Tuesday 5 June 7pm


UKS, St. Olavs gate 3

Throughout UKS’ spring program, Scandinavia’s high level of trust in freedom of speech within arts and culture is being called into question. How ideas of modernist contemporary art or “fri kunst” were conceptualized in Norway and abroad in the post-war era is a recurring subject. This discussion focuses on the Cultural Cold War and in particular how the CIA, from 1950 through the late 1960s, secretly sponsored a dizzying number of magazines, conferences, and lobby groups around the globe including Scandinavia via the umbrella organization, the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF).

On Tuesday 5 June from 7pm, UKS dedicates a full evening to the exploration of this subject. In this context, German curator and writer Anselm Franke, Head of the Visual Arts department at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, and Norwegian filmmaker and artist Lene Berg will each give individual talks, discussing insights and blindnesses when considering the CIA’s post-war impact on the notion of “artistic freedom”. The two talks will be followed by a conversation between the two speakers and the UKS audience, beginning around 9pm.




In his presentation, Anselm Franke will focus on the re-signification of modernism between 1930 and the 1960s, and ask what role the US-led, soft power-based “freedom campaign”, and the Congress for Cultural Freedom in particular, played in this wholesale transvaluation.

Under what circumstances would artistic practices rooted in the interwar avant-gardes—and as little understood and unpopular with the masses—come to represent the values of the West in a global cultural policy campaign, also termed the “Battle for Picasso’s Mind” by former CIA-agent Tom Braden? To approach an answer, we must unpack the conflict lines and struggle over historical narratives before and during the Cold War, the dialectics of political and artistic subversions and counter-subversions, and the changing institutional status of art in relation to the embattled meaning of freedom.



As a starting point for her talk, Lene Berg will look at her research and findings around the making of the film piece The Man in the Background, currently on display at UKS, as well as her project and publication Encounter: Gentlemen & Arsehole—both launched in 2006.

Focused on the operations of the renowned British cultural journal Encounter which was notoriously sponsored by the CIA, Berg will talk about her long-term commitment to and research into the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) and its covert operations. CCF was founded in West Berlin in 1950 and was, for many years, run from Paris by Michael Josselson, whose direct liaison with the CIA was scandalously revealed in 1967. In Berg’s film The Man in the Background, she uses Josselson’s private super-8 footage of this man who was notoriously shy of documentation, and interviews his widow, Diana, nearly 50 years later.



In the short break, UKS’ MINIBAR will be serving refreshments including the cultural cold war signature drink, the Old Fashioned.



In winter 2017–18 Anselm Franke presented Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War—co-curated with Paz Guevara, Nida Ghouse, Antonia Majaca—at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. The large-scale research project and exhibition was inspired by Lene Berg’s research into this field from the early 2000s, and Berg and Franke’s many years of interlocution around this.

In this conversation, Berg and Franke will continue this conversation; trying to trace instrumentalization and political influences into the realm of contemporary art today—asking, among other questions, whether the so-called “Western world” can claim having and nurturing such a thing as political art?


* * *


* Anselm Franke is a curator and writer based in Berlin. He is Head of Visual Arts and Film at the
Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), where he, beyond the already mentioned project Parapolitics, curated exhibitions including The Whole Earth; After Year Zero (both 2013), Forensis (2014), Ape Culture (2015), and Nervous Systems (2016). In 2012, he curated the Taipei Biennial, and in 2014, the Shanghai Biennial. Franke’s exhibition project Animism has been presented in Antwerp, Bern, Vienna, Berlin, New York, Shenzhen, Seoul, and Beirut in various collaborations from 2010 to 2014.

* Lene Berg is a Norwegian film director and artist, who works in Berlin and Oslo, frequently exploring iconic, art historical concepts, where her works interface visual and political history. Berg has produced a number of projects in public spaces and directed three independently produced feature-length films: En Kvinnas Huvud (A Woman’s Head), 1997; Kopfkino (mindfuck), 2012; GOMP: Tales of surveillance in Norway 1948-89 (Gompen og andre beretninger om overvåking i Norge 1948-89), 2014. Solo exhibitions include 55th Venice Biennale, Norwegian Pavilion (2013); Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo (2012); Fotogalleriet, Oslo (2008); Cooper Union, New York (2008). Berg has further participated in group exhibitions world-wide, including Ape Culture, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2015); The Shadow of War, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2014); and Manifesta 8 (2010).

* Image: Lene Berg, Hannah Arendt & Villa Serbelloni, postcard 2017

Images from UKS #11 MINIBAR with talks by Anselm Franke and Lene Berg

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