The Culture Industry and the Propaganda Factory

Dan Starling


Book, 15.7 x 24 cm, 164 p, language : English, publisher : New Documents, Vancouver (Canada)/Los Angeles (USA), ISBN: 978-1-927354-16-2.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2030/171).

Literary synopsis

The Culture Industry and the Propaganda Factory is a rewrite of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl suffered criticism due to his racist depiction of the workers in the chocolate factory as “pygmies from Africa” and chose to change them to “Oompa-loompas from Oompaloompaland” in the second edition. All of the original illustrations were redrawn using the techniques of drypoint and etching so that they could be altered. All of the characters were replaced with new ones and the story changed accordingly so that this edition is totally different from the original.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

The Culture Industry and the Propaganda Factory is part of Dan Starling's practice. He has used the approach of revisiting works and reimagining their outcomes as a means of investigation and have found that it often yields thought-provoking and unanticipated discoveries. His work in etching, as well as an artist book and performance, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Return of the Repressed, was based on rewriting the children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ,written by Roald Dahl in 1964. Dahl was criticized for his racist characterization of the workers in the chocolate factory as 'pygmies from Africa'. In the second edition, he chose to refer to them as the 'Oompaloompas from Oompaloompaland'. Starling designed a project to interrogate the effect that this pacification of racism, which was considered a satisfactory compromise at the time, had on the fictional story. The artist re-drew all of the illustrations in order to make his own character replacements in the book to ultimately produce a different version and a visual frieze, where the written text is obliterated and only imagery remains. As the final act of this metamorphosis, Starling performed the oral history of the new text, a 'Revolting Rhyme', based on the etching frieze. The transformation of this book sought to address the inequities of the past by opening up the canon of ideas that have been under-represented and have been actively denied representation.

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