Letter from the Editor: Fake

by Dagmara Genda // May 4, 2022

“The category of fake news raises new questions about what fiction is,” wrote Olga Tokarczuk in her 2018 Nobel Laureate lecture to explain what she saw as the gradual devaluation of literature in post-truth times. Fiction, worries Tokarczuk, is being reduced to deception, which “bodes the end of literature,” but does it also bode the end of art? Art is born of artifice and fantasy, though these categories have often been employed at the service of deeper, even transcendental, truths. Four years after Tokarczuk presented her lecture, and in the midst of a terrorist war and disinformation campaign propagated by Russia, it is not only fiction that has lost credibility but the idea of truth itself. Populist politicians spread lies openly, cynically, without fear of being exposed, because (almost) everyone knows their words to be false the moment they are uttered. This indicates a dramatic shift in our value system, which can also be reflected in the arts. How do artists operate in a world without anchor, where artifice and reality have seem to become one?

Some artists push this absurd state of affairs even further so as to create values beyond the binary of fake and authentic. This has consequences for how art is owned and disseminated. NFTs, for example, are a new means to sustain old convictions about property and authenticity; they allow normally fluid and shareable digital data to be made unique, to become monetized and to be owned. William Kherbek’s upcoming interview with artist, hacker and writer Rhea Myers offers an example of how one artist works against this trend of colonizing information into another form of property. Myers will talk about her cheeky “certificates of inauthenticity,” which are blockchain licenses intended to prove that any 3D print of her “Shareable Ready-Mades” are certified fakes.

Other artists, such as Andy Kassier and his eponymous alter ego, use parody as a way to reveal artifice, but also to question how we draw the line between the real and the fake. Since 2013 Kassier has worked as an “influencer” on Instagram, pushing his self-representation to a point of ironic absurdity. Now Kassier’s alter-ego presents a solo exhibition at Weserhalle titled ‘read that twice.’ Alice O’Brien will examine the shifting role of artifice in the (fake) artist’s foray into so-called real life.

At the other end of the spectrum is the thesis proposed in the group show ‘Mimicry-Empathy’ at the Friche la Belle de Mai in Marseille, to be reviewed by Lucia Longhi. Here the fake is pictured through the survival strategy of mimicry, a phenomenon found in certain animals who take on the colors and patterns of their surrounding environments. This form of fakery, suggests curator Susanne Bürner, can be understood as a form of empathy with the natural world. Could empathy be a positive way to stabilize a world that lacks a sense of truth?

In these and further upcoming articles, we will explore not only what the fake might mean for art, but hopefully also provide examples for how fakery can be productive. We will ask if the fake must always be understood as a shady counterfeit or dubious sham. Can it be appropriated as a means to engage with one another in a world without an accessible common truth?

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