A Microstory of Curating

Page 1



A Microstory of Curating Edited by Lee Joss 3

This publication forms part of the exhibition MICROSTORIA at Talbot Rice Gallery Curated by MA Contemporary Art Theory and MA Visual Culture students at Edinburgh College of Art This paperback edition published in 2011 First published in Great Britain by -[Relay]- at Edinburgh College of Art 74 Lauriston Place Edinburgh EH3 9DF http://relay.eca.ac.uk Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2011 A catalogue record for this book is available from Edinburgh College of Art Library, British Library and National Library of Scotland ISBN 978-1-904443-48-3 Book Design by Emma Balkind Book Concept by Helena Barrett & Emma Balkind Printed in Great Britain using print on demand


With thanks to

Momus, Tony Clifton, Rrose SĂŠlavy, Claire Vulnerability, Lord Choc Ice, Apollo C. Vermouth, SAMO, A.Vermin, Regina Phalange, Lee Joss, Ziggy Stardust, Nat Tate, Mr Solo



Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor 9 Lee Joss

Tate That! 11 - 14 Lee Joss meets Gertrude Lerristein

Tate Turbine Hall Asteroid Installation Project (THAIP)

16 - 17

In Search of the Superstar Curator

19 - 22

The HUO Drawings

24 - 26

Encyclopedia of Superfictions

30 - 35

Kate Grenyer

Donna Holford-Lovell & Olav Henriksen Charles Gute Peter Hill

Half-truths: On Commissioning Rod Dickinson’s Air Loom 37 - 39 Andrew Patrizio

The Missionary: On ‘Secular Surface’

40 - 43

The Art of Deception

45 - 47

Kristoffer Svenberg Nicholas Oddy

The Disappointed Fake 49 - 51 John Beagles

I am Spartacus: Lee Joss at the end of the art world The Estate of Alex Bloom

52 - 57

Afterword 59 Helena Barrett

Work of Meta-Art in the Age of Generative Reproduction Market-O-Matic




Letter from the Editor The idea to put my thoughts to paper in such a publication came to me, as these things always do, during a dinner party with old friends and colleagues. I was seated at the most glorious banqueting table in what I call “Scotland’s best art gallery” but which others refer to as the unique if not slightly eccentric home of my dear chum Nicholas Oddy. We go way back a few more years than either of us would care to remember. We attended, or should I say endured, seven painful years at an infamous, all be it one I shall not name, public grammar school, also seen by many as a popular “prison camp” for the offspring of Edinburgh’s middle class. Oddy and I have always shared a mischievous and rebellious streak, which led us to produce a satire on the school newspaper known as The Newsheet. Oddy churned out our more appropriately titled The News*** by the dozen as I slipped our ‘special additions’ into the pile of newspapers distributed proudly by the professor each Tuesday morning. The guest I had brought that night to feast with us old cronies was Cheryl Bernstein, a marvelous art critic who has achieved renowned success amongst the art journal circuit. The three of us share a common interest in the “Fake” and as the discussion heated up to rather a lively debate. I remember Cheryl reaching for her mobile to call her estranged cousin Umberto Eco, to settle a spat over something as ridiculous as the name of the fortress in which Superman keeps his robots that are “completely faithful copies of himself.” (It is the Fortress of Solitude in case you were wondering.) When the girls from the Masters of Contemporary Art/Visual Culture from Edinburgh College of Art approached me to take charge of their publication accompanying their exhibition Microstoria at Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh I could hardly refuse. And when I learnt that they had taken great inspiration from Momus’ ‘Book of Scotlands,’ employing his tagline “Every Lie Creates a Parallel World, the World in which it is True,” all doubts evaporated. It was one of those magical coincidences as Momus (Nick Currie) is also a fellow old boy from our school days and I have always followed his career ever since. The themes

that Microstoria is investigating run parallel with the discussions had at the infamous Dinner Party and I decided the project was absolutely perfect for my intentions. I have always had a stash of curators and writers stored within my internal hard drive to which I downloaded for this purpose. For example, my dearest friend Gertrude Lerristein, whose timely appointment at the Tate could not have been more fantastic, was immediately BBM-ed. Gertrude, Cheryl and I were an inseparable threesome at The Institute for the Academy of Fine Arts and Curation where we studied for two fabulous years for our MFA in Curating Contemporary Culture (CCC). I had to lay down one condition with the girls; I would edit this book as just me, Lee Joss, and not as a curator. I abhor the word for a start - just like my associate John Beagles - we both prefer to refer to ourselves at “cultural managers.” Not only this, but I have always felt like a fraud in the world of the uber-curator that dominates contemporary art circles today. I remember discussing the work of Kristoffer Svenberg, a Swedish artist showing in the Microstoria show. He assured me that his tutor Maria Lind had told him to look at the work quite differently to what I was recommending. As Maria Lind is a high-ranking member of the superstar curator club, I quickly followed my comment up with a, “But who am I to question the great Maria Lind?” Donna Holford Lovell and Olav Henriksen have been great friends to me and assure me that I am not the fake I believe I am. Donna, a wannabe superstar curator herself, is always on hand with advice, “Look to Hans” she always says. Ask yourself “What would Hans do? My long-running inferiority complex has led me to believe that it is time to tell you a (micro)story; a story that is told through a lie, and one that may help us find “the world in which it is true”!



Image: Hanna Terese Nilsson

Tate Th at ! Lee Joss meets Gertrude Lerristein, Head of Exhibitions and Displays at London’s Tate Modern


I’m slightly nervous. From within the glass and chromed lobby of the Tate Modern’s vista-ed lobby, comes an elegant, if slightly harassed looking blonde. Heels clack on marble. Ignoring the panoramic Thames-side views, she informs me in a hushed, rather awed tone, that the Tate’s most recent acquisition, curator Gertrude Lerristein, is still on a conference call. With Sir Nick, nonetheless. A good twenty minutes go by. Idly, I pick up the various catalogues placed neatly on the glass table in front of me. They chart Lerristein’s meteoric rise through the ranks of superstar curatorship, from unknown Columbia art history graduate to this high profile office at the epicenter of London’s contemporary art scene. The only daughter of two Columbian professors, Gertrude’s childhood, firmly situated in the left wing, Jewish intellectual community of the family’s home on the Lower East Side, was perhaps partly responsible for her relentless dedication to academia. I’ve already ogled Lerristein’s impressive C.V. Both her collaborative and solo-curated exhibitions are clear evidence of the new, diasporic contemporary art circuit. With the Whitney Biennial, the São Paulo and Venice Biennials, as well as Documenta XII under her belt, one wonders whether her new position as the Tate’s Head of Exhibitions and Displays might seem a little provincial. I’m here to discuss Lerristein’s remarkable achievements, her upcoming book ‘Curate: Theory and Exhibition Practice’ and her current curatorial vision for the Tate’s expansive collection. Eventually summoned, I meet Lerristein in her office; a marked improvement from the sterile antechamber. I stifle a smile as I enter; it’s just as I imagined a curator’s bolthole would be. An old desk and wobbly wooden chairs, stacks of books, trinkets and artefacts adorn the shelves or poke out from under piles ... I’m sure there is method to this madness but I bet it’s not a place the cleaners enjoy visiting. The only touch of modernity I can discernibly see is the slick Apple desktop and a cluster of Blackberrys, all of which are winking with noticeable urgency. A glamorous photo of a couture-clad Lerristein, sandwiched between Julia Peyton Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine Summer party, acts as a gentle reminder of her membership to the art world’s elite cognoscenti. Regularly a feature at high-profile dinner tables, Lerristein’s easy charm and razor combination of wit and intelligence has won her many fans. Today though, the glamour associated with such success seems distinctly tarnished. From the chaos of her office, Lerristein is polite enough to immediately shoot me a weary smile, and in spite of her jetlag - having flown in from The Biennale of Sydney the previous afternoon - she is keen to discuss her new appointment in some depth. 12

How does it feel to be ‘head’ curator? Do you feel this is a marked promotion from your previous museum experience, such as that in the Whitney with Francesco Bonami? You seem to be running a very solo show here.

To be honest, although I was never the chief, lets say, wherever I’ve worked, I’ve always wanted to have refusal and limits. With the case of Francesco, the combination of our combined vision worked so well that we actually co-curated the Biennial. I mean, it was a process of working together—not one where there was a head or a tail curator. Here, I feel like there is a solid team of us working in different fields. For example, Catherine Wood has recently been appointed the curator of our Theatre and Performance department. It’s very exciting to be able to be involved and stick a creative oar into every aspect of the museum.

How do you respond to negative criticism, such as that experienced by your fellow Tate curator Nicolas Bourriaud over the show ‘Altermodern’?

