Tag Archives: Darshan Singh Bhuller

Look At Me

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What do you see when you look in the mirror? What do you see when you look back? What do you put on when you get dressed? Time can make a pointed confluence.

In Darshan Singh Bhuller’s film Das Modell, the Dancer & Lola Patrick Harding-Irmer confronts coming to terms with the deception of his mother—Lola.  Lola fabricated a history, hiding the identity of Harding-Irmer’s father as a German Olympic athlete, one chosen to be a model of Aryan perfection, an icon.  Lola, who had Australian roots, graduated from Berlin University and attended the Günther School in Munich, a training center for gymnastics and dance.  When the Günther School was selected to take part in the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin Lola taught the choreography to 2,000 gymnasts, designating their placement in the Olympic stadium.  Also prominently on display in the stadium were statues of the ”ideal” man. One of these was a decathlete specializing in the pole vault.  Lola’s chance encounter with this athlete led to Harding-Irmer’s birth.  Lola relocated to Australia where she established her own gymnastic school and kept her German liaison a secret.

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It was only much later that Harding-Irmer, a gifted dancer with the London Contemporary Dance Theatre, learned who his father was.  It took Harding-Irmer four years to accede to Bhuller’s urging that his story be told.  The result is a compelling documentary.  Das Modell, the Dancer & Lola was screened on June 4, 2016, at the Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center in New York City.

A BBC broadcast on June 17th describes an equally compelling confrontation: in Detmold, Germany, following a four month trial, former Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail for complicity in mass murder.  Auschwitz survivors had given graphic testimony and Hedy Bohm, Erna de Vries, William Glied, and Leon Schwarzbaum were present in the courtroom at the time of sentencing.  The 94-year-old Hanning declared, “I want to say that it disturbs me deeply that I was part of such a criminal organization. I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it and I apologize for my actions. I am very, very sorry.”  According to the BBC this could be one of the last trials of a Nazi official involved in the Holocaust.

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Contrast this with Uniformity, currently on display at The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in Manhattan through 19 November 2016.  The exhibit displays crisply starched uniforms in their better nature: for nurses, police, soldiers, sailors, school children, even McDonald’s workers, and how these iconic images have been fancifully transformed by fashion designers.  Curator Emma McClendon writes “The push-pull between the identity of a group and that of an individual is a constant tension in modern society.”  What’s on view provokes questions about depictions of rank, hierarchy.  What is mundane and what is the use of camouflage?

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Taken altogether the conundrum remains—what is illusion? what is deception? and what is real? How do we reconcile this day to day?

blogpost by Barbara A. Mateer

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