Showing resistance: propaganda and Modernist exhibitions in Britain, 1933-53

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Showing resistance explores how exhibitions were used for propaganda and political interventions during the two decades from 1933. Mounted in public places - from station concourses, to workers’ canteens, to empty shops and bombsites - exhibitions were identified as a key medium for mass public communication both by activists and government bodies. Using a range of visual means, including photographs, pictograms and models, they gave urgent warnings against the rise of fascism, provided practical information on how to live frugally and signalled international political alignments, beliefs and affiliations. A key exponent was designer Misha Black, who described such exhibitions as ‘the materialisation of persuasion’. Their form was shaped and influenced by refugees living in Britain from the 1930s including artist László Moholy-Nagy, graphic designer FHK Henrion, Dada artist Kurt Schwitters, photomontage artist John Heartfield, painter Oskar Kokoschka, and architects Erno Goldfinger and Peter Moro. During World War Two, the British Ministry of Information used exhibitions as a key tool of propaganda and, in the war’s aftermath, as a way of showing the benefits of the embryonic welfare state. Richly illustrated, this is the first book-length analysis of the meaning and significance of such exhibitions to Britain. Over eight chapters, it charts the work of a fascinating range of exhibition makers from the interwar period to the early Cold War period. It draws on material from numerous historical collections across the UK and US, addressing themes of acute contemporary relevance, such as the role of propaganda in a democracy and the cultural contribution of refugees.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages352
ISBN (Print)9781526157416
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

Publication series

NameStudies in Design and Material Culture

Bibliographical note



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