In the Art & Science Research group we discuss various ways in which our art can visually engage with science, from Infographics to Storytelling. Following our Communications and Propaganda sessions, student Kim André Fladen posed the fundamental question: Can you be an Artist and do Propaganda? Here is what the students had to say:
Peter Paul Rubens, Virgin and child with saints, 1638–39
Ådne Sandvik Dyrnesli:
When I think about art and propaganda I think about how art has been used historically. In the Baroque (early 17th century to mid 18th) and Renaissance (15th and 16th century) the church used art as propaganda. Since most people were illiterate they couldn't read the bible, and paintings, architecture and sculpture where used to show the glory of God, Christ and the church.
If we look at our society today, the parallel isn't in art, but in advertising. Big billboards and posters in public spaces, made to manipulate the masses. I think that in the future, when art historians look back at our times, they will be researching and discussing advertising just as much as contemporary art. After all it shapes our culture and our lives in very real and tangible ways.
Ådne’s response made me think about memes that will be considered works of art in the future, or at least they will become the documentation by which to analyse our contemporary society.
Memes are fun, easy to make digitals and are spreading fast through social media. A lot of memes carry ideological ideas, so the flux of memes that follow the news on ecology become an archive about the human feelings about it. I follow a French meme page on Facebook called "ecologist memes for non-human in burnout". The number of memes talking about climate urge and anxiety that picture the different debates is increasing. The accuracy of theses memes may not be the priority but they do start debates in the comments and people can recognize themselves in the images.
This project talks about how meme culture constitutes ‘news practices, new expressions forms and new means for collective organization of protest and discord’: http://disnovation.org/ocw.php?fbclid=IwAR3e6PHZ222eXjwoHxSYBcRly8xE09TxOfG5kLuPrnG0PWFuT2kk0I70Nhc
Meme climate pages:
Climate memes for sustainable teens: https://www.facebook.com/climateshapers/
Climate memes for sustainable teens
We have all probably made an unconscious attempt at propaganda at some point or another, just by thinking, when going through a process of thought and deciding to take a stance on an issue, like abortion or the climate emergency. Are you pro or con? Are you a believer or a denier? Hypothetically, using propaganda in favour of a side of an issue, is not necessarily a bad thing, if it can persuade people to for example believe in the climate emergency. If we at some point have made an artwork clearly defending one side of a typical yes/no issue with a persuasive or didactic tone, kept it privately or shared it with the public, we have made some kind of propaganda related art, weather it being in a public space or not, conscious or unconscious of its relation to propaganda.
In addition, I think making art as propaganda, even if not reaching out to anyone like in advertising, clarifying something for oneself can help fill in the nuances of why one made the choice to make a stance for something. I don´t know if just thinking can be called propaganda, but thinking is one step from making, distributing, connecting, and influencing.
Nina Eriksson Being an artist in the sense of someone observing, questioning and repositioning/repurposing/reimagining whatever you may be processing is something that I really think has a lot to do with propaganda. Reimagining and warping communication, being conscious of your relationship to clarity and ambivalence... And sure, you can be an artist dealing with and producing propaganda. I just don't know how interesting a way of formulating your artistic discovery it would be. Maybe propaganda without standpoint, or corresponding to multiple standpoints, or simply shouting "NO MORE KNOWING!" or "WHO KNOWS" would be a way to deal with the lack of ambivalence or visibility of ambivalence that is so central to a lot of artistic practice.... "THERE IS NO TRUTH"? Engaging in artistry and making work, working artistically, is in itself an action that has a missionary element to it as it is often displayed or demands attention. "MAKE ART"?