Art Held Hostage To Protect Julian Assange!

By Neenah Payne

Julian Assange is the Australian publisher of WikiLeaks living in London who is a whistleblower for many top stories including those leaked to him by Bradley/Chelsea Manning about the US murder of civilians in Iraq. The prosecution / persecution of Assange and other whistleblowers by the United States is a classic case of “Shoot the Messenger” rather than addressing and resolving the serious issues raised.

The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange points out that what happens to Assange can happen to any journalist who does his or her job. It is the JOB of journalists to research and report the truth. It is NOT their job to support government corruption, propaganda, abuses, deception, or disinformation.

Lawsuit Against CIA/Pompeo For Assange Surveillance!  reports that the CIA and Mike Pompeo are begin sued for the illegal actions they took against Assange. Pompeo even wanted to have Assange killed.

Court Date Set For Julian Assange’s Final Appeal To Avoid US Extradition explained:

Julian Assange will face two High Court judges over two days on Feb. 20-21, 2024 in London in what will likely be his last appeal against being extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act.

“It’s Disgusting What They’re Doing”: Tucker Carlson Describes Visit With Julian Assange reported on 12/23/23:

As Julian Assange approaches his “final” appeal against extradition to the United States, where he faces some 18 counts related to the release of vast troves of damning and embarrassing evidence against the US government, the 52-year-old WikiLeaks founder received a visit from Tucker Carlson to discuss his situation.

Carlson describes Assange as “one of the greatest journalists of our age,” who has “spent his adult life bringing previously concealed facts to the public about what our leaders are doing….What’s more, Carlson noted how a fabricated, media-amplified sexual assault charge in Sweden was used against Assange, who spent more than seven years in asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. And when he exposed the CIA’s spying apparatus, former CIA Director Mike Pompeo discussed kidnapping or assassinating him while not being charged with any crime in the US at the time.

Carlson pointed out that although Assange has committed no crimes, for over four years, he has been in a maximum-security prison used to jail murderers! Assange is waiting now for the decision about the appeal to extradite him to the US where he faces 175 years in prison. Julian Assange: The Trial of The Century shows the importance of this case for journalism and democracy. Calls Grow To Release Julian Assange explains that people around the world are calling for Assange’s release – including both sides of the aisle in the US Congress and the Prime Minister of Australia.

Dead Man’s Switch to Protect Assange

The New Yorker: The Artist Holding Valuable Art Hostage to Protect Julian Assange 2/9/24

Using a thirty-two-ton Swiss bank safe, Andrei Molodkin says he will destroy works by Picasso, Rembrandt, and Warhol if the WikiLeaks founder dies in prison.

By Nadia Beard

A portrait of Andrei Molodkin at his workshop in Maubourguet, France. Photograph by Markel Redondo / REA / Redux

I arrived in Cauterets, a small spa town in the Pyrenees, in southwest France, to meet the Russian artist Andrei Molodkin. A few years ago, Molodkin bought a large nineteenth-century sanatorium, a stately, symmetrical, magnolia-yellow building with tiled floors and a gabled roof with a wrought-iron frame…. Molodkin, who is fifty-seven, was wearing utilitarian black trousers, black work boots, and a black insulated jacket as he ushered me into the sanatorium’s spacious entrance hall. At one end of it was a freestanding, thirty-two-ton Swiss bank safe, about thirteen by nine feet, which Molodkin had imported from Amsterdam….

As Molodkin strained to open the heavy metal door of the safe, I counted five different locks. Inside were a handful of custom-built plywood crates, which will eventually hold a group of works donated by artists and collectors. There will be pieces by PicassoRembrandt, and Andy Warhol, as well as more contemporary works by artists such as Andres Serrano, Santiago Sierra, and Sarah Lucas, which Molodkin estimates at a collective value of around forty million dollars. “We have sixteen art works so far, but people keep offering to donate more,” he said…. In the middle of the crates was a small pneumatic pump connecting two white barrels, one containing acid powder and the other an accelerator that could cause a chemical reaction strong enough to turn the entire contents of the safe to debris within two hours.

The project is called “Dead Man’s Switch,” and the “dead man” in question is the Australian WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who is currently jailed on remand in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison….

A hacking charge against Assange was unsealed in April, 2019; one month later, the U.S. government added new charges, indicting him for violating the Espionage Act for his part in WikiLeaks’ disclosure of secret military and diplomatic documents. The indictment has raised concerns over its implications for First Amendment rights and journalists who report on national-security issues.

On February 20 and 21, 2024, Assange will face a court hearing on what may be his final bid to appeal the United States’ order to extradite him. On the day the hearing begins, two video cameras in Cauterets, one fitted in a corner of the safe and one outside it, will begin live streaming on YouTube. In the event that Assange should die in prison, a remote-control button will be activated to set off the chemical reaction, and the contents of the safe will disintegrate.

Only if Assange is released as a free man, Molodkin said, will the art be returned to its owners. Molodkin believes that Assange’s extradition to the United States and incarceration there would put his life “in great danger.” “Assange is a red line,” he said.

