Ernst Jünger (29th March 1895 – 17th February 1998), is a complex figure from Germany’s history in the 20th Century. Born to an affluent family, he rejected his background, serving briefly the French Foreign Legion before serving in the German army throughout the First World War, seeing action in several battles and hard-fought skirmishes on the Western front, being wounded seven times – including to both the head and to the chest (the latter piercing a lung). During the Second World War, he again served in the German Army, where he was both an inspiration for, and had some involvement with, the German anti-Nazi movement (in fact, in 1943 he penned a proposal for peace with the allies which included the removal of Hitler from power and he was involved at the fringes of the 1944 Stauffenberg bomb plot to kill Hitler.
He is perhaps most well known for penning two works: In Stahlgewittern (literally “In Steel Weather” but given the English title Storm of Steel), published in 1920 which brought together his personal experiences of the Great War as recorded in the diaries he kept from 1914-1918; and Auf den Marmorklippen (“On Marble Cliffs”), published in 1939 and most readily seen as a parable against national socialism, written at a time when Jünger had rejected overtures from the Nazi Party on numerous occasions on account of his personal rejection of the German democratic movement and spoken out against liberalism as a whole.
Whilst Auf den Marmorklippen and In Stahlgewittern might be interpreted in several ways, the latter has come to be seen as an anti-war treatise and the former a warning against the rise of authoritarianism in any hue. In this, and given the way we appear to be re-treating elements of history experienced a century ago, both books perhaps have particular relevance today.
For Gem Preiz they offer metaphors for the stark choice humanity is facing: to allow ourselves to be ruined through the prettiness of nationalistic politics or to strive harder ad reach our fullest potential. He does this through a new exhibition of his fractal art in which he combines the titles of Jünger’s works, and which can be see at Carelyna’s ArtCare Gallery, itself in a new location.
Storm of Steel; On Marble Cliffs offer three rooms of Gem’s art. Within a central hall that forms the landing point, are six images mounted on marble walls that show the potential: gleaming cities that stand (or float) as havens of humanity. Bracketing this on either side are two further halls. In one, this theme to a gleaming future expressed through architectural marvels is continued – although at its centre is a reminder of the dangers inherent in our make-up that may still try to tear down all that we have – and might – achieve: black arms and hands that rise from the floor or drop from the ceiling, reaching out, fingers bent as if to grasp and tear and break whatever they find.
Within the other hall, we see the outcome in allowing the pettiness to prevail is revealed in the form of broken and smashed buildings, sitting with atmospheres heavy with smoke (or pollution) and in places lit by what appears to be fire or burning fires.
It might be easy to reconcile Storm of Steel; On Marble Cliffs just as a commentary on the situation in Ukraine; but as he notes – and I hope I’ve indicated here – he net is cast far wider. As such, the exhibition should be seen and appreciated free from preconceptions of our current political climate, just as Jünger’s works were both rooted in their political times but have meaning that reaches well beyond those times.
Do take note of the music suggestions included in the exhibition’s note card, available at the landing point, use the links to play the pieces via You Tube, if so minded.
- ArtCare Gallery (Nagano Valley, rated: Moderate)