Art and Propaganda

This category contains 6 posts

Qatar dresses Greek statues: reason for disagreement?

QatarBy Ana Lordkipanidze, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy

Olympic Games originated in Ancient Greece and date back to 776 B.C. As mentioned in some sources, during the time of Olympic games all the conflicts had to cease and be postponed until after the games. Many centuries later Olympic Games still take place once every four years but not necessarily in Greece, rather in different countries of the world. In August 2011, Qatar announced that it was competing to host Olympic games in 2020. Even though it didn’t win in this nomination, the country still wanted to have connection with Olympic games and recently opened an exhibition in its capital- Doha dedicated to Ancient Olympic Games. For this purpose Greece sent Doha Greek statues for the exhibition. This gift was supposed to become the “friendship bridge” between Greece and Qatar, but everything took different direction when Greece’s culture minister, Costas Tzavara discovered that his precious naked Statues were all covered by Dohans. As the administration of Doha Museum explains, it would have been not appropriate for Doha’s Muslim society and mostly for women to be exposed to naked statues. Greece revealed that it understands the standpoint of Dohans, nevertheless it cannot allow partial exposition of precious Greek statues.  In fact, Doha t had to pack the statues and send them back to Greece. The precedent ended with a dialogue, but who knows, maybe it can become the reason for the conflict in the future?

Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy


Revolution. Propaganda. Street Art. Three words, one meaning – Martina Bedetti – ICD Program Coordinator

Art in Egypt is much more than a discipline. It is conceived as an alternative form of expression, as a social voice calling for freedom and democracy, even though the government has posed censorship and religious red lines. Here, art means being proud enough to overcome political obstacles. It means propaganda. Continue reading

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down – Marsida Gjonçaj – ICD Program Coordinator

The manipulation of European and national symbols in audiovisual media as a form of propaganda

There are different ways and means by which symbols are used and often manipulated in order to convey a specific idea. One such way, frequently employed by propaganda is appeal to authority that is, citing prominent figures to support a position, idea, argument, or course of action. The logic behind this depends upon the fact that the authority is a legitimate expert on the subject and also on a general consensus existing among legitimate experts on the matter under discussion. Such is the case of a promotional clip commissioned by the Czech government on the occasion of holding the EU presidency during the first half of 2009.  The whole idea and realization are quite catchy, in fact. Here is the video:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/xi6dKIRjAaw&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Apart from using the very distinct European anthem and flag, the promotional clip calls upon some particular elements of national pride, such as sugar cubes, a Czech invention and renowned Czech celebrities. Although the video is part of a campaign promoting Czech presidency of the EU, I believe it is cleverly targeting exclusively Czech people, since the average European maybe is not aware that sugar cubes are a Czech invention and may not even recognize the celebrities.

The subliminal message of eurocrats bored out of their minds, playing with sugar cubes is reinforced by the campaign slogan “Evropě to osladíme”, which literally translates to “We will sweeten Europe”, suggesting that the EU is boring and bitter. This message gains even more importance considering Czech ever-growing euro scepticism, thus reinforcing the image of Czechs as pragmatic sceptics. However, the slogan “hits a sour note” as BBC puts it. Translators contracted by the BBC reveal the message’s ambiguosity, suggesting “we’ll give Europe a taste of its own medicine” as a more appropriate translation. So, here we have a message and several ways of decoding it, depending on different cultural and social backgrounds/contexts of the viewers. In fact, to the Czech viewers the clip reflects the typical national characteristics of humour and irony, giving thus a positive meaning to the message, as opposed to the British viewers, who perhaps are much more acquainted with Mary Poppins’ “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”.

In the meantime, what different youtube viewers get from the clip has mostly economic implications. For some viewers the sugar cube dissolving in the cup of coffee, bear yet another interpretation of loss of their national sovereignty to the EU. “However since joining the EU, Czech has been transformed from sugar exporter to sugar importer… a 35% downgrade in production. The cube dropping into the Coffee, a symbolic gesture of integration (or dilution depending on your perspective)…brilliant…” says a youtube user identified aswill3205.

