Material culture guides and reinforces social order. This exhibition remarks on the material propaganda of the early 19th Century Swedish King - Karl XIV Johan - to consider how the production of images and objects and the control of the media were integrated into the political agenda of early modern states in order to maintain and ensure the benevolence of the people towards a centralised government. We revisit the political activity of this time through the example of King Karl XIV Johan. Propaganda here encompasses the persuasive forces of ‘soft power’, which remain a part of general political activities today.

A French marshal of untitled or civic descent, Karl XIV Johan (1763 - 1844), founds the modern Royal House of Sweden with a unique acquisition to the throne. Karl XIV Johan, unfamiliar with the culture and society of which he had become King, ensured and maintained the favour of the people and nobility, towards his reign, by applying specific political strategies of a propagandistic manner. This manifested within a catalogue of symbolic objects and artefacts and coincided with the expansion of a depoliticised urban middle-class. These material and social correlations supported the conditions to maintain and ensure a certain power through the conscious design of images and objects and their circulation across social classes. We suggest a continuation of these dynamics in a depoliticised characteristics of the current Western and European context cultivated through consumer culture and mass media.

Exhibition for Örebro läns museum, Sweden

Collaboration with designer Gabriel A. Maher and political scientist Daniel Urey