Monday, May 09, 2016

"Art in the service of political power"

Marin County residents Tom and Lilka Breton opened a Museum of International Propaganda in San Anselmo last Saturday. The venture displays their eclectic and fascinating collection of visual artifacts, mostly 20th century, that meet their criteria for the label "propaganda."

I'll let them explain what they mean, from a poster that introduces the display:

What is Propaganda
Propaganda is the calculated manipulation of information designed to shape public opinion and behavior to predetermined ends, as desired by the propagandist. It is usually emotional and repetitive, either designed to increase enthusiasm for a proposed utopian world or to escalate rage and hatred of a designated enemy, often a religion, an economic or political system, a race or a special group. Propaganda, in its essence, is art in the service of political power. ... The best sign that propaganda has succeeded is when the people who faithfully toe the propaganda line actually believe they are acting this way of their own free will.

Other country's propaganda tends to evoke either amusement (as the heroic Kims above might inspire) or repulsion and terror, as for example, this Nazi German SS-Death's Head ring.

Many regimes have an image of women that reinforces state power. Here's a fine late Stalinist Soviet example.

This Women's Suffrage poster from the pre-World War I Pankhurst movement looks quite benign ... until you remember these ladies went in for burning politician's houses, smashing windows and assaulting policemen ...

Wars evoke denunciations: This Cuban poster (accurately) convicts Richard Nixon of slaughter in Cambodia and Laos ...
The Spanish Republic denounced the fascist bombing of Madrid in 1937 with images of broken children. In general, most cultures at war are far more willing to show graphic pictures of victims than US media consumers are accustomed to.

This image from 1988 pictures both the Kremlin and Washington as vampire bats supplying bombs (by way of Saddam Hussein's Iraq) to murder peaceful Iranians. By the standards of war propaganda, it is quite attractive.

War propaganda from the United States is notable for its racist content. From 1917, German Kaiser Wilhelm as a black ape??? Apparently that's how someone thought to mobilize the US masses.

In 1941, the Japanese enemy becomes an invading buck-toothed rat ...

This strange collection will be open Wednesdays through Sunday; admission is free. Definitely worth a visit.

Click on the pictures for larger images.

1 comment:

Hattie said...

Wow. Fasacinating! There is so much to see in this world.

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