Art that contradicts by showing its contradictions, its unresolvable tensions, will usually end up being debunked and marginalized as a distortion to a broader picture.A random anomaly to be forgotten. There is a tendency to want to keep our morals, the necessary illusions of property values high which means white. Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit make a very plausible assertion in “The Forms of Violence”, traditional visual structure of Western Art; the typical linear organization of narrative structure, leading to its apex, the point of climax- and often death/sex- has in effect, both consciously and unconsciously validated and propagated a fascination with violence. War as an aesthetic.
Bersani’s claim is that certain structures of Assyrian Art,such as the ” Lion Hunts” , challenges this fascination or obsession through a variety of devices, -exemplified by repetitive layering of form and “switch- back” compositional placements and groupings-that produce what the authors have labeled a “disruptive mobility”.These techniques of disruption is what gives Otto Dix, Goya, Max Beckmann and others their ability to reverse the attraction/repulsion dynamic through a handling of juxtaposition and conjunction. Hollywood has always understood that apex; where the dangers of mimetic identification and desire occur for the viewer, resulting in a fascination with violence : their craft is getting the viewer to identify with the action, and not the silent space just before and after.
“…more pointedly, the neutralizing and kitschifying of its critical content by its assimilation into the society of the spectacle we culturally inhabit. It is the trivializing fate that Hollywood reserves especially for artists who are critical of everything it stands for: the military-industrial complex it serves. The military-industrial-entertainment complex controls consciousness, and it is determined to control — by treating as comic farce, ridiculing as absurd mischief — any consciousness that threatens it by reminding it of its tragic flaws and its own absurdity….
…More particularly, any art that highlights capitalist society’s dirty underside of perpetual war, emotional terror and traumatic ugliness, and the desperate pursuit of pleasure that seeks relief from them — that dares to function as a social conscience, that places blame where blame must be conspicuously placed, that dares to tell truth to power, that accepts responsibility for its crimes against humanity when power will not accept them — must be prettified into inconsequence, treated as a kind of misplaced glamorization of society. Any art that fearlessly exposes its inherent barbarism — with an uncompromising, vehement realism more than equal to its own uncompromising, toxic character — is its enemy, and must be defeated by being re-made as a silly joke, a fatuous burlesque, a media caricature of itself, an artistic folly rather than an exposure of its own folly.” (Donald Kuspit) Read More: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp a
The computer chip and robotic advances of the post WWII era in the mechanics of warfare have made suffering and death in war zones more abstractly brutal. Harmless sounding weapons used in the public lexicon, that mirror Orwell and his “double-speak” such as “daisy-cutter” and “rocket propelled grenade” and “drones” are arms employed in our present contexts to inflict death at a dispassionate level; much like Eichmann organizing the rail runs to death camps from his office. However, public consciousness of the reality of war have been consistently softened by the media, or hardened, like poor dogs suffering the extremes in a Pavlov experiment, but salivating none the less. It is a viable argument that advances in communications technology in tandem with economic pressures in the mass news medium have whittled down public perceptions of U.S interventions into a category of “entertainment” .
“…just as T. S. Eliot was fabricating his mythical Waste Land in 1922 in the aftermath of World War I — and the desolation that he felt was the inner truth of the roaring ‘20s and modern society in general — Dix was depicting the wasteland of the actual war in his own peculiarly mythologizing, outrageous, uncannily realistic way. What was intellectual poetry in Eliot — intellectualized fantasy, one might say, a sort of nightmare of stultifying decadence preached from the high pulpit of poetry as a moral lesson (Eliot almost always has a preacher’s punitive air; his ritualistic poems tend to read as sermons for the masses, promising to raise them up by telling them how low they have sunk, and thus how futile their existence is, how full of self-loathing and suffering it ought to be) — was ruthless intimidating prose in Dix, haunted by real death and suffering (not Eliot’s stylized and stylish — not to say forced and fake — numbness): Dix’s work belongs to the German tradition of the Triumph of Death — some of his images have a clear affinity with Baldung-Grien’s depiction of it — while Eliot metaphylizes death, as though it was not the brutal, factual, inescapably physical event it is.
