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On Thursday 14th March, an exhibition on the Soros-founded network of art centers opens at Bukarest Nicodim Gallery, featuring, among many others, my portrait painting of investor-philanthropist George Soros.
I have gladly agreed in participating in the show because I felt that an in-depth research on the agenda and scope of the now historical SCCA art centers was long overdue. The show includes valuable art historical research on Soros’ legacy in Eastern Europe and beyond – a topic which has not been assessed thoroughly enough in terms of its strategic and cultural-political implications.
My personal research on George Soros and the political context of his financial and structural support for contemporary art was subject of my MA thesis completed in 2010. It stemmed from a wider interest in the transformatory symptoms and “soft factors” of postcommunist transition, and the role art voluntarily or involuntarily assumes in such processes of re-education.
Here I would like to make some corrections and comments to the press release to the upcoming show at Nicodim Gallery:
My work was not commissioned for this show. It is a humorous statement, made in 2011 for graduation exhibition at University of Arts Berlin, after several months of theoretical research and completion of a 60 page thesis on the subject.
I am originally trained as illustrator and painter, but quit working in this medium during postgraduate studies as it did not lend iteself to expressing the complexities of contemporary issues I am interested in. However, in this moment in 2011 it felt appropriate as a conceptual pun, with its title Soros Realism referencing some important resources of my research (Rena Raedles and Miško Šuvakovićs comments on Soros-sponsored art).
2019 the constellation has changed completely. Today, I feel it is an untimely moment to address the figure of George Soros under the title “The Influencing Machine”. We live in a time when art and culture seem to have lost much of their magical make-believe power. What influences us today, are other covert activities injected into our minds and into the digital echo chambers, as shown in another exhibition (incidentally?) under the same title: Influencing Machine at nGbK Berlin beginning of this year.
George Soros is known widely today, and this is largely thanks to the outrageous, ridiculous and often anti-semitic attacks against his person, especially in his native country Hungary and through its prime minister Victor Orbán.
I hope that the show The Influencing Machine and its curator Aaron Moulton seize the occasion to not only shine a critical light on George Soros, but at the same time come out publicly against anti-semitism, hate-speach and against all those crazy lunatics in Hungary, the US and elsewhere, who attack George Soros and his non-profit organizations from the political right.
Naomi Hennig, March 2019