On New Objectivity . . .

quote from Mrs Deane  nothing is too amazing to be true

I fur­ther main­tain that an appre­cia­ble part of the so-called left-wing lit­er­a­ture had no other social func­tion than that of con­tin­u­ally extract­ing new effects or sen­sa­tions from this sit­u­a­tions for the public’s enter­tain­ment. Which brings me to the New Objec­tiv­ity. It launched the fash­ion for reportage. Let us ask our­selves whose inter­ests were advanced by this technique.

For greater clar­ity let me con­cen­trate on pho­to­graphic reportage. What­ever applies to it is trans­fer­able to the lit­er­ary form. Both owe their extra­or­di­nary devel­op­ment to pub­li­ca­tion tech­niques — radio and the illus­trated press. […] What do we see? It has become more and more sub­tle, more and more mod­ern, and the result is that it is now inca­pable of pho­tograph­ing a ten­e­ment or a rubbish-heap with­out trans­fig­ur­ing it. Not to men­tion a river dam or an elec­tric cable fac­tory: in front of these, pho­tog­ra­phy can now only say, ‘How beau­ti­ful.’ [ital­ics added] The World is beau­ti­ful — that is the well-known pic­ture book by Renger-Patzsch in which we see New Objec­tiv­ity pho­tog­ra­phy at its peak.

Here we have an extreme exam­ple of what it means to sup­ply a pro­duc­tion apara­tus with­out chang­ing it. […]  pho­tog­ra­phers pro­ceed in order to make human mis­ery an object of con­sump­tion. Turn­ing to the New Objec­tiv­ity as a lit­er­ary move­ment, I must go a step fur­ther and say that is has turned the strug­gle against mis­ery into an object of con­sump­tion . In many cases, indeed, its polit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance has been lim­ited to con­vert­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary reflexes, in so far as these occured within the bour­geoisie, into themes of enter­tain­ment and amuse­ment which can be fit­ted with­out much dif­fi­culty into the cabaret life of a large city. The char­ac­ter­is­tic of this lit­er­a­ture [and this pho­tog­ra­phy, we may add] is the way it trans­forms a polit­i­cal strug­gle so that it ceases to be a com­pelling motive for deci­sion and becomes an arti­cle of com­fort­able con­tem­pla­tion; it ceases to be a means of pro­duc­tion and becomes an arti­cle of con­sump­tion [ital­ics added].


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