For Eliot death is an enigmatic idea rather than an everyday reality, a theme worthy of speculative poetry and philosophical discussion, while Dix makes its real effect — its destructive effect — on the body explicit. In a sense, Eliot compromises death by thinking about it, as though thinking would soften its blow, but Dix has seen it in action — experienced it up close and first-hand — in war. Death cannot be softened by philosophy and poetry: there is no consolation — conceptual and esthetic consolation prize — for it.Read More: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp
Edward Bernays: By playing upon an old cliche, or manipulating a new one, the propagandist can sometimes swing a whole mass of group emotions. In Great Britain, during the war, the evacuation hospitals came in for a considerable amount of criticism because of the summary way in which they handled their wounded. It was assumed by the public that a hospital gives prolonged and conscientious attention to its patients. When the name was changed to evacuation posts the critical reaction vanished. No one expected more than an adequate emergency treatment from an institution so named….
…The cliche hospital was indelibly associated in the public mind with a certain picture. To persuade the public to discriminate between one type of hospital and another, to dissociate the cliche from the picture it evoked, would have been an impossible task. Instead, a new cliche automatically conditioned the public emotion toward these hospitals. Read More: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/bernprop.html
Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions. A man may believe that he buys a motor car because, after careful study of the technical features of all makes on the market, he has concluded that this is the best. He is almost certainly fooling himself. He bought it, perhaps, because a friend whose financial acumen he respects bought one last week; or because his neighbors believed he was not able to afford a car of that class; or because its colors are those of his college fraternity….
It is chiefly the psychologists of the school of Freud who have pointed out that many of man’s thoughts and actions are compensatory substitutes for desires which he has been obliged to suppress. A thing may be desired not for its intrinsic worth or usefulness, but because he has unconsciously come to see in it a symbol of something else, the desire for which he is ashamed to admit to himself. A man buying a car may think he wants it for purposes of locomotion, whereas the fact may be that he would really prefer not to be burdened with it, and would rather walk for the sake of his health. He may really want it because it is a symbol of social position, an evidence of his success in business, or a means of pleasing his wife.Read More: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/bernprop.html
This general principle, that men are very largely actuated bv motives which they conceal from themselves, is as true of mass as of individual psychology. It is evident that the successful propagandist must understand the true motives and not be content to accept the reasons which men give for what they do.
It is not sufficient to understand only the mechanical structure of society, the groupings and cleavages and loyalties. An engineer may know all about the cylinders and pistons of a locomotive, but unless he knows how steam behaves under pressure he cannot make his engine run. Human desires are the steam which makes the social machine work. Only by understanding them can the propagandist control that vast, loose-jointed mechanism which is modern society.Read More: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/bernprop.html
The old propagandist based his work on the mechanistic reaction psychology then in vogue in our colleges. This assumed that the human mind was merely an individual machine, a system of nerves and nerve centers, reacting with mechanical regularity to stimuli, like a helpless, will-less automaton. It was the special pleader’s function to provide the stimulus which would cause the desired reaction in the individual purchaser….
…It was one of the doctrines of the reaction psychology that a certain stimulus often repeated would create a habit, or that the mere reiteration of an idea would create a conviction. Suppose the old type of salesmanship, acting for a meat packer, was seeking to increase the sale of bacon. It would reiterate innumerable times in full-page advertisements: “Eat more bacon. Eat bacon because it is cheap, because it is good, because it gives you reserve energy.”…
The newer salesmanship, understanding the group structure of society and the principles of mass psychology, would first ask: “Who is it that influences the eating habits of the public?” The answer, obviously, is: “The physicians.” The new salesman will then suggest to physicians to say publicly that it is wholesome to eat bacon. He knows as a mathematical certainty, that large numbers of persons will follow the advice of their doctors, because he understands the psychological relation of dependence of men upon their physicians.Read More: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/bernprop.html