Propaganda Art in the 21st Century

Jonas Staal, Steve Bannon: A Propaganda Retrospective (2018), Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam

Terms such as “fake news” and “alternative facts” have become common vocabulary in the so-called post-truth era. But there is a sense in which these are just contemporary iterations of a familiar phenomenon: propaganda. Propaganda is not merely concerned with sending messages – its aim is to construct reality as such. How is propaganda employed today in alt-right regimes, the ongoing War on Terror and corporate climate crimes? How do art and culture visualize and stage new realities in the making? And what alternative practices of emancipatory propaganda emerge from popular mass movements and stateless insurgencies? In this introduction to his book Propaganda Art in the 21st Century (MIT Press: 2019), artist Jonas Staal elaborates on what he describes as today’s arena of the propaganda (art) struggle.

For preparatory reading, see Jonas Staal, “Propaganda (Art) Struggle”, e-flux journal #94,

This event is supported by Melbourne Law School, Curatorial Practice at Monash University and Liquid Architecture. Jonas Staal’s visit to Australia is also supported by University of New South Wales – Art and Design.

Jonas Staal is a visual artist whose work deals with the relation between art, propaganda, and democracy. He is the founder of the artistic and political organization New World Summit (2012–ongoing) and the campaign New Unions (2016–19). With BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, he co-founded the New World Academy (2013-16) and with Florian Malzacher he directed the utopian training camp Training for the Future (2018-19). Exhibition-projects include Art of the Stateless State (Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, 2015), The Scottish-European Parliament (CCA, Glasgow, 2018), Museum as Parliament (with the Democratic Federation of North Syria, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2018-ongoing) and Obscure Union (with Laure Prouvost, Mercer Union, Toronto).

His projects have been exhibited widely at venues such as the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and Moderna Museet in Stockholm, as well as the 7th Berlin Biennial (2012), the 31st São Paulo Biennale (2014), The Oslo Architecture Triennale (2016) and the Warsaw Biennale (2019). Recent publications and catalogs include Nosso Lar, Brasília (Jap Sam Books, 2014), Stateless Democracy (with co-editors Dilar Dirik and Renée In der Maur, BAK, 2015), Steve Bannon: A Propaganda Retrospective (Het Nieuwe Instituut, 2018) and Propaganda Art in the 21st Century (MIT Press, 2019, Staal completed his PhD research on propaganda art at the PhDArts program of Leiden University, The Netherlands.