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Jonas Staal’s “Propaganda Station” Premieres at PLATO Ostrava

Propaganda Station is a complex new installation by Dutch artist Jonas Staal. It explores the involvement of art and culture in the dominant forms of contemporary propaganda as well as the tools and possibilities of (counter)propaganda — forms that emerge from emancipatory grassroots and liberation movements.

Now on view at PLATO Ostrava in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Propaganda Station aims to make visible the various contemporary propagandas that actively shape our world today. The central installation is designed as an inversed panopticon — a circular prison with cells arranged around a central well, from which prisoners can be observed at all times. Yet rather than surveilling the visitor, Staal’s work provides the viewer a position of counter-surveillance over the work of propagandists who influence our everyday lives.

Propaganda Station consists of various “cells,” with each introducing a different piece of contemporary propaganda, such as Ultranationalist Propaganda, Alt-Right Propaganda, Liberal Propaganda, Financialization Propaganda, Empire Propaganda, Climate Propaganda, and Geological Propaganda. Overseeing these different propaganda cells, the viewer becomes part of a reversed balance of power: Now they surveil the propagandists, instead of the other way around.

At the center of the installation is a “propaganda school,” where different artists, academics, journalists, theorists, campaigners, and activists give lectures, workshops, and trainings in the fields of propaganda analysis and (counter)propaganda work.

This exhibition is organized as part of a program by the Jindřich Chalupecký Society within the scope of the international project Islands of Kinship: A Collective Manual for Sustainable and Inclusive Art Institutions. Propaganda Station will subsequently travel to Zagreb, Croatia, and Skopje, Macedonia.

In Ostrava — an emerging artistic and cultural hub in the Czech Republic — Staal’s immersive project is being presented alongside an exhibition of this year’s laureates of the Jindřich Chalupecký Award, an annual prize that has been granted to emerging visual artists based in the Czech Republic since 1990. Both are on view until February 25.

Follow Islands of Kinship and the Jindřich Chalupecký Society on Instagram at @islandsofkinship and @sjch_cz.

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