Sunday, August 8, 2010

orchestrating emotion

Students in Dance History at GMU select and develop a research topic during the semester-long course. It's a fascinating project when it engages students' creativity, their ability to explore sources beyond  books and publications, and to interview artists, scholars, and experts in a variety of sectors. Many projects uncover ways in which dance both impacts and instigates changes in cultures, politics, and history.

Last semester Maria Ambrose looked at the relationship between Mary Wigman and the policies of the Third Reich, and a month ago I received this message from her: "I was just browsing the itunes trailers online and this was one of the most recent ones. I thought you might find it interesting because of the propaganda lesson in class. A little late for my research paper, but still cool!" The film opens August 18.

Today I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where the exhibit "State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda" is on view. Although there is no mention of Wigman and only a brief mention of the "Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art)" exhibit, there are other examples of the extent to which ideology permeated everyday life: a board game in the exhibit called "Der Siegeslauf des Hakenkreuzes (The Swastika's Victorious Course)" and Joseph Goebbels' plans for regular television service (Germany in 1935 was one of the first nations to introduce it). The exhibit says "Goebbels saw the great propaganda potential... but believed it was best viewed by groups." An interesting comment about the power of mass spectacle and the party's determent of independent thinking. I encourage artists to see the exhibit: it made me think again about intersections between politics, art, and how beliefs can be manipulated.

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