Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
1. In Black and White
In black and white they stare at me. Out of 1920s Germany. The painter Otto Dix and his wife. Otto is dark, brooding, in jacket and bow tie, his hair greased back. His Frau has bobbed hair, very ‘20s. But she’s not doing the Charleston. She stares at the camera seriously. Wasn’t he the painter of horrific Great War scenes? Does he suffer the nightmares of shellshock, now known as PTSD? I’m drawn back to the Weimar Republic. A lost time and place. My mother’s time and place. Didn’t they see it coming? Didn’t they hear it? Or did no one call out? “Doors closing, please stand clear!”
in my dream
a little boy
holds my hand
we’re both lost
in a railway station
Railway tracks disappear into the distance, into a nearby industrial landscape. What industry? What’s that on top? A sheet of something (lead, plaster?) covers half the scene. The upper half. So it covers the detail of that industrial scene. Hides it. What is it hiding? Seems like a curtain coming down.
There’s a symbol in the upper half of the painting/sculpture. A circle with three rings, patterned. I don’t understand it. Is it some sort of seal? Something primitive like Aztec or Aryan? Looking closer I start to see vertical dark lines in that industrial landscape. Rain? Tears?
His last journey must have been by train. Crammed into a cattle truck with a hundred others? Rattling across the Reich in 1942. How long did it take? Transport XIV/I from East Prussia to Czechoslovakia. To Theresienstadt, last stop on that railway line. Change here for Auschwitz.
in endless forest
it’s dark outside . . .
of the long distance train
Reference "In Black and White" is to August Sander, Der Maier Otto Dix und Frau. Gelatin silver photograph, 1926. Australian National Gallery, Canberra.
Reference in "Abendland" is to Anselm Kiefer, Abendland: Twilight of the West. Lead sheet, polymer paint, ash, plaster, cement, earth, varnish, on canvas and wood, 1989. Australian National Gallery, Canberra.