Thursday, July 29, 2010

Upcoming - Anselm Kiefer at SF MOMA (more to come)

Anselm Kiefer, Shulamite, 1983. Oil, acrylic, emulsion, shellac, straw and woodcut fragments on canvas 114 x 145 in. Fisher Collection SF MOMA (image courtesy of SF MOMA)

What started out, under Hitler, as a memorial to the Nazi army dead, becomes in Kiefer's masterpiece, an evocation of a concentration camp oven with a seven-flame fire burning at the altar at the end. The sand, the straw, the dark, heavy materials and the huge size of the piece overwhelm the viewer. The experience of this piece is both emotional and physical - a testimony to Kiefer's moral vision as well as his willingness to tackle the painful past.

Death Fugue by Paul Celan

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are flashing he whistles his pack out
he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a grave
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink in the morning at noon we drink you at sundown
we drink and we drink you
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined.

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his eyes are blue
jab deeper you lot with your spades you others play on for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon in the morning we drink you at sundown
we drink you and we drink you
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith he plays with the serpents

He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master from Germany
he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then as smoke you will rise into air
then a grave you will have in the clouds there one lies unconfined

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink and we drink you
death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in the air
he plays with the serpents and daydreams death is a master from Germany
your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith

Trans. Michael Hamburger

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