This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's infamous 1517 nailing of his "95 Theses" onto a church in Germany. This historic act is known as one of the first of revolution and reaction against the systematic power at hand. Martin Luther proves to be a very interesting man regardless of his rebuttal against the Roman Catholic Church and in recent exhibitions that have popped up around the United States, Americans are invited to view a rarity outside of Germany.
Mostly shown throughout Europe, both New York and Minneapolis are showcasing exhibitions that feature the visual materials that articulated Luther's image and his ideals. A vast majority of the items usually used to describe the art historical time include wood block prints, portraits, and altarpieces. However, the information presented creates a more thorough image of Luther, his motivations, and his process.
The invention of the printing press allowed information to be created quick and cheap. Both exhibitions highlight how the printing press, in one of its first appearances, changed the way information was relayed in a historic way.
Through letters, pamphlets, and satirical drawings, the viewer is able to see how the entrance of this technology created a new kind of political arena and oddly begs the feeling that history does repeat itself. With the invention of the printing press, Luther and his opposition battle through these documentations, much like today's media wars through social media.
As Luther's visage is known as probably one of the few mass-produced portraits of a person who was not royal, his presence can be seen as that of a celebrity and was used to his advantage. This presence was also used against him by his enemies, seen in the not so flattering renditions and satirical works. Along with tag lines, the imagery is reminiscent of an early political cartoon. These speedy sheets of propaganda produced from both sides were pushed into the public sphere.
These similarities between rapid fire information of the past and today can be correlated in a basic sense. A new technology changes the arena of how information is consumed by the public and within this historic action, Martin Luther sets the stage for the preceding revolutionaries as well as the political propaganda that has continuously followed.