Sunday, 20 January 2013

Beautiful things!

We enter a third week of update activity. Blimey. But I'm out of films for the moment. Lets try something else.  Ooh, I know, what about politically motivated artwork! Yeah, that's something everyone will be able to relate to!  Or, you know, not.

Are you sure you want to know more?

I don't care that the NSDAP were totally and
irredeemably misogynistic, I happen to agree
with the apparent message about motherhood
being an acceptable and powerful thing.
I have the greatest of respect for propaganda of all types and creeds in that the whole point is to convey some pretty pointed and specific messages in a way that remains entirely accessible, usually at the lowest common denominator, and also retains the message purely enough to carry the weight of whatever political movement is using it. These ideals and messages reach their apogee, in my humble opinion, in the propaganda produced by the totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.

Here we find purity of message, albeit a tad on the evil side of things, with an alliance with artists and idea-smiths who crafted work passionately and with the kind of zeal one rarely finds anywhere else. You could, of course, find such passion and zeal in more savoury creations in the revolutionary art of 1920s Russia, or even Depression USA, but these often did not have the weight and resources behind them to turn them into truly iconographic items.

For that reason,these images that speak to me in a way that I am sure neither the regime nor the artist intended. I disagree with nearly all of their messages (though I reserve the right to respect collectivism as an outlook and the idea of women breastfeeding children as a Good Thing regardless of who promotes them) but the power and passion of these images has to be noted. In particular there is a iconography to the NSDAP promotional art that is so accessible and so fundamental to the human experience that it is difficult to escape most of what they did on a social level. The example that I have chosen here, focussing as it does on motherhood, also happens to be a message that I think has been increasingly sidelined and ignored in today's society. To the detriment of all. Of course, I squirm a little to know that it comes from the NSDAP, but, at the same time, I can't help thinking that there was a point that was not intended by the propagandists that created the image.

Is no one else getting chills from this? It's just awesome.
Then there's the Collectivist and Constructivist stuff that typified the USSR of the 1920s and 30s. The Fellow-Travellers movement was still going strong and the dead-hand of Stalin was not yet fully dominant in the artistic sphere. Starting with the end of the Civil War in 1921 (and arguably active through it as well) and culminating in the push for the Five Year Plans the propaganda made great play of documenting movement and reaching a new aesthetic. There's a purity of form, a simplicity of message that I find appealing and, also, slightly inspiring.

I find it hard to forget that millions of workers volunteered to work on projects like Magnitogorsk even without the urging of the Purges. Millions believed that they were creating utopia. With art like this surrounding them it isn't hard to see why they came to that conclusion either! The poster I've chosen to illustrate this post may not be the most effective propaganda piece nor even the most effective piece of constructivist art out there but, to me, it sums these movements up well enough.

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