Jonas Staal: Propaganda Art in the 21st Century
Lecture and Canadian Book Launch in partnership with Mercer Union’s exhibition Laure Prouvost & Jonas Staal: Obscure Union
Fake news, alternative facts and the post-truth era: these terms are presented to us as part of a rise of elected authoritarian and alt-right regimes the world over. But democracies were never free from propaganda; the first modern propaganda bureau was founded by the United Kingdom, and propaganda has been widely employed by western democracies in the current War on Terror. The very idea that democracy was ever free from propaganda might itself be one of the most successful propaganda narratives told.
In his new book, Propaganda Art in the 21st Century (The MIT Press, 2019), artist Jonas Staal argues that, creating new realities through propaganda is not a practice exclusively deployed by oppressive regimes; on the contrary, popular mass movements and stateless insurgencies propagate new egalitarian counter-realities into being as well. In this lecture Staal examines the role of art and culture in this contemporary propaganda struggle to ask: how might new realities be imagined, visualized, staged and performed into being?
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 organization 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). Staal completed his PhD research on propaganda art at the PhDArts program of Leiden University, the Netherlands.
This lecture is part of the MVS Proseminar series and is presented in partnership with Mercer Union’s fORUM, an ongoing series of talks, lectures, interviews, screenings and performances. Free as always.