Highlights from Athens: “The Greek Way”

Documenta14, EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens

  • In a series of articles we present our findings and impressions of the exhibition Documenta14 in Athens. Today we discuss bad taste in art.The first problem that comes to mind with this artwork is Hitler. And here, McDermott & McGough has painted him 7 times. A painting is a little like caressing, which is why it seems fucked up to meditate on the lines and nuances of Der Führer’s face. However, men touching men is what this work is all about, and across the paintings are written the names of gay prisoners who were murdered in Auschwitz. But this writing looks like half hearted scribbling, the names are almost illegible, and the paintings end up being more reminiscent of fan posters than a potent critique of heinous crimes.

    On the opposite wall are a collection of giclée printed, film stills extracted from a film by Leni Riefenstahl, creator of “Triumph of the Will”. The stills are nudies of athletic boys in a range of different poses, all of them smeared across with some kind of medium to give them a haute art, torrid style appearance, but in the end it just looks careless and as unloved as mass produced hotel art. The installation is called “The Greek Way”, evoking the tradition of love between men in ancient Greece, while also drawing attention to the nazi obsession with smooth male bodies. The work is perhaps attempting to make visible the internal homoeroticism of nazism, to lure Hitler out of the closet, by spelling gay all over it in big capital letters. But it isn’t totally clear if the pictures are erotic, or simply just depicting healthy, naked men. Either way, giving attention to the gayness of nazism can be fun and subversive, but it would be nice of the artists to do so with more elegance, tenderness and delicacy than what “The Greek Way” can muster.