ferry1.jpgBritish singer Bryan Ferry (of Roxy Music fame) is making headlines for his comments regarding his fondness for Nazi iconography during an interview last month. Apparently Ferry’s publicist gave him the wrong script to read when he proclaimed:

I’m talking about the films of Leni Riefenstahl and the buildings of Albert Speer and the mass marches and the flags – just fantastic. Really beautiful.”


Ferry went on record with a public apology today saying:

“I apologize unreservedly for any offense caused by my comments on Nazi iconography, which were solely made from an art history perspective.

“I, like every right-minded individual, find the Nazi regime, and all it stood for, evil and abhorrent.”

Marks & Spencer, the British retailer that currently employs Ferry as the model for one of their men’s collections is said to be “distancing itself from the row.”

This may or may not be related to the fact that the “Marks” in Marks & Spencer, the store’s founder was a Russian born Polish-Jewish immigrant.

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  • They are attractive, if perhaps not beautiful, from an aesthetic standpoint. That’s one of the reasons the Nazi regime was successful. These symbols were important and were carefully selected, filmed, built, staged, etc. Also, unlike, say, concentration camps and discriminatory laws, these elements of the regime helped it indirectly but did not cause direct harm to anybody. Who attacked Ferry for saying what he said and why?

  • I just found it shocking that Marks and Spencer would use Bryan Ferry as a clothes model. Apparently Thomas Dolby was busy that week.

  • themiddle: In response to your question:

    “We do welcome the fact that he has issued a swift comment that there was no intention to condone the Nazi regime,” said Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council.

    “Nevertheless, his choice of language was deeply insensitive,” he added.

    Lord Greville Janner, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, told Reuters: “His apology was total, appropriate and absolutely necessary. I hope that he will never make the same mistake again.”

  • While this reaction is understandable from the point of view that the Jewish organizations may be afraid that without his explicitly saying so, his listeners may not have known his broader context and his revulsion at the Nazis, this still strikes me as an over-reaction to his expression of an aesthetic sensibility.

  • TM is dead on. It is beneath the Jewish community AND NOT IN OUR INTEREST to overreact over this.

  • I understand this fellow’s enthusiasm for Speer’s aesthetic, but to call it “beautiful” without any sort of qualification to the historical/fascistic context is crude on Ferry’s part.
    I agree that there is no need to overreact and his apology is certainly sufficient.
    Only the most superficial art historical analyses treat aesthetics with no attention to the underlying political/cultural context.
    But even on the level of aesthetics, there is something rotten about these structures. While I’ll agree there is something enchanting to the designs, hearkening back to the mythological golden age of the Greek architecture and society (as do all neo-classical buildings, Speer’s fascist buildings are functionally terrifying. How does the individual interact with or process these structures? In a word, the individual (free-thinking, autonomous) has no place in this aesthetic. Only the artificial collective (masses of people or the politicized individual) can be associated with the buildings, which are mostly facade, suggesting impenetrability (physically and intellectually). In a very heavy-handed way, the fascist aesthetic imposes meaning with little outlet for even nominal criticisms (such as a need for freer movement, multiple perspectives). These buildings really only have one vantage point, one way to understand them which is entirely fashioned by whomever controls the space (i.e. the Nazis)
    To really understand what the fascist aesthetics were about, you have to look at what Speer was reacting against, namely Bauhaus. Bauhaus was a Modernist/Utopian movement that placed foremost functionability as the concern for architecture. Thus, the banal, human uses of architecture were far more important than the symbolic values. Furthermore, the Bauhaus emphasized the use of glass “curtain-walls” to suggest a sort of cultural transparency that was inquisitive and didactic, quite unlike the singular fascist rhetoric that radiated *out* from Speer’s buildings. That’s a bit of a reduction on my part, but you get the gist …

  • I met Ferry once, had the pleasure of chatting in a rather private setting. Very gentile, personable and mannered in that English style guy. Doesn’t mean he isn’t secretly a Nazi, didn’t buzz my fascist radar. nope. Doesn’t mean he isn’t secretly anti-semitic but… of course some of Jewlicious bloggers remember I was defending Jimmy Carter and boy was I let down. But Ferry isn’t coming out with policy statements here and it seemed he was commenting strictly on an aesthetic.

    Also, how can we put Ferry on a different level than, say, the Stones and Stooges who donned Nazi regalia for album photos?

    I wish I knew of his interest in Riefenstahl; we would’ve had something more to talk about than the wine and how beautiful Montreal can be in the winter.

    On a side note about art and culture. I included “Birth Of A Nation” in a book – a young readers’ primer – on classic films. I expected at least some resistance from the editors. (White, very liberal, a publishing house that focuses on multi-cultural themes.) Nothing. Does including this film in my criteria for a being “classic” make me a racist?

    Just my opinion, but the reaction to Ferry seems a little “Sharptonian”. It’s like in “Annie Hall”, the line where Woody’s bemoaning a record store clerk playing Wagner. (BTW), did anyone see/hear Jackie Mason’s commentary on the Imus situation? Hysterical.

  • I don’t think anyone can deny Reifenstahl’s skill as a filmmaker and the power of her imagery. She would be lionized today as a revolutionary of film if she had made her films for anyone else other than Hitler.

    And if you are into depictions of power and physical beauty and the worship of such, then again the power of Nazi iconography cannot be denied. For people who find raw power and incipient violence exciting, the Nazis were where it’s at aesthetically.

    But that is precisely the point. The Nazis deified physical strength, and made the will to power the center of their “ideology” (if one can even dignify their beliefs with such a word). So people who find this exciting are going to be moved by their aesthetic even if, on an intellectual level, they abhor what they stood for and what they did.

    Comparing and contrasting the Greek and the Jewish worldview, someone said long ago that “The Greeks saw holiness in beauty and the Jews saw beauty in holiness”.

    The same thing could be said of the Nazis “The Nazis saw holiness in power and the Jews saw power in holiness”.

    That is the real divide between the Jewish outlook and what this guy Ferry sees in Nazi and fascist iconography. People who worship power will always have a sneaking admiration for the Nazis since they did what many people secretly want to do: free themselves of the restraints of morality and concsience and act just as their lusts and passions move them. That is why such people find the Nazi aesthetic attractive: it is the physical emodiment of the idea of freedom for the yetzer with all of its bloodlust and violence, untrammelled by the restraints of moral considerations.

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