Footnotes for “Curating George Soros”

The following are the footnotes for the essay “Curating George Soros or Exhibiting the Occult?”

[1] Michael Barker, “Why we all suffer from George Soros’ bets on liberal democracy,” Thoughts of a Leicester Socialist, July 22, 2018. A useful critical overview of Soros’s philanthropy is provided in Nicolas Guilhot’s article “Reforming the world: George Soros, global capitalism and the philanthropic management of the social sciences,” Critical Sociology, 33(3), 2007, pp.447-77. In introducing his essay Guilhot explains: “In many respects, the Central European University (CEU) founded by the United States financier George Soros appears as the last chapter of this philanthropic history of promoting the social sciences as a tool for democratic social reform – not least because it has built upon previous experiences and tapped existing networks of academic intermediaries and activists involved in the “cultural cold wars.” Th e idea of an East-West academic center was not novel. In the 1950s, the Ford Foundation was already contemplating the creation of a regional university center that would bring Eastern and Western intellectual elites closer together with a shared conception of social modernization under social scientific guidance. The Eastern European policy of the foundation was to take advantage of the détente “to institute research, exchange and educational efforts important for democratic objectives” and to target intellectual and academic elites through fellowships to foster the emergence of “scholarly critiques of Communist declarations and policies”. The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences that the Ford Foundation helped to establish in Vienna in 1962 (also nicknamed “the Ford Institute”) was also supposed to be an intellectual bridge between the East and the West. More directly related to the immediate origins of the CEU, the Fondation pour une Entraide Intellectuelle Européenne (Foundation for European Intellectual Solidarity, FEIE) acted for twenty five years as an informal channel of communication between Western and Eastern academic and intellectual circles.

“The FEIE was created in 1966 as an off-shoot of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the organization led by American and European intellectuals belonging to the non-communist left, first backed by the CIA and, later, by the Ford Foundation. Until 1990, when it was literally merged into Soros’ network of foundations as its last director, Annette Laborey, went to head the Paris office of the Open Society Institute, the FEIE used to send books and publications to Eastern Europe and to invite intellectuals, academics or dissidents to conferences and meetings organized in Western Europe. In fact, many of the intellectual designers and contributors to the foundation of the CEU would come out of these informal networks woven throughout the 1970s and 1980s.” (pp.455-6)

[2] Robert Brustein actually first published his philanthropic analysis in a New York Times opinion piece in 1994 titled “Culture by Coercion,” an essay that expressed concern for the way in which philanthropic grants for the arts (in the US context) were increasingly being used to fund groups to service a multicultural agenda to help make up for basic political shortcomings like providing “arts education in the schools, an area that has been unconscionably neglected.” He concluded his essay by noting:

“Given such pressing needs at home, it is understandable why philanthropy should rush to the aid of minority groups clamoring for recognition through creative expression. But to ask the impoverished agencies of culture to compensate for the failures of society is to divert attention from the systemic inertia and mismanaged social programs of our legislators.

“By forcing artistic expression to become a conduit for social justice and equal opportunity instead of achieving these goals through basic humane legislation, we are distracting our artists and absolving our politicians.”

[3] One video that was being shown by Moulton in the exhibit was “Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars” which appears to be a spin-off from an alleged secret document known  as “Quiet warfare with silent weapons.” Another piece replays, as Moulton observes, “…a propaganda video from the Iranian Intelligence Ministry’s Public Service Broadcast. It shows a secret meeting [made with digital cartoons] somewhere inside the White House. Sitting around a table are purported puppetmasters introduced by a sinister voice: John McCain, who creates conspiracies against Iran; the Architect of Color Revolutions Gene Sharp, and George Soros, “a Jewish tycoon and mastermind of ultra-modern colonialism. He uses his wealth and slogans like liberty, democracy and human rights to bring the supporters of America to power.”” (p.196)

Yet another piece of art then promotes the right-wing conspiracies of S.U.S. (Shifting Uncertain Situations). Moulton writes: “Can avant-gardes be scripted? The group known as S.U.S. (Shifting Uncertain Situations) gives thought and form to an idea that would previously only ever be labeled as conspiracy theory. From floor to ceiling, a large mindmap infects half of the gallery providing a tour through the manufacturing of dissent for the movement of controlled political activism known as ‘astroturfing’. In a world where the notion of crisis actors is continually ‘debunked’ by the media as an exclusively Right Wing fantasy, one can here connect very logical dots between an agent provocateur, crowds on demand and the creation of spectacle for political influence. This is a dangerous artwork because it gives holistic agency to taboo thinking and demands the question of who is determining our taboos and why is it taboo if it is also an historic cultural practice to manipulate crowds and free will.”

