Friday, 7 September 2007

Niels Werber: "Aesthetic Terrorism"

It just so happens that the subject of my previous 2 posts draws on Luhmann, and has also written a piece approximating some of the concerns I tried to cover in "Does a Culture of Transgression Lead to Social Decay?". Again, as per the Lord of the Rings post, only a brief excerpt is possible here, but it's also worth further consideration, especially in light of the "Why Do the Nazis Matter Today" post, that an "aesthetics of terror" was an integral component of the Third Reich, to every level, including the theatrical design of the SS Deathhead's uniforms. If I'm able to follow up this piece in greater detail, it would be interesting to ascertain to what extent Werber factors such precursors into his account:

Niels Werber
"German Media and Popular Culture." RAF goes Pop
Terror, fashion, and war in German literature at the end of the Millennium

"German pop literature has taken over the brand fetishism, the amoral coolness, the exact superficiality of Bret Easton Ellis’ novels whilst the lists and tables and rankings, which determine their texts, have been imported from Nick Hornby. The attempts of the Prada- and Gucci-terrorists in "Glamorama" follow a consistent aesthetic program, no element is left to chance, everything is planned carefully: the outfits, the object, the explosive and its hiding place, the victims. "Café Flore has been canvassed all week and a detailed description of its layout yielded the best table to leave the Prada backpack at." Models populate the hip café, all fits in, the bomb explodes: a glamorous panorama. Young German authors like Joachim Bessing or Christan Kracht had imported this program, but were changing the settings. It’s the RAF, the terrorist Red Army Faction, which provides a provoking mixture of pop, coolness, violence, and fashion. Only a few recent German Pop-Novels can make it without Baader, Ensslin, Raspe, or Meinhof. The phenomenon of German terrorism is completely taken out of its social and political context. The terror of the recent pop culture seems to belong to the arsenal of a Juste-milieu addicted to entertainment whose ironic and experienced distance cannot be provoked by any explosion, mass murderer, overdose or porn because everything consists only of pretty combinations – no reason to be upset. The political or historical dimension of terror has been fully neglected and overcome by the current pop literature. The self-reference of terror sounds like the echo of a commercial – "just do it" – and of art; one may think of Schiller’s famous words: something pleases us "in the mere contemplation of it and by its mere way of appearance" without us "taking consideration for any other purpose" in this "aesthetic" contemplation. From this perspective the question would be what the assassins of September 11 have presumably worn. The German program of Prada-terrorism does not designate reasons nor conclusions, neither external purposes nor endogenous motives, it follows its own logic which is to fit out the scenarios of violence in an aesthetically coherent way. Such popularised, it has shown already its connectability in media related contexts like advertisement, movies, television, and fashion. The Pop-Novel has made only the first step into aesthetics of terror in German Media and Popular Culture".

Dr. Niels Werber holds the position of Professor of Social History and Culture at the Institut für Germanistik of the University of Ruhr in Bochum, Germany. His areas of specialisation include history of 17th to 20th century German and European literature, 17th and 18th century poetics, and aesthetics of the period around 1800. More recently he has been researching the literature of new media environments (film, television, hypertext), and the discourse of German geopolitics in self-descriptions since the mid-19th century. His latest publications are: Love as a Novel, Fink, München, 2003; and Communication/Media/Power, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 2002.

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