It’s a very difficult thing to come to terms with. Clearly you can’t please everyone, and after all, curating remains a very personal thing, although we try to make it accessible to audiences. I can’t really remove myself from my ‘curatorial style’ as it were; and when people disagree with the way I’ve interpreted work, there is a degree of self-doubt that can unfortunately creep in. I think people have to understand that being a curator does not mean that you are infallible, or an autocrat of taste. However, it’s counterproductive to dwell on reviews. With the bad ones, you start to get a depressing attitude toward your work. With the good ones, your head becomes big and you start to think you’re really cool.

How would you, broadly, define your role as curator?

From the beginning of my career, my initial goal as a curator was to act as an advocate for the types of art largely absent from the mainstream. I made this pursuit a singular intellectual commitment, which was to open up, as much as I could, a new space of discursive address for transnational artists. But a curator can’t simply be the advocate of one type of art without a sustainable intellectual and cultural argument. In valuing the ideas and narratives that certain types of art expose, one must, by necessity, be a credible thinker of all the complex formal, conceptual manifestations of that art. A curator lays down these ideas for exhibitions, (hopefully convincingly) and with a degree of clarity, makes sure that the lay public can make sense of the important things art says about itself. A curator, more than being an organizer of exhibitions, at least for me, is someone who puts forth a thesis or a proposal. If they are progressive academics or scholars, (which so many of my friends and colleagues are) the discourse of the catalogue essay is used to examine the role of that art within broader art historical consideration. You see, I think of the curator as a catalyst, generator and motivator – a sparring partner, accompanying the artist while they build a show, and a bridge builder, creating a bridge to the public. It is also important to understand that, as a curator, the job, if it has a description, is multifaceted and extremely complex. No two scenarios are the same. And we have to find the balance between what is strictly academic, and what is accessible for the many. For example, Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva proved that essay shows can be successful, but they have to be brilliant, otherwise they are in danger of using art to illustrate a text. You have to avoid a pre-written scenario. Great group shows are journeys that get written along the way; you don’t know the end point.

Can you offer us any insights into your curatorial method and style?

My projects are kind of a flanerie. Out of this flanerie, things very often - also by chance develop. It’s not a masterplan. I like to work as closely as possible with artists shown in our 13

collections. In terms of their exhibitions, these things, these projects just happen. Little by little, whenever the artists email a formula, I put it on the wall of my office. At the beginning, when I started to work here, my office was empty, there were just three formulas on the wall, and then, the office became more and more full with these formulas, which had been faxed or emailed. After about a month, the whole office was full with these formulas and ideas. So I guess I work quite visually.

Working within the Tate family so to speak, comes with a lot of responsibility and almost ‘curatorial baggage.’ Are there any problems, such as the lack of works by women and ethnic minorities, which you personally want to address?

As a curator, one of my primary concerns for the museum and its reputation is the safe-keeping, constant research and reinterpretation of the art in our collections. One forgets, you see, that only a small proportion of our works are actually on display in the space itself, so as a custodian of their archives, it is important for me to connect with the Tate’s long and successful history of acquisition. Personally, I feel like the museum has, in the last few decades, really come into its own in regards to promoting artists of different backgrounds. One of the biggest problems with the way art institutions and the art world in general have dealt with AfricanAmerican or Latin American art is this rotation of interest followed by neglect. That kind of spiking cycle is unbelievably difficult for artists trying to sustain their momentum and their confidence. We all know artists who have had ups and downs, but the kinds of extremes I’m talking about are a function of politics and social indifference, not aesthetics or fashion in the ordinary sense. In response to the issue of female artists, the success of the current Susan Hiller retrospective, and that of the recent Louise Bourgeois and Frida Kahlo exhibitions, has I think, addressed the complaint that female artists are not adequately represented in the Tate’s agenda. But there is always going to be dissent. As one person, I cannot cover all the bases, nor am I presumptuous enough to think that I could.

Can you tell us about your new book Curate: Theory and Exhibition Practice?

It’s kind of been a pet project of mine since my time at the Whitney. I was at one of those art dinners in Basel, talking to Hans (Ulrich Obrist) about something or rather, and he said ‘You know what Gertrude? I think you should really publish your ideas in some form.’ Obviously Hans is a big influence on me, and everyone from students to established curators has become familiar with his “Brief History of Curating”. My book is very different from Hans’ interviews though, and at the risk of sounding egotistical, it acts as a kind of retrospective snakes and ladders game of my time working in the creative industries.

Lastly, any advice to the next generation of curators?

I think my advice would be this; it is to look and look and look, and then to look again, because nothing replaces looking... I am not being in Duchamp’s words ‘only retinal’, I don’t mean that. I mean to be with art – I always thought that was a wonderful phrase of Gilbert & George; ‘to be with art is all we ask’.

The author would like to extend a vote of thanks to the following people: Hans Ulrich Obrist, Julia Peyton-Jones, Iwona Blazwick, Francesco Bonami, Okwui Enwezor, Nicolas Bourriaud, Catherine David and Anne D’Harnoncourt. 14


Tate Turbine Hall Asteroid Installation Project (THAIP)


Since its inception, the Unilever Series in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall has produced some of the most memorable and iconic pieces of contemporary art from the first years of the 21st Century. These works, though fleeting in their time span, have left a legacy that is unsurpassed in scope and ambition through the history of installation practice, proving that large public works do not have to be permanent monuments for the effect to be monumental. The proposed project is intended to continue the legacy, established in the first ten years of the Unilever Series, creating a work with a wider scope and ambition than ever before.

Collaborative Research

In order for the project to be successful a prolonged period of research will be necessary. This proposed collaborative research project will enable the artist to isolate, identify and record a selection of potential asteroids, meteoroids or bolides that would be useable in the Turbine Hall Asteroid Installation Project(THAIP). Because the identification of individual asteroids and the recording of their orbital paths within the Solar System is a relatively new science, the project will stretch not just the boundaries of installation practice but will also develop new areas of scientific research through a pioneering piece of art/ science collaboration. The artist proposes to work closely with researchers from the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) and Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search (LONEOS) teams whose combined efforts will help identify the potential asteroids to be used for THAIP.

Image Gathering

In order to identify a single suitable meteoroid to be appropriated by THAIP, a period of image capture and recording will be necessary. The project recognises that there is a significant lack of suitably detailed imagery of meteoroids and Near-Earth Asteroids preventing an informed selection process. Small asteroids, or meteoroids, are too tiny to be photographed by ground based telescopes or even the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Various space probes have photographed some of the larger asteroids and NEAR Shoemaker, a probe specifically designed to photograph the Eros asteroid in detail, was launched in 1996. However, a much larger quantity of data will be necessary for THAIP to achieve its precise aesthetic aims; consequently further space probes will need to be launched. The artist will collaborate with research scientists at NASA and CNSA to launch these THAIP probes and gather the image data required to identify the precise meteoroid to be used for this project.

Realising the Project

Once the correct meteoroid is chosen (to be renamed THAIP-1 by the project team) the artist will continue to work with NASA and CNSA scientists to develop procedures to alter the course trajectory of THAIP-1 in order for it to meet precisely with the Tate Turbine Hall (known henceforward as THAIP-2). The calculation and control of the precise trajectories and orbital paths of THAIP-1 and THAIP-2 will involve precise calculations and cutting edge scientific research in order for the correct outcome to be achieved. As with all experimental projects there is a possibility of failure; but through failure and unexpected results new experiences may be generated.

Final Installation - see fig. 1

The final installation will be temporary - lasting approximately 0.00001 seconds before impact. However, the legacy of this project will be far reaching and is likely to provide one of the most talked about and anticipated works created for the Unilever Series so far. 16

fig. 1 17


Original Photo: Donna Holford-Lovell Drawn by: Daniel Taylor 19


In search of the Superstar Curator WORLDWIDE APPRENTICES are required to document, observe, capture the ‘superstar curators’ in action. Professionally – their notions, expressions, commitment, discussions, writings, peers, colleagues, images…. Catch them in the street, restaurant, gallery, pub, shopping mall…. What are they reading, wearing, doing, considering…. ? Documentation can be text, image, audio, video, footprints, beer mats, napkins, emails, autographs, newspaper clippings. The correlated data will be fed back to Olav Henriksen, who from which will extract the formula of the ‘superstar curator’. From his initial findings an online magazine will be published which will include a mix of celebrity (curator) news, gossip and fashion, listings and a major celebrity (curator) interview. Henriksen’s extrapolations will create a virtual manifestation of the ‘superstar curator’ along with a text based transferable model. It is envisaged that the ‘virtual superstar curator’ will become available to hire, creating the future project Curator on Loan scheme, 2011. * This is a volunteer position; all participants will be given formal recognition and included in any publications.

