Sunday, August 8, 2010

The indeterminate value of propaganda and art

I've come to realize a few things lately. It's true that a French press makes one of the better cups of coffee that I've had in a while. While i do not yet have a verdict of Parisi coffee vs. KC Roasters, i think that either bean made as a home brew will prove the result of that.
Also, fresh/frozen green chile will always be better than canned. No questions there, even when it's 9 months old!
As for art, I've realized that art imagery relating to war is always propaganda. I err on the side of powerful depictions, soldiers, bodies, grizzly realities, though not too grizzly. Other artists have gone that same route, Botero with Abu Ghraib, Goya and the Franco Prussian War, or Picasso with his masterpiece Guernica. The Chapman Brothers, Kathe Kollwitz, and Otto Dix as well. But then I thought about those images, mothers searching through bodies, torture, humiliation, and horrors manifest in the form of action figurines, and it seemed to me that we are all as guilty of spinning information as the governments who spin the opposite side of a conflict.
Picture a military TV commercial or recruitment brochure, full of excitement, optimism, or positivity, and consider the nature of that propaganda and how staged it is and how it glosses over huge portions of the reality of war. Sure you can be a military doctor like the one in a photograph, but you'll be in a tent or room with screaming bloody colleagues, doing what you can to save their lives, or maybe just their limbs. My imagined visual of this is just that, imagined. My depiction of horror is just that, a depiction of horror. I often wonder if my depiction of a wounded soldier is any better than that of an actor in a military brochure, and on a virtual level I think I've come to see them as equal. Neither tells a complete idea and neither could possibly do justice to he reality that few of us will ever understand since we may never see war up close.
Check out Arundhati Roy and an article she wrote in the early days about the war on terror. I heard it yesterday in my car. I sat in my car for 20 minutes listening to it, unable to open the door to go into my apartment. I cried, I thought, and I felt helpless. It angered me, but then I thought more people should hear it. I can't name what station it was on, but I'm sure it's not hard to find.
And as for the coffee, I suppose my taste buds are different than yours, but I prefer the warmer softer Roasters. As with an image it is in the eye of the beholder.


  1. It's called "War is Peace".

  2. I agree with the coffee press - it makes my Woolworths brand coffee (semi) passable. Don't know about the rest.

  3. I think my French Press box had something about "best schwag coffee you'll ever brew " written on it. I don't know what to tell you about the rest. Any questions?

  4. You've indirectly equated your art with Be All You Can Be ads. How do you feel about that?

  5. I just question whether or not one form or another really informs us about what is real. It's the lack of gravity, the lack of substantitive experience with which an audience can gain perspective that I'm curious about. I would like to make art that is separate from a recruitment ad, but aren't ads and protest art both forms of propaganda when you boil them down? Is a "Be all you can be" ad less valid than protest? There are discrepancies in the funding of the pro-war material versus protest, that's for sure, so the fact that both exist doesn't reflect public opinion, though we can't really know.

  6. I don't think any of the examples you gave, be it Goya or your work or that of the US Army's ad agencies, really gives a true depiction of war. I think they can all give a slice of a certain experience, but that's about it. Similar to people simply watching CNN and concluding that the Middle East is nothing but desolate war zone where everyone hates America, or listening to a conservative radio tool and concluding that spending government money on a Czech museum in the middle of Iowa is a waste, audiences will take from the little slices what they want to take, and if that's the only slice they are exposed to or choose to be exposed to, that will influence their perspective of what's real.