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Faux Propaganda Art

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 11:31 PM
Untitled-1 by techgnotic

The Comfort of Mindless Obedience

When is information true and useful and when is it just “propaganda?” Why in fact is an image or phrase or animated art sequence “propaganda” rather than it simply being a “lie?” What about acceptable lies that define our society as much as they degrade it—for example commercials that obviously hype a product with untruths or political advertisements full of unachievable platitudes.

It can be instructive to look back at the early days of “mass society” and the need to impart vital national information before the ubiquitous presence of personal radios, televisions and telephones in every citizen’s home. World War I and World War II provided the framework worldwide for the mass “propaganda poster.” It’s amazing how similar the mass propaganda posters of the warring nations were – in their patriotic images just as much as in their simplistic messages of sacrifice and belief in the cause. Many are familiar with Uncle Sam, born in WWI and Rosie the Riveter from WWI, whose “Yes, we can,” was repurposed in the 60s and again recently as an Obama campaign maxim.

The messages seem simple and quaint today, instilling the glow of some kind of nostalgia. Yes, the point of propaganda was always to get us back in line, onto the straight and narrow for God and country or for country and religion alone, the conundrum that the opposition were doing the same was easily handleable without too much intellectual athleticism. In fact, sometimes mass conformity feels good – like a U2 concert. We’re being sold that something is way more important that it really is, but we don’t mind … so it’s “propaganda” as opposed to being a “lie.”

“We’re being sold that something is way more important that it really is, but we don’t mind … so it’s “propaganda” as opposed to being a “lie.”

“Us” vs. “Them”

In researching the subject the Mass Propaganda Poster didn’t make it through the Vietnam War era. If it showed anywhere as a graphic equivalency, it was on anti-war T-shirts. It wasn’t just improved TV technology and the daily coverage of that national struggle (in the jungles of Nam and the streets of American cities). It was also that the war was too confusing, to ambiguous, to be reduced to the simple “us” vs. “them” formula of the two wars that had come before. So iconic poster art of young American men fighting evil devils wasn’t just ineffectual, but insultingly simplistic.

So instead, the mass propaganda art posters of the 60s were the psychedelic rock-n-roll posters promoting the new phenomenon of guitar heroes. The cultural “war” it seems was better suited to the creativity of simple iconic poster art than the complex disaster of war. Of course, the use of mass propaganda in posters was reaching a zenith at the same time in China as part of the Cultural Revolution in every home, every workplace and every government operation.

Today, while “actual” political propaganda posters are still occasionally put out on the street of our cities to vex the establishment by artists like Robbie Conal, there is the new phenomenon, best exemplified by artist Shepard Fairey’s “OBEY” posters and stickers, of “faux (false) propaganda art,” which mocks and comments on the very concept of mass propaganda itself. The artworks often call up classic images from the “loose lips sink ships” days of war era propaganda to stir our patriotic fervor for battling the Sith and joining in other causes. Star Wars and Star Trek are favorite subjects used for the primary context of these fake posters, as well as many video games and movie and TV franchises. Faux propaganda memes are a regular subject for deviantART satirists as can be seen on this page.

Faux propaganda art has an eerie vibe – like playing with fire. Remember, this was the stuff utilized, for real, by feared despots to drive others to countenance the murder of millions. But now it seems so childishly safe in its simple messages. One has a feeling of nostalgia, even—as if any evil has been sapped from the subject, and with the viewer being a survivor of a bygone era. We are no doubt being manipulated and “sold” on more contemporary issues by more sophisticated means of mass propaganda flooding our brains daily—but at least these colorful beasts from the past are easily mastered for our simple enjoyment.

Once again, Do we have any scholars out there who might shed an even more educative light on the subject?

Has anyone been studying or reading extensively about the history of Propaganda Art?

Would love to hear opinions, analysis and corrections from those of you even more familiar with the history of propaganda art than I.

CommentaryFrom deviantART's Advisor in Chief

The notion of “faux propaganda” is false because it remains propaganda. When my kids asked me what I did during the Vietnam War, my answer was that I fought the war against the war in Vietnam; and that my side won. The strongest image I have of that movement is, of course, the peace sign. The second strongest is a raised red fist. The first of these symbols was borrowed from the anti-nuclear movement of the very early 1960’s. The second was borrowed from communist propaganda posters of the 1920’s and possibly earlier.

