CMU School of Drama

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Why Authoritarians Attack the Arts

The New York Times: In 1937, ascending leaders of the Third Reich hosted two art exhibitions in Munich. One, the “Great German Art Exhibition,” featured art Adolf Hitler deemed acceptable and reflective of an ideal Aryan society: representational, featuring blond people in heroic poses and pastoral landscapes of the German countryside. The other featured what Hitler and his followers referred to as “degenerate art”: work that was modern or abstract, and art produced by people disavowed by Nazis — Jewish people, Communists, or those suspected of being one or the other.

10 comments:

Katherine Sharpless said...

Another disturbing article with harrowing examples of why the work we do matters and why the NEA must remain in tact. I do worry that an article starting off by comparing Trump to Hitler will automatically turn some readers away from the point. The comparison between Nazi art policies and the NEA cut are evident and important, but the comparison might not sway those it needs to sway. One of the ironies of this cut is that in the past not only has art been used as a weapon against the state, but also for the state. I've read before that Jackson Pollack, for example, was subsidized by the government during the Cold War to make his abstract paintings because his work was the opposite of European and Russian art. If anything, the end of the NEA would harm the government when they might need artists, and motivate artists to rebel against the enforcers even more.

Fx TecH said...

Thanks for a great article.I appreciate your idea. I have learnt a lot from it..One of the ironies of this cut is that in the past not only has art been used as a weapon against the state, but also for the state. I've read before that Jackson Pollack, for example

Fx TecH said...

Thanks for a great article. i appreciate your idea. I have learn a lot from it. I like your Post.
Fx TecH

Alex Talbot said...

This is quite a compelling read, and one that I think rings very true under this administration. Since the introduction of the budget, the elimination of the NEA has bothered me because the lack of reason for it. It is such a minute part of the budget, and it helps so many, that I see no realistic reason for it's elimination. Cuts like this bother me, since so much more money is allocated to the defense systems this country maintains and produces, but we still claim to not have money to fund the arts for students and young artists across the country, let alone provide a basic single payer healthcare system. To me, it makes no sense--and it makes it seem like we are a nation with our moral compass in the wrong place. While I don't see it as an overly sinister act, unlike those of other totalitarian nations in the past, it worries me that that is the direction we are going as a nation.

John Yoerger said...

The examples by which government oppression or oversight into the requisition of art has dated much farther back before the examples mentioned, which I feels weakens the point the article is trying to make. Look at French Neoclassicism and all of the rules that the French Academy created to put constraints on what could even be considered "drama." -- I am not denying the importance of the National Endowment for the Arts. I believe that it funds countless initiatives that make the arts and this world a much better place. However, the opposite of what this article is saying is also true. The National Endowment for the Arts is effectively government funded art. And when your art is funded by the government, it can also be controlled by them. So I really feel that either silencing artists by cutting funding or leaving it and restraining it makes for a really crappy Catch 22.

David Kelley said...

While I whole heartedly that NEA needs to be protected at all cost, I'm not fully in agreement with the tone of the article. While I agree that art can be used to cast light on the abuses and injustices that exist in and society I'm not sure that this regime true has enough power to silence those who mock them, because to be frank there are too many of us. Also the line that the president castrated the cast of Hamilton after its message to Pence is honestly pretty ridiculous, he tried to put them down like a toddler trying to deminish them and was subsequently mock for being the idiot he is. So in short while I understand the message of the article and agree with the majority of its points, I feel that the tone of the article has the potential to detract from its important message.

Julien Sat-Vollhardt said...

In the lobby of my high school theater there is a quote hanging on the wall that says: Even when the press is free, books are free, theater is freed last, because those in power know the stage creates a dangerous electricity" I don't like to compare America to an authoritarian state because that is always hyperbolic and not helpful in any type of political discourse. I do think that the defunding of the NEA is just plain dumb, and, along with many other things that the Trump administration is doing, short-sighted and pandering to the point of blindness. It seems like in order to please their constituents, the Republican Party is willing to remove from this country its artistic potential, to Piss off its very own scientific community, and in short revert the country back to Reagan, in the hopes that time travel is possible and the dumb naive liberals will give up their foolish idealism and lay down. I think it is our duty as artists to let it be known that we disagree with this administration.

Vanessa Ramon said...

When I first started to tread this article I became really interested in what it was explaining about how Hitler viewed different kinds of art and how he only showcased propaganda pieces and condemned contemporary work. Then, When i started reading the next paragraph about trump and his cut of the National Endowment of The Arts, I was shocked. how cool/ scary is that. I was completely surprised by the article comparing these things but at the same time this is exactly what I have been waiting for. Then, the article goes so far as to compare the Hamilton debacle to that of the acts of Stalin, I'm living for it! The article comes right out to say that the endowment has positively supported the very groups that Trump has so openly disrespected and mocked. The article states that these many leaders have done this because they understand the influence that art can have but honestly, I don't think Trump was that smart in this decision. I think he cut funding because he doesn't see any importance. Is that even more sad?

Lauren Miller said...

Yes the NEA needs to remain protected, funded, and uncensored at all costs. And yes, the first actions of an authoritarian government is often to oppress the voices of artists who might oppose the regime. But authoritarianism is not the only cause for an attack on the arts, and therefore we cannot automatically assume that the current admisinistration is headed to a dictatorship because of his actions to the arts. The NEA, and the federal theater project before it, have been stacked consistently since World War Two. The federal theater project, created by FDR, was shut down for "promoting a communist agenda" and refusing to censor the content it promoted. The NEA has similarly seen a loss of funding, forced censorship, and other attacks. Regan did his best to put an end to the organization altogether. The attack of the arts is a concern, but you need to look at the other signs before you cry "dictator". That being said, the nationalist rhetoric, use of military force, withholding of information from the media, and dishonestly in government when paired with the attack on the NEA makes this concerning.

Sarah Battaglia said...

I think the arts community is so shocked that there has been such an attack on us but historically it is not unusual for dictator like leaders to try and to silence or lessen the arts in a effort to control their people more or to create less opposition to them because often the arts revolts when people are being treated unfairly, and we become some of the strongest voices in civil rights movements. I am so proud to be part of a community that stands up to the government and stands up for what is right and for people who's voices are being silenced. Obviously we still have a lot of work to do in that area, and the arts industry is hardly perfect in that respect but we are making an effort I believe and the people who are young and in the arts truly believe in diversity. I think that Trumps attack on the arts is really scary, and I am scared of a lot of what is going on in the country right now but I do think that the arts has the power to influence people the right way and influence kindness in a way that other businesses and other industries aren't.