Please email olav@gmx.co.uk if you would like to join the project. 20

In search of the Superstar Curator

Image: Donna Holford-Lovell

The Norwegian writer, curator and open cultural diffusionist Olav Henriksen is well known for his international exhibitions exploring the notions of open cultural diffusion. After studying anthropology and political systems programming, he worked as a political analyst for some time. Some of his professional endeavors caused him to question his world, at which point he turned to contemporary art for answers. He has since gained wide acclaim for his extraordinary exhibitions, which often take place in spaces not previously used as exhibition venues, and theorise on open cultural diffusion, the open spread of cultural material and the deliberate placing of historical markers. Olav was the curator-in-residence at Laboral Centre of Arts and Creative Industries, Gijon, in Spain, and Conference editor and moderator of the Ars Electronica. 21

His second Ph.D. completed in Helsinki explored “open cultural diffusion”, often described as his unsystematic thoughts on Alfred L. Kroeber’s concept of Stimulus Diffusion and Eric S. Raymond’s seminal text on open source; The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Olav describes open cultural diffusion as the open spread of cultural material. Encouraging increased levels of material spreading and bringing it to a historical level, its main dissemination is by means of the Internet in order to leave a traceable historical line. The American Anthropologist, Alfred L. Kroeber in 1940, first conceptualized this notion; Olav parallels this with the notion of The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The cathedral being one and the bazaar being the masses. I find myself as a newly-formed artistic writer/curator interested in the fairly virginal (uncorrupted) concept of the ‘superstar curator’ and would very much like to be one. In this search to find, or in my endeavour to become one, I am investigating what it means to be a curator and the increasing notion of curating as art practice. I keep a list of curators who I have been led to believe to be of ‘superstar’ calibre, most of which play the international circuit, making them c-o-n-s-i-d-e-r-a-b-l-y more ‘windswept and interesting’. Under the guise of a CURATORIAL APPRENTICE guided by the nearly ‘superstar’ Norwegian writer & curator Olav Henriksen, I will attempt to create (or manufacture) the perfect curator. From which I will develop a model that can be followed by future aspiring wannabes.

Donna Holford-Lovell & Olav Henriksen* *Olav Henriksen is my ‘superstar curatorial ego’ through which I channel my curatorial desires. I enjoy playing between artist, writer and curator in order to examine what it means to be a curator. My practice jumps from audio, design and fine art but I always stand in a very conventional place. This proposal is an attempt to place myself in a very unconventional place, in order to re-examine the curator as art practitioner. 22



The HUO Drawings Charles Gute

In tandem with my studio practice as a visual artist, for some years now I’ve maintained a day job as a freelance editor for a variety of art publications, from magazines to exhibition catalogues. It’s a good gig: it pays the rent, the hours are flexible, it keeps me in touch with what’s going on in the art world and, as an artist who works with text as their primary material, it’s a natural fit that informs my practice in unexpected ways. In the spring of 2003, I was hired to proofread Hans Ulrich Obrist’s mammoth work Interviews: Volume I. It was a privilege to work on this material, to actually be paid to read this huge collection of conversations with some of the most creative minds of our time—dialogues that, it must be said, are made all the more compelling by Obrist’s notoriously encyclopedic intellect. It was also a fairly stressful assignment. Besides the daunting scope of the task (over 1,000 pages) and the urgent deadline (the finished book was to be launched at the Venice Biennale, at the time only weeks away), I also had an acute awareness of the author’s stature in the art world. It was kind of like being a struggling actor hired to babysit Michael Ovitz’s children. To put it bluntly, it was not an assignment I would want to fuck up. As if to up the ante, there was something about Obrist’s name that I had previously noticed as an editor and proofreader: it tends to get misspelled a lot. Long before the Interviews assignment, I’d mentioned this phenomenon to fellow editors, among whom it became something of a running joke. I’m not sure why this is—why Obrist’s name is so exceptionally vulnerable to typographic inconsistency. In part, it must simply be due to its ubiquitousness in art publications. Also, whereas any minimally conscientious writer or editor will always look up the spelling of, say, Rirkrit Tiravanija’s name just to play it safe, Obrist’s less exotic handle perhaps doesn’t generate the same red flag. Hans-Ullrich Obrist… “That looks right, doesn’t it?” Whatever the reason, I can tell you that if I had a quarter for every time I’ve corrected the spelling of Obrist’s name in print, I’d have enough money to buy several red markers. At one time I’d even considered keeping a tally of Obrist misspellings. So, faced with proofreading 1,000 pages of Obrist-centric content, it seemed to me a good idea if I could, at the very least, manage to make sure the author’s name was spelled properly throughout the manuscript. And this time, I actually did begin to keep a list in my sketchbook, not just of the total number of Obrist misspellings but also keeping track of the manner in which his name had been misspelled. As this list grew, I noticed that my renderings of the misspelled name were becoming more and more baroque: letters became objectified, drawn in 3-D perspective with shadow-casting potential. Here the O in Obrist became a puffy donut; there the H a sort of architectural edifice… I was reminded of the sort of devotional ballpoint drawings kids make on notebook covers while not paying attention in class. In other words, “Hans Ulrich Obrist” as Metallica logo. I also noticed that the act of making these increasingly elaborate calligraphic doodles— effectively the act of drawing, something I do infrequently in my more-or-less conceptual practice—functioned as an antidote to the long, nerve-racking hours I was putting in as a proofreader. It entailed a different kind of concentration—one invested in hand-eye coordination rather than the ceaseless scanning of pages for misplaced commas and misspelled words. 25

It was relaxing—a way to reboot my brain. At some point, I decided to make up new ways in which Obrist’s name could be misspelled. That was the genesis of the drawing series. The first time I exhibited the drawings was at an art fair in New York. Hanging out at the booth for a couple of hours, I was slightly taken aback by how they were received. Some people seemed to think the drawings were at Obrist’s expense, though even within that reaction, sympathies were polarized. A few viewers apparently thought they were a hilarious skewering of a big ego in need of deflation, while others seemed slightly offended by what they perceived as a cheap shot at my betters. One indignant person actually told me, in a manner clearly intended to convey menace, that she was a “personal friend” of Obrist, the subtext being that she would tell him about the drawings and that I should be very worried, as if I had foolishly insulted a mob boss. In fact, my intention had not been satirical, though I suppose these reactions do implicate the work in highlighting the ever-widening gulf between lowly cultural worker—i.e., artist, editor—and impossibly distant art star. Not to mention the somewhat unprecedented development that a curator has now assumed the role of the latter. But what most interested me about the drawings was the way in which my art practice and my day job—two text-based, art-related activities that I nonetheless kept separate—had overlapped, and that ironically, this confluence had lead me back to drawing, a traditional medium I hadn’t explored in years. For me that was the real content; Hans Ulrich Obrist was merely the subject matter. I’ve never met Obrist. The closest I’ve come is cc’ing him an e-mail while working on a book. One time, at a launch party for a new monograph on a famous artist—a book I’d worked on— the artist spotted Obrist across the room and offered to introduce me. I nervously declined. The truth is, I don’t have a life-size cardboard cutout of Obrist in my home and, to date, I haven’t entertained any Rupert Pupkin-style schemes to kidnap him in order to be included in the next big show he curates. This article originally appeared in Art Lies, Issue 52 (Fall 2006). Images courtesy of the artist.



The Old Masters: Ettore Sottsass Dorothy Parker Marilyn Monroe William Gibson Lil' Kim Soulja Boy Buffy Summers Andy Kaufman Ten cups, each in an edition of one. Materials: Porcelain. Circle Workshop - CW001 http://www.circle-workshop.com 28



Peter Hill’s

E ncyclopaedia of Superfictions

A selection of “Superfictions” are described below. See http://www.superfictions.com for complete Encyclopaedia, artist interviews, and exegesis of Peter Hill’s studio-based PhD. Ai Weiwei Francis Alÿs The After Sex Cigarette The Art Fair Murders An on-going “Superfiction” of Peter Hill’s which is part installation, part novel, and part web-site. Its structure revolves around Twelve Chapters, Twelve Months, Twelve Murders, and Twelve Cities. Banalists Blair Witch Project A.A. Bronson Cameron Oil Fictitious oil company created by Peter Hill. Supposedly Alice and Abner “Bucky” Cameron made their billions from the Cameron oil fields in Alaska. They bankrolled New York’s Museum of Contemporary Ideas on Park Avenue and are loosely modelled on the Paul Gettys and Armand Hammers of this world. Janet Cardiff Gary Carsley Gary Carsley’s work creates a “Superfiction” from a range of cultural and technical tropes including post-colonial history, industrial production methods, and the idea of the Daguerreotype. In 2009 Peter Hill asked him about his recent project for the Singapore Biennale and his subversion of IKEA flatpacks into works of art. “I had been looking for a way to critically re-engage with the conceptually playful positions of the early 1960’s. It was a radical moment, full of radicalizing potential and IKEA’s flat pack is similarly idealistic, particularly in the way in which it co-opts the spectator in a form of expanded, collaborative authorship similar to the way FLUXUS artists like Yoko Ono were then doing.” DAMP Writing about DAMP in Photofile 59, in a section called ‘Encyclopaedia of Photofictions’, Peter Hill described some of their projects up to 2000. “DAMP: A collaborative art group based in Melbourne. They have been working together since 1995. They meet once a week in twelve week blocks, usually in the TCB studios in Port Phillip Arcade. Peter Timms gave a good introduction to their work in The Age, Wednesday 18 August, 1999, when he wrote: “Apparently things got a bit out of hand at 200 Gertrude Street a week or so back. During an exhibition opening, when the gallery was packed with people, a young couple started arguing. It was unpleasant, but at first didn’t cause too much disruption, apart from the odd disapproving look. Then the dispute got louder and more insistent and one or two others became involved. A young man had a glass of wine thrown in his face, then the shoving started. Glasses and 31

