Wolke, rue du canal 45, 11th floor, Brussels
ʻʼIn order to encourage openness we had to be secret. ʻʼ
Tom Braden, first chief of the CIAʼs International Organisations Division in an interview with Frances Stonor Saunders for The Independent on the 22 of October 1995.
ʻʼ They took me to a place and undressed me, and I stayed there in my shirt and underwear: I don't know if the effect was beautiful, but it was the situation.ʻʼ
Paul Vanden Boeynants in his press conference of the 15 of February 1989
The Ister is pleased to announce ʻʼThe Long Leash ʻʼ, an exhibition with Bank, Aline Bouvy & John Gillis, Audrey Cottin, Lucile Desamory, Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Rachel Koolen, Chris Lecler, Nathaniel Mellors, Shelly Nadashi, James Richards, Anna Solal.
“The Long Leash” envisages itself as drifting between two events: A press
conference by former Belgian Prime Minister and leader of the PSC-CVP party Paul Vanden Boeyants, in which he describes the peculiar circumstances of his kidnapping in 1989 by a fake extremist political group (the self-proclaimed ʻSocialist Revolutionary Squadʼ); and comments made by former head of the CIA Tom Braden, in which he reveals the existence of a secret cultural propaganda programme dubbed ʻthe Long Leashʼ, implemented during the Cold War era as a strategy to culturally usurp the Soviet Union and expose their incapability to produce ʻhighʼ art.
The absurd tone that arises from both events brings this exhibition to life. In Bradenʼs case, his narrative worthy of a classic CIA conspiracy becomes esoteric and unreasonable - however grounded in fact - while Vanden Boyenantsʼ televised soliloquy transforms a personal experience into an uncanny event through which reality is derided and exposed via pomp, self-derision, and humour.
The exhibited works take on the framework of a cockamamie reality, holding both truth and gross ambiguity. In effect, each work becomes its own myth.
The original video documentation of Vanden Boyenantsʼ press conference will be on view in the exhibition along with a printed copy of the article by Frances Stonor Saunders from which the words of Tom Braden are taken out: “Modern Art was CIA weapon”, published in The Independent of Sunday the 22nd of October, 1995.