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Who paid the dripper? - click opera
February 2010
Tue, Feb. 17th, 2004 07:15 pm
Who paid the dripper?

Some controversy raised by yesterday's entry made me Google and reread James Petras' eyebrow-raising review of Frances Stonor Saunders' book Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (London, 1999, Granta). This details the way the CIA sought -- and very largely succeeded -- to steer the intellectual climate of the west away from communism during the Cold War, using a variety of grants, plants and fronts. The result, a covert 'cultural NATO', penetrated right to the heart of intellectual life in Europe and America right up to the Vietnam war. Many of your favourite writers, philosophers and artists were on the CIA payroll. A CIA agent was actually the editor of Encounter magazine. The Abstract Expressionists were financed and promoted by the CIA and, through MoMA, by Nelson Rockerfeller, who called them 'enterprise painters'. I quote Petras:

'One of the most important and fascinating discussions in Saunders' book is about the fact that the CIA and its allies in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) poured vast sums of money into promoting Abstract Expressionist (AE) painting and painters as an antidote to art with a social content. In promoting AE, the CIA fought off the right-wing in Congress. What the CIA saw in AE was an "anti-Communist ideology, the ideology of freedom, of free enterprise. Non-figurative and politically silent it was the very antithesis of socialist realism" (254). They viewed AE as the true expression of the national will. To bypass right-wing criticism, the CIA turned to the private sector (namely MOMA and its co-founder, Nelson Rockefeller, who referred to AE as "free enterprise painting.") Many directors at MOMA had longstanding links to the CIA and were more than willing to lend a hand in promoting AE as a weapon in the cultural Cold War. Heavily funded exhibits of AE were organized all over Europe; art critics were mobilized, and art magazines churned out articles full of lavish praise. The combined economic resources of MOMA and the CIA-run Fairfield Foundation ensured the collaboration of Europe's most prestigious galleries which, in turn, were able to influence aesthetics across Europe.'

There's an artist who has made exactly such underhand links the subject of his work. I saw his diagrammatical drawings -- and a video in which he explained his meticulous work process -- at NGBK in Kreuzberg last week in an exhibition called World Watchers. That artist is -- was, for he died prematurely in 2000 -- Mark Lombardi. His drawings might look from a distance like exact blueprints for Jackson Pollock paintings, but on closer inspection they consist not of drips but 'money lines', links and conspiracies. Or, less emotively, how certain shady things are related to other even shadier things in a way that seems somewhat less than co-incidental. How the Bush family is related to the Bin Ladens, for instance. Here's Oliver North, Lake Resources of Panama, and the Iran-Contra Operation, ca. 1984-86 4th Version, 1999:

This drawing alone required a card index database containing 12,000 cards. Here's George W. Bush, Harken Energy, and Jackson Stevens c.1979-90, 5th version, 1999:

Here's an article from Design Observer about Lombardi. Here's an NPR feature. And here's Jerry Saltz in the Village Voice telling us that Lombardi's death by hanging may have come after the mafia started threatening him not to give too much away. For Lombardi was the ultimate 'man who knew too much'.

Lombardi's work may be the Friendster of power. But it's certainly not any friend of power.


Tue, Feb. 17th, 2004 11:11 am (UTC)

Jesus Christ, that is one supra-naturally interesting entry.


Tue, Feb. 17th, 2004 12:35 pm (UTC)
if you say lots do you appear through rain-veil as lunatic?

Is it best to try to remain innocent to the dirty dealings of artists and the octopus who detects radical thoughts, the CIA? That idyllic school that was built in the middle of nowhere USA to channel radical spirits away from urban areas where they could have influence... I may have got that from a momus entry, I'm not sure.... I get most my learning from them entries..
I try to switch off when somebody mentions a middle east country politcally, or about the potential scandals to be unearthed from jowly grey pellets.
Oyvind fahlstrom's world map etc springs to mind, just as obsessive and detailing many many facts from the governments of 3rd 2nd 1st world countries. timothy leary says something about the politicians et al being one caste level above warrior ants, and fragile artists and psychics schizoids above the politicians who run the world.
i read in one of momus's links that gluing styrofoam cups on a board is rubbish unless done for ten years where it becomes art... i like that! lombardi seems more irreverent to the issues he's talking about than fahlstrom who wrote manifestos and seemed more sweetly utopian. lombardi is more minimal than colourful poetic fahlstrom but fahlstrom said "fallacy of satori via reduction, the fewer the factors, the more they think it will be right, ultimate" fahlstrom died young too.
obsessive cool, but if i was a kid and enjoyed pictures of people with corpses in their mouths because they speak of the revolution but do not act upon it in their everyday lives, or funny air drops from politicians whose cold manipulation as a kid i could not comprehend and at the same time fully identify with, as compared to lombardi's rather dry diagrams which i would skip over as a kid, only vageuly appreciate the pretty shapes.
i thought i could trust all artists, but i am quickly learning that they disagree among themselves very often and spread harmful information nuggets. often they seem misguided and irresponsible, that is, as an artistic nature.
difference - fahlstrom wanted you to understand, lombardi didn't care really?

ReplyThread Parent

Tue, Feb. 17th, 2004 09:34 pm (UTC)

is there any reason to think that the CIA, or the NSA or the FBI or whoever - NPR, for that matter - is less involved today? Broadly, do you think there is any reason to assume as a base case that politics and economics determine art any less than vice-versa?

ReplyThread Parent
Tue, Feb. 17th, 2004 12:39 pm (UTC)
socially indifferent art

it is quite funny...from late 60s untill 1980 /economic depression/ in communist Poland neoavangard art /especially conceptualism/ became academic art...big factories spent enormous money on conceptual art festivals with happenings, instalations and theoretic discussions...it was of course because of its apolitical and socially indifferent 'content' and modern/cosmopolitan image../sorry for my awkward english/

Tue, Feb. 17th, 2004 03:05 pm (UTC)
i am not so insightful...

...but i do recall seeing this artist's work in a gallery in soho not too long ago. it was pretty interesting.

te po tahuri atu
Wed, Feb. 18th, 2004 12:12 am (UTC)

Lombardi's work is being picked up in the unlikeliest quarters: Follow the Network is a "guide to the political left" that shows the links between people like Osama Bin Laden, Mohammed Ali, Bill Clinton, Alan Ginsberg, Louis Farrakhan and Joan Baez. It also shows the links between terrorist organisations ranging from Hamas and the Harvard Alumni Association to local recycling groups. The site was given password protection before I could check if you were there but it should be back up soon.