This essay focuses on the relationship between ideology, language, and image to consider the question of subjectivity that is at the core of Gerhard Richter's cycle of paintings on the Red Army Faction. Through a close reading of Richter's paintings, I demonstrate how their narrative impulse follows an aesthetic, political, and feminist strategy aimed at resuscitating a modern mode of subjectivity. With this model of subjectivity, Richter optimistically gestures toward an open public sphere beyond the public sphere that has been compromised and marred by terrorism. A reading of Don DeLillo's short story reveals the risks Richter takes with this approach to subjectivity, particularly female subjectivity. DeLillo exposes the dangers and vulnerabilities that may arise when the individual engages in self-questioning while threatened by the realities of post-9/11 life. Richter's paintings take several risks, one of which is that the viewer may sympathize with the terrorists Richter portrays or may see these paintings, particularly Funeral, as redeeming them. Yet a dialectical reading that focuses on the narrative impulse of Richter's images demonstrates that the hope Richter holds out to the viewer rests on a powerful realization of subjectivity that necessarily moves through a momentary consideration of uncomfortable questions regarding women, the mass-media image, and terrorism.
Research Article|August 01 2009
Karin L. Crawford; Gender and Terror in Gerhard Richter's October 18, 1977 and Don DeLillo's “Baader-Meinhof”. New German Critique 1 August 2009; 36 (2 (107)): 207–230. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-2009-006
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