Charles Krafft, Hitler-Idaho Teapot, 2003
In 2005, Seattle artist Charles Krafft won the revisionist Holocaust Historiography Project’s prize for the most absurd World War II atrocity tale.
In 2006, in an interview published on the blog The eXTra finGer, Krafft answered the question, “What else are you interested in besides visual arts?” as follows:
Travel, interbellic Romanian history, psychedelics, Holocaust revisionism, Brazillian transsexuals, prison architecture, sadhus, cemeteries, derelict buildings, abandoned houses, cheesy John Davis Chandler and Mimsy Farmer movies.
But Krafft’s interest in Holocaust revisionism never really surfaced as an issue in the art world until February 13, 2013, when Jen Graves published “Charles Krafft Is a White Nationalist Who Believes the Holocaust Is a Deliberately Exaggerated Myth,” in The Stranger, one of those urban “alternative” rags that make cultural Bolshevism profitable by selling advertising to prostitutes.
Even though the article is a loathsome attempt to destroy Krafft socially and economically by labeling him a “Nazi” and a “Holocaust denier” and then inviting his friends and associates to denounce him and his galleries and collectors to boycott his work, I couldn’t help but laugh as I read it, because it is such an inept piece of writing that it frequently comes off as a parody of PC hysterics and art scene hipsters. It also reveals a great deal about what actually drives political correctness — too much, really, for the comfort of the establishment.
The production of self-subverting propaganda is an increasingly common problem for the cultural and media establishment, which can no longer maintain centralized quality and message control because of the rise of the internet and the blog, which allows anybody to become a journalist.
The article begins:
What Will Happen to One of the Northwest’s Preeminent Artists—Whose Nazi Imagery Has Always Been Considered Ironic—Now That His Views Are Not a Secret?
This is carefully constructed to elide Graves’ own agency and malice. An honest paraphrase would read: “How will people follow Jen Graves’ lead in socially and economically destroying Charles Krafft now that she has publicized views that were no secret to the broader art world, embroidering them with witch words like ‘Nazi’ and ‘Holocaust denier’ to minimize critical thinking and maximize real and feigned moral outrage, in order to inflict maximum damage?” Why, I wonder, does Jen Graves hate Charlie Krafft so much?
The Artist’s Intentions
The question is hard to get your head around: If Charles Krafft is a Holocaust denier, what does that say about his revered artwork? What exactly does he believe happened, and didn’t happen, during the Holocaust? How should collectors and curators—or anyone who sees his work—reassess his art in light of what he’s been saying lately?
Krafft, an elder of Seattle art, is a provocateur. He makes ceramics out of human cremains, perfume bottles with swastika stoppers, wedding cakes frosted with Third Reich insignias. Up-and-coming artists continue to admire him. Leading curators include him in group shows from Bumbershoot to City Arts Fest. His work is in the permanent collections of Seattle Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, and the Museum of Northwest Art, and it’s been written about in the New Yorker, Harper’s, Artforum, Juxtapoz. It’s also appeared on the cover of The Stranger.
In 2009, I included his daintily painted ceramic AK 47 on a list of the 25 best works of art ever made in Seattle, and called him “the Northwest’s best iconoclast.” AK 47 is part of Krafft’s Disasterware series, injecting the homey crafts of European ceramic painting with violence and catastrophic events. At the time of its creation, pretty much everyone thought Krafft was being ironic—poking holes in the fascist and totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. He said as much in an interview in Salon in 2002. “For some reason, art has to be this earnest, serious, even Freudian, exploration,” he told Salon. “But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that at all. Art that’s funny seems to get dismissed just because it is funny. But I’ve always had a knack and a penchant for going toward humorous irony.”
Now, a decade later, some of Krafft’s more than 2,000 Facebook friends would be hard-pressed to detect humor in his increasingly sinister posts. On January 14, for instance, Krafft posted, “Why amongst the monuments glorifying the history of this nation in Wash DC is there a museum of horrors dedicated to people who never lived, fought, or died here? The USHMM [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum] was erected before there was ever a monument to the 465,000 Americans who died in WWII. And no one did enough to save the Jews of Europe?”