Shepard Fairey’s Obama poster was propaganda—for good, I believe, just like the peace sign—even though it owes its context to posters of Mao Tse Tung and the now high art of Andy Warhol. The red fist was propaganda for bad as it was to become to be understood and then it was used for good, as I believed; and will likely be considered bad or good again in another round of propaganda to come. But what’s interesting to me is that the stylized look of a Mao poster, the peace sign and the raised fist will always be considered propagandistic in a Pavlovian sense. You see them and you know them to be propaganda.


Questions For the Reader

  1. Do you like modern faux propaganda art or does anything recalling the Horrors of past wars still seem inappropriate as an art subject – if only because of possible inadvertent trivialization?
  2. Do you think faux war propaganda posters for movies like Star Wars raise real issues about the danger of war (like in Star Wars) ever being presented, even subconsciously, as “fun?”
  3. Are there examples of modern mass postering (like the Obama “HOPE” political posters) that still send “real” and effective messages and information?
  4. What about your own politics drives your feelings on this subject and artform?

In our continuous effort to improve the deviantART experience, we're publishing weekly Site Updates to keep members informed and to gather feedback. Below is a list of recent changes to the site, bug fixes, and feedback that was brought up by members in the last Site Update.

What's New

Thumbnail Size Testing, Part 2 (Beta Testers)

In addition to the feedback we gathered from Beta Testers on the size testing tool, this week we're continuing our research by implementing a test that randomly assigns Beta Testers a different size for viewing thumbnails. 

The New Comments

We've upgraded comments, allowing you to easily add formatting and media to comments. You can now pull in images to your comments and then draw on those images using deviantART muro! This new feature, powered by Writer, makes collaboration in even better!

Screen Shot 2012-11-16 at 10.23.26 AM by $danlev

Change Log

  • The "Add Comment" button would disappear when replying to comments on a deviation. Fixed by shadowhand
  • The Group Info button on some Groups pages was briefly not prompting the info to appear. Fixed by Nodren
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deviantART muro

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  • Group journal RSS feeds contained unapproved entries instead of entries submitted through Writer. Fixed by kemayo
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Your Feedback

Thanks very much for the feedback left on last week's Site Update! Here's some of what you had to say.
  • Several members mentioned that they don't change their page settings particularly often, though some mentioned that their deviantID or avatar may change based on mood or changes in the style of art they create.
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Odyssey Propulsion 2

Tue Nov 13, 2012, 5:52 PM

The parasite that is monstrously mutating Paul offers an alliance against Maya, Paul’s other dubious “protector.”

The parasite is Tal’Shen, spawn of Lysanna, hunted forerunner of an ancient aquatic-based intergalactic Cthulhuian-type race once again knocking on Earth’s door.  Which “female” is Paul to trust? Is the fate of humanity in question or is this all the hallucinatory fever dream of a dying man?

Only four more chapters!  Yet so many questions!

The pressure points have been set: self-survival, self-sacrifice for a greater cause, transmission of a vision of species survival and renewal, trust and deceit in equal measures possible in each relationship.  Now it’s time to for the penultimate Big Reveal as to what it’s all about – to set up the Ultimate Big Reveal to what it’s really all about!  There’s just time and space enough for you, oh skilled and devious storytellers, to twist this tale with a shaved trigger surprise gently squeezed for a most memorable mind-chilling and seared-image impact.  Time to dream big. Time to write true.  Time to make some magic…