[4] The points made in Davis’ book were first discussed in his excellent two-part essay “How art history can help explain the stunning rise of conspiracy theories that is defining our time,” artnews, May 20, 2020.

[5] Later during this 2019 lecture that was paid for by the US Department of State, Moulton stated: “We live in a very confusing time, obviously. The bureaucracy of reality has become exhausting in terms of how you are allowed to believe what is real and what is not. I think something really incredible happened the moment that we started calling things fake news because it meant all bets are off, or, maybe, all bets are on. All realities are now potentially real, as soon as you are saying ‘that reality is not real, but this one is’? It comes back to this entropy of this idea of the absolute notion of truth, and more to an open place of accepting a plurality of truth.” 

In terms of a brief overview of Moulton’s occultist history, it is reported that he “didn’t begin to explore the connection between art and religion in earnest until he moved to Salt Lake City, where he was senior curator at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art from 2012 to 2013. There he began to work with Jason Metcalf, an artist and former Mormon whose practice is informed by, according to Moulton, “a perfect cocktail of religion, spirituality, folklore, superstition, anthropology and contemporary art.”… “With CLEAR, his first Gagosian Beverly Hills show in 2014, Moulton took the revered Light and Space movement as a starting point, exploring potential aesthetic links to Scientology and astral projection… And per Moulton, the show’s Easter egg was a vividly colorful painting by Ingo Swann, who, in addition to being an artist, was also a psychic who developed the practice of remote viewing, and worked with the CIA on several secret surveillance projects.”

For the past decade Moulton has continued to work closely with Jason Metcalf, who since then changed his artist’s name to Lazslo and then simply L. In his biography for the A.S.T.R.A.L.O.R.A.C.L.E.S exhibit that was funded by the US Embassy in Bulgaria, L described himself as “a starseed, alchemist, and healer with training and experience in numerous magical traditions and energy modalities.”

[6] Another occult artist whose bust of George Soros features in The Influencing Machine exhibit is Mi Kafchin, whose 2019 ‘Chemtrails’ exhibition was curated by Moulton – an earlier show that happened to be heavily influenced by the conspiracies of David Icke, who bust featured prominently in the Nicodem Gallery.

[7] The overlap between the wellness industry and far-right health conspiracies goes back decades; and for an article that discusses this problem in relation to David Icke’s conspiracy mongering, see Matthew Kalman and John Murray, “From green messiah to new age nazi,” Left Green Perspectives, 1996. This troubling history however eludes the corporate media, who in an otherwise useful article argue that this damaging trend is just a recent one, see Sophie Aubrey, “‘Playing with fire’: The curious marriage of QAnon and wellness,” Sydney Morning Herald, September 27, 2020.

In recent years the newly coined term “conspirituality” has gained in popularity with the mainstream media as an attempt to understand the cojoining of conspiracy theorists and New Age spirituality. Yet contrary to the surprise expressed by the initial academic proponents of conspirituality (Charlotte Ward and David Voas), whose work focused on the rise of conspirituality through the likes of charismatic gurus like David Icke, conservative conspiracies have always flowed through occult and New Age circles. This point is well made in Egil Asprem and Asbjørn Dyrendal’s 2015 article “Conspirituality reconsidered: how surprising and how new is the confluence of spirituality and conspiracy theory?” To take just one example, the responding authors explain: “Transnational occult networks have also been important for the dissemination of central conspiratorial motifs across Europe. The basic text of what was later to become the Protocols of the Elders of Zion appears to have been brought from France to Russia by Yuliana Glinka, who, besides being an unsuccessful agent of the Russian secret police, was also a Theosophist with connections to Blavatsky’s circle.” (p.376)

Despite his willingness to embrace right-wing conspiracists whose work helps popularize conspiracies linked to the Protocols, Aaron Moulton, in his own 2022 book, does provide a fairly useful overview of the way in which the Protocols were manufactured as a piece of “black propaganda” and he even includes a mention of the link to Glinka. (p.89)

[8] Hind, The Threat to Reason, p.152.


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