Glamorous impersonations of evil: In the fall of 1999 Edition Patrick Frey published The Nazis, which soon became a legendary cult book. It has long since been out of print and remains highly coveted to this day.
While The Nazis showed stills of actors playing Nazis in various Hollywood movies, Polish artist Piotr Uklanksi has now juxtaposed them with the real thing: Nazi party bigwigs, decorated “war heroes” and war criminals. Painstakingly culled from a great many different archives, this follow-up compilation superimposes fact on fiction, the stagey, propagandistic imagery of the Third Reich on the mockup Nazi iconography of Hollywood, revealing an uncanny, even spooky, resemblance between the play-acting and real-life exponents of evil. Real Nazis, using the same format and production values as its predecessor, is the “real” brother that now seems an ugly reflection of that “glamorous” artist’s book The Nazis.
So who are the “real” Nazis in this picture puzzle? What qualifies as constituting a bona fide Nazi? Which pictures are “real” and which are “fake”? All of them? None of them?
This play of mirrors serves as a radical commentary on our alarming present condition, in which the lines between populist and fascistic politics are increasingly blurring. Then as now: “Beneath all the insignia and accoutrements of evil lurks the iconography of media kitsch and ridicule. It’s all about the power of costumes and the costumes of power, about the glamour of evil, the glistening shine of fake medals made of fake gold.” Uklanski’s Real Nazis is coming out on the occasion of the opening of the Documenta 14 on June 7, 2017 in Kassel, Germany.