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Regarding Terror: On Art and Politics

Author(s): Jolanta Nowak

Journal: EMAJ : Electronic Melbourne Art Journal
ISSN 1835-6656

Date: 2008;
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Keywords: German Art | 20th century Art | Art and Politics | Art History

‘Regarding Terror: The RAF Exhibition’, held in Berlin in 2005, presented art works and documents dealing with the Red Army Faction (or Baader-Meinhof Group), a left-wing terrorist association active in Germany from the late 1960s until well after the controversial deaths of key members of the group in 1977. For some, the initial plans for the exhibition threatened to turn the RAF into heroes at the expense of any acknowledgement of the RAF’s victims. As a result, the government withdrew its funding, the exhibition was reconceptualised, and it was decided to present the material in as unbiased way as possible. The controversy and discussion surrounding ‘Regarding Terror’ exposes some critical issues regarding art’s relationship with politics. It is argued in this article that while individual art works and curatorial decisions influence our responses to political issues, shortcomings exist in the way the relationship between art and its subject matter is implicitly understood. These issues are explored by investigating the extent to which the fears about the exhibition and the debate surrounding it are indicative of a need to rethink the relationship between art and politics in the light of considerations of the implications of art’s autonomy and of art’s relationship with reality. Such a rethinking would bring into focus the nature of art’s responsibility to politics

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