Can Art become a tool of a political power?

Ambra Zega / Università di Roma La Sapienza | 27-Oct-2016
The artists in the hands of political forces: reflexion and examples. #propaganda #politicalpower #totalitarianism #utopia #socialism #artisticpropaganda #entartetekunst
"Entartung der Kultur", http://no-miedo.blogspot.it/2010/12/arte-degenerata.html
The objective of art has always been to depict the finite power, political and religious, and the infinite one dictated by the cycle of life, the death, the nature and the gods. We can say that the art has always been a tool of ideological propaganda in the hands of the powers and mainly depicts the ideological utopias proposed by these political, social and religious powers. Ideological utopia means an ideal equilibrium of power. The art provides an image of this utopia, contrary to what Hegel believed stating that it was not possible to show visually the balance of power and that you couldn't reduce it to an image .

Contemporary art is a chorus of different voices, the depiction of a pluralistic democracy. Being an excess, this pluralistic representation stabilizes and destabilizes at the same time the balance of power, but being a contradictory object is in the nature of the artwork (some examples of this natural contradiction are the duality of ready made and the latest artistic trends that suggest images of cells under the microscope as a representation that can be both abstract and realistic).

The art don't only depicts the pluralistic democracy, but also a single political ideology and therefore a single political power.

A revolution, or else totalitarianism, promotes a utopian balance of power, but they believe that this can be achieved only through a continuous struggle, a war. The art that is not limited to representation of the equilibrium of the power, but directly involved in the struggle for detention of the power is pure political propaganda.

This form of art as direct political propaganda is extraneous to the art market.

The art whose objective is pure political propaganda is not merchandise because it does not fit the tastes of the public and it's not created for each potential customer, but it is designed for the masses which should absorb and accept the ideological message.

Compared to this art that represents the vision of the ideology, the market circulates many images and it doesn't have its own image. The political ideology always offers an image of the power to cause idolatry and the artist placing itself at the service of an ideology gives his service to the image and to the art, instead of pleasing the tastes of the public.

Another consideration for which the art of pure political propaganda can't be merchandise is often the absence of the art market in a totalitarian political context, especially in the Sovietic socialist economy.

When art thematizes objective ideological image, figure a boundary to the autonomy of the artist, is not merchandise that pleases the tastes of individual consumers and participates in the struggle for power it can be described as pure political propaganda.

When the art is a weapon of struggle for the power it is totalitarian, monopolized by the political power through apparatus for its control.

Also the art repression can become a tool in the hands of political power. European totalitarianisms of the early 20th century, as well as to assign to art the task of conveying new standards and ideals, have often suppressed artworks and artists that could incite insubordination against the government or have been considered simply immoral and miseducating.

"Degenerate Art", in German Entartete Kunst, in the context of the Nazi regime in Germany, indicates those forms of art that reflected values or aesthetic contrary to the rule of Nazi concepts. In 1937, the Nazi authorities selected 650 art works among the confiscated art and they exhibited them in a special travelling exhibition of "degenerate art to show to the public the example of what was antithetical and harmful to the doctrine of the "good German".

The artistic conceptions, aesthetic and cultural totalitarianism are very similar to each other: National socialism and Fascism adopted the classical art as an aesthetic model and they imposed models to dispel the subjectivity in order to impose to the artists the task of supporting the propaganda. The artistic movements that developed under the influence of Stalinism and Nazism are strongly characterized by realism and traditional figuration.

Totalitarian governments programmed carefully art exposures and cultural events and build exhibition centers to highlight those models for the art of propaganda. For example, the Stalin Prize, instituted for the first time in 1942, rewarded the artists that best celebrated the facts, the strengths or the figures of the Stalinist regime and it had the purpose of pushing the artists to adopt the Soviet realism. But, as Goebbels enunciated, the most cunning propaganda is the one which remains hidden and subliminal: the artists often were not aware of being advocates of a propaganda.

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