The long tail of Academic art

Joep Leerssen

I was struck by this mural ad for China Airways in Schiphol airport.
Its hyperrealistic style, with sharp contours and primary colours, recalled socialist-realist propaganda posters of the Mao era but also the glamour photographs of glossy magazines. Both go back, I believe, to an art style I call Academic Romanticism (explained in ERNiE): the traditional classical art forms taught in the European art academies, inflected by the Romantic fresco revival of the Nazarenes. Murals in 19th-century Germany are a prime example. Academic Romanticism survived as a style for government commissions and for the upper-middle-class conservative public, at a time when artists were already developing into Impressionism and beyond. The last vestiges of Academic Romanticism were the easy-on-the-eye glamour of totalitarian art, and, as some have pointed out, glamour photography for Holywood and glossy magazines. While its patron in the 19th century was the nation state, in the 20th century Academic Romanticism thrives under the twin patronage of totalitarianism and corporate capitalism. 

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Herinneringen aan de Maastrichtse Eurotop van 1992

Joep Leerssen

Het is bijna dertig jaar geleden dat het roemruchte Verdrag van Maastricht tot stand kwam. Daarover wordt in samenwerking met de Universiteit Maastricht een publiekshistorisch onderzoek gedaan. Welke herinneringen leven er bij de regionale bevolking aan dat evenement? Wie kwam er, op welke wijze dan ook, mee in aanraking — als hotelmedewerker, politieagent of taxichauffeur — en bij wie heeft het sporen in het geheugen achtergelaten?
Het gaat niet alleen om de “grote” herinneringen van de hooggeplaatste verantwoordelijken maar ook om de informele, anecdotische herinneringen en de familieverhalen vanuit de brede bevolking. Die willen we in het project graag boven water krijgen.
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Against ‘Representativity’

As a cultural historian studying stereotyped representations of national characters (‘imagology’) I am often asked by my social-scientific or social-historical colleagues how I can determine the representativity of the literary material I study. If, in studying the English image of Italy, I draw on George Eliot and E.M. Foster, is that not a very restricted and rarefied data sample, almost a random stab in the dark? What wider conclusions could possibly be drawn from such a minute sample regarding ‘the’ image of Italy in England, or attitudes generally vis-à-vis Italy as current in England?

That ‘representativity’ challenge mistakes the cultural and social meanings of the word. A representation in the cultural sense is a symbolical construct (usually verbal or visual) aiming to give a mimetic simulacrum of the real world; a social representation is a certain actor or portion of society acting on behalf of others. To justify the word in its former meaning in terms of its latter meaning is misleading and irrelevant.[....]

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Popcorn heroics, modern nationalism

Roel Reiné is a filmmaker with a penchant for heroic-historical action movies with heavy overlays of special effects. His popular action movie Michiel de Ruyter (2015; distributed internationally under the English title Admiral) already contained a remarkably anachronistic, flag-waving speech extolling the character and greatness of the Dutch nation (online here). In interviews, Roelé testifies to his appreciation of patriotic flag-saluting ceremonial in the USA. He would like to see a similar ethos in his native Netherlands, and is candid about this as the motivation for the bombastic flag-waving in Michiel de Ruyter.

Roelé, again teamed up with producer Klaas de Jong, has now turned his attention to an earlier hero: The Frisian King Redbad (†719), known for his resistance against Christianization and Frankish hegemony. Advance notices (the film Redbad is due out this month) indicate that this is, again, an unabashedly nationalistic production and that its script (again by Alex van Galen) involves a similar mixture of anachronistic distortions of historical fact and manipulative xenophobic ethnotyping.[....]

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