SUBMIT Chapter 5 Literature →

SUBMIT Chapter 4 Artwork →

Recent Odyssey II Submissions

    Chapter 3 - The Progenitor by littlecrow

Odyssey II - Lysanna by Micha-vom-Wald    Light Casts Me Away by Kimbot

Recent Literature Submissions

The RoomAs I sit in the corner of this room this empty room I wonder.   I ponder all that I have seen and not.  These sentient beings within a body linger at my sanity.  They drift me in and out of consciousness.  The time bears on me like weights to a small animal.  I wait for my time of rebellion and when I can strike.  Please free me of these sentient beings they consume my thoughts and freedom.  
There across the walls of this empty room is a blackness I know all too well.  It is the darkness of my soul which is being ravaged as I think or shall I say speak?  My mind is continuous in its thoughts continuing to go on and on.  I can't stop the propulsion of these thoughts.  Who are these sisters and what of this virus that warms my body with anger?  My eyes linger on the walls and the blackness of what now seems to be shadows.  Am I going mad again?  They form into a head then a body.  It's crouched down into a small
    MemoriamIt's been so long considering the absence of time.
To glitter incessantly in roots and origin of sparkle twinkle glint gleam shimmer glimmer
a wink a flash a glisten.
I could see the pillars of the nation
of the mega beta and insuperable sensation.
The hazy wooden and mote inhabited house had no chance to blind your hands
It's contact and content and they all kept breathing and sharing
you can't hide in a wooden house with no locks or unfinished windows.
If we're all matter
why does it matter?
I can sell the earth at my disposal because it is me as are you
but that's unorthodox and rude
but any earth rock or time at all.
You're the last one here
you can't remember anything
except everyone leaving as if for groceries
have the house to yourself
it was built on your eyes anyway.
I can see its travel in accelerating returns
the streets resemble the railways of your mind and flesh
perfused with sludge and the vibrant colors at sunset
they are there because of your disposition to the complex
Saqlain Mallick
Every day I weak up
And start my daily chart,
I fell it's going away from me
I see it fall apart.
I do those things I never Loved to
I throw stone in bee hive,
I screw up things that I wanted to solve
Cause it just not in my life.
When I get on a bus
and the bus engine start,
I lose some touch with me
I lose touch with my heart.
When I see man are crazy
They don't Even Say Good Bye,
I blame me and I slap my head
And say why I just don't die.
Whenever I look at the birds
and the blue sky,
It come to me and give me space
Let my heart also fly.
When I hear the sound of wind
I see the tree and sun,
They make me feel so good
And I also have fun.
When I see green grass on gray field
It makes me happy it makes me filled,
It gives me pleasure it gives me joy
When I see a girl playing with her toy.
They all are little things
And tiny in my view,
The whole thing comes to me
When I talk to you.
    What does anything mean, anyway.What did it mean?
A time machine would wipe it clean,
my cliche dream
this slate of me
the demon seed
(that's all I need) be or not to be.
I choose to see
Not sit glued to the TV
mentally screaming "create me!"
It's a damned lemming machine
spitting out pre-fab humans for free.
No need to buy your mind, just see
I'm the only one calling it feed.
Got your eyes on their trough
better eat.
What's that in my brain, a flea?
From the TV
Damn, it's sucking away the clean
leaving dirt and disease
and a pseudo replica of me
sittin' in the corner eating cheese.
The lying bastard, please,
maybe I should bury this thing.
Wow, died twice in this dream
didn't even hear me scream.
Am I talking to you or me?
The womb of my head holds the key.
to have within me a queen.
Nobody thought of this scene.
I wonder what that means.

my lilith by weblednomore

More awesome hoodies and tees than you'll know what to do with!

2012 Holiday Collection
An exclusive preview from Forest Stearns

Welcome, deviantARTGear Watchers & MORE! 

New to the deviantART T-Shirts & Gear team, we'd like to introduce Forest Stearns ($draweverywhere), Art Director of deviantART Brands. Forest is excited to offer you an insider preview today and share how our brand new Holiday 2012 Collection (which launches this week!) evolved from concept to reality.

From: $draweverywhere

IT'S ARTRead about the creation of It's Art. Click here to see the process journal.

Hello, my friends!

I'm excited to tell you about a huge project we’ve been working on that's finally going to see the light of day (or your computer screens) this week! For the first time, deviantART will be launching a full season of product to the site all at once, and I've had the pleasure of orchestrating the creative development of this line

First, I'm thrilled to meet you. My job here at dA is split between artistic direction and hands-on illustration. It's been a challenge and a blast! My background is in making art and working with other artists on collaborative graphic illustrations. I’ve been a member of deviantART for over 6 years now, and since my first project with dA -- performing as a Live Artist at the Pacific Festival over a year ago -- I moved into a full-time role and am enjoying the challenge. 

CMYRead about the creation of CMY. Click here to see the process journal.

