Saturday, March 08, 2014

Symposium on the First World War and "Viennese Modernism Between the First and Second World Wars"

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is having a long weekend at UC-Berkeley under the general theme, The Vienna Philharmonic: 100 Years After the Outbreak of the First World War.

The series includes concerts (of course!), events with students, and public symposiums. The first of the symposiums took place today, on the theme "Viennese Modernism Between the First and Second World Wars." The video is here, Vienna Symposium - Part 1:

It includes a presentation by historian Hans Petschar of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek on "The Great War of Imagination and Memory." The abstract provided at the presentation summarizes his presentation this way:

World War I was the first war in which mass media played a crucial role in disseminating news from the Fighting Front to the Home Front. Pictorial media, pamphlets, posters, photographs, and films served as primary means of propaganda to persuade both soldiers at the Front and citizens at Home of the importance of their efforts to contribute and secure ultimate victory. Pictorial media, especially photographic pictures, along with written records provided direct, sensual, and touching imaginations how soldiers lived the war. More than written reports and print news, mass production and distribution of photographs made World War I a "total war," in which not only the armed forces but whole nations were involved.

War photography, however, was by no means neutral. Production and distribution of photographs was controlled by governmental and military bodies and served as an ultimate means of propaganda. In Austria, the War Press Office censored and controlled the distribution of the images. Life in the battlefields, medical care, successful military operations, glorification of war heroes, decorations of the soldiers, and heroic men and women at work were the main topics of the image propaganda. The longer the war lasted, the photographic Grand Illusion was replaced by images of disillusion. The dehumanization of war became visually present in photographic images of executions, in conscious exposures of prisoners of war, and in images of destruction. At the end of the "Great Times," nothing remained but the omnipresence of death. [my emphasis]
His presentation includes numerous visual images illustrating his point.

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