"Artists are the only ones who can help us understand the incomprehensible." --Toni Morrison
The Twentieth Century presents society with a long list of incomprehensible situations and events. Few people understand why countries declare war, racial tensions exist or millions die from incurable diseases. Artistic representations of these phenomena give society a different viewpoint on humanity and present interpretations of current problems. Acting as a buffer between the horrors of reality and individual's perceptions of the world, art allows people to see social problems in differing contexts and perhaps explains how to prevent or help certain situations. Art helps to inform, explain and educate society about controversial issues, however, art can also be used to change people's perceptions. Modern propagandists realize the persuasive emphasis behind visual representations and use this power in contemporary propaganda campaigns.
Using visual representations in
propaganda campaigns benefits the
propagandist in three main aspects:
present a clearer and more explicit message than just mere words. Words
situations, yet illustrations add detail and references to the message. Different cultures give varying
meanings to certain words and phrases; a picture will clarify the message conveyed by the words.
give political messages a more emotional appeal. When viewing a picture,
automatically attach a story line to the visual representation bringing personal feelings and
contemporary influences to the image. By associating the picture with a part of their life, the viewer
more readily accepts the propagandist's message.
This last benefit to visual propaganda epitomizes the reason contemporary visual propaganda works so well. When confronted by unfamiliar and inexplicable events, people will reduce their uncertainty through personal explanations. Heightened materialism and popularization of mass entertainment in the twentieth century gives modern propagandists endless material to emulate and convert into propaganda. Propaganda takes on the form of advertisements and entertainment promotions, products seen daily by individuals. Familiarizing a situation helps individuals accept unusual and uncomfortable situations such as war, famine and disease. Art facilitates the acceptance of these controversial and timely topics.
The following site shows how art becomes,
and can be used as, a tool of propaganda. Although examples of propagandistic
art exist in all of the artistic media, this article concentrates on propaganda
in the studio arts: painting, sculpture and graphic arts. The site explores the different uses of
art in the twentieth century war propaganda campaigns, emphasizing the
use of poster art during the world wars. Lastly, this site strives to explain
how artists conceptualize political issues of the 1980's and 90's and how
these images help the public come to terms with the problems facing society.