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Anselm Kiefer

Schwarze Flocken--Für Paul Celan Artist Book, 32 pages, Germany, 2005

Acrylic, charcoal, branches on photograph,
mounted on cardboard,
62.5x42x15 cm

Courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris, Salzburg Photograph by Charles Duprat

The artist’s book created by Anselm Kiefer is a homage to the poet Paul Celan; the gloomy and alienated pages quote lines from Celan’s poem Schwarze Flocken (“Black Flakes”). Celan committed suicide in April 1970 after personal experience of the horrors of World War II where he lost his parents to Nazi persecution, robbing him of his joy of freedom but not of his freedom of expression. Celan’s poems and his character never release their hold on German artist Anselm Kiefer; over many years Kiefer has conducted a dialogue with poetry overall, and Celan’s work in particular.

The catalogue of the 2007 “Monumenta” exhibition where Kiefer’s work was on display wrote:

 “Dedication of a work of art is a gesture of commemoration.  By dedicating a work, the artist signals to its role as part of an effort to remember. Kiefer reminds the public of the works of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann In doing so, he expands and deepens his research into memory - a memory scarred by the Holocaust. From the viewpoint of Celan and Bachmann the tragedy of Auschwitz frustrates the very concept of memory: how can we remember after Auschwitz? How can we recall utter terror? For Kiefer as for Celan and Bachmann, the central issue for all art is the necessity of rediscovering the coordinates of a collective memory that has lost direction and is befogged by experience of something that cannot be expressed in words. By recalling the works of these two poets to contemporary observers, a work replete with a sharp and painful confrontation with the past, Kiefer beckons to us    to take part in a collective act of memory. Kiefer’s dedication does not rest content with recalling Celan and Bachmann; it launches a genuine dialogue between them and the observer, a dialogue transcending words and quotes, a dialogue of images, form and material.”

The process experienced by the observer as he regards Kiefer’s threatening landscapes grows more forceful as he leafs through. It is a process that Kiefer dictates, comprising extinction and finality. When Kiefer sears the landscapes,
he is expressing the brutality of humanity’s onslaught upon them and the innocence they express. In his creative process, he erases and eliminates the skyline, shutting out daylight and thus blacking out the hope we yearn to derive from the landscape and its light