There are “two sorts of truth,” Niels Bohr wrote, “trivialities, where opposites are obviously absurd, and profound truths, recognized by the fact that the opposite is also a profound truth.”(1) Are Neo Rauch’s pictures of Germany trivially or profoundly true? Is Rauch a true dialectician, “living with live opposites,” or is he indulging in nihilistic absurdity? Does he picture the German Geist of Yesterday or the German Geist of Today? Does he represent or misrepresent Germany? Rauch’s works are allegories of German history, but is their ironical pessimism its whole story? These questions haunt Neo Rauch’s art, enriching its significance.
Let’s get more specific: Is Verrat (2003) merely absurd or is it ingeniously dialectical? The contradiction between the violent foreground figures and the seemingly peaceful background buildings — between the expressive action of the former and the inexpressive passivity of the latter — is clearly absurd. But does each also convey a profound truth about Germany? Do they convey the profound split in the German mentality? They are conflicting parts of the same picture, but the “good” upper part does not seem to know what is occurring in the “bad” lower part. The people in the buildings are silently sleeping, undisturbed by the shooting going on in the No Man’s Land below — or else afraid to do anything about it. The opposites turn away from each other, refuse to respond to each other, and this turning away, this indifference of disavowal, is the unwholesome whole truth. Each half not fully conscious of the other half is the truth of their opposition.
more from Kuspit on Neo Rauch here.