More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness
Searing documentary photographs of a war-ravaged country exposed as elaborately staged fakes. Irreplaceable Neolithic urns, treated as ready-mades, dipped in cheerily bright, industrial paint that obscures their ancient markings. A coal company’s Web site promising inhalers to asthma-inflicted children who live within 200 miles of a coal plant revealed as an elaborate spoof. These and other works of art, which blur notions of reality and truth, are the subject of a new exhibition organized by Elizabeth Armstrong, contemporary art curator and director of the Center for Alternative Museum Practice (CAMP) at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). Presented in collaboration with SITE Santa Fe, “More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness” takes Stephen Colbert’s coined term “truthiness”—fabricated truths, without regard to fact or logic—as its starting point to explore the unstable relationship between fact and fiction in the 21st century.
Opening on July 8, 2012, at SITE Santa Fe, the exhibition will present 60 works by more than 25 recognized and emerging international artists, including: Ai Weiwei, Seung Woo Back, Zoe Beloff, Cao Fei, Thomas Demand, Mark Dion, Leandro Erlich, Omer Fast, John Gerrard, Johan Grimonprez, Iris Haussler, Jonn Herschend, Pierre Huyghe, Bertrand Lavier, Joel Lederer, Sharon Lockhart, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Eva and Franco Mattes, Jonathan Monk, Vik Muniz, An-My Lê, Trevor Paglen, Walid Raad, Dario Robleto, Eve Sussman, Mary Temple, and Yes Men.
Scheduled for July 6–8, 2012, the opening weekend in Santa Fe will include a gala preview and dinner, special artist performances, a panel discussion, and a newly commissioned More Real? Guide to Fanta Se, complete with open-air guided tours of The City Different. The exhibition will then travel to the MIA to open there on March 3, 2013.
More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness presents work by some of today's most accomplished and promising international artists who are examining our shifting experience of reality. Over the past century, during a period of unprecedented technological change and global social upheaval, once-established beliefs, or "truths," have been cast into doubt, changing and shaping our understanding and experience of reality. Through diverse media and in unexpected ways, this exhibition explores the impact and role of deception, play, memory, power, simulation, and new technologies on art and everyday life.
The exhibition proposes that we now live in an "Age of Truthiness," a time when our understanding of the truth is no longer bound to anything tangible, provable, or factual.
In 2005, Stephen Colbert, comedian and host of the popular satirical news program, "The Colbert Report," coined the word "truthiness" and brought it to the forefront of the English lexicon. Defined by the American Dialect Society as "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true," the notion of "truthiness" quickly caught hold and it became Merriam-Webster's word of the year in 2006. By presenting art that reveals, confronts, and questions the nature of reality in an age when the relationships between truth and fiction have never been less definitive, More Real? explores our constantly changing shared sense of what is real.
“Satirical newspapers are creating fake news stories in response to real events, which seem true on first read, while comedy television shows are recognized as legitimate and credible sources of the news,” said Armstrong. “Politicians are inventing alternative histories and narratives, from faked weapons of mass destruction to imaginary Bosnian sniper fire. “More Real?” brings together the work of artists from across the globe who are responding to the pervasiveness of truthiness in politics and culture, writ-large to understand better our perceptions of truth, reality, and the genuine.”
Broken into three thematic sections—Deception and Play: From Trompe l’oeil to the Authentic Fake; The Status of Fact: Unreliable Narrators, Parafiction, and Truthiness; and Reshaping the Real: Cinema, Memory, and the Virtual—the exhibition will present work across a variety of traditional and experimental mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, video, sound, and online installations. Highlights of the works on view include:
• An-My Lê’s Small Wars, 1999–2002, battle-scene re-enactments of the Vietnam War photographed in the United States, but appear to be documentary photographs;
• Ai Weiwei’s Colored Vases, 2006, Neolithic and Han dynasty urns, which may or may not be authentic, subjected to smashing, grinding, and dipping into vats of industrial paint that obliterate their historic and aesthetic importance;
• Joel Lederer’s The Metaverse is Beautiful, 2008, large-scale images of utopian landscapes in the virtual world Second Life;
• Vik Muniz’s Verso, 2008, a series of meticulously rendered objects that simulate the reverse sides of iconic paintings with their loan stickers, gallery labels, historic inscriptions, and scratches and marks from the ravages of time;
• Eve Sussman’s 89 Seconds at Alcazar, 2004, a video installation that recreates the scene from Diego Velázquez’s 17th-century masterpiece Las Meninas as a highly realistic moving image. Each of these highlighted works put pressure on contemporary notions of authenticity, veracity, historicism, and originality. In doing so, they create a sense of discomfort that asks viewers to examine more deeply the often-felt impulse to accept presented facts and images at face value.
A 300-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition and will include essays by Armstrong and by contributors D. Graham Burnett, of Princeton University; Mark Levy, California State University; Tom Gunning, University of Chicago; Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Harvard University; Norman Klein, California Institute of the Arts; and Glenn Lowry, Museum of Modern Art. The fully-illustrated book will also include an entry about each of the artists featured in the