Ode to Necrophilia

Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962

The startlingly titled and utterly bizarre photo-series Ode to Necrophilia by Hungarian-Mexican photographer Kati Horna, featuring as a model the brilliant Leonora Carrington, was published in the short lived but innovative Mexican avant-garde magazine S.NOB in 1962.

Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Hungary in 1912, Horna lived in Berlin and Paris before moving to Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War where she was empoyed as the official photographer for the CNT-FAI. Her groundbreaking war photographs that intimately portrayed the effects of the conflict on the civilian population was frequently featured in Spanish Anarchist journals Umbral and Tierra y Libertad as well as internationally. In 1939 she fled with her husband the Spanish anarchist José Horna, first to Paris then to Mexico. Mexico was the first choice for a number of left-leaning artists and intellectuals escaping Europe’s nightmare slide into fascism. It was here that she met Remedios Varo, the wealthy art patron Edward James, Benjamin Peret and later Leonora Carrington.

S.NOB was founded by literacy radicals  Salvador Elizondo and Juan Garçia Ponce and featured works by the Mexican avant-garde and European emigres with Edward James helping with funding to ensure artistic freedom. It ran for seven issues in 1962.

Below is a selection of images from the series. A quick note regarding the umbrella, which would appear to refer not only to Lautreamont’s famous dictum in Les Chants De Maldoror, ‘As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table’, but also to one of her many outstanding photographs of the Spanish Civil War, Rally at Via Durutti, which I have also included.

Rally at Via Durutti-Kati Horna 1937
Rally at Via Durutti-Kati Horna 1937
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962
Ode to Necrophilia-Kati Horna 1962

 

 

 

 

No Passaran

cnt1
CNT-FAI Poster
The volatile political situation of 1930’s Europe with the rise of competing extremist factions saw the increased use of art for propaganda purposes, and also the realisation that propaganda itself could be an art form (Hitler, Goebbels and Mussolini were all failed artists: Hitler of course was a mediocre painter; Goebbels and Mussolini fifth rate novelists). Nowhere was this more apparent than Spain, which after the military uprising by General Franco and his fascist inspired Nationalists against the democratically elected, left leaning Republic descended into a vicious Civil War that soon took on an international dimension.

The above poster commemorates the successful defence of Barcelona by members of the anarcho-syndicalist trade union CNT-FAI (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo-Federación Anarquista Ibérica) on 19th of July 1936. Although the government had denied arming the anarchists, union members led by Buenaventura Durutti captured weapons from army barracks, manufactured home-made grenades and improvised armoured vehicles leading to the defeat of the rebels. After the events of 19th of July  the CNT-FAI became the de facto power in Barcelona and implemented a social revolution that George Orwell pays eloquent tribute to in his memoir Homage to Catalonia.

Below is some fine examples of the posters that would have lined the buildings and windows of the Republican controlled zones.