In The Nazis (1998) and its sequel, Real Nazis (2017), the Polish American artist Piotr Uklański creates glossy photographic assemblages of real and fictional Nazis, which critics have generally interpreted by turns as critiquing or participating in the culture industry’s fascination with and glamourization of Nazism. However, the formal mechanisms of Uklański’s work remain undertheorized. This essay offers a reading of The Nazis and Real Nazis that locates the aesthetic politics of these two products of the “perpetrator turn” in Holocaust studies and memory studies in the ways they manipulate assumptions about photographs’ temporality. Photographic theorists like Siegfried Kracauer, Susan Sontag, André Bazin, and Roland Barthes famously conceptualized photographic time through the category of grammatical tense and on examples of individual still images rather than photographic series. This essay builds on those theories by applying Peter Wollen’s work about narrative and grammatical aspect, which concerns the completedness or duration of what photographs depict, to argue that Uklański’s Nazi projects are more adequately explained as incomplete photographic narratives. By occluding viewers’ expectations about the aspect of photography, The Nazis and Real Nazis critically renarrate Nazism not as a completed historical trauma but as alive today amid a worldwide resurgence of right-wing populism.

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