Law, Love, and Desire in the Art of Christian Schad

Online talk by Sabine Kriebel as part of the seminar series Cultures of Legality in Weimar Germany

Datum: 27. Oktober 2023
Zeit: 10.00 Uhr bis 11.00 Uhr
Ort: Online via Zoom

Christian Schad’s artistic career during the Weimar Republic was, in a manner of speaking, facilitated by the Law. His father Carl Schad was an influential lawyer who served council to the Crown and managed its assets, a good friend of the Duke Carl Theodor of Bavaria, of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach and the brother of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (“Sisi”). Carl Schad also financed his son’s artistic career until 1930, enabling him to pursue his artistic inclinations without needing to please markets or patrons. Schad’s artistic trajectory included spiritualistic Expressionism, anarchic Dada, and cool New Objectivity and traversed cosmopolitan centers Munich, Zurich, Geneva, Rome, Vienna, Paris, and Berlin from the advent of World War I until the advent of National Socialism. Schad’s legal connections even secured him access to the Vatican and permission to paint Pope Pius XI, doing so over a series of front-row observations in silent mass. In terms suggested by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, we might say that Christian Schad’s orientating signifiers were aligned with the Big Other, the collective symbolic order that governs the subject under a set of customs, institutions, mores, norms, and traditions in the name of the Father:  Law, Monarchy, Patriarchy, Church.

This talk, however, will interrogate the aesthetic and cultural terms of Schad’s symbolic resistance, for his pictures most often depicted and celebrated subjects who defied the law: incarcerated “madmen”, a woman on trial for mariticide, necrophiliacs, transvestites, lesbians, and homosexuals, whose behavior was deemed illegal under Paragraph 175 and punishable by law. Now often synonymous with the hedonistic Weimar Republic, Schad’s pictures represent the lawlessness of a society in transition, arguably generating a new symbolic order out of the groundlessness that characterizes this historical moment.

Sabine Kriebel is Senior Lecturer at the University College Cork, Ireland.  Over the last two decades, she has published widely on the aesthetics and politics of the Weimar Republic, including Dada’s strategic resistances, Bauhaus aftereffects, the anti-fascist photomontages of John Heartfield, and Weimar’s women photographers. She is at work on a new monograph that rethinks the terms of the Neue Sachlichkeit, from which this talk on Christian Schad is gleaned.

The seminar series is part of the project Imagining Justice: Law, Politics and Popular Visual Culture in Weimar Germany, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

International Start Times: 09:00h BST / 19:00 AEDT

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