Lene Berg, Stalin by Picasso or Portrait of Woman with Moustache, facade-banner, 2008 | Courtesy the artist
Freedom in the Bush of Ghosts is the conference accompanying the exhibition Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War, which investigates the battle for cultural hegemony and meaning in the Cold War as fought in the arts. The “bush of ghosts” in the conference title refers to a realm beyond public knowledge, where meaning gets broken down and founded anew. This is where the paths between art, and the work of security agencies such as the USA’s CIA ultimately crosses, as both were pursuing with different aims and means a parapolitics of subversions and counter-subversions. The title is derived from what counts as Nigeria’s first modernist novel, whose author was connected with the covertly CIA-supported MBARI artists clubs: Amos Tutuola’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts from 1954. In the novel, the young protagonist’s flight from bondage does not earn him freedom. Rather, he finds himself in an absurd, liminal world of talking symbols and delirious phantasms, in which the entire regime of producing meaning constantly shifts.
The lectures and discussions in the conference program address the production of meaning through art and the role of the intellectual in Cold War cultural diplomacy, looking on the ideological Cold War constructs of freedom and the ways in which artistic and cultural autonomy are conceived in the anxious liberal-democratic consensus that pervades the “post”-Cold War contemporariness.
With Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, Clare Davies, Kodwo Eshun, Anselm Franke, Nida Ghouse, Paz Guevara, Angela Harutyunyan, Patrick Iber, Nataša Ilić, Alexander Keefe, Christian Kravagna, Antonia Majaca, Jaleh Mansoor, Museum of American Art in Berlin