Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
In 1988, Gerhard Richter completed 18. Oktober 1977, the controversial fifteen-painting cycle that details the history and memory of the Red Army Faction (RAF), the homegrown left-extremist group that terrorized the Federal Republic of Germany from 1970 until 1977, carrying out a campaign of bank robberies, bombings, and kidnappings in support of its armed struggle against contemporary capitalism and the perceived threat of reemergent fascism in postwar West Germany. Richter appropriates found media and police photographs to cast the RAF and the events of the “German Autumn,” the period of intense and escalating confrontations between the RAF and the West German government that concluded with the mysterious deaths of the RAF founders in Stammheim Prison on October 18, 1977, in the ambiguous grisaille haze characteristic of his photo-painting style, which the artist had not used since 1960s. This thesis argues that by appropriating and repainting found media and police photos, Richter questions the verity and objectivity of photography in light of the campaigns of media manipulation and the highly sensationalistic journalistic practices of the West German press during the RAF’s reign of terror. Richter’s paintings separate this painful chapter of recent German history from the ideology and sensationalism that dominated its reporting, allowing viewers to come to terms with the memory of the RAF with intellectual distance rather than emotional embroilment.
McDevitt, Matthew, "Gewalt und Gedächtnis: An Examination of Gerhard Richter’s 18. Oktober 1977 in Relation to the West German Mass Media". Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2019.
Trinity College Digital Repository, https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/760