefer
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014.
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014.
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014.
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014.
Photo Credit: http://francesguerin.com/anselm-kiefer-royal-academy-arts/
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014. Photo Credit: http://francesguerin.com/anselm-kiefer-royal-academy-arts/
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014.
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014.
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014.
Anselm Kiefer. Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War. Time, Dimension of the World, Battles at Sea Occur Every 317 Years or Multiples Thereof, Namely 317 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 . . . . . . . ., 2011-14. Annenberg courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014.
Here the photos from London 2014 end. I will continue with some works from the 2005 exhibition in London’s White Cube, which was explicitly dedicated to Khlebnikov.
wc3
Anselm Kiefer: Isaac Abravanel: das Gastmahl des Levithan
The 2005 Exhibition in London’s White Cube: Für Chlebnikov
Isaac Abravanel: das Gastmahl des Levithan
2004
149 5/8 x 220 1/2 in. (380 x 560 cm)
Oil, emulsion, acrylic on canvas with lead boats
Photo: Stephen White
wc2
Anselm Kiefer: Chlebnikov
Für Chlebnikov
2004
35 7/16 x 157 1/2 x 98 7/16 in. (90 x 400 x 250 cm)
Concrete sculpture with lead boat
Photo: Stephen White
wc1a
Anselm Kiefer: Velimir Chlebnikov: Schicksale der Völker
Velimir Chlebnikov: Schicksale der Völker
2004
149 5/8 x 220 1/2 in. (380 x 560 cm)
Oil, emulsion, acrylic on canvas with lead boats
ark1
Anselm Kiefer, The Ark

The Ark

Arche (german) Ark (english)
2011
emulsion, shellac, pottery, salt, cardboard, lead boat
149 1/2 x 220 1/2 x 21 3/4 in. (379.73 x 560.07 x 55.25 cm)

Accession Date:

07/22/2011
Anselm Kiefer, The Ark
Anselm Kiefer, The Ark
I will end this post with a work a saw in Venice, in the Bienale of 2011. It is titled “The Ark”, and may be the biggest submarine that Kiefer has built to date.
Anselm Kiefer, The Ark
Anselm Kiefer, The Ark