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You, fascist (or the holy trinity of manipulation)

1: canvas wrapped in fire proof fabric. 2: acrylic and charcoal on canvas. 3: black thread and varnish on canvas. 2003
1: canvas wrapped in fire proof fabric. 2: acrylic and charcoal on canvas. 3: black thread and varnish on canvas. 2003

You, fascist (or the holy trinity of manipulation) is an installation of three canvases and one explanation with unintelligible text in which I explore how propaganda works in supposedly free democratic societies. Each canvas represents a tool of social manipulation.

The first canvas is the excuse: god and the creation of ideals. Concepts to fight for and to aspire to, such as nation, race or proletariat. Concepts that might not even exist, but that people die and kill for.

The second canvas is the method, the holy spirit, the medium and the message of the dogma. The creation of a submissive subconscious through education, advertising and mass media.

The third canvas is repression, the virgin, asexual sex, instincts that are repressed in the name of civilisation. People that are disconnected from their instincts are not happy. Unhappy people are easier to manipulate.

Fear and self-censorship as tools of social submission

You, fascist is predominantly inspired by three books: The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich, Fear of freedom by Eric Fromm, and Manufacturing Consent, by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman.

The title is inspired by Reich’s idea that, as a result of social indoctrination, we all have elements of fascism in us, and that that is the reason why propaganda works. According to Reich, fascism is a combination of rebellious emotions and reactionary social ideas that arises from the contradiction between our ideal values and our real behaviour. On the one hand we see social injustice, which generates rebelliousness and inspires revolutionary attitudes. On the other hand, we fear freedom and change, because we have been raised in a repressive society that make us fearful of authority.

The repression of the sexual instinct is one of the main tools of submission which perpetuates from generation to generation, especially in women, children and adolescents. The effect it has is to decrease the critical sense, and it is done in the name of honour, morality or culture. In our society, to really be free and sexual is associated with feelings of fear and guilt.

In his books Fear of freedom and The art of loving, Fromm talks about the consequences of mechanical thought and the fear of change and freedom. According to Fromm, we see our body as a machine and our relationships as investments with transactions of emotions. But this way of thinking is not natural, it is the result of the needs of a market economy that mass produces products. A person without critical sense and with fear of change is submissive. A submissive person is a mutilated person, even if she fits perfectly in a determined production system.

Between Reich and Fromm it was clear that we are repressed and fearful. But it is also obvious that the majority don’t see themselves as such. So, on top of which, we live in a lie. In a society that is supposed to be free.

Inkjet printout on A4 paper
Explanation by the installation.

To avoid social rebellion it is convenient for most believe to that there is no reason to rebel. The determining book to understand how public opinion can be manipulated to such a degree in democratic societies with mass media that claims to be free was Chomsky’s and Herman’s, Manufacturing Consent. In Manufacturing Consent the authors explain how the media are ideological institutions that by principle support the system that sustains them. If they are public because they depend on the government, if they are private because they depend on advertising, that is the market. The workers in any media know exactly what they can publish and what they can’t if they want to keep their job. They self-censor.

If you would like to read more about how I started exploring propaganda and manipulation in my artwork, you can read Consumerism as a diversion from politics. A text on how Bernays, Freud’s nephew, invented marketing as a reaction to fascism.

Other artwork inspired by propaganda:

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