bottles were knocked over and smashed, and a girl was pushed through the wall. The installation work in the front gallery, by a group of artists calling themselves DAMP, was almost completely wrecked. Only gradually did people start to realise that DAMP’s installation was not being destroyed but created.” Jacqueline Drinkall Ian Hamilton Finlay Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera Rodney Glick An Australian artist based in Perth, Glick has created many “Superfictions”, notably ‘The Glick International Collection’ and the work of the philosopher Klaus. Klaus had a ten-step program for reaching enlightenment and every year Klaus would announce the next step. Eventually he was due to disclose the tenth step at the United Nations in New York, but failed to appear at the appointed hour. Several weeks later he was found by a gardener wandering in a garden in Bethlehem and revealed the tenth step to him which was “Start again”. Richard Grayson Artist, curator, writer, and director of the 2002 Biennale of Sydney (The World May Be) Fantastic. Many of the artists included in this event created work that could be described as “Superfictions”. In the introduction he writes: “The traffic between ‘the real’ and the ‘not real’ is of course osmotic. Sir John Manderville published Manderville’s Travels at the end of the fourteenth century. To us, it is a work of fiction and fable, with its reports of one-eyed people in the Andaman Islands and dog-headed people in the Nicobar Islands – Manderville also locates paradise, but rather charmingly says he cannot say any more about it as he has not yet been there. Certainly by the sixteenth century ‘to Manderville’ had become a colloquialism for lying and exaggerating. However, Colombus planned his 1492 expedition after reading the book, Raleigh pronounced every word true, and Frobisher was reading it as he trailblazed the northwest passage. So the ‘false’ maps gradually segue into the maps we now accept, but these too are open to constant revision.” Guildford Pub Bombings Iris Häussler Peter Hill Pierre Huyghe Res Ingold Ingold Airlines is the fictional creation of Res Ingold. Ingold logos appeared on executive jets flying in to Documenta 1X in Kassel. Through fiction he predated (in 1989) many innovations in 21st century intercontinental flight such as the use of gymnasiums on long-haul flights. Institute of Militronics and Advanced Time Interventionality Lee Joss The Leeds Thirteen The Leeds 13 first gained notoriety when they leaked to the British tabloid newspapers that they were using university money to go on holiday to Spain. In fact, the 13 art students from Leeds University stayed in hiding for a week, spent none of the money and fabricated holiday photos on a nearby beach in Scarborough.The Leeds 13 presented their final degree show, made up entirely of work by other artists, ranging from Rodin and Damien Hirst to Marcel Duchamp. The Leeds 13 artists followed the suit of others by creating a “Superfiction” that played with the media and with the viewer’s ability to correctly read visual material. It went beyond the notion of a “hoax”. Instead it illuminated, to paraphrase Picasso, how “art is a lie that can reveal the truth”. Made in Palestine Made in Israel A fictitous team of artists created by Peter Hill as part of his on-going “Superfiction”, The Art Fair Murders. One artist is Israeli, the other Palestinian though neither ever reveals their true name. For over thirty years they have been photographing artists and curators around the world at events such as the Venice Biennale, Documenta, the Munster Sculpture Project, and the Sydney Biennale. Double portraits are then produced under the name “Art World Fan Club” with one portrait designated “Made in Palestine” and the other “Made in Israel”. Peter Hill originally decided which artist would represent “Palestine” or “Israel” by the throw of a dice (see The Dice Man) – but now he invites the real artist to throw the dice. These works can appear in various scales from postcards to billboards. 32

Erin Malley Aleksandra Mir Moss The Edinburgh-based art collective MOSS makes “Superfictions” which deal with the process of production through a fictional infrastructure that forms the Managerial Organisation for Sustainable Strategy (MOSS). The hyper-centre for MOSS operates around an architectural site that regenerates ideas and production through ongoing feedback loops that seep through the vortex of continual time and space. The circulating structure of the MOSS centre provides the eight interconnected departments with an eternally generating mechanism. The initiating department, The Centre for Centres of Excellence categorically characterises excellence by its production. Overseen by the ‘Chair of Excellence’ excellence is intellectually maintained through an expert level of enhanced synergy. Upon which the Committee for Benchmarked Uniformity employs a surplus of ‘Benchmarkers’ to implement high degrees of conformed uniformity throughout the meta-system. The third department of Quality, Content, Solutions is run by the ‘Simply Manager’ to manage the quality, content and solutions of the regenerative product. The material is then passed onto the Department of Neology where the ‘Semantic Genetist’ digitally decodes the post-modern zeitgeist to produce an analogical formula that can be monopolised through language. The Society for the Preservation of Promotional Packaging operates to promote, facilitate and protect the developing product. The Packaging Optimisation Officer is responsible for ensuring MOSS achieves a return on its marketing investment. This fifth department of MOSS is proud of its contribution to the organisation’s overall efficiency drive with initiatives such as the suggestion to change the angle of the product by one degree. Preventative methods of deconstruction are subsequently tested by the Sweeping Department, whose ‘Director of Perpetual Motion’ is the quickest mover in the business. As the DPM extends the vacuum to the Sweeping Analysis Unit the appropriately named Curator of Advocation employs an advocated team of perpetuating flux analysers. Before returning to the Centre for Centres of Excellence to work through the cycle again the product permeates the Department of Failure Assurance. The Indentured Internal Director of Internal Affairs leads the final department and his vital role it is to delegate his entity of affairs to the honorary interns. The Honorary Internship program ensures that achieving failure is of the upmost importance and spirals this conquested completion through the MOSS machine once again. The governing forces of MOSS are led by Emma Balkind, Helena Barrett, Stuart Fallon, Kate Grenyer, Peter Hill, Yen-Yi Lee, Neil Mulholland, and Martine Foltier Pugh. Phantom Limbs see Alexa Wright PigVision Eve Anne O’Reagon Creator of the Babyface Cosmetics Superfiction. The artist uses graphic design and elements of advertising in her gallery-based work. Orlan Ossian is the narrator, and the supposed author, of a cycle of poems which the Scottish poet James Macpherson claimed to have translated from ancient sources in the Scots Gaelic. The furor over the authenticity of the poems continued into the 20th century and as such here are parallels with the Australian Ern Malley. Ossian was supposedly the son of Fionn mac Cumhaill, a character from Irish mythology. Karl Popper Karl Popper’s teachings on “sophisticated methodological falsificationism” relate to “Superfictions” in terms of how we approach different visual truths. We can sight any number of white swans, he tells us, but we will never be able to say “all swans are white”. Whereas the single sighting of a black swan does allow us to say “not all swans are white”. Thus we approach the truth through falsifictionism rather than verificationism. See also Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend. Patrick Pound Patrick Pound is a New Zealand-born Australian based in Melbourne. He has created many “Superfictions”, often submitting his fake identities to the Who’s Who of Intellectuals and the Who’s Who Hall of Fame. Pound frequently uses a black and white photograph of Eastern European soap carver Lester Gabo in place of his own. Pound also uses the name Simon Dermott, particularly for book reviews. Ralph Rumney Situationists The Sorbonne Conference


Superfictions A term coined by Peter Hill to describe new uses for fiction in the contemporary visual arts using all media including the internet and the postal system. See other listings in The Encyclopaedia of Superfictions. Synthetic Modernism In the early 1980s Peter Hill became frustrated with the (over)use of the terms modernism and post-modernism as if they were competing sporting teams. He preferred the term “synthetic modernism” as one that covered the grey area between modernism and postmodernism and was useful to describe the art of the “Superfiction”. Thirteen Months in 1989 Torch Gallery Suzanne Treister Founder of the Institute of Millitronics and widely exhibited artist. One of her most endearing creations has been the time traveling Rosalind Brodsky who is like a cross between Dr Who and Woody Allen’s Zelig (she mysteriously appeared on the set of Schindler’s List alongside Ben Kingsley). Treisters’s book No Other Symptoms: Time Travelling with Rosalind Brodsky is described in the catalogue to the 2002 Biennale of Sydney (The World May Be) Fantastic; “Loosely resembling an adventure game, the story is set in 2058, at an institute of esoteric advanced technology. The facility is crowded with paraphernalia through which visitors can explore Brodsky’s life and adventures…In the bedroom a large Introscan TV screen shows excerpts from Brodsky’s career as a television cook, where she loftily disregards the laws of physics with a recipe for converting gâteau into Polish pierogi dumplings.” Michael Vale Orson Welles Fred Wilson Alexa Wright Perhaps only one of Wright’s projects really fits the notion of the “Superfiction”. In it she photographed a number of people in their own homes who had lost limbs in car and motorbike accidents, and through computer manipulation documented the slowly disappearing phantom limbs that each experienced for some months after their accident. These works were presented in panels of three photographs. In one instance a man has his hand, wearing his wedding ring, resting on the table. However, there is a gap between the wrist and the elbow where he feels nothing. In the next image the hand has disappeared entirely and the finger with the wedding ring now grows out of the stump of his arm. Xu Bing Creator of fictional language that closely resembles (to foreigners) classical Chinese script.

Peter Hill is a Glasgow-born Australian with dual nationality. In 1989 he launched New York’s Museum of Contemporary Ideas, supposedly the world’s biggest new museum and the first of many “Superfictions” he created. Hill originally coined the term to describe the work of a number of artists operating independently in the late 1980s. These include Res Ingold (Switzerland) and his fictitious airline; SERVAAS (Netherlands) and his fictive world of deep sea herring fishing; the Seymour Likely Group (Netherlands); David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology (USA); Rodney Glick’s (Australia) theories of Klausian Philosophy; and Joan Fontcuberta’s and Pere Formiguera’s (Spain) creation of the German zoologist Dr Peter Ameisenhaufen. Since 1989 Dr Peter Hill has gone on to create his Encyclopaedia of Superfictions, in which is documented many more “Superfictions” artists and art groups. When Peter Hill’s first Press Release for the Museum of Contemporary Ideas was posted out in 1989 to newspapers, news agencies (Reuters/Associated Press), art magazines, critics, and artist friends, the German magazine Wolkenzratzer (Skyscraper), edited by Dr Wolfgang Max Faust, believed it to be real and printed a story about the generosity of its benefactors Alice and Abner “Bucky” Cameron who made their billions from the Cameron Oil Fields in Alaska. The article was written by Gabriela Knapstein (now curator at Berlin’s Hamburger Banhof), and as a result Wolfgang Max Faust was asked to chair a meeting of German industrialists and curators to see if Frankfurt could build a museum based on the model of Hill’s Museum of Contemporary Ideas. 34

Images courtesy of the artist 35


Image: James Tilly Matthews original drawing and plan for the Air Loom (circa 1810)


On Commissioning Rod Dickinson’s Air Loom Andrew Patrizio


‘ Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson

In 2001 I attended a talk being given at Edinburgh College of Art by Rod Dickinson. I did not know his work at that point but I was intrigued by the publicity, which mentioned that as a part of his art practice he was responsible, in the 1990s, for many of the crop circle interventions in the English countryside. He was also in the process of creating a large re-enactment piece, inspired by Stanley Milgram’s psychological experiments in the 1960s that tested, with mesmerising force, the thresholds of people’s obedience to authority. At the same time, I was preparing a doubleheaded exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, on beauty and truth. The first show, called Life is Beautiful, was a conventional mix of major contemporary works on loan from Europe and the States. The second show, on truth, and consisting of perhaps more emerging work, was the one for which I immediately had Rod Dickinson in mind. The exhibition, which I worked on alongside artist-advisor Sarah Tripp, was entitled All You Need To Know (after John Keats) and asked whether artworks can tell us anything about truth, beautiful behaviour, trust, social justice, equality, intimacy, and how to fulfil our potential as humans. Discussions with Rod went very well. His projects shared a fascination with social control and belief systems. He meticulously reenacts events and reconstructs objects that illustrate the power of people to influence the thoughts and actions of others, offering critiques of surveillance culture and revelling in the subtle architectures of paranoia. He gave me a long list of about six possible works he

wished to make, all from scratch, but the one that eventually led to Air Loom was the stand-out idea for me. It was based on a very particular story, tragedy even, from the early 1800s that Rod had found in the medical narratives around Bedlam mental hospital. The first case study perhaps in medical history, certainly the longest psychiatric report on a delusional patient which had ever been compiled up to that time, written up by the then director of Bedlam, John Haslam under the title Illustrations of Madness (1810) and concerning one James Tilly Matthews. Rod proposed constructing the incredible so-called ‘influencing machine’ that had sprung from Matthew’s imagination, as described in detail in the case study but as yet unbuilt. Matthews himself was a self-appointed peacemaker who just after the French Revolution had shuttled between London and Paris on diplomatic missions in this difficult period for Anglo-French relations. He had been incarcerated and tortured in Paris for around three years on suspicion of being a double agent. This had likely had a negative impact on his mental health when he returned to London, only to become again imprisoned after irregular behaviour at Westminster, clearly the result of paranoid delusions following his earlier imprisonment. He soon found himself in Bedlam, the notorious mental asylum, and under the attention of its director. And it was in Bedlam that the menacing Air Loom grew in his mind. Matthews was influenced by his knowledge of Mesmerism, which he had encountered on his earlier trips to Paris. Despite its fanciful nature, 38

Matthews believed the Air Loom was being used by French revolutionaries to control the minds of the English Government, and other targeted individuals, including himself. Tortures that the Air Loom could inflict included ‘Kiteing, Bomb bursting, Lobster cracking, Thigh Talking, Fluid Locking and Lengthening the Brain’. The pamphlet describing Matthew’s condition is a compelling account of his interior world, scrupulously transcribed by Haslam, to the extent of commissioning an artist to render the machine in all its detail and the characters who operated it (Sir Archy, Glove Woman, Jack the Schoolmaster and the sadistic puppet master called Bill the King). This document formed Dickinson’s primary material when shaping his new work. Dickinson immersed himself in the commission, finding materials that approximated closely to those described in the 1810 paper. Rod put a huge amount of energy into the final stages of installation and the sculpture, in oak, leather tubing, brass fittings, cabinets full of noxious materials (such as ‘spermaticanimal-seminal’ rays, ‘effluvia of dogs’ etc.) and bloated barrels, filled one of the handsome salons in the Laing Art Gallery. To bring this enormous work (10x10 metres floor plan and 6 metres high) even further to life, Rod arranged that at regular intervals at the Laing, actors would perform the roles of specific characters closely based on Matthews’ descriptions. These professionals animated the Air Loom and drew in curious

visitors seeking a route into this dominating sculptural edifice. Brilliantly, the actors never came out of role, answering any questions according to their understanding of the fictional eccentrics they played. So now, in 2011, what do I make of this major work of Dickinson’s that nearly a decade ago I helped bring about? As an object I would say it is the most intense and overwhelming work I have ever commissioned, a simply majestic installation that transcended its place in the group show. In the impressive book based on this work and others by Dickinson produced by the Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg, the editors reflected on the way that ‘influencing machines have infiltrated many areas of day-to-day life. We are constantly having to assert ourselves against the virtual and very real threats posed by a world over-determined by technology.’ (Air Loom. The air loom and other dangerous influencing machines, Thomas Roske and Bettina Brand-Claussen, 2007). Air Loom, true to its birth in the mind of Matthew’s, was a mesmeric magnet that drew in history and politics but showed us above all, that mind manipulation is the catalyst for the abuse of power in whatever culture and historical moment you wish to study. It is a commonplace that ‘Art is a fiction that helps us see the truth’. But Air Loom seems to incant philosopher A.N. Whitehead’s cautionary epithet that ‘All truths are half truths.’

More information on Dickinson’s work can be found at: http://www.theairloom.org/ http://www.roddickinson.net/pages/index.php Mike Jay’s text, ‘James Tilly Matthews and the AIR LOOM’ in Air Loom, Heidelberg, 2006.



The Missionary On ‘Secular Surface’ Kristoffer Svenberg

Images courtesy of the artist 41

• Brother Kristoffer - would you kindly pray for all the people in this village that immaterial of their religious differences, past all the differences that all of them would believe on Jesus Christ and bend their knees and confess the Lord as their saviour so that they will come to our church. • I want to pray for the citizens here in Aragum Bay that they will find the right and precious way… that will develop their community and their lives, so that this will be a loving and growing community. Amen. We prayed in English and the pastor translated direct into Tamil for the village. There are words such as the authentic, the objective and the truth. Photography as a medium has played an important role in my art-practice. It is a tool for thinking and also a subject that brings about inquiries and research perspectives. Obtaining the position of an objective observer is deeply problematic and questioned throughout the history of photography. However, within my recent work Secular Surface I was not aiming to be an objective observer. The application process to become a Christian missionary is quite comprehensive and you are asked to write about your faith and views towards religion. A priest has to sign on your behalf and you need at least two more references, one professional and one personal. I worked within this application process to become a missionary in Sri Lanka and I tried to be as honest as possible. When I edited details to recommend my suitability for the role I tried to convince myself that I believed in what I said or did. I am baptized and I had my belief confirmed at the age of fourteen. I am also the Godfather of the son of my sister and her husband. However, my knowledge of Christian religion has always been very mediocre.

It is warm, even warmer than yesterday. I have been eating breakfast and I am now waiting for our chauffeur. I don’t really know what to expect from today’s schedule of ministry work. A lot of things are new to me here with this Western group of missionaries in Aragum Bay, Sri Lanka. The time is 8:56am and the sun is already burning on my skin. I have a few sips of water from a 1.5 litre PET bottle bought from a small shop just across the street. I am a missionary; are my thoughts while I am gazing up towards the palm leaves higher up. The leaves are clearly green with a blue sky as a background for my perception. Questioning ideas about secularization and atheism as more neutral positions are present throughout this project. Even though when departing from this project I presented a critical perspective, I initially focused on the positive sides of religion. I did this as a performance and as research. I was in Sri Lanka trying to act as a missionary. 42

It felt strange and it seemed as though everything around me was being played out on the stage of a theatre. Maybe it was because I couldn’t understand and didn’t believe as strongly as the others. I didn’t tell any of the other missionaries about my plans to make an art-project out of my experiences and observations. My work as a missionary is a lot about identity and representation. The missionary organization I worked with in Sri Lanka is called Surfing the Nations. It is made up of a group of missionaries that are surfers and work with a focus on what they call the 10/40 window. The 10/40 window means targeting the areas 10° to 40° north of the southern Polar Circle, that mostly include countries with opposing religious views to Christianity and endure serious poverty. “Surfing the Nations is all about mobilizing Christian surfers to go out in to the world to preach the gospel.” (Tom Bauer, Leader of Surfing the Nations.) The connection to surfing has a strong symbolic effect on their practice. I used my personal involvement to reveal a sense of guilt. It was a way of highlighting the transparency of such a position in a global structure and at the same time it challenged my own identity. A white Western man as a tourist in Sri Lanka is part of a cultural imperialism, whether he sees it that way or not. In what way did I see my own actions? Was I playing a cynical game by deconstructing my surroundings in the name of art?

You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? If is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see. These are the words of C.S. Lewis, quoted by John Piper in his book Don’t Waste Your Life. It is a Christian book that several of us missionary and aid workers read in Sri Lanka. The quote above is part of a critical questioning of the contemporary “postmodern” academic climate. Don’t Waste Your Life is about worshipping God and spreading his word. A wasted life is to not share the truth of Christ. So what really were my aims? I was never completely honest with myself as I had to become a true missionary by acting as a kind of undercover agent. However, I was interested in the performative of the project as I saw my own identity changing. I found myself asking in what exact situations are we ever completely honest with ourselves? I believe that art has the power to broaden out these perspectives and make more than one way of seeing possible. I was there with my own political interests and perspectives. I performed research and I reflected upon the situation, and at the same time I was there as a political activist looking for change.



The Art of Deception Nicholas Oddy


‘The Art of Deception’. So ran the subtitle of an exhibition called ‘Fake’ at the British Museum a couple of decades ago (1). It’s problematic, at once a visual lie and an art; at once a rip-off and a piece of high virtuosity; at once very amusing and very annoying. Where the boundaries between the poles are drawn is a matter of debate and largely personal opinion, further muddied by the fact that intent is central to whether something is, or is not, ‘fake’. Let us start by establishing definitions. The two most often confused are ‘fake’ and ‘forgery’. A fake is something that has been intervened with, usually to ‘enhance’ it in some way. At its most limited, a small wellmatched ‘touch up’ to damaged paintwork is fake, but at the other end, one can have largely rebuilt objects with all sorts of ‘added’ features that enhance value. The key element of a fake is that somewhere under the deception there lies an original object. A ‘forgery’ is something entirely different in that it is completely bogus, built from the ground up. Therefore currency is subject to forgery, while old motor vehicles are subject to fakery. In both cases, however, there has to be an intent to deceive on the part of the commissioning agent (not necessarily the maker, although often they are one and the same). If this cannot be established then the work is merely ‘restoration’, or some other benignsounding practice. Fakes and forgeries are sometimes part of something slightly more abstract, a ‘hoax’. A hoax is something greater than the sum of its parts and it will generally set out to ‘make’ history. Famous hoaxes often stand in their own right, but a hoax can be constructed to provide provenance for fakes or forgeries. I recall an example of fake advertising clocks. The clocks were based on a commonly found decorative timepiece ‘enhanced’ with trademarks purloined from period trade literature, thereby increasing retail value by a factor of about ten. Over a number of years the maker released a few, damaged or weathered examples through provincial sales in general lots, thereby establishing the existence and au-

thenticity of the items, as finally they made it into the specialist market. Along with this, a ‘good’ one was released through ‘the trade’, also for ‘no money’; this ‘loss-leading’ activity finally allowed the steady release of ‘good’ examples through the specialist trade at high profit. The ‘loss-leading’ activity is the hoax in this case, with the fakes integral to it. More elaborate hoaxes in such instances might involve the creation of archival evidence of makers, transactions, retailers and individuals; a whole fraudulent history created. Even if deceit-for-monetary-profit is the aim of all the activities outlined above, there is still something attractive about the level of knowledge, wit and skill that such activities demand. There is something delicious in the irony that here are artists of great ability whose aim is not to be recognised; the more successful their work, the less the acclaim. A trip to the V&A last year to see the exhibition mounted by the Metropolitan Police wherein was displayed some notable work by recently uncovered fraudsters, would show that far from the official intent that the audience be shocked by the products of crime, it was loving every bit of them; the problem with art fraud is that it is, well, fun… and the consequences of wealthy collectors and arrogant curators having their fingers burned is hardly something to wring one’s hands over (2). We can add another term: ‘myth’. The myth might or might not be supported by fakes, forgeries and hoax, but essentially it is ‘honest’. In many cases myth comes from the misreading of hard evidence (such as attribution of date on ‘gut reaction’) and this being placed in historical ‘gaps’ with further circumstantial evidence being brought to bear to support it. Like the fake, myth often relies on something genuine at its heart, be it King Arthur and his Knights, or, closer to my world, Kirkpatrick Macmillan’s invention of the modern bicycle (3), and can become hugely powerful to the point that its cultural value overrides the questionability of its content. No amount of revisionism will destroy such myths, they become embedded by their continual repetition and their often attractive storylines that sup46

age industry’ in the 1980s and 90s; ‘room settings’ came and went from the V&A like ebbing and flowing tides as curatorial tastes responded to concepts of interpretation. A quick trip to Glasgow will take you to Kelvingrove, a case study in recent (2003-6) curatorial intervention, or perhaps just invention by artful juxtaposition. So, here we are in the Talbot Rice Gallery in 2011 with a whole crop of fledgling curators, or perhaps artists, practicing the art of deception. Can they be trusted? Can anything in the hands of someone eager to tell a story by exhibition be trusted? Like all frauds, it depends on the confidence you, the viewer, have in the authenticity of what is presented and the veracity of the individuals presenting it. Before going to look at anything I recommend mentally repeating the old antique dealers’ adage ‘if it’s too good to be true – it is’; but, it rarely works. We want to believe what we see…it’s a fraudster’s world…and who is Lee Joss? I cannot remember ever meeting him... or her.

port popular ideas of group identity. With such a rich potential for ‘intervention’ in event and object-led history, it is no surprise to find fraud as an attractive tool for the conceptual artist. It enjoys an early airing in Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’, supposedly made by R. Mutt, it claimed something as fine art that was not, but quickly it became so. Better still, those examples one can find exhibited today are, effectively, all forgeries as the original is lost. Now typical in an artistic intervention, the fraud was not only in the work, but it was carried into curatorial realms; entered in an open exhibition the object had to be interpreted, not by the maker, but by hapless exhibition organisers. As time has gone on, fraudulent intervention in curation as a type of art practice has become more frequent. Much of this is thanks to early post-modern debates surrounding the powers that decontextualising, recontextualising and juxtaposing objects have to tell stories. In particular, these focused on the careful selection of ‘genuine’ objects to make ‘fake’ history, leading to a rash of academic criticism of the ‘herit-

(1)Fake – The Art of Deception was held in 1990, A supporting collection of essays under the same title, edited by Mark Jones, was published by the British Museum in the same year. (2)The Metropolitan Police exhibition was staged in January 2010, but unfortunately was not accompanied by any publication. (3)The Macmillan machine (a rear driven bicycle, supposedly the first fully ‘feet off the ground’ two wheeler ever) was ‘established’ as fact after a similar one was found, it claimed to be built by Gavin Dalzell in 1845, some twenty three years earlier than any other. It miraculously appeared in time to be exhibited in the Bishop’s Palace in the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888 and was later claimed to have been copied from Macmillan’s, which was supposedly built in 1839. In fact there is no certain evidence of the date of the Dalzell machine, which could well be 1868 or later, and the Macmillan machine has never been found. No documentary evidence survives that can fully establish the existence of either machine prior to 1888.