Now, let me tell you what we've been cooking up these last few industrious months. The Holiday 2012 Collection has a vast reach that spans many genres and themes in art. It's an artistic adventure you can wear. Every piece has a story, and we look forward to walking you through the creative process of how each design was executed in the coming weeks. Be sure to +Watch £deviantARTGear so you don’t miss out on the insider look at how this apparel collection came to be. 

a href="…">Movie TimeRead about the creation of Movie Time. Click here to see the process journal.

Why tell you the story behind each and every design?  As artists and appreciators, we rarely get an intimate glimpse into the steps that brought a piece of art to life. Sharing the story creates a conversation that's fundamental to artistic education. I hope that telling the tale of each design will help breed artistic success through the sharing of experiences. Every piece had a journey from the first creative kernel to its final printed end on a wearable canvas. So we are going to pair up designs with the stories of their creation in an effort to add value. That way, you'll not only own the garment in its finished stage; you'll be able to connect to its artistic journey. Hopefully, the combination of illustration and the process narrative will create a new understanding that concept or technique couldn't do alone. 

Sunset Burner

So, what's this collection all about? It's really about the diversity of deviantART and how the love of making art brings us together. Our goal was to offer many well-crafted illustrations that support deviantART’s core values of inspiration, education, and entertainment. The dynamic range truly evolved from theme to theme because of a desire to speak many artistic dialects. The Holiday 2012 Collection is based on honest artwork that pushes the limits and is open to extreme possibilities. Many subject matters were explored for which a number of media types could be applied. The illustrations are bold and gritty, full of energy, dynamic contrast, and stylized character. Whether monochromatic, acid neon, textured, flat, pitch black, or glow-in-the-dark, there's contrast throughout. 

It was also important to create pieces that could stand individually, but worked as a series. The designs range from playful exaggerated characters and stylized handwritten fonts to works in fundamental art theory and color science. The character illustrations are a mash-up of the interesting people I see in everyday life, while the letter-based pieces celebrate the beauty of typography and strength of powerful statements. Every piece influenced the next and many rounds of revisions were necessary in order to ensure the design was strong, the concept interesting, and the visual language cohesive. 

Sound Waves

I draw every day. It's my drug of choice. The more you learn, the more you see, the more you use, the more you practice. Creative problem-solving and exploring new techniques keep the "job" part of the work lively and interesting. The joy is in the journey, right?  

Monster Talk

We hope you find the process journals of each piece educational, inspirational, and entertaining. Perhaps it will be a catalyst for you to make artworks and share your own processes with us and others. 

Never Normal

Without making you wait too much longer, I'm proud to announce that this Holiday 2012 Collection will be available in the next two days and just in time for the holidays!  Get them early for yourself or your homies. I'm certainly looking forward to having my own set! 

Inside VoicesRead about the creation of Inside Voices. Click here to see the process journal.

To stay connected to each design’s unique story, don’t forget to +Watch” £deviantARTGear.

The collection is here. Check out Hoodies & T-Shirts now! 

Raining Ideas

Site Update: Bug Fixes and Feedback

Thu Nov 8, 2012, 5:45 PM

In our continuous effort to improve the deviantART experience, we're publishing weekly Site Updates to keep members informed and to gather feedback. Below is a list of recent changes to the site, bug fixes, and feedback that was brought up by members in the last Site Update.

Change Log

  • Movember has begun!
  • When on Browse in one's own Gallery, the page would act as though the deviation order could be changed. Fixed by aMoniker
  • When submitting or editing Prints, disabling the first size of product type would appear to disable the entire entire product type. Fixed by KnightAR
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  • For a brief period, the Submission Policy, +Watch and deviation picker modals had errors in Internet Explorer. Fixed by yury-n, aMoniker, and muteor
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  • Some visual aspects of site were non functional in IE8. Fixed by shadowhand
  • Improvements were made to usability for most modals on the mobile site. Fixed by aMoniker
  • An incorrect sensor size would show for some images taken with Canon cameras. Fixed by aMoniker
  • Scrolling on deviation pages using a mouse's middle click would incorrectly be interpreted as dragging the art into one's Favourites. Fixed by shahyarg
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Your Feedback

Thanks very much for the feedback left on last week's Site Update! Here's some of what you had to say.
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