The Influencing Machine
curated by Aaron Moulton
March 14 – April 27, 2019
Galeria Nicodim, Bucharest
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 14th, 18:00–20:00 hr.
Panel Discussion (Luchezar Boyadjiev, Calin Dan, Geert Lovink, and Aaron Moulton): 16:00–18:00 hr.
Luchezar Boyadjiev, Nina Czegledy, Ole Dammegård, Aleksandra Domanović, Constant Dullaart, Harun Farocki, Jakup Ferri, Andrea Fraser, Adrian Ghenie, Ferenc Gróf, Naomi Hennig, Mi Kafchin, Jon McNaughton, Yerbossyn Meldibekov, Suzanne Meszoly, Mike Z Morrell, Ciprian Mureșan, Lucia Nimcova, Oksana Pasaiko, REP Group, Joanne Richardson, Șerban Savu, Keiko Sei, Sean Snyder, SOSka Group, János Sugár, Andrei Ujică, Anetta Mona Chişa & Lucia Tkáčová, Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev
Inspired by a True Story: What was the Network of Networks?
Thirty years ago as the Soviet Union collapsed, the Open Society Institute, an unprecedented civil society initiative created by philanthropic activist George Soros, stepped in to facilitate vulnerable transition in most major cities throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This non-governmental organization helped to implement a wide variety of neoliberal educational initiatives in areas such as public health and independent media that accelerated the path towards democracy and free-market thinking—ideals that were often incompatible with the previous system. One of the prolific ways this was done was by ushering in the most avant-garde program of contemporary art in human history in the form of the Soros Centers for Contemporary Art (SCCA), established in twenty major cities across the former bloc.
Arriving with a pedagogical evangelism for Western-style cultural production, the SCCA networks had operating budgets that asymmetrically dwarfed the pre-existing Artist Unions or state budgets for art. A new and superior art world appeared overnight. The centers set up a collaborative network within each major city and across the network as a whole: providing grant money, facilities, know-how, publishing, research databases of local artists for foreign curators and also infrastructure to cultivate off-shooting branches, events, education programs, etc. In places like Chisinau, Moldova the SCCA is credited with introducing the very idea of contemporary art as they would come to know it. The change has often been referred to as a “necessary upgrade” by former SCCA Chisinau director Octavian Esanu, who goes on to say it was “something happening across the newly independent states like what the IMF was doing for these same economies.” The result was in fact radically transformative.