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“Anselm” film musings


Original title: Anselm - Das Rauschen der Zeit


This weekend I attended a screening of Anselm, about the life and work of Anselm Keifer. It is a lyrical and fascinating film with a lovely and evocative soundtrack.

The man has produced a truly prodigious quantity of work, all about the difficult subject of World War II, with related out-reachings to current wars across the world. I admire his work ethic, and no one could deny his talent, but I could not help feeling that this was a portrait of a man out of balance whose work was not of benefit to him. As far as I can tell, he has not ever turned the corner to joy. To me he seems stuck in an endless treadmill, ground into a groove of horror and remorse about his native Germany’s foray into world domination, trying to make art that is a dyke against present and future aggression. Did he ever fall in love, enjoy the ocean, delight in a meal? Does anything make him laugh?

The feeling I had was that the museums love him, because he makes “big art “suitable for their oeuvre; something they can point to and say, “This is art, aren’t you impressed that we can fund it?”

In the end, it will make a massive trash heap of sorrow, and almost no one will see it – and what will be the effect on those who do see it? I know a woman who saw his work as a young art student and found it deeply inspiring. She said that seeing his work in person gave her an idea of what it could mean to be an artist. She went on to leave the art field, creating websites for filmmakers. Now she runs the art department of a local university.

My response was on the other end of the spectrum. This, I think, comes down to philosophy.

What is the point of art? What is art for? What role does it have in civilization? Why do you make it? Does making art improve you or the world around you in some way? Does it need to?

What do you think?

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