A Nov. 8, 2018 tweet from Claudio Ghirardo @CGhirardo reads:
Tonight is the 1st night for IN SITU! Mississauga’s Main Multi Arts Festival! 7-11. FrEe+aRT will present “Picture That”, an interactive installation piece where YOU will be encouraged to write/draw on the walls. https://www.smallarmsbuilding.ca/insitu
Drawing on walls is an age-old, transgressive graffiti tradition
I’ve become intrigued with how best to position graffiti art, in my own mind, after visiting an unofficial Banksy exhibit in Amsterdam in August 2018 as outlined at a post entitled:
In my efforts to position influential graffiti art and other transgressive art forms in my mind, I have begun to read about the role of German and Russian early 1900s avant-garde art in the subsequent implementation of what has come to be be defined as Soviet and Nazi totalitarian art.
A related area of interest, in my study of these topics, concerns efforts to define “totalitarianism” in such a way that there is some precision, and clarity in language usage, associated with the use of the term.
I am pleased to note in passing that Banksy may, in fact, be dedicated to the advancement of democratic values, and of civic society. With regard to this possibility, however, I do not at this point have much in the way of evidence with regard to aims and consequences of Banksy’s art.
Where does Banksy fit in, in the wider scheme of things?
One of the first things that I’ve decided is that online research will yield little of value, with regard to arriving at a cogent, evidence-based overview of where Banksy’s art fits into my own, personal sense-making project.
There is one online reference to Banksy, however, that, to my mind, appears to be evidence-based and of some value. I refer, in this context, to a February 2013 Smithsonian Magazine article entitled: “The Story Behind Banksy: On his way to becoming an international icon, the subversive and secretive street artist turned the art world upside-down.”
Early 1900s German and Russian avant-garde art
I have recently been reading Totalitarian Art: In the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy and the People’s Republic of China (1990, 2011) by Igor Golomstock (translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler).
A basic point in the latter study is that avant-garde art of the early 1900s played a role in the early history of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy – and that it was, in turn, removed from the scene, in the years that followed.
With regard in particular to the rise of Nazi Germany, and events and consequences of the Second World War, I have found that studies aimed at the general reader authored by Richard J. Evans constitute a highly valuable and informative resource.
Evans demonstrates a commendable level of skill by way of command of evidence-based (that is, nonfiction) storytelling and – equally importantly – by way of command of the archival resources on which his storytelling is based.
What comes to mind, when you hear the term “totalitarian art”?
The study by Igor Golomstock advances the view that the “totalitarian art” that came to be instituted in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy as well as in the People’s Republic of China and Iraq in the time of Saddam Hussein, have all shared common characteristics.
In my preliminary reading, of this particular study, my tentative conclusion is that Golomstock’s overview is possibly a little loosey goosey (that is to say, characterized by a certain level of vagueness) with regards to how totalitarianism is defined.
There may be some selectivity at play, as well, with regard to marshalling of evidence to advance the conceptual package, that Golomstock has put together. That said, the book makes for a good place to start, if a person has an interest in possible ways that any ideology or political system can use any form of avant-garde art, in advancement of its own agenda.
A second book from the Toronto Public Library, that I have begun to read, is a more recent study entitled Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared (2009). The latter study features a nuanced and detailed discussion related to how totalitarianism is defined, in scholarly projects seeking to apply the term in a manner that makes good sense, for the typical reader.
Two related books of interest include:
Previous posts discussing topics related to the current post include:
A subsequent post is entitled:
A further post, in which I underline that a May/June 2011 Foreign Affairs review essay, regarding Totalitarian Art (1990, 2011) has prompted me to start further reading regarding the claim of a connection between avant-garde art and totalitarianism, is entitled: