Politician Jeremy Corbyn and Others Attended the Opening of a Radical Exhibition Supporting WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

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A new exhibition supporting the controversial news leaks and classified information-sharing website WikiLeaks has opened in London, featuring many of today’s most politically-minded artists. 

Organized by WikiLeaks with the London-based a/political foundation and the German Wau Holland Foundation, “States of Violence” explores the myriad ways artists and journalists have come to encounter repression in all its insipid forms, from police violence to state actors suppressing freedom of speech and access to information.

According to an a/political spokesperson, the exhibition is “an objection against government oppression.” While many of the works on display respond to physical violence exerted by different states, the exhibition emphasizes that there are also invisible methods of silencing opposition, and that these techniques pose the greatest threat to freedom of expression. 

The exhibition brings together a consortium of artists who have long explored political themes as the basis for art making, from Ai Weiwei to Dread Scott, Santiago Sierra, Forensic Architecture, and the late Vivienne Westwood.

On view through April 8, the show coincides with the fourth anniversary of the imprisonment of Wikileaks’s co-founder, Julian Assange, who is currently being held in Belmarsh prison in the U.K., awaiting extradition to the United States for computer intrusion charges stemming from the release of classified government documents he received from Chelsea Manning, a government whistleblower who worked within the U.S. military.

References to Assange and the organization he inspired can be found throughout the exhibition, such as a bookshelf featuring hard copies of classified government cables, which viewers are invited to peruse at their own risk—viewing the books will mean you could be prosecuted for the same crime Assange is facing extradition for.

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Installation view of the 66 books printed of Wikileaks’ Cablegate files from 2010-2011. Courtesy a/political.

The exhibition also saw some of Assange’s most prominent supporters from across the U.K. in attendance. 

What’s amazing about this exhibition here tonight are the works up for display,” Jeremy Corbyn, M.P. and former leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party told Artnet News at the exhibition’s preview on March 23.

Motioning to the long line of carefully assembled bound books, 66 in total, but representing only 6.2 percent of the material from Cablegate, one of Wikileaks’ largest leaks from 2010-11, Corbyn said it was the duty of art and artists to speak truth to power. 

When asked about the relationship between whistleblowing, democracy and art, Corbyn said artists and poets are able to tell truth in their own ways. “A poet can often tell greater truths without having to delve into that, because they’re telling the holistic story,” he said. “That’s why art is likewise so important and inspirational to people, especially when you think of the great causes of peace of the 19th and and early 20th centuries, it was artists who often inspired people to carry through in difficult times,” Corbyn noted.

Mentioning specifically his fondness for Picasso’s Guernica (1937), which depicts the Basque city after it was bombed during the country’s civil war, Corbyn situated the exhibition within a wider battle for truth and representation in the 21st century. Comparing Assange to Picasso, he asked “What’s different about Julian Assange? He has revealed on a mega-scale the totality of attacks on freedom of speech and democracy.”

The exhibition’s opening was also attended by Joseph Farrell, a journalist and WikiLeaks ambassador, as well as Chloe Schlosberg, director of Wau Holland Foundation, the German non-profit association whose stated mission is support the types of activities Wikileaks remains involved with.

“We’re here tonight to elevate Julian’s plight, and the plight of the assault on journalism in new and innovative ways,” Scholsberg said. 

On April 8, organizers are also planning a concert in Hackney featuring Bugzy Malone, Lowkey, Eva Lazarus, D Double E and My Nu Leng, an event they hope will inspire the youth to take up the cause of freedom of speech and information. 

“We hope that this will increase awareness in younger people. It’s about shifting the conversation using art and music,” Scholsberg said, adding: “it’s about how we keep Julian’s name in the conversation.”

Andrei Molodkin, “Royal Blood” (2023), courtesy a/political

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Andrei Molodkin, “Royal Blood” (2023). Courtesy a/political.

Study of perspective Ai Weiwei

Installation view of Ai Weiwei / Pak. Courtesy a/political.

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Installation view of the 66 books printed of Wikileaks’ Cablegate files from 2010-2011. Courtesy a/political.

Santiago Sierra a/poltiical

Installation view with Santiago Seirra. Courtesy a/political.

 

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