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Timms, Edward und Deborah Schultz: "Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theatre?. A multimedia response to the crisis of German culture." In: Word & Image 24.3 (2008), S. 251–268.
|Resource type: Journal Article
BibTeX citation key: Timms2008
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Keywords: "Leben? Oder Theater?", Deutschland, Intermedialität, Randformen des Comics, Salomon. Charlotte
Creators: Schultz, Timms
Collection: Word & Image
Charlotte Salomon’s word and image sequence Leben? oder Theater? was originally viewed as the work of a gifted amateur, a young woman who—like Anne Frank—composed a poignant diary before being deported to her death. ‘In these pictures and notes’, observed the theologian Paul Tillich in his preface to Charlotte: A Diary in Pictures (1963), ‘there is something universally human’, attributable to ‘the almost primitive simplicity of her pictures’. A more accurate impression of the range and complexity of the work, created by Salomon as a refugee in the south of France in 1940–1942, was conveyed by the first complete English edition, Charlotte: Life or Theatre (1981). This reproduces all the 769 gouaches that she selected and numbered for inclusion, with a preface by the Director of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, where the collection is now located. The preface records the techniques Salomon used to combine words and images. Each of the 211 gouaches in the first section is accompanied by a transparent ‘overlay’ on tracing paper, on which the corresponding narrative or dialogue is inscribed. Many of the remaining 558 sheets have texts boldly inscribed in German on the painted page (perhaps she ran out of tracing paper). The artistic effect is disconcerting, as can be seen from the gouache showing the artist lunching in a garden overlooking the sea with her grandparents, fellow exiles in France. The scene would appear idyllic but for their words complaining that she is only interested in painting, which come crawling across the tablecloth. By the time of the landmark exhibition of 1998–1999 at the Royal Academy in London, it was recognized that Salomon was ‘an equally remarkable painter and writer who drew on both these talents in creating Life? or Theatre?. The work, subtitled ‘A Singing Play’ (‘Ein Singespiel’), also abounds in musical allusions, generating a radically innovative mode of multimedia creativity that challenges aesthetic conventions.
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