The Disappointed Fake

John Beagles

is an extreme example of the flexible personality now demanded by, what Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello call ‘the new spirit of capitalism’. Such a personality must be capable of participating, with total energy and enthusiasm, in whatever project engages her at that moment. On the other hand, she must also have the ability ‘to disengage from a project in order to be available’ for a new one. ‘Even at the peak of engagement, enthusiasm, involvement in a project’, the flexible personality must be ‘prepared for change and capable of new investments’(39). It would seem that in such a world, where the business ontology dominates, and appears determined to evacuate the culture of all vitality (the entropic dissipation of all energy) old ideas about authenticity are out dated. However writing about Richard Kelly’s film Southland Tales, Steven Shaviro draws a distinction between authenticity and sincerity: ‘but sincerity is precisely not a question of depth, or of authenticity, or of some fundamental inner quality of being. Sincerity merely implies a certain consistency in the way that a being acts and presents itself, without presupposing anything about the basis of this consistency. Graham Harman defines sincerity as the way that a thing always just is what it is’(40). John Beagles is an artist. Footnotes: 1. “The imposter is someone who, in lying, tells us something about the nature of exclusion” Mark Hutchinson, Matters magazine, 2003.

Dummar’s alleged meeting with Hughes late one night in the desert, and his posthumous citing in Hughes ‘fake Mormon will’.

2. Elmyr de Hory features in Orson Welles’ (aka the ‘charlatan’) film, F For Fake. He claimed to have produced half of the Modigliani’s in American museums and to have received a punch on the nose for trying to sell a fake Salvador Dali to Salvador Dali. The film also features Clifford Irving, who, in one of the more brazen hoaxes of the twentieth century faked reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes autobiography (Hughes, who always used the alias John T. Conover, was still alive at the time, but holed up on the top floor of a Las Vegas penthouse). Irving’s book Hoax (later made into a film with Richard Gere) is an entertaining narrative of the ‘facts of the story’. However, perhaps the best ‘true story’ featuring Howard Hughes is Jonathan Demme’s 1983 film Melvin and Howard, which recounts Melvin

3. The accolade of Britain’s finest art forger must surely go to Lewisham born, Tom Keating, who faked over 2000 works by 100 different artists. A popular, folk hero Keating claimed he had made the forgeries as a protest ‘against those art traders who get rich at the artist’s expense’. Irritatingly for the auction houses, he refused to provide a detailed catalogue of his masterpieces. 4. Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa’s (author of The Book of Disquiet) use of heteronyms (estimated by the author to amount to up to 75 distinct ‘personalities’) is perhaps the best example of this. 5. Mark Chapman’s reading of J D Salinger’s novel Catcher in The Rye led him to ‘explaining’ his execution 49

of John Lennon, by claiming that like Holden Caulfield in the book, he was ‘fed up with all the phoneys in the adult world’. Chapman told police investigators “I’m sure the large part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil.”

son Welles radio spoof of War of the Worlds is an obvious early source of inspiration as well.

6. Everyone in Richard Kelley’s Southland Tales (2006).

16. The implanting of false memories is explored in Philip K Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, (which later became Total Recall).

15. See Clemens von Wedemeyer’s films detailing the story of the Tasaday Tribe, shown at the Barbican Gallery in 2009.

7. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne and Michael Winterbottom’s film A Cock and Bull Story (2005) both explore this idea.

17. The void created by the disillusionment with the authority of the state has been filled with conspiracy theories and theories of conspiracy (see Conspiracy theories by Robin Ramsay). Differentiating between the two articulations of distrust is important. Conspiracy theories are often more extreme, fanciful and exotic in their search for explanations. For example, in the states Lyndon LaRouch has offered the entertaining mega conspiracy that America’s slide into social apocalypse is the result of continued British control (apparently the war of independence was a ruse). According to LaRouch, old misery guts (aka The Queen) runs the world’s drug trafficking and was directly responsible for the Kennedy assassination. This variant of paranoia is of course patently rubbish (almost as good as David Icke’s lizard conspiracy). However, the ridiculous notion of The Queen as the uber drugs baron of an international crack corporation shouldn’t be allowed to rubbish the more credible theories of conspiracy. For while mega conspiracy theories reduce the complexity of political and social life to a single line, theories of conspiracy actually offer infinitely more complex versions of why we are in the state we’re in. In Britain talk of theories of conspiracy is routinely wavered away by the dominant political class as crackpot nonsense. However, as numerous authors have shown Britain’s secrets are no less disturbing than those of America. Special Branch’s operations in Northern Ireland, specifically the revelations of their involvement in aiding Loyalist gunmen in the political assassination of prominent republicans, and MI5’s role in the state’s destruction of the trade union movement (see The Enemy Within – the Secret War against the Miners by Seumus Milne published by Pan 1994), specifically during the miners strike, are just two of the more well known examples.

8. Catfish (2010), Borat (2006) , Bruno (2009) and I’m Still Here (2010). The ‘real person’ who set this train in motion was however, Gary Shandling, whose long running TV series the Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998), while firstly being probably one of the best comedy shows ever to air, also set a template for others to follow in its collapsing of the distinction between real and fake. 9. Chuck Barris’ Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Bill Zehme’s biography of Andy Kaufman, Lost in the Funhouse are exceptional examples of this. 10. Recently leaked internal memorandum Scottish Arts Council from 1997. 11. The presence of the giant squid was first revealed to me in Arthur C Clarke’s thirteen part series Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World broadcast on the 9th of September in 1980, in the episode titled ‘Monsters of the deep’. 12. “I’ve faked them Kramer”, The Mango, episode 65, Seinfeld 1993. 13. Sherlock Holmes creator Conan Doyle was famously ‘fooled’ by the photographs of fairies produced by two little girls in Cottingley in 1917. One of the women, Frances Griffiths later remarked “I never even thought of it as being a fraud – it was just Elsie and I having a bit of fun and I can’t understand to this day why they were taken in – they wanted to be taken in.” The most interesting retelling of the Cottingley Fairies story is Nick Willing’s film Photographing Fairies which adds a tab of hallucinogens to the tale.

18. Occam’s razor. 19. See the Parallax View (1974), directed by Alan J. Pakula

14. Chris Morris’s Brass Eye is exceptional in the history of British TV. For publicly humiliating Noel Edmonds, statues should be erected of Morris. Earlier instances of this form include Ghostwatch (1992) and the more mysterious ‘Southern Television Hoax of 1977’, when the broadcast signal was hacked by a extra terrestrial called Asteron, who informed the viewers that “all your weapons of evil must be destroyed” and that “you have but a short time to learn to live together in peace.” Or-

20. Please see the group of Islington anarchists sitting in front of me now as I write this on the plane. Please also see Pulp’s Common People and the Television Personalities ‘Part time Punks’ for more erudite explorations of ‘slumming it’.


affections with Eva Braun) was that she was pregnant with Hitler’s child. The story, fanciful as it is, is worthy of a British version of the Boys from Brazil (with Merchant ivory production values). There are after all, no shortage of ‘types’ who could rightfully claim the heir to this throne.

21. ‘A wee pretendy parliament’, Billy Connolly’s description. 22. ‘The Big Society’, disliked by many Conservatives, this sham participatory democracy may prove as disastrous for the Conservatives as John Major’s earlier, equally preposterous ‘Back to Basics’ campaign. See Richard Seymour’s The Meaning of David Cameron published by Zero books, 2011.

32. Derek Acorah. My grandmother was very fond of Doris Stokes, who put her in contact with her dead father.

23. Inauthentic radicals such as the Yippies, Motherfuckers and King Mob, who famously authored this piece of graffiti - ‘Same thing day after day- tube - work - dinner - work - tube - armchair - TV - sleep - tube work -how much more can you take? - one in ten go mad, one in five cracks up’.

33. Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Joan Crawford (who allegedly had a one night stand with Marilyn Monroe) and James Dean. More recently Tom Cruise. 34. Dr James Barry. The excellent BBC series A Skirt through History (1994), told the story of how Barry, who was a leading military surgeon in the 19th century was in fact Margaret Ann Bulkley. The details are stranger and more compelling than this space permits – please see the post, http:// www. Vanhunks.com/cape1/barry1.Htm

24. David Manning, Sony’s fictitious film critic created to give their films positive reviews. 25. The subjective nature of ‘the real’ is visually and sonically explored in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966) and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974).

35. Euro Disney doesn’t deliver on its dark promise to assault you with the Disney grin, what Ivor Southwood in his book, Non stop inertia, calls the ‘forced smile of compulsory enthusiasm’. Southwood’s book draws heavily on Arlie Russell Hochschild earlier book, The Managed Heart, written in the 1980’s, which formulated a notion of emotional labour to account for the new demands and imperatives of workers in a post-fordist economy. Here the worker is someone who is involved not in the production of material goods, but in the creation of psychological affect, of emotional states and responses. In this analysis workers become performers, with the arena of work a set within which workers act. Workers become mood generators.

26. Danny La Rue, Dick Emery and Les Dawson. 27. Leo Marks, English cryptographer, playwright and scriptwriter (author of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom). Marks used poems to hide secret messages for agents in WWII, most famously in the poem/code ‘The life that I have’, written for the agent Violette Szabo. 28. See the rapper Kool Keith aka Dr. Octagon, Black Elvis, Dr. Doom, Mr. Nogatco and many, many more (http://www.koolkeith.co.uk/index2011.html). 29. The full face transplant has been a reoccurring feature in popular entertainment – see George Franju’s Les Yeux Sans Visage (1960), John Woo’s Face off (1997) and perhaps most disturbingly in Asif Kapadia’s Far North (2007). Today, as Donna Haraway noted in Simians, Cyborgs and Women ‘the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion’.

36. Celebration, USA: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town (1998) by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, offers a partial insight into the day to day ‘reality’ of living in the Disney corporations model American town. 37. “Authenticity is the benchmark against which all brands are now judged” John Grant, The New Marketing Manifesto in Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life by David Boyle (2004).

30. The story of Jasper Maskelyne (1902–1973), a magician who was used by the British military to fool the Germans in WWII is told in David Fisher’s book, The War Magician. The best other example is the amusingly titled practice of Dazzle camouflage aka Razzle Dazzle or Dazzle painting. Edward Wadsworth’s Painting of Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, (1919) records the practice.

38. On Being Authentic by Charles Guignon (2004). 39. See The New Spirit of Capitalism by Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello (2007). 40. Shaviro, S (2010), Post Cinematic Affect, Zero books.

31. The Mitford Sisters. The best story about the Mitfords is that the reason Unity Mitford was hidden away on her return to Britain in 1940 (she had been in Hitler’s inner circle in Berlin and was a rival for his 51





I am Spartacus: Lee Joss at the end of the end of the art world


We would no longer hear the questions that have been heard for so long: Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authority and originality? And what part of his deepest self did he express in his discourse? Instead there would be other questions, like these: What are the modes of existence of this discourse? Where has it been used, how can it circulate, and who can appropriate it for himself? Michel Foucault. What is an Author? Such terrible times lay ahead. Art’s lost aura had been replaced by celebrity, and the quiet swoosh of the Montblanc fountain pen across the Coutts bank cheque book. Subsumed by the market the artist could easily be reduced to a style and style to a fashion; their work legitimized by the approval institutions sponsored by UBS (the department of wealth management not eagles). The only option that remained was withdrawal - worklessness and disappearance - avoidance and invisibility. Tumbling on to this new map from the frozen north emerged an anti-hero of sorts. The bastard son of Harry Kipper and Janez Janša, distant cousin of Rrose Sélavy, brother and sister of Reena Spaulings, lover of Claire Fontaine; Less Joss was too tired of life to wonder about what art to make. “What does it matter who is speaking,” Joss queried at birth “’I AM WHAT I AM.’ My body belongs to me. I am me, you are you, and something’s wrong.” Joss shouted, drunk on water from the clear fountain, “Mass personalisation. Individualisation of all conditions - life, work and misery……..atomisation into fine paranoiac particles………. The more I want to be me, the more I feel an emptiness.” If we are all artists, then Lee Joss is all of us. Lee Joss is the name under which ten to fifteen Edinburgh based artists work collaboratively. Joss is not an alter ego, not that is ‘another I’, but instead ‘another us.’ Another form amongst the collective identities to have emerged from the unease of a new generation of artists, each being a point of opposition to the singularity that is packaged and presented to us for consumption in easy to swallow capsules - now containing quickly absorbed liquid to target our pain so much faster and still not working. Joss is not a person but a space for creative action free from hegemonies. A heterotopia perhaps, or maybe a portrait of the artist worn by her protagonists to disguise the collaborative approach beneath, their true identities remaining hidden like the terrorist who is able to pass unnoticed in the territory that they are readying to attack. A murderous gesture and a suicidal act, not enacted with bombs or I.O.D.s, but equally not merely symbolic. This is a very real response to Bernadette Corporation’s call to “get rid of yourself.” Bernadette Corporation’s own response manifested itself through Reena Spaullings, the artist brought to life from the collectively authored novel of the same name, but Lee Joss has gone further by negating the creative act through putting it out to tender. Joss is open source, free to use, programmable with instructions that will be carried out if they compute as “uninvited and non commissioned public art.” Liberated from the terrible burden of finding out what to do Joss has become the agent for realising projects, a unifying force through which things might happen. Operating like a free party movement for the visual arts, Joss is born from the possibility of what might happen if we come together to do what we do in opposition to what exists. But this new collective spirit is not fuelled by pills, Bart Simpsons, Strawberries, and whizz but instead it is high on the excitement of disappearing. The Estate of Alex Bloom, Muri, Switzerland This text was written for the exhibition catalogue of Going Public, Embassy Gallery (2011) 55



Work of Meta-Art in the Age of Generative Reproduction The Market-O-Matic (1.0) [fine arts version] The flux creates, the corporation reproduces. In the transgender reality, art objects are reproductions of the imaginations of the flux -- a flux that uses the corporation as a parallax to represent ideas, patterns, and emotions. With the evolution of the electronic environment, the flux is superseding a point where it will be free from the corporation to realize immersions into the parameters of the delphic reality. Work of Meta-Art in the Age of Generative Reproduction contains 10 minimal flash engines (also refered to as “memes”) that enable the user to make fictional audio/visual compositions. measuring chains, constructing realities putting into place forms a matrix of illusion and disillusion a strange attracting force so that a seduced reality will be able to spontaneously feed on it Lee Joss’s work investigates the nuances of modulations through the use of jumpcut motion and close-ups which emphasize the Generative nature of digital media. Joss explores abstract and fraudulent scenery as motifs to describe the idea of hyper-real reality. Using microstoric loops, non-linear narratives, and interactive images as patterns, Joss creates meditative environments which suggest the expansion of culture... <-- Obligatory ascii sig. Repeat until desired cyborg effect is achieved. --> /u[0]{)]|]]-] -------------/u/u!@#$%^~!@#$%^&*()) __++_) (*&^%$--------/u/u!@#$%^~!@#$ %^&*())__++_)(*&^%$-------/u/u!@#$ %^~!@#$%^&*())__+, etc., etc. <-- End obligatory ascii sig. --> http://www..thisiscentralstation.com/opportunities/the-lee-joss-project.aspx





This publication was designed to accompany the exhibition, Microstoria, at Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, which took place in May-June 2011. Microstoria was curated by the MA Contemporary Art Theory and MA Visual Culture students at Edinburgh College of Art. Microstoria investigated histories of falsehoods and half-truths; uncovering ways in which myths become embedded in cultural activities and established as accepted norms. A Microstory of Curating has been conceived as an additional room to the exhibition. It is a site where ideas and opportunities have been explored through its very own fiction. Each page of this publication has been “curated� by the art writing team who wanted to subvert the truths not only surrounding the Microstoria show but also surrounding the topic of curating itself. I would like to thank all those who have given their time and expertise to this publication. Many thanks to: Emma Balkind (book design), John Beagles (written contribution), Tiffany Boyle (proofreading), Curt Cloninger (designer or Market-O-Matic software), Stuart Fallon (artwork), Kate Grenyer (artwork: THAIP), Charles Gute (artwork and written contribution), Peter Hill (written contribution and collaborative project MOSS), Donna Holford-Lovell (written contribution), Shona MacNoughton (sharing with us the one and only Lee Joss), Hanna Terese Nilsson (artwork), Circle Workshop (artwork), Nicholas Oddy (written contribution and allowing us into the wonder that is his home), Olivia Paterson (written contribution in the form of Gertrude Lerristein), Andrew Patrizio (written contribution), Kristoffer Svenberg (written contribution) and Daniel Taylor (artwork).

Helena Barrett, Editor at Large 61

Talbot Rice Gallery


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