Love and War

Peter Piller at Andrew Kreps is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: The artist looks at how East Germany sold its military mission.

In his solo show at Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York, the German artist Peter Piller is showing a series of appropriated photos called “Umschläge” (German for “Covers”), which are just that: Images of the front and back covers of the defunct East German magazine called “Armeerundschau” (“Army Panorama”), whose layout juxtaposed a front image of a war scene and a back image of a pretty girl. According to Wikipedia, the magazine’s primary attraction was its “clothed pin-ups of women”, but the site also quotes the magazine’s longtime editor saying that its aim was to “prepare boys and men for their military service in the NVA [the “National People’s Army”], and to prepare women and girls to be good wives and girlfriends, to teach them to love soldiers and be willing to wait for them. We knew we had to convince women to love soldiers. If we didn’t, men wouldn’t want to go into the NVA.” That weird tension seems visible in Piller’s appropriations: A testosterone-laden front cover stands in strange tension with a remarkably chaste back cover that has to function as sexual bait for the magazine’s male readers and as a mirror for women viewing it. And then, in this issue at least, there’s a weird racial and colonial subtext as well. Sometimes, it’s enough for art simply to point out the world’s weirdnesses.

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