Molodkin met Stella Assange and members of WikiLeaks last March, in London, at an exhibition by a/political, an art organization. The organization was launched, in 2013, by the Kazakhstan-born entrepreneur and art collector Andrei Tretyakov (who helped Molodkin buy the sanatorium), and it supports the work of a number of artists who often engage with provocative political subjects. The members of WikiLeaks “are not involved,” Molodkin said.

“When you have political persecution, you attack a person’s political capital in order to make it easier to silence and imprison them,” Stella Assange told me, over the phone. She noted health and self-harm risks to her husband in prison, and cited a report that C.I.A. officials under Donald Trump requested “options” for killing Assange. (In 2021, an investigation by Yahoo News revealed that senior officials in the C.I.A and Trump’s Administration allegedly had discussions about how to assassinate Assange, following WikiLeaks’ publication, in 2017, of C.I.A hacking tools known as “Vault 7.”) “How do you regain political capital? You do it at every level of society. [Molodkin’s project] is like a protective step,” she observed. She said that her husband knows about and approves of “Dead Man’s Switch”—to the extent that it will draw attention to his plight. “It’s a kind of human shield, but in the form of art. An art shield.”….

Molodkin considers himself to be a free-speech absolutist. “I know from the Soviet Union that allowing people to control information will corrupt them,” he said. “There has to be absolute free information and speech at all times.”

Pierre Olivier Rollin, the director of the BPS22 museum, in Charleroi, Belgium, who curated a joint exhibition of Molodkin and Bulatov there, sees “Dead Man’s Switch” as an artist’s attempt to “associate” with the idea of Assange. “Destroying works of art might seem barbaric,” he told me. “But is it any more barbaric than what is happening to Assange? Does the most formidable of masterpieces justify sacrificing our freedom?”

It is rare that artists destroy their own work, rarer still that they destroy the work of others, and perhaps rarest of all that collectors, the guardians of art, offer up work for possible destruction. But some collectors who had donated works to “Dead Man’s Switch” told me they had their reasons. Tretyakov, of a/political, has donated a work by the Greek artist Jannis Kounellis. Culture has become “another part of entertainment,” Tretyakov said. “The last resort is how much people are willing to sacrifice for what they believe in. As collectors or cultural participants, it’s a question for us: What are we willing to do?”

Giampaolo Abbondio, an Italian fund manager and art collector who donated a work by Picasso to the project, at first refused Molodkin’s request. He changed his mind, he said, “because it’s less to do with Picasso than the idea.” While he hopes that the painting will be returned to him eventually, he thinks that the “only weak part” of the project is that if Assange dies, “we don’t have good news to counterbalance it. We have more bad news, which is the destruction of the art works.”

It’s hard to verify that the art works Molodkin says will be in the safe actually will be there, or that they will be destroyed if Assange dies. He told me that he plans to put one of his own pieces in the safe, and showed the magazine documents that attest to the authenticity of the art works he says are in “Dead Man’s Switch,” but, for the most part, he did not disclose their titles. This omission could make it harder for any artists’ estates to launch proceedings that might put a stop to the project. (Such estates can still track particular art works and check on collectors, he pointed out, but “that will take them a lot of time.”) In France, the droit moral gives artists the legal right to object to—and even to prevent—the destruction of their art works. When I asked Molodkin what he made of this law, he seemed surprised, saying he wasn’t aware that such a right existed. In any case, he insisted, legal processes “are not in my focus or interest. If you start worrying about that kind of thing, you’ll never make contemporary art.”

Not everyone is convinced of the project’s merits as a work of art. Pierre d’Alancaisez is a London-based curator and critic who sits on the advisory board of Freedom in the Arts, a campaign that highlights issues of artistic freedom and censorship in institutions. “Molodkin, as far as I’m aware, is not necessarily the most subtle of actors, and this seems to be completely in line with the kind of interest that he has as an artist,” he said. “As a stunt, [“Dead Man’s Switch”] sits a little bit on the level of the kind of work that someone like Ai Weiwei makes, which is essentially this kind of meta-commentary. . . . Whether that is an artistic act in itself, I think, is questionable.” He brought up earlier work by artists such as Michael Landy and Gustav Metzger “that had, at its aim, the destruction of art.” He sees Molodkin as a kind of “speculator,” trading on the “third-party value” of blue-chip art. “Maybe this is only a good work if it doesn’t achieve its campaign end,” d’Alancaisez told me.

In Cauterets, as he finished showing off the safe, Molodkin seemed excited by the prospect of the project’s launch. But it was less clear how the work’s tension might be sustained in the event that Assange is neither released from prison nor dies but stays incarcerated, alive, for many more years. In that event, “the art will stay in the safe,” he said. “We’ll add more art to it.” This sounded like an afterthought.

Molodkin said that he hired what he called “professional hostage negotiators” to help him write a letter to “the President” and the “Secretary of State,” informing them that Assange’s death in prison would precipitate the destruction of invaluable art works. “I do not want this and you possess the power to prevent it,” the letter reads. The U.S. State Department and the White House haven’t replied….

See The New Yorker for the rest of the article.

For More Information

Calls Grow To Release Julian Assange
New York Times Now Supports Julian Assange!
New Book Warns Julian Assange Is Being Tortured

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