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Spectacle

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Edited By Jennifer Creech and Thomas O. Haakenson

How does the visual nature of spectacle inform the citizenry, destabilize the political, challenge aesthetic convention and celebrate cultural creativity? What are the limits – aesthetic, political, social, cultural, economic – of spectacle? How do we explain the inherently exclusionary, revolutionary, dehumanizing and utopian elements of spectacle?
In this book, authors from the fields of cultural studies, cinema studies, history and art history examine the concept of spectacle in the German context across various media forms, historical periods and institutional divides. Drawing on theoretical models of spectacle by Guy Debord, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Jonathan Crary and Michel Foucault, the contributors to this volume suggest that a decidedly German concept of spectacle can be gleaned from critical interventions into exhibitions, architectural milestones, audiovisual materials and cinematic and photographic images emerging out of German culture from the Baroque to the contemporary.
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Berlin in Light: Wilhelmine Monuments and Weimar Mass Culture

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“There is nothing in this world as invisible as a monument,” the author and cultural critic Robert Musil observed in his 1927 essay “Monuments.”1 Addressing the failure of nineteenth-century commemorative sculpture within twentieth-century urban experience, Musil wrote that ordinary statues, while “no doubt erected to be seen … are impregnated with something that repels attention.”2 You sense them, he continued, “as you would a tree, as part of the street scenery … but you never look at them, and do not generally have the slightest notion of whom they are supposed to represent.”3 By satirically pointing out “how backward our monument art is in comparison to contemporary developments in advertising” and mocking statues that merely “stand around quietly, accepting occasional glances,” Musil registers the shifting attitudes toward public sculpture and the complex relationship of statuary to urban spectacle in 1920s Europe.4

In Berlin, the outdated, invisible monuments targeted by Musil might be exemplified by a sculpture like Adolf Brütt’s 1903 Kaiser Friederich III at the Platz vor dem Brandenburger Tor (Figure 4.1). Standing about twelve feet tall on top of a large base, the stately marble sculpture presents Friedrich III (whose reign in 1888 lasted only ninety-nine days) in full military uniform clutching his marshal’s baton in his right hand. On the opposite side of the square stood a companion monument by the sculptor Fritz Gerth to Friedrich’s wife Kaiserin Victoria, shown in her coronation robe and crown. Together Brütt’s Friedrich III and...

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