The schizophrenic image you see above is the current front page of the Drudge Report, the insanely popular conservative news aggregator. Why does Drudge think Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta practices occult magic? That requires a bit of explanation.
Podesta, in case you’re someone who doesn’t spend every waking moment on the internet or otherwise consuming campaign news, is the victim of a massive email attack, perpetrated by some possibly Russian anonymous actor, the contents of which have been published in periodic dumps by the increasingly unhinged government transparency advocates at Wikileaks. Overnight, someone discovered an email in the most recent dump, from Marina Abramovic, perhaps the most famous performance artist of all time, to Podesta’s brother Tony, a high-powered lobbyist and noted collector of contemporary art. The email, which Tony then forwarded to John, read:
I am so looking forward to the Spirit Cooking dinner at my place. Do you think you will be able to let me know if your brother is joining?
All my love,
“Spirit Cooking” is the title of a set of etchings that Abramovic produced in the mid-’90s, which included “recipes” with ingredients like “spit of the artist” and “a ruby that has been soaking for three days,” and instructions like “hold a python on your lap while sitting on a block of ice.” There is a YouTube video, also dating from the mid ’90s, that shows Abramovic making “Spirit Cooking” wall paintings, with text like “FRESH MORNING URINE – SPRINKLE OVER NIGHTMARE DREAMS.” That might spook you or make you uncomfortable, but hey, it’s art, and sometimes art is meant to make us uncomfortable.
Trump-supporting websites like InfoWars, Drudge, Danger and Play, and Conservative Outfitters all seized on the news, treating Abramovic not as the world-renowned artist she is, but some kind of backwoods occultist witch. Conservative Outfitters called the invitation the “most disturbing email leaked from Hillary Clinton’s inner circle.” Danger and Play and Infowars made the absurd insinuation that the message was somehow tied to child sex trafficking. Wikileaks did not help when it tweeted out the email, treating it as an actual scandalous piece of news.
Hopefully you don’t need it explained to you why this is all a ridiculous farce, but just in case, here goes. Again, Abramovic is an extremely famous artist. You may remember her from her celebrated 2010 performance The Artist Is Present at MoMA, or the celebrated HBO documentary of the same name that followed it. If high art isn’t your thing, perhaps you recall when Jay Z danced with her at his own Artist Is Present-style performance-slash-music-video for “Picasso Baby.” (Then again, if you’d rather forget that Magna Carta Holy Grail ever happened, we wouldn’t necessarily blame you.)
Who knows what the “Spirit Cooking dinner at my place” that Abramovic mentioned in her email actually was—maybe it was a performance based on the 1990s etchings, maybe it was just a fucking dinner party with friends, named in winking homage to the host’s art. Either way, it should be obvious why a high-rolling art buyer like Tony Podesta would be invited.
Not that it matters if he did, but we don’t even know whether John Podesta attended the thing—the email is an invitation, just like the dozens of neglected event invitations that are stuffed into your Facebook inbox right now. By the looks of the Wikileaks dump, Podesta didn’t even respond.