Socialist Aestheticism — Duality of a Poster in Tito’s Yugoslavia

Socialist Aestheticism — Duality of a Poster in Tito’s Yugoslavia — Petar Pirizović

Applied Context  2021-2022

Exploration of socialist aestheticism and design practice through the fascinating and rather underappreciated subject of a special-occasion political poster in Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1980.

A political poster is a form of art that reacts most quickly and actively to the zeitgeist, triggering people by its role of an informer and agitator. Its destiny is conditional, and its purpose only exists in contact with the public. It is vulnerable yet powerful in what it represents—a message and an aesthetic object that simultaneously strives to be eye-catching and informative. As propaganda, it also possesses an extraordinary power of expounding political ideas to the masses and mobilizing social forces.

In the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the political poster became a primary means of communication, especially before but also after television became a mass medium. It maintained the faith in the national liberation struggle and the continuation of the revolution, brotherhood, unity, and Tito's unique cult of personality. Although it showed a projection of a set of values established by the state and embraced by the populace, its visual outlook could not have gone on existing in the pure form that was surpassed by the society itself. Following the communal spirit and enthusiasm that came with the reconstruction and complete ideological transformation of the society into a new system, the visual style and representation of posters evolved to represent the image of a “different socialism.” Artists moved away from the “socialist realism” and fully embraced the newly emerged “socialist aestheticism.”

Precisely that transformation is chronologically tracked through “Socialist Aestheticism—Duality of a Poster in Tito’s Yugoslavia.” By showcasing around 50 special-occasion posters, this book offers a visual and contextual overview of the style evolution starting in 1945 and ending in 1980.