The sugar cubes on their own, bear yet another hidden message of integration and neutrality. According to this website, they were first produced in a Moravian factory in 1841 in Austria-Hungary, now the Czech Republic, by Jacub Christoph Rad who owned the company and was born in Switzerland, which not only isn’t a member state of the EU but is also for a long time now a symbol of neutrality.

Because the message that the clip tries (not-so) subtly to convey is euroskepticism and quite provocative, most of the Czech viewers commenting on the video adopt rather easily the dominant-hegemonic reading of it.

Art with an Agenda: Metin Parlak – ICD Program Director

Propaganda is an efficient tool in wartime; its uses include mobilising popular support for recruitment or public morale, demonising the enemy and championing distant allies. Evidence of all three can be found in countless wars but I will focus on the Second World War which also tells the story of the first as the techniques used in both bare resemblance. Continue reading

Propaganda and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

By Joy Corkery (CD News – Program Coordinator)

Propaganda – the ability to transmit specific messages which have the aptitude to become engrained in the minds of a large audience and in turn manipulate their perception of a certain situation. Sounds like a complicated process, so how can one easily install this method into the mentality of others? The answer is quite simple really: through films.

 The propaganda film began its existence in the early 20th century, with many citing German expressionist film as the beginning of propaganda film, particularly with a focus on political propaganda. German expressionist, and also propaganda, films began to rise near to the same time that cinema and film in general began to become a popular pastime for the public. People were still utterly fascinated about the entire cinematic process therefore allowing themselves to become an easy avenue for manipulation through the arts.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  is cited as the first German expressionist film and the beginning of film propaganda. The film was released in 1919, shortly after the end of WWI, at a time when the German population was at a crossroads. Although the war had ended people were still at odds with which ‘side’ they were on and who they could believe and trust, particularly in the case of German authorities. The script of Dr. Caligari was written as a means of protest against the German leaders who brought despair to the country, with the lead characters of the film, Dr. Caligari and Cesare, taking on the personas of the manipulative German leaders (Dr. Caligari) and the ‘sleepwalkiing’ German citizens who have been recruited to commit crimes for their leader.

Upon discovering the intended message of Dr. Caligari, a slightly alternative ending was forced upon the film in which Francis (the film’s almost hero) becomes the paranoid lunatic and Caligari the trustworthy health official. However, the insistence of this ending instead only pushed the message more that German authorities cannot be trusted.

Overall, the film has been analysed as an intended warning to the masses against governmental brainwashing, although upon its release in the US there was a slightly different viewpoint to its intended meaning. While notable American critics hailed it for its new approach to filmmaking, several newspapers argued that the film encouraged the public to reserve their support for American films.

Dr. Caligari has also been cited as being the forbearer of Nazi propaganda films. Theorist Siegfried Kracauer argues that the film significantly contributed to the rise of Nazism through distraction from the true political realm with an artistic fantasy world. Considering the main storyline of this film deals with a carnival doctor who uses his assistant to commit murders, it is not hard to see how this classification was made.

It is probably not possible that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was solely accountable for the rise of Nazism or indeed that the vast majority of the German populace even took head to the message presented in the film. However, it is clear that Dr. Caligari should not only be remembered as being the first German expressionist film, but also as the prototype for political propaganda films worldwide.



Weekly theme – Propaganda

Michelle Karunaratne – ICD Program Coordinator

This week we will explore how art can and has been used as propaganda by nation states and regimes. Propaganda has been used for promoting agendas, ideologies and to change the public perceptions. The use of propaganda demonstrates how arts, culture and the myth of access can be used for cynical purposes. Continue reading

The London Art as Cultural Diplomacy ConferenceAugust 21st, 2013


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