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The long leash

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Post 05 Aug 2013, 08:08
Modern art was CIA weapon

Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations.

Agents were placed in the film industry, in publishing houses, even as travel writers for the celebrated Fodor guides. And, we now know, it promoted America’s anarchic avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism.

This was the “long leash”. The centrepiece of the CIA campaign became the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a vast jamboree of intellectuals, writers, historians, poets, and artists which was set up with CIA funds in 1950 and run by a CIA agent. It was the beach-head from which culture could be defended against the attacks of Moscow and its “fellow travellers” in the West. At its height, it had offices in 35 countries and published more than two dozen magazines, including Encounter.

Well, we knew that the US bolstered their artists in a culture war, but it's still interesting to see how organized it was.

And to think that they always slandered (and still do) soviet art as "state art".
Post 05 Aug 2013, 19:43
Simultaneously this is completely unsurprising while depressing all the same. Nice to have some sourceable proof though.
Post 05 Aug 2013, 22:41
Well, if this isn't the most disturbing and depressing thing I've read this week, I'll eat my hat. Boring, lifeless iconography in the East vs. hiccups and farts expressed in meaningless splatters of paint in the West. What a choice.
Post 07 Aug 2013, 07:53
That's a bit extreme, I think. There are loads of very enjoyable Soviet literature and art, and lots of pretty bad stuff.

You know what they say 90% of everything is, right?

It is pretty depressing though, how it was designed from behind the scenes. Obvously the promotion of something is done to the detriment of something else, and if they are going for abstract, individualist stuff; it meant that concrete and socially meaningfull stuff would get torn to pieces by these bankrolled critics and their machinery.
Post 07 Aug 2013, 20:38
Now that I've thought about it for a bit, I can say that both extremes are perfectly representational of their opposing poles of perspective. Socialist Realism in the East takes the place of Byzantine iconography in order to convey perfect orthodoxy, i.e., "correct belief". Of course, there were some exceptions, but they tend to prove the rule. You're never at a loss as to where the artist stands, politically speaking.

Abstract expressionism in the West takes the place of representational art in order to represent absolutely nothing whatsoever, simply because photography had taken away the "need" to paint like Rembrandt. In other words, who needs art in a world of fast developing technology?

And, as America is the leader of the "free world", there's the illusion of perfect democracy in art as well. Splatter some pea soup on a canvas and interpret it like making figures out of clouds. "Anyone" can do it. Of course, even here, preferential treatment based on connections was the rule. Who knows how many potential splash and splatter "artists" were harassed out of the industry due to not possessing the "correct beliefs" of the CIA agenda?
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