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PhD defence

Propaganda Art from the 20th to the 21st Century

Thursday 25 January 2018
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

Propaganda Art from the 20th to the 21st Century

This study by artist Jonas Staal explores the development of propaganda art from the 20th to the 21st century. Although it is often assumed propaganda belongs to the history of so-called “totalitarian” states, Staal shows that modern propaganda has its origins in British democracy, and as such, is applicable to all modern structures of power in the past and present.

Staal defines propaganda as the performance of power by means of the equation propaganda = power + performance. Through his work as a propaganda researcher and practice as a propaganda artist, he argues that different structures of power generate different forms of propaganda and therefore different forms of propaganda art.

Whereas in the context of the 20th century Staal discusses the differences between avant-garde, totalitarian, and modernist propaganda art, in the 21st century he proposes the categories of War on Terror Propaganda Art, Popular Propaganda Art, and Stateless Propaganda Art. By means of concrete examples of artists and artworks within each of these categories, he attempts to show how the performance of power in the 21st century translates into different visual forms, and how they shape and direct our reality.

Staal’s study shows that power and art exist in continuous interaction. Power and art are not the same, but should not be examined separately to one another. Propaganda and propaganda art are not terms that only refer to the past, but concepts and practices through which we can understand the construction of reality in the present.


  • Prof. H. te Velde


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press contact

Inès van Arkel, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

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