I would like to propose a research project that builds on Professor Ross’s theoretical developments on the strategic employment of temporal and historical registers to investigate the propaganda imagery of the national-socialist Germany and Fascist Italy. Both these regimes offer particularly compelling examples of how temporality can endow anti-democratic regimes with extraordinary affective and destructive power. Both these regimes have used visual culture as a critique of the modern regime of historicity. In the same time, they allow for a rich comparative study, offering two very different conceptions of the new national culture.
The cultural politics of the Third Reich relied on the production of imagery that would represent and uphold the atmosphere of revolutionary millennialism. It had to forestall the shape of the world to come, speed up its realization, and bring relief to the period of waiting. To manage the masses and remodel history, the national-socialist regime produced visual propaganda that operated across a variety of temporal registers: anticipation, acceleration, cyclicity, rebirth, anachronism, alter-modernity, and mythical time, to name only a few.
Fascist mythopoeia also employed the cyclical conception of time, resurrecting the mythical past to restore an Italian identity. Although there are undeniable similarities between the national-socialist and fascist conceptions of time and history, artistic production that flourished under the regime led by Mussolini can better be described by the bergsonian concept of the élan vital, and Guillaume Faye’s archeofuturism. I would argue that its distinctive traits are the aspiration for growth and change that is self-consciously utopic, as well as the concentration on the present moment, the moment when the archeological past and the unfulfillable future collide and synchronize.
The main goal of my intended comparative analysis is not, however, to condemn one historic regime and to rehabilitate the other. Rather, in my research project, I intend to discuss two different means to the same end; two conceptions of time and history, as expressed in visual propaganda, that equally contribute to the totalitarian socio-political agenda of mass-seduction, mass-subduction and mass-sedation.