An essay on art, bodies and fascism
In an era where identity politics is being weaponised against the very people it has sought to make visible, how can we reclaim complexity?
In 1937 the Nazis staged an exhibition of seized modernist artworks. Named Entartete ‘Kunst’ – Degenerate ‘Art’ – it sought to define degeneracy, display it and destroy it.This act of violent appropriation is one episode in a long and ongoing history of the erasure of queer and non-normative cultures.
A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing works against this erasure; it is a manifesto – a catalogue for an exhibition that could never take place. Drawing on work from dissident sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld to South African artist Zanele Muholi, as well as a century of queer cinema from Sergei Eisenstein to Pedro Almodóvar, So Mayer creates an archive of resistance.
How might we continue the joyous riot?
‘This book is a small revolution that becomes a party that you won’t be leaving soon. I believe we’re living in a time of fresh erasures, systemic violences working that global pandemic to take some other bodies out. Looking so freshly at the history of queerness, sexual deviance and the long long coordinated erasures of colonialism, bigotry and transphobia the essential non binary nature of art opens up right here like the wildly singing flower it is and So Mayer’s compelling version makes sense, makes me listen.’
‘A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing is a reflective, creative walk through some of the worst – and best – people of the last hundred years, looking at the power of images and their relationship(s) with text. In a time of rising fascism, So Mayer highlights ways that artists have found strategies of resistance, and offers hope in historical analysis.’
‘A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing links together everyone and every thing from Magnus Hirschfield to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jewish primary school, Thatcher, AIDS, Ursula Le Guin, the Third Reich, and gender politics into an essay that is both readable and urgent. Only So Mayer could pull off such a feat – and link it all up to queer cinema from Derek Jarman to Paris Is Burning. A book of thoughts for an emergency – that is to say, for today – that is absolutely worth reading with haste, but not in a hurry.’
B Ruby Rich
Published 5th November 2020
About the Author
So Mayer is the author of jacked a kaddish (Litmus, 2018), Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema (IB Tauris, 2015) and (O) (Arc, 2015). They contributed an essay in Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, edited by Roxane Gay (Allen & Unwin, 2018) and the introduction to Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry, edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás (Ignota, 2018). So is a bookseller at Burley Fisher, a curator with queer feminist film collective Club des Femmes, and co-founder of Raising Films, a campaign and community for parents and carers in the film industry.