Recently, artist Charles Krafft has had a bit of bad press. Thanks to his totally controversial ceramics, which include busts of Hitler, swastika perfume bottles with the word "forgiveness" emblazoned upon them and plates covered in drawings of Nazi bombings, he's been labelled a white supremacist, a Nazi sympathiser and a Holocaust denier. Still, it's "art", remember? This wouldn't be the first time an artist has played with controversial symbolism in order to open a dialogue on contemporary politics, and Krafft's works also seek to antagonise with depictions of Kim Jong-un, the Allied obliteration of Dresden in 1945 and Aleister Crowley.
Unfortunately, recent allegations that Charles is in contact with a white supremacist group and had appeared on a white nationalist podcast have provoked an increasing number of people to dismiss his work as genuinely offensive, under-researched, archaic and gross. I caught up with him to see if he was the Mel Gibson or the Ali G of the art world.
VICE: Hey Charles. So how would you describe the art you make?
Charles Krafft: Confrontational and comic: it’s dark comedy. I’m interested in non-functional ceramics.
Why were you drawn to that medium?
Looking at other ceramics, you don’t see any kind of gritty imagery about the era we're living in, it's all 18th century: cows and windmills. I started to update them. I looked up these plates and wanted to turn the whole thing upside down, I wanted to paint the moments that had changed our lives. The great moments of our day.
I wanted them to look like stuff your nan might have in her house, but when you got closer you would have to double take. I started with the plates but moved into guns and things later.
A lot of your work relates to nationalism, why is that?
Yes, I'm looking at nationalism as opposed to globalism. I’m interested in pre-World War nationalism. Post-1945 nationalism of any type was demonised; If you look back before the war and read nationalist literature it isn’t really as bad people say. I’m interested in re-examining history and intellectual movements before 1945. In the arts there used to be loads of right-wing intellectuals, but now it's all leftist, like Marxism.
Do you think the right wing has been unfairly pushed out?
Yeah, I think so. It's been demonised; you can’t get an unbiased view any more.
So I take it you side to the right then?
No, I'm beyond the paradigm. I don’t want to be classified as either right or left.
Sure. But you sympathise with the right.
Yes, for sure. In the 50s in America, during the hunt for communism, I believe the commies were subverting us. McCarthy has been demonised, but he was onto something.
Do you believe in the supremacy of the white race?
Everything has been blown out of proportion. Nick Griffin for instance, he wanted to put limits on immigration. The same thing here, we have accepted enough refugees. As soon as this comes up you are painted as this white supremacist. I’m not on the battlements, I’m not marching. I went along with the Rivers of Blood Speech, I don’t know why others didn’t. He [Enoch Powell] was a prophet but vilified. He warned of a dystopian multi-cultural society and agreed with discrimination. You guys have riots going on and you're pretending you don’t have racial issues. The media just won’t examine it.
Why do some people consider you a Holocaust denier?
I was on some white supremacist website and I did a podcast for them, but they were putting words in my mouth. My personal view is that some of the information must be re-examined, but it is too taboo. But I don’t understand why. I personally believe I can clear at least the name of one ex-Nazi – Bishop Valerian Trifa. My research into him made me realise who I am, that’s all. I am a white protestant, this is just something I have inherited. I agree with his form of nationalism, if we don’t want others views enforced on us then don’t let them.
So it's re-evaluation, not denial, then.
I don’t think there should be taboos in looking. I think some of the evidence is wrong, but we can't look into it as you always get some organised Jewry telling you you're hurting their feelings. In my view, historical truth trumps hurt feelings of Jews. Everyone gets hurt feelings, get over it.
Alarm bells are ringing in my head right now.
Yeah, I know how to push buttons.
Do you think the Nazis were on to something?
I’m not a born again Nazi, I'm using it in an ironic way. It’s a cliché for evil. The swastika is just some kitsch piece of popular culture.
You also made teapots of Charles Manson, Nick Griffin and Hitler.
Yeah, I was doing an exhibition in the UK, so why not make teapots? The British love tea. I just made some evil tobypots. They're all demonised people, with the exception of Amy Winehouse. She's just decadent and has a funny face. No one wanted to buy them though. Apart from the Hitler one.
Weird. How about the stuff made from human skeletons?
I was creating "human bone china", it was a way to memorialise people. I thought it would be commercialised, I put ads in funeral magazines and everything but hardly anyone wanted it. I mean, my parents were made into fireworks, so I thought others might want to be made into pots?
Guess not, Charles.
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