For a long time, propaganda was considered a term only used in dictatorships. But with the advent of terms such as 'fake news', 'alternative facts' and the so-called 'post-truth' era, it becomes clear that in supposed democratic regimes the term remains applicable as well.
In his book Propaganda Art in the 21st Century (The MIT Press, 2019), artist Jonas Staal traces the role of art in modern and contemporary democracy, from the use of modernist art by the CIA to propagate against the doctrine of socialist realism in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, to the work of filmmaker and Trump ideologue Steve Bannon in establishing alt-right biospheres in the present.
In this lecture Staal further examines forms of 'emancipatory propaganda art' that do not aim at manipulating masses into Us versus Them dichotomies, but instead 'propagate' the complexities and ambiguities involved in building new transnational communities. These creative practices range from choreographies in popular mass movements to the artists at the frontline of the Rojava revolution in North-Syria.
About the artist
Jonas Staal is a visual artist whose work deals with the relation between art, propaganda, and democracy. He is the founder of the artistic and political organisation New World Summit (2012-ongoing) and the campaign New Unions (2016-ongoing). With BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, he cofounded the New World Academy (2013-16), and with Florian Malzacher he is currently directing the utopian training camp Training for the Future (2018-ongoing) at the Ruhrtriennale in Germany. Staal’s work has been shown, among others, at the 7th Berlin Biennale, the 31st São Paulo Biennale, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
His exhibition projects include Art of the Stateless State (Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, 2015), After Europe (State of Concept, Athens, 2016), The Scottish-European Parliament (CCA Glasgow, 2018), and Museum as Parliament (with the Democratic Federation of North Syria, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2018-19). His most recent book is Propaganda Art in the 21st Century (MIT Press, 2019).
Image: Jonas Staal and Remco van Bladel - 'Steve Bannon: A Propaganda Retrospective, Study', 2018. Produced by Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam.