Dear Owen Wilson, I'm reading A Nazi Word For A Nazi Thing

...and thinking about spring

Dear Owen,

It’s spring again, I guess and I’ve somehow ended up with ‘Springtime for Hitler and Germany’ in my head (‘winter for Poland and France’). I’m not sure why, I’ve never seen The Producers, but maybe it’s something to do with its rousing ridiculousness, which blitzes me out of my pre-dawn anxious loathing of ever-present conservative, racist, imperialist nationalism and propels me into the kitchen for the still necessary coffee on these still cold grey mornings. 

But we are not here to talk about the weather or my anxiety Owen, we’re here so I can tell you about what I’m reading, and Hitler and Germany has a lot to do with it and maybe this book has infiltrated my thoughts and put Mel Brooks on repeat between my ears. I’m reading A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing by So Mayer and I know Owen you’re probably wondering what is the history of the comical use of the word Nazi, coz now even those fascist eedyits* at Generation Identity use it as a joke, well I don’t know, but maybe we’re not here to talk about those contemp fashes Owen, but then again maybe we are and maybe there’s something there about the state of digital archives and those server-filled underground bunkers accumulating their hate and cat memes.

But back to the book Owen, because these archives and classification are where A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing starts off, with the Opernplatz book-burnings which especially targeted the archives and library of Magnus Hirschfeld and his Institut für Sexualwissenschaft. Now I know what you’re thinking, “ooooh Sexualwissenschaft das sounds kinky!”, well it’s sexual systematic research, so unless you like your sex on an excel spreadsheet like I do Owen, I suggest you be quiet and let me tell you about the book. 

The Opernplatz and the history of the Nazi’s term entartet (which is re-translated to ‘un-classifiable’ instead of ‘degenerate’) is the book’s jumping off point as it moves through a QUILTBAG revision of film and art history through the gaps in the archives where queer and non-western history was removed. In a method Mayer calls anarchive, a term she chooses in order to counter its previous use to delegitimise the un-classifiable: “Archiving and classifying, as acts of domination, speak of their fear of what they are trying to contain. The anarchive is a record of that uncontainability.”  Owen, when I think about this term I think about Gordon Matta-Clark and his reference to the abandoned buildings and spaces used in his anarchitecture: “The wild dogs, the junkies and I used these spaces to work out some life problem.” That in those gaps in the archives, otherness and uncontainable history lives. 

Using the films of those who have come before them, Barbara Hammer’s radical Nitrate Kisses, Issac Julien’s beautiful and rapturous Looking For Langston, as well as Zanele Muholi, Sergei Eisenstein and Derek Jarman among others, they fold back a fuller history of art and film. Films that speak of QUILTBAG uncontainability and complexity.  Mayer’s uncontainability, complexity, and otherness builds throughout the book adding to a feeling of connection and possibility.

And as I feel the weight of England’s toxicity Owen, I am reminded by Mayer that this is their fascist ways: “The wilful Thatcherite eradication of society, of complexity, of connection and the possibilities that lay in being ‘different from the others’.” 

Simplicity is a false idol Owen, and maybe the way to counter is through complexity and otherness. And maybe that is something to embrace and strive for.

Sorry Owen, I feel like I really went at you there, but you know, when you get all the coffee in, you just get a bit riled up. 

Well off to work for me Owen, speak to you soon. 

- Jacques Baumgartner xo

*this is my version of the Irish eejit Owen, you’re welcome to pass it off as your own if you want, I think it’s funny.