Ben Miller's lecture "Elisàr von Kupffer and the Queer Art of Fascism"


Ben Miller, a writer and historian based in Berlin, is visiting Kumu to discuss Elisàr von Kupffer’s complicated place in queer art history.

The lecture takes place in Kumu Art Museum's exhibition "Elisarion. Elisàr von Kupffer and Jaanus Samma" on the 5th of June at 6pm. The event is in English.

The artist Elisàr von Kupffer occupies a crucial, if deeply troubled, place in queer art history. His philosophy Klarismus was part of a broader early-twentieth-century trend towards new religions; he illustrated his belief system with the thirty-meter cyclorama painting "The Clear World of the Blissful", a fantasia of the four seasons occupied by dozens of idealised androgynes, many bearing his own face. From editing one of the first volumes of queer literature to theorising about a transcendent mystical androgyny based on racist pseudoscience, misogyny and antisemitism; from corresponding with the Jewish socialist sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld to petitioning Adolf Hitler to incorporate his homoerotic legacy into the Third Reich, Kuppfer lived a radically contingent life of fascinating contradictions. This talk will explore his legacy and its uncomfortable echoes in today’s gay and queer movements.

Ben Miller is a writer and historian. He is a co-host of the podcast Bad Gays, which profiles evil and complicated queers in history, and a co-author of "Bad Gays: A Homosexual History" (Verso, 2022). His PhD dissertation, "In Search of Lost Time: Primitivist Homomythopoetics and the Self-Invention of the White Gay Man", was recently completed in the Graduate School of Global Intellectual History at the Freie Universität Berlin. Since 2018, he has been a member of the board of the Schwules Museum, the world’s largest independent institution dedicated to archiving, exhibiting and preserving LGBTQI+ histories and visual cultures.
This event is a part of the public programme of the exhibition "Elisarion: Elisàr von Kupffer and Jaanus Samma".

The exhibition brings together the works of the Baltic-German artist Elisàr von Kupffer (1872–1942) and the Estonian artist Jaanus Samma (b. 1982). In the exhibition, Elisàr von Kupffer’s homoerotic paintings, influenced by ancient and Renaissance art, are in dialogue with contemporary works by Jaanus Samma, who explores the sexuality of Estonian peasants and queer folk art. His works highlight the relationship between Estonian peasants and the German-speaking elite: a fusion of fear, hostility and desire, and a juxtaposition of the high and the low. Jaanus Samma has created a new video work for the exhibition, The Clear World of the Blissful. Also on display is Karl Joonas Alamaa’s installation Limited Fun.

The event ticket grants participants same-day entry to all Kumu's exhibitions. Kumu's permanent and other temporary exhibitions are open until 18:00. The exhibition "Elisarion. Elisàr von Kupffer and Jaanus Samma" is open for participants until 20:00.

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