Modes of Repetition, Olympia II by Leni Riefenstahl: Riefenstahl’s Athletes and the Image of Propaganda Space

By Katerina Zisimopoulou and Alexis Fragkiadakis.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The research on the implications of the film Olympia II, Celebration of Beauty directed by Leni Riefenstahl and its connection to the Mass Ornament as defined by Siegfried Kracauer is driven by an intense belief that the technology developed before the Second World War in terms of representation repetition and materiality has survived its time in architecture. The Modern Movement and its after World War II successors have been the bearers to our time of this film’s exemplary technology aesthetics and meaning. The space making propaganda mechanisms and techniques in Nazi Germany have established their place and survived their time in architectural representation as a result of the extensive emigration of German–European architect Mies van der Rohe and other intellectuals to the west after World War II.
The film Olympia II, Celebration of Beauty by Leni Riefenstahl depicts in consecutive fractal extracts the story of the 1936 Olympic Games, which took place in Berlin. Olympia reconstructs Nazi space in time and forms a paragon of Nazi international propaganda in an impeccable aesthetic and style that originates from ancient Greek surviving predominating ideals.
A few years earlier Siegfried Kracauer in The Mass Ornament analyzed characteristic examples of the emerging mass culture of the modern era. In the exact same context of propaganda and mass psychology Leni Riefenstahl creates an idealized architectural propaganda space of persuasion, filming events and bodies as architectural phenomena in a neo-classical stone background. The film of the 1936 Olympics is indeed the outcome of the interaction of power, architecture, media, beauty and aesthetics in the western culture.

Keywords: Propaganda, Repetition, Mass Ornament, Body Culture, Representation

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.169-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.630MB).

Katerina Zisimopoulou

Architect, Doctorate Candidate, Architecture School, National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Katerina Zisimopoulou has been educated as an architect-engineer in the National Technical University of Athens, completed her Masters in Architecture in the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and is currently a Doctorate Candidate in the Architecture School of the National Technical University of Athens. She was born in Athens in 1976 and lives in Athens, Greece. She has participated in workshops and audited classes in the Architecture, Film School and Art History Departments in Los Angeles and Athens and worked as an assistant tutor in the Architecture School of NTU Athens with presentations in various Conferences. She has worked as a corporate architect, a freelance architect working on small- and medium-scale housing projects and a civil servant serving at the Greek National Endowment Office.

Alexis Fragkiadakis

Architect, NTUA, University of California Los Angeles, Greece

Alexis Fragkiadakis has been educated as an architect-engineer in the National Technical University of Athens, completed his Masters in Architecture in the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and is currently working as an architect in Athens, Greece. He has worked as a corporate architect and as a freelance architect on medium-scale housing projects, large-scale commercial complexes and public buildings, such as the Museum of Hellenic World in Athens.