Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Victoria
27th Annual Graduate Student Conference

All Art is Propaganda

March 15th 4-7pm

March 16th 10am-5pm


        Click button Below to access the 2024 programme

    Welcome to the 27th annual graduate student conference, Visual Impetus (VI).

    This signature event is a multi-day conference at the University of Victoria that aims to promote inclusiveness among a range of departments across the university and beyond.

    In 1926, W.E.B. Du Bois argued that “all art is propaganda” in an effort to mobilize artists to first acknowledge and then utilize the inherent political nature of image production. This statement ignited a debate as to whether, in fact, “all art is propaganda.” In 1928, Edward Bernays, the “Father of Public Relations,” wrote Propaganda, which argued that propagandistic messaging had to be reintroduced into the American public under a new name: public relations. In Propaganda, he defines the term as historically connected to Catholic expressions of devotion. Bernays argued that art, artists, and museums have yet to effectively promote themselves, but that art was a critical tool for political argumentation both locally and globally. The debate continued in the coming decades, particularly when George Orwell supported the notion that “all art is propaganda” in a 1940 essay. 

    Is art used for communication or political messaging? Are there examples of artworks that do not qualify as propaganda? What is propaganda, and are there different forms, e.g. state propaganda or revolutionary propaganda? Is there a boundary between free speech and hate speech in art and propaganda? How do art and propaganda intersect with racial identity? These are questions that “All Art is Propaganda” stirs and will be a springboard for discussions and debate. 

    For Visual Impetus 2024, the Art History & Visual Studies Graduate Association (AHVSGA) of the University of Victoria we asked our colleagues, graduate students, and early career researchers to contemplate how artists employ their craft to create propaganda.

    – Visual Impetus 2023 Planning Committee