Friday, October 23, 2009

In Germany, This Is Illegal

From the Seatlle Pi by Regina Hackett
Several years ago at the Nationalgalerie Berlin, I noticed Soviet Union kitsch on sale in a street wagon nearby. Besides perfume bottles shaped like Lenin's head, there were Stalin buttons, hammers and sickles, postcards of Uncle Joe waving, those really cool Red Army watches, surely knockoffs. Stalin's face and figure can be found in Russia and all points beyond. Hitler's image is illegal in Germany and frowned on elsewhere. What's the difference? Stalin didn't lose. The official story is, he died in bed. While his face is no longer found on everything Russian and roads are said to be lined under the concrete with his smashed statues, it's OK to offer him the old tip of the hat. Mao, too. Of the 20th century's three most malign mass murderers, Hitler's is the only one his own country's government sees fit to ban, including his image, writing, party and point of view. The rest of the world agrees. A Mumbai, India-based home furnishing company recently produced a line of bedspreads accented by swastikas. The reaction in India was swift and strong enough to force a withdrawal. Had the bedsheets featured hammers and sickles, they'd still be on sale. Enter Seattle's Charles Krafft. Like a heat-seeking missile, he finds the hot spot and makes it hotter. At the teapot's base is a pseudo-homey legend in Delftware script, "If Führers were Flowers I'd pick You." The ambiguity offends. On one hand, to pick a flower is to kill it. On the other hand, the metaphor isn't enough. Flowers are picked to be shown off and admired. With the color blue coursing down the crevices of Hitler's ruined face, he's a landmine in the domestic sphere. Krafft undermines the teapot world through imagery and exposes cozy moments for what they are, attempts to forget. Only Hitler has this edge, and only Krafft wants to play with it. Here's his MySpace page, his Web site and some excellent pics of his work from Jamie O'Shea.

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