Anselm Kiefer

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Anselm Kiefer (born March 8, 1945) is a German painter and sculptor. He studied with Joseph Beuys during the 1970s. His works incorporate materials like straw, ash, clay, lead and shellac. His body of work argues with the past and addresses taboo and controversial issues from recent history, such as themes from Nazi rule.

Quotes of Anselm Kiefer[edit]

  • When knowledge becomes rigid, it stops living.
    • Heaven and Earth, Page 167 [1]
  • What interests me is the transformation, not the monument. I don't construct ruins, but I feel ruins are moments when things show themselves. A ruin is not a catastrophe. It is the moment when things can start again.
  • What fascinates me about Duchamp is the idea of tearing down the wall between the art object and reality.
    • In: "Anselm Kiefer and the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger" Matthew Biro, Cambridge University Press 1998, p. 304

'Structures are no longer valid', in "Ein Gespräch..."[edit]

In: 'Structures are no longer valid', in "Ein Gespräch; Joseph Beuys, Jannis Kounellis, Anselm Kiefer, Enzo Cucchi", ed. Jaqueline Burckhardt, Parkett Verlag, Zurich, 1986

  • Kandinsky was connected with Die Brücke and the Blue Rider: they had a concept and created a reality. But I prefer Jean Fautrier [French painter-artist; 1898 - 1965] with his suffering and self-absorption. And his purpose on bringing about changes was just as strong. As a result I see in Fautrier a stronger paradigm than in Kandinsky..
    • (1986) n.p.
  • I perceive existentialism as a necessity of decision. This is the essential aspect of existentialism and simultaneously the most subversive factor..
    • (1986) n.p.
  • Perspective and Impressionism were tentative attempts to deal with the world of appearance because of a fear to look inside. Cubism is structure and order. Now both epidermis and order are no longer possible.. ..The accidental aspects of Impressionist composition are to be understood as a reaction. And the reaction of Cézanne is to be seen as a response to Impressionism. One cannot simply disregard Impressionism. As a dialectic antithesis it was important. The Impressionists had the idea of dissolution; they wanted to represent light, not bodies and not shadows, but light for itself. Frequently I find this tedious, but there is an idea behind it: Atomization is a modern idea..
    • (1986) n.p.
  • Mondrian began with his paintings of the seashore, with blue trees and the cathedral. These paintings were totally symbolist paintings.. .Until the very end Mondrian remains a Symbolist and an Expressionist.
    • (1986) n.p.
  • I do not believe that there is an external element to be disrupted now. The situation is different from the period of the Dadaists. There is nothing to overthrow now, because everything has been co-opted. To be subversive now in the sense of Dadaism would be reactionary, because now it would be the attitude of model students..
    • (1986) n.p.
  • In 1968 the end of art was announced, but this was for political reasons and for the wrong reasons. At that time it was believed that as long as there were only formal relationships, one did not have to deal with a luxury such as art.
    • (1986) n.p.
  • When I went to school Joseph Beuys was one of his art teachers and a very inspiring one]] there was Pop Art. The Americans dismissed us from our responsibilities. They mailed us Care packages and Democracy. The search for our own identity was postponed. After the 'time of misfortune' as it has been called euphemistically, one thought in 1946 to begin anew. Even now we talk about the 'Point Zero'. But that is not possible; this is nonsense. The past is tabulated because to confront it would necessitate denial and disgust..
    • (1986) n.p.
  • The Germans always had difficulties with their identity. Either it was too much and too loud, or it was hidden and too subservient. The French always had a healthy self-confidence. When they spoke of a 'grande nation' it was not dangerous. De Gaulle could say on Martinique: 'Behind me is the ocean. In front of me is France'.
    • (1986) n.p.
  • There is a reciprocal action between the work of art and the viewer. The river changes the work of art and criticism can also change the artist.. .There are so many ideas afloat; any of them could have triggered the work of art. It is impossible to determine exactly if the idea has been transmitted by the critic, or if the work itself has determined its outcome..
    • (1986) n.p.
  • I am only able to do what stirs me. I want to perceive with my senses things which at the moment are not generally perceived. I do not share, as yet, Beuys' consciousness or hope that all people are moving to a certain point where they all become artists. I am of the opinion that there are artists and non-artists. I think that this is the way it always was and always will be. I do not believe that we are in the center of the world. It is possible that there are gods who do not relate to human. As an artist, I believe that it is possible to depict these forces. I know it sounds absurd when I say that man can perceive some things and adumbrate powers, which do not relate to him. But perhaps the artist, unlike the non-artist, is able to do just that.
    • (1986) n.p.
  • I want to say something about Picasso as a revolutionary. A revolution in the history of art is a reflection of the history of society. Art cannot revolutionize society. It is a reflection of that revolution.. You [= Joseph Beuys ] talking in the same interview] have revolutionized art. But I do not see that you have revolutionized society directly. You have depicted what has not yet existed.. and life are not two separate realms, but they have shifted out of phase with each other.
    • (1986) n.p.
  • Why have our standards fallen so low? Why do we have all these ugly things which nobody needs? Industrial manufacture and new materials have led to truly unlimited possibilities of forms. There are no longer any natural constraints which depend on materials such as wood and stone. We simply manufacture everything that is technically possible and lack new structures on which to base our decisions.
    • (1986) n.p.
  • Until the artist is dead, we are not able to determine his work in all its dimensions.
    • (1986) n.p.