Graves makes clear that she is entirely uninterested in the substance of Krafft’s question, even though it is remarkably revealing of the true nature and priorities of our rulers that a Holocaust memorial was built before a World War II memorial. It is even more revealing of our rulers’ intentions that every American has a ready answer to the question “How many Jews died during World War II?” but virtually no Americans know how many of our own people died in that war.
The purpose of remembering the Holocaust is to make sure that “never again” will Jews die because white nations wish to be free of them. The purpose of downplaying the casualties of World War II is to make sure that Americans will “always again” be willing to die in foreign wars where we have no vital interests — wars that, with increasing obviousness, are being stirred up by Jews who wish to benefit Israel at our expense.
The article continues:
When I wrote to Krafft back in May, letting him know that a reader had asked whether he was a Holocaust denier, I added, “I suppose you don’t have to answer that, but I guess I’d like to know.” This wasn’t the first time I’d heard the rumor, but I found it impossible to imagine that the swastikas on Krafft’s work might reflect genuine spite toward Jews—i.e., that there might not be so much difference between Krafft’s swastikas and Hitler’s. After all, that could mean this self-taught, former Skagit Valley hippie artist was using the guise of art and irony to smuggle far-right symbols into museums, galleries, collectors’ homes, and upscale decor shops like Far4 on First Avenue.
Krafft, of course, “smuggled” nothing into museums, galleries, homes, and boutiques. People willingly took his work and paid handsomely for it. The only thing that has changed is Jen Graves’ view of the artist’s intentions. If the swastikas were ironic attempts to shock the bourgeoisie, that is A-OK. But if they were meant in earnest, that is deeply troubling.
Of course Graves is quietly discarding one of the bedrock premises of postmodern art criticism: the “death of the author” or artist, i.e., the thesis that the meaning of an artwork is not determined by the intention of the artist but by the newly empowered interpreter: in theory, any viewer, but in practice, the gallery owner, the museum curator, and especially the art critic like Jen Graves.
If a Dutchman angrily protested one of Krafft’s Delftware swastika windmills, on the grounds that it is an intentional insult to his people, you can bet that Jen would readily dismiss the relevance of Krafft’s artistic intentions and assert her prerogative as a critic to tell us what to think.
(Besides, no right-thinking Dutchman would dare object to Krafft’s swastika windmills, because they all know that their people is under perpetual indictment for Nazi collaboration, a guilt which can only be expiated by importing Somali rape gangs and other vibrant hominids to exterminate the Dutch nation entirely.)
But Jen Graves knows that some people matter more than others. A disgruntled Dutchman can be high-handedly dismissed. But a disgruntled Jew cannot. So suddenly the artist’s intention really does matter, if it bears on the one people that really matters.
Consider the following:
In 2003, Krafft made a ceramic teapot in the shape of a bust of Hitler, with eerie holes for eyes. A Jewish collector named Sandy Besser, now dead, bought the Hitler teapot and added it to his overtly politically themed collection, which he later donated to FAMSF [Fine Art Museums of San Francisco], where it was exhibited in 2007. [Timothy] Burgard [of FAMSF] wrote about it in a catalog as explicitly and clearly antifascist. “These blind-looking eyes also evoke associations with . . . the world turning a blind eye to the horrors of the Holocaust.”
Reached by phone last week, Burgard said Krafft’s change of heart on World War II raises larger issues about artists’ intentions, “both expressed and concealed . . . and how those do or don’t dovetail with their public reception and interpretation.” As an experiment, Burgard showed the Hitler teapot to a colleague who had never seen it before and the colleague agreed with Burgard’s original interpretation. What does it mean that when Krafft made this portrait of a demonized Hitler, he was actually beginning to spread the word that the demonization of Hitler has been greatly exaggerated?
Another question: Will the museum get rid of the Krafft? That’s unlikely, Burgard said, explaining that he values the perspectives brought by artworks, maybe even more so when they’re reminders of attitudes we’d forget at our own risk of repeating them. The label on the wall will probably have to change. Burgard said that if Besser—the original collector of the Hitler teapot—had thought the sculpture rehabilitated Hitler’s regime, he’d probably have smashed it.
