The Shock and Awe of the Old, by David Foss

Robert Hughes, the popular Australian art critic, wrote his bestselling "The Shock of the New" in 1980 and created a controversy with his appraisal of Modern Art and its influence within the culture of the 20th Century. His thesis suggested that heroic avant-garde artists, by challenging the forces of tradition, had shaped not only the arts but also popular culture. See Jon Manteau’s previous post on Joan Miro.

Hughes gave ample attention to the works of the Dadaist collage and photomontage artists who struggled during the years of 1920-40’s between and during the devastations of the two world wide wars. John Heartfield in particular was an amazing artist and propagandist of the left working against fascism in Germany.

In 2002, the world was witness to another form of alarming “shock therapy” with the Bush Administration’s Shock and Awe campaign in the “War on Terrorism” against Saddam Hussein and the nation of Iraq. The mission was to so thoroughly demoralize and devastate the nation of Iraq through overwhelming firepower, destruction, and fear that American and coalition forces could easily subdue the populace and gain control over the ravaged land. The chaotic conditions inside Iraq would lead to the imposition of control by outside powers.

In 2007, the economic theorist and historian, Naomi Klein, wrote an excellent book called "The Shock Doctrine", which details the creation and manipulation of manmade and natural disasters to force political changes within a society’s economic and social system. Over the years, the use of ‘false flag” operations by the United States government has been well documented in such incidents as Vietnam’s Tonkin Gulf , the sinking of the battleship Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, and yes perhaps in 2001 and the terrorist fiasco of September 11 and the downing of the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and Flight 93.

Today, we are living through another shock to the collective system with the devastating collapse of the world’s economic system due to the mortgage crisis with its corrupt banking practices and irresponsibility on many fronts. But where is the outrage of today’s artists now living through the shock of the new/old? Where are our Dadaists, Surrealists, John Heartfield, George Groz, Otto Dix or Hannah Hoch?

Recently, I came across the illustrative artworks of David Dees in the book, "The Global Conspiracy" written by the rebel social critic, David Icke. Dees has modernized the Dadaist collage technique through the use of digital photography and computer editing. The digital Dadaist illustrations have the effect of a Shock of the Old made new again, only the characters and subjects have changed. Or have they?

For more of David Dees cutting illustrations see

– David Foss