Thursday, February 28, 2013

VU & Der Adler

VU was a French photo magazine which ran from 1928 to 1940, offering a heady mix of politics, style & truly immortal photography. In these pages war coverage became somehow enmeshed in the Surrealist movement, worldwide economic decline in the delirious fashion trends of the 30s. Der Adler (The Eagle) was the official publication of the German Air Force from 1939 to 1944. Though Der Adler's covers were as staunchly architectural & mighty as all Fascist art from this period, veering to the stridently composed where VU pocks even its most elaborately designed covers with sinkholes of mystery, both were unable to resist the influence of the advancing art photography of the 20th Century. While officials in Goebbels office may not have noticed it (or chose to ignore it), Der Adler's covers are, in many ways, a product of the "degenerate art" that gave Weimar Germany its vivacious, decadent shimmer. Much of this is simply a result of photojournalism becoming an art in & of itself & a culture just learning to rely on first-hand photographic accounts instead of dense mannered prose & battlefield sketches worried over for weeks by disappointed painters & caricaturists. These covers represent artists well-aware of being both artists & journalists, though often beauty, symmetry & dynamism win out over reportage. VU canted deftly to the Surrealists, fetishizing the miasmic erotic element of damn-near everything & Der Adler used as its aesthetic compass the Mountain Films of  Arnold Franck, Wagnerian militarism & the strict, strict geometry of impending world domination & instant apotheosis. What's most interesting is that in both cases the images seem sexually compromised. The aesthetic & erotic flourishes easily prevail, long after the politics, fashion & events return to the hopeless muddle of history. Like Jean Painleve said, "We are often on our own when deciding who wins a war, choosing green within the gradations of green." In the end, each cover, taken on is own, cants towards mystery.