Not only does the artist’s (possible) politically incorrect intention now trump the interpretations of the collector and curator, but it is ludicrously asserted that Krafft’s impure thought might even “rehabilitate” the Hitler regime. But how, exactly, might that happen? Who, outside of a madhouse, can believe that a teapot shaped like Hitler can rehabilitate his regime just because the artist might have wished it? And can such a subtle, potent, numinous evil truly be exorcised merely by smashing the pot? Either Burgard is mad, or he is merely playing it safe by assuming that Jews are completely nuts when it comes to the topic of Hitler (assuming Burgard is not Jewish himself).
Of course neither Graves nor Burgard is concerned what the people of the great state of Idaho think about the whole thing. They’ll tell you what to think.
One certainly has to hand it to Krafft, though: he knows his market. If you asked any Jew what state pops into his head when he thinks of Hitler, Idaho would probably be right up there with Utah, even though the sons of both states fought and died in World War II, which should earn a little gratitude and respect.
Jillian Steinhauer, in her “What Do You Do with White Nationalist Art Once the Irony’s Gone?” at the Hypoallergenic blog, also finds Krafft’s intentions terribly important:
. . . the real question is: now that Krafft is outed, what happens to his art, especially the works owned by museums? The San Francisco curator told Graves the museum would likely keep its piece — “he [the curator] values the perspectives brought by artworks.” In other words, we need to parse the art from the artist, at least to the point where we can still display and engage with it. On the one hand, I want to be open-minded enough to agree with this, and some of Krafft’s work is undeniably powerful, for instance, his Delftware guns. On the other hand, the whole “the creator isn’t the work” thing strikes me as pretty flimsy here, since the art seems to be very much a representation of the artist’s skewed views. How do you show a Nazi teapot now, knowing that its creator is a Holocaust denier (and that the man who bought it didn’t know)?
“The line on separating the man from the art feels to me in this case like a diversionary tactic our brains do to us to make the simple less simple because simple is dull and in this case kind of horrible,” Graves wrote to me. “The fact is, he’s selling World War II satire portraits where the satire turns out to be a tactic to fool a world full of dumbshits.”
Yet another arts blogger, Phil Campbell, agonizes over Krafft’s intentions in “When a Good Artist Turns Nazi Sympathizer” at The Huffington Post. He and his wife apparently had kind words for Krafft in the past, so I suppose he felt the need to weigh in to absolve himself of suspicion in the eyes of the people who matter.
In 2003 I attended the opening of a performance-exhibition of Krafft’s. I was with my wife Emily Hall, who was writing an arts piece about it for The Stranger. Instead of the usual art gallery, the show was held at a columbarium in Seattle’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery. No Nazi symbols were on display, nothing so polarizing or so cruel. Krafft instead brought out his sense of humor and irony with objects like a cremains bulldog and a cremains bottle of Absolut — to quote Hall, the Absolut bottle was “created for and of someone who died of liver disease (a commission, it turns out, from his friends).”
A former Catholic, I was at once delighted and moved by the strangely irreverent reverence in Krafft’s art that day in the cemetery. I think everyone else who attended the opening that afternoon was. For me, Krafft had thrown open a door to the liberating idea that death didn’t have to be so stuffy or so ceremonial. Death just is, so why not have some fun with it?
I’m trying to write an ending to this post, and I just can’t. I can’t make sense of any of it. We should be able to judge art apart from the personal politics of the artist, but Krafft’s work doesn’t allow for that, especially when he worked with human remains to make art. We literally trusted him with our bodies, and the idea that his intentions about all of it — the entire corpus — were not entirely pure corrupts everything, past the ashes of our bones and into our very souls.
Again, the reason that “we” can’t judge Krafft’s work apart from his intentions is not that his work might offend the Dutch or the Idahoans, but that his ideas offend Jews.
Now, lest my own intentions be misunderstood, I think that of course an artist’s intentions must be taken into account in determining the meaning of his work, postmodernism be damned. And the clearest proof of this truth is that Graves, Steinhauer, Campbell, and countless others will never be able to look at Krafft’s work the same way again.
