Those of you who know what I’ve been through academically the last year and a half or so will probably be surprised to hear that I’ve picked up Nietzsche again. And by “pick-up,” I mean really in the relationship sort of since. I have determined that my relationship with Nietzsche is quite like that of an ex-boyfriend. I could have sworn I broke up with him a while back, but he just keeps finding his way back into my life! And I know the guy too damn well. There’s some corner of my heart that does still like him, but for the most part I find him irritating. And when I read his works and something comes up that I just knew he would say because it’s just so much “him”…I sigh and say, oh Nietzsche. We’ll also see how he does as an ex-boyfriend on the embarassment front, because I have to give a report on his work Zur Genealogie der Moral (On the Genealogy of Morality) on Thursday. I actually should be working on the report right now, but I’ve decided to write a post and vent instead…this should be pretty amusing.
All of my friends in here in Germany who hear about this always ask “what does Nietzsche have to do with Art History?” Well, directly not much, but since he is a philosopher he’s had his influences…in other words he’s been around the block a few times. The report is for my class called Growth and Decline. Natural and Cultural Processes in Image and Art Thought of Modern Europe which I find very interesting because we discuss trends of decadence and avant-garde. The class is also interdisciplinary, with 4 professors from different fields: Art History, Philosophy, Music, and Slavic Studies (we’ll be looking at stuff from Russia later in the semester). To get a basis for the class, two students have to give reports on Nietzsche at the second meeting, and somehow I got myself into it. A friend of mine is giving the other report on Nietzsche’s first work Geburt der Tragoedie (The Birth of Tragedy) and I’m doing Nietzsche last work. But we’re trying to work in some art, and I want to post a bit about that too.
**Ok, so I have written a disjunctive blog post! I started writing this on before I gave the report/presentation, and now I’ve given it, so I will first let you know how that went…oh my.
So, I went to class last Thursday and my classmate and I were a bit nervous to give our reports as they were the first of the semester. However, one professor was running a bit late, so we started off with personal introductions (they didn’t want to do them last time because they didn’t know how many of the students present would actually be taking the class). About an hour in, my classmate gave her presentation, very well thought out with a great outline, and then the four professors talked about Nietzsche’s first work for quite some time, during which I just kept getting more and more nervous! Finally, in the last hour of class, I gave my presentation, but it lasted about half an hour (which I hadn’t expected…) but I just rambled on the whole time in German, and for some reason I was VERY aware of my accent. I’d never had 60 eyes stare at me while speaking in German! Right after I had finished, however, one professor said to me, “you know, you only needed to read the foreword and the first part,” and I had read the entire book! That’s about 200 pages more than I needed to read! Needless to say I was quite embarassed…I had inadvertently overachieved, and that was the last first impression I had intented to make!
So, I’ve concluded this is all Nietzsche’s fault. It’s my Nietzsche charma, and it’s just bit me in the butt.
Anyway, I didn’t have enough time, nor was the computer working, for me to show the two artworks from Gustav Klimt that I wanted to present. One professor knew about this, so he’s asked me to bring them next and show them! So I guess I have a mini presentation for the next class. Oh well, I mean, the art part is what I am actually interested in…maybe my classmates will have interesting things to say…
The two works that I’ll show are both from the Austrian Secession artist Gustav Klimt. One of them I wrote about in my bachelor’s thesis and the other has direct association with The Birth of Tragedy. In this work, Nietzsche writes a great deal about music (probably from his influences from Richard Wagner) and Klimt’s work has the appropriate title, Musik:
Klimt’s use of symbolism in this painting I admire a great deal (being a fairly symbolic painter myself). The woman figure is holding a kithera, which is the instrument of the Greek god Apollo, of whom Nietzsche writes, contrasting with Dionysis. Apollo has to do with rational thought and structure, whereas Dionysis, the Greek god of wine, symbolizes chaos and spontaneity…and music and song. He even had his own type of songs called Dithyrambs. To the left of the woman is a Silenus, a follower of Dionysis, and to the right is a Sphinx, symbolizing female beauty.
The other work I want to show is Philosophy from Gustav Klimt. Technically this has to do with Also sprach Zarathustra (Nietzsche’s work) but it also reminds me of the first work of art we discussed in this seminar, Germination from Odilon Redon. Here you can compare them for yourself:
The one on the left is Klimt’s and on the right is from Redon. Both have floating objects in them with stars and figures that seem to be in pain, seem to be longing for something beyond the view of the painting. I’m very curious to hear what the other students think, and what you think as well, my readers! Please comment! More updates coming soon!