Of course, what Wilhelm Busch is drawing is totally nasty and actually not at all for children. “Max und Moritz” has nevertheless become world literature, world children’s literature. I don’t remember what these pranking boys meant to me as a child, but I do think that I found the look of the one with the blond, sticking out braid very puzzling. What does Wilhelm Busch still tell us today, asks an exhibition in Britz Castle.
At first glance, the presentation in the small rooms seems conservative. But if you get involved with the tiny comics on brown paper, the wild scenes and the rhymes in Sütterlin script quickly pull you under their spell. The curators have combined Busch’s original drawings – and not just the best-known stories – with sheets by the two artists Friederike Feldmann and Anna Faroqhi, which refer directly to Busch. This is very well done. And the commentary is also what makes Busch exciting.
In Busch’s series of pictures there is constant beating, coercion and slaughter. Everyone wants to eat or have sex or just lay around and are terribly pathetic when exploring their urges – and a little funny too.
On the other hand stands Busch’s ability to draw, his expressive line, his idea of the serial, his feeling for human depths. There is also a bit of the artist himself in all of the characters. The chain-smoking alcoholic with the fear of commitment and childhood experiences of violence probably looked just as mercilessly at himself as at those around him.
In his stories, everyone is evil or at least unsympathetic or just – female. Busch was not only a cynic but also a misogynist, racist and anti-Semite. If something like his “Natural History Alphabet” had been discovered at the Documenta without comment, it would have caused a scandal.
In her own comic, Anna Faroqhi directly addresses Busch’s stereotypes towards Africans and Jews, confronts the artist, for example because he too, with his seemingly funny little pictures, has made hatred of Jews socially acceptable. Friederike Feldmann has reinterpreted the story of the mad piano player. So you look again at Busch’s great animation art. Busch tells us something else today. But certainly different than in his time.
Rieger’s round of inspiration from the Berlin art scene is published every Wednesday.
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I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years now and I have worked for some of the biggest news websites in the world. My focus has always been on entertainment news, but I also cover a range of other topics. I am currently an author at Global happenings and I love writing about all things pop-culture related.