My dispute with Graves is her overly simplistic assessment of Krafft’s intent, based on sloppy scholarship and reasoning. As I argued in “The Persecution of Charles Krafft,” his use of the swastika and associated images predates his interest in Holocaust revisionism by a decade and his serious engagement with White Nationalism by two decades. I also point out that Krafft uses many conventional American symbols of evil in his work, e.g, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il, Vladimir Putin, etc. But one can’t plausibly argue that he endorses all of these figures, so something else must be going on here.
The Revelation of the Method
Graves has a tendency to reveal too much. For instance, she quotes a number of statements by Krafft on the Holocaust and White Nationalism, statements that she found “just by doing a little googling.” She also quotes Krafft’s responses to her emails. Moreover, she quotes many of Krafft’s friends, for whom all this is old news. (Some “secret.”)
Graves, of course, is not interested in discussing the truth or falsehood of Krafft’s views. She mentions offhand that “Krafft’s friends say it’s exhausting to argue with him because of his ability to cite everything he’s read.” But she’s having none of it. She just knows that Krafft’s views are preposterous on the face of them, so she is merely inviting us all to be appalled, like Victorian ladies at the mention of sex.
Unfortunately for Graves, Krafft’s statements, even out of context, seem like the product of a lucid, level-headed fellow, and it is possible that quite a number of people reading them in the privacy of their home porn theaters might actually think that Krafft has a point.
Again, this is rather inept from a propaganda point of view. One should never let reasonable statements from the enemy to get into print, only crazy ones. But to do that, one must know the difference.
Another passage that reveals far too much deals with Fred Owens, who took advantage of Krafft’s long journey to India, where he could not easily get online, to stir up some drama on his Facebook page. Graves writes:
On Facebook earlier this month, when a friend named Fred Owens unfriended Krafft and called him a bigot [. . .]
Owens was motivated to speak on Facebook after playing online chess with a close Jewish friend from Boston, who simply asked Owens why he had a friend like that. “I realized that I could not continue playing chess with Harvey unless I did something about Charlie—it became simple for me,” Owens wrote to me in an e-mail.
This is a very eloquent confirmation that political correctness is ultimately driven by Semitical correctness. Graves and Owens are probably not Jews, but their thoughts and actions orbit around their understanding of what Jews want. And what do Jews want? Intolerance, censorship, the social and economic destruction (at minimum) of anyone who might challenge their power. Graves continues:
Owens made another, broader, important point, too: We should “not just blame Charlie for this but the entire arts community of Seattle which has proven to be soft-headed. As I said when I wrote about this, it would never happen in Brooklyn or Boston—people would just kick his ass down the block. But Seattle has a misguided kind of false tolerance going on here, so there is a lesson for all of us in this.”
This “false tolerance” is, of course, real tolerance, something that does not exist in Brooklyn and Boston and other points closer to the great Jewish hives and their millions of lidless, ever-watchful eyes. Graves echoed Owens when Steinhauer asked her about the response to her article:
“Lots and lots of response,” [Graves] wrote. “Kara Walker, Jerry Saltz chiming in. Plenty of people on all sides. Was the art ever good? Could this have happened on the East Coast? ‘The natural outcome of white Seattle irony,’ a friend said to me last night.”
So the real enemy is not White Nationalism, but West Coast white tolerance and white irony, i.e., white liberalism. These are all fine when they coincide with Jewish interests. But when something subversive slips through, they have to be brought into line with East Coast (read: Jewish) standards of “true” tolerance.
Owens and Graves have learned their lesson. They will be more vigilant in rooting out and squelching independent thought in the art world.
Let’s hope that West Coast white liberals will learn a lesson from the Krafft case as well. White liberals see their values as universal, but their enemies see them as merely “white,” and they hate whites.
Liberals think that their values will triumph, even if the white race is sublated into the “tan everyman” of globalist dreams. But far from conveying the light of liberalism to the farthest corners of the world, multiculturalism is actually destroying white liberalism, even in its own homelands, even in strongholds like Seattle.
Thus the only future for liberalism is to abandon its universalism and reinvent itself as a racially conscious Left, which is not a contradiction in terms or a pure fantasy, but something that actually existed in the past, exists today in the West-Coast White Nationalist milieu, and can always return, in force, if whites decide to reassert control of our destiny.