'Tim Marlow joins Anselm Kiefer to discuss his work' - 2005[edit]

28 June 2005 - 'Tim Marlow joins Anselm Kiefer to discuss his work', on the occasion of the artist’s exhibition at White Cube

  • [on becoming an artist] It is my profession, yes [ to be an artist] but a calling.. that a little bit pathetic, a little bit bombastic. I think it was much more natural.. .I Thought – when I was a child – the only method to be not in the world but outside of the world is to be an artist. I feel me outside, yes..
    • n.p.
  • I used my self, my body [in his art] as an instrument.. ..not only my body but also my spirit.. an instrument to research something.
    • n.p.
  • [referring to his painting 'Everyone Stands under His Own Dome of Heaven' (1971): It is a man in his own universe. It [the painting] was a quotation of, taken out of Robert Musil's novel 'Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften'; how do you translate it in English? 'The Man without qualities', I think – the most important book of the 20th century I would say. So this is a quotation: Jeder Mensch soll nach seine Himmel gucken.. .. I meant there is no objective truth. So as I discovered later, there is no objective history. There is no history; each human being made its own history – has his own thoughts and his own world. And sometimes two domes touch each other, or cross each other, but everyone is alone with its own illusions and methods..
    • n.p.
  • This time during the Second World War is part of my history, part of my memory, but it is the latest part of my memory, so the memories of each human being goes much more back, it goes to the dinosaurs, even later [Kiefer means: earlier].. .. I think we even remember geological times. So this is one little part of our / of mine memory [the Second World War]
    • n.p.

Quotes about Anselm Kiefer[edit]

  • For German critics [not for the American] the issue was rather how Kiefer went about dealing with this past. To them Kiefer's deliberate strategy of opening a Pandora's box of fascist and nationalistic imagery amounted to a kind of original sin of the post-Auschwitz era.
  • A complex critical engagement with history runs through Anselm Kiefer's work. His paintings as well as the sculptures of w:Georg Baselitz created an uproar at the 1980 Venice Biennale: the viewers had to decide whether the apparent Nazi motifs were meant ironically or whether the works were meant to convey actual fascist ideas. Kiefer worked with the conviction that art could heal a traumatized nation and a vexed, divided world. He created epic paintings on giant canvases that called up the history of German culture with the help of depictions of figures such as Richard Wagner or Goethe, thus continuing the historical tradition of painting as a medium of addressing the world. Only a few contemporary artists have such a pronounced sense of art's duty to engage the past and the ethical questions of the present, and are in the position to express the possibility of the absolution of guilt through human effort.
    • Quote in the 'Explanatory statement' of the Award 'Praemium Imperiale' of 1999 - by the Japan Art Association

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