Hal Foster’s Essay Contemporary Art and Spectacle

The key themes that Hal Foster introduces in his essay Contemporary Art and Spectacle are Fascism, the loss of the real, and Marx’s theory about the social system and utopia. Foster explains that our culture is fascinated by any form of media about fascism from the films of Rainer Fassbinder and Habs Jurgen Syberberg to the contemporary art of artists Anselm Kiefer and Gilbert & George. He says that our fascination with fascism cannot be explained as not many people agree with its key ideologies, but he wants us to think about fascinating fascism as the unreality of contemporary culture. Fascism is a government led by a dictator that supresses opposition and criticism. Foster introduces Jean Baudrillard theory of the loss of the real into his theory about our fascination with fascism and how we have to compensate for this loss by fetishising about it. Freud identifies fetish as a substitute for a trauma or loss. Another key theme which Hal Foster introduces into the text is how utopia is one of the most corrupted modern ideologies. Utopia is is a community or society possessing highly desirable or near perfect qualities. Marx wanted a society which had near perfect qualities but as demonstrated by the Russian revolution this did not work. (Marx, & Engels, 1888).

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