Kann denn Liebe Sünde sein
Kann denn Liebe Sünde sein
Graphite, Monoprint, Natural Pigments, Rubbing
18 × 24 × 1 in
Mary Austin Collection
2008, unique, page size, 24 x 18 inches, 16 pages, tabbed spine with removable carbon rods, leporello/accordion, unfolded – 32 feet.
“Die Wahrheit ist nicht zu scheiden von dem Wahn, daß aus den Figuren des Scheins einmal doch, scheinlos, die Rettung hervortrete.”
“The truth is not to separate from the illusion that from the figures of the light, once nevertheless illusion-less, the rescue steps out.”
The above text (in German) is rubbed into the pages of Kann denn Liebe Sünde sein? from the Theodore Adorno Memorial at Adorno Platz in Frankfurt, Germany. It is a quote from “Negativ Dialectik”, Adorno’s magnum opus on epistemology and metaphysics first published in 1966. Adorno said the book aimed to complete what he considered his lifelong task as a philosopher: “to use the strength of the [epistemic] subject to break through the deception [Trug] of constitutive subjectivity.”
The title of the book is “Kann denn Liebe Sünde sein?,” “Can Love be a Sin?”, the title of a song made popular by the Swedish singer and Nazi collaborator Zarah Leander (composed by German composer Lothar Brühne (a closeted, though well-known gay man). After Marlene Dietrich, who despised the Nazis (the feelings were mutual), left Germany, Leander was recruited to take her place. She is notorious for parodying Dietrich in various films, though, of course, did not approach Dietrich’s level as a musician or a performer, (or it hardly seems necessary to say, a human rights ambassador). After the Third Reich fell she returned to Sweden and was generally shunned but managed, though unrepentant, to maintain a mediocre career. In a strange twist of cultural fate she remains popular in Germany and recently has enjoyed a post-mortem comeback via Internet distribution. To be fair, there is some question as to how much allegiance Leander had to the Nazi regime other than its employment opportunities, as she was never a Nazi party member and was not known to consort with Nazi officials.
The merging of Leander’s and Adorno’s mythos’ in this artwork speaks to the complexities of both philosophical and popular culture in Germany, a country whose history is suffused with a dark legacy pierced by brilliant contributions to global culture. Perhaps more than any other culture, the German philosophical mission seems obsessed with the struggle between the mind and the body, and especially focused on the mind’s possible subjugation of the body and nature itself (as unfortunately exemplified by Nazi ideology).
I have a significant body of artwork that both pays homage to and critiques this German ‘mission’. I am an apostate New York Jew, who, since childhood, has been fascinated with German culture. I have often used Germany as a metaphorical representation of ‘my-self’ in many of my artworks, thus paralleling Adorno’s concerns with the construction of subjectivity. (My family name “Weber” is probably of Austro-Hungarian origin and I have no family history in Germany, but have made artwork and exhibited in Germany since 1982.)
– Marshall Weber, January, 2009, Brooklyn, New York
Media: graphite rubbings, body mono-prints with turmeric, and other natural dyes and pigments.
The paper is a Korean handmade mulberry paper of an unknown variety, the covers are Japanese Kozo-paper “Yotsuban” dyed by Naoaki Sakamoto in Japan with natural pigments, India-ink and kakishibu (persimmon-juice).
Over the course of about four years Brazilian-based artist and designer Angela Mayumi Ito and Tokyo-based artist Veronika Schäpers treated 20 sheets of handmade Korean paper in various ritualistic and improvisational manners with no definitive project in mind.
Ito dyed and painted the pages in the villages of Mateiros and Mumbuca in the Tocantins State of Brasil, she used (in her words): “Tree, Flower, Grass, Earth, Fruit, Sand, Water, River, Waterfall, Bark, Leaf, Root, Fiber, Seed, Wind, Air, Sun, Shadow, and Rain.”
Schäpers then dyed some pages with earth from Tokyo and the Izu Peninsula, and did rubbings and marks on the following pages:
page 3 – brown earth from Izu Peninsula,
page 4 – laquer,
page 5 -Aoyama, Cemetery, “奉献”, “houken, (dedicate, offer)”,
page 8 – brown earth from Setagaya-ku
page 9 – electricity cover “電”,
page 12 – brown earth from Aoyama Cemetery,
page 13 – manhole cover in Tokyo,
page 14 – manhole cover in Tokyo, “東京下水”,
page 20 – Aoyama Cemetery, a person’s name: “Furusawa Fuyoko”, “古澤フヨ子”,
page 21 – Aoyama Cemetery, a family’s crest,
page 23 – brown earth from Izu Peninsula,
page 24 – grill on the street, Tokyo.
After a series of other successful collaboration between Schäpers and Weber, Schäpers turned the gorgeous and glowing stack of paper over to Weber in 2007. Weber held the pages for a year while considering the course of action to take with such beautiful and obviously soulful palimpsests.
In 2006 Weber and Schäpers had collaborated on another Theodre Adorno rubbing book, and Weber had also, for many years, done body mono-prints with long-term collaborators Kurt Allerslev and Christopher Wilde as part of the Organik group. While meditating on the pages it suddenly occurred to Weber that Adorno’s quote at the memorial in Frankfurt was incredibly relevant to these ‘bodies’ of work; it seemed crucial to merge the two practices of memorial rubbings and body printing in a piece that would convey the social and emotional complexities mentioned earlier in this document.
Within six months of the above realization German artist Dorothee Fink and Weber created the mono-prints with a turmeric (from India) and PVC pigment; soon afterwards Weber executed the final graphite rubbings at the Adorno memorial in Frankfurt.
Schäpers first glued the fore edges of the paper, and then glued the end pages to lightweight kozo-cardboard covers to form a long leporello. The binding is formed by removable carbon rods, which pass through paper tabs that are sewn to the pages with monofilament. By taking off the rods the leporello can be unfolded and the content and context can be ‘unpacked’.