International Project for Low and High Technics in Contemporary Media Art

Critique of Pure Image – Between Fake and Quotation

A project of the Art Today Association
in collaboration with Code Flow
written and curated by Dimitrina Sevova



In terms of the status of the use of the term “fake,” it is necessary to agree on a few points, drawing on theoretical sources having explored its archeology and anthropology.
The first is, that we are looking for the projection of the real “fake.” Because the debate around the original and the copy has lost its sense outside the circles of the old-fashioned elite, of private collectors of objects and museum experts, or functionaries of the offices for the control of trademarks.
Fake is one of the oldest narratives, an inner problem in art in terms of idea, techniques and expression. Perspective, to take one example, has been developed as a system by which the illusion of spatial dimension is created on a two-dimensional surface. The technics before the industrial revolution work with the three dimensions place, nature and human being. As explains Lewis Mumford, the mechanized systems introduce real time as a fourth dimension into the equation.
Old masters, new masters, clichés, mechanical matrices, Andy Warhol, Elvis Presley, political campaigns, preservatives and coloring for fast food, which help it become healthy, palatable and authentic in appearance. The model fakes in the biotechnics debate around the authenticity of the visual simulations of the DNA links with their excessive aestheticism, or the artificial nature of the computer-based animated presentations of microelements in human biology and physiology, of online games, of reality TV programs like the hugely popular show “Big Brother.”
“Fake pictures are part of the history of photography, going back to the early days of the medium. Elements of the image were retouched out of the image at will or added into it. Stalin used retouching for his political propaganda. Attempted manipulation of this kind seems positively dilettante in the light of modern digital image editing, which adds a completely new dimension to the possibilities of altering reality, and of using simulation and fiction.”
– Rudolf Scheutle, “Kathrin Günther,” in: Moving Pictures – Photography and Film in Contemporary Art (2001), p. 63.
In his essay “Travels in hyperreality,” Umberto Eco explains how his trip through America is a “pilgrimage in search of ‘hyperreality,’ or the world of ‘the Absolute Fake,’ in which imitations don’t merely reproduce reality, but try improve on it.
Not unexpectedly, it leads him to the ‘absolutely fake cities,’ Disneyland and Disney World, with their re-created main streets, imitation castles and lifelike, animatronic robots.” – as paraphrased by Ken Sanes.
And: “Disneyland tells us that technology can give us more reality than nature can.”
Over the past years, commercial cinema has seen an outright boom of movies like “The Truman Show,” “The Matrix,” “Goodbye Lenin,” which make a direct link with the topic. Can it be that the reason for this interest of the spectators is explained by the argument that society is becoming more and more sensitive to anti-utopian sagas, and does indeed care about the debate on the original and the copy.
As an opposite tendency, nowadays on the market the scheme for fast and immediate success refers us directly to the formula dominated by the real “Fake.” The mass media and pop culture, it turns out, are quick at finding their way and satisfy the collective needs of the market and the taste of the audience.
MTV is mixing its programs, balancing between advertising, musical clips and the new realism of a television made by spectators for spectators.
A new picture of the development of contemporary culture and correspondingly contemporary art, where critical reflections and social implications are based on the strong desire for a new realism, resting on the arguments for an immediate consumption, where along with the wars, natural disasters are consumed, and any other incident is welcome.
“People want to hear about real people living real lives in real places.”
– David Boyle, Authenticity – Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life (2003), p. 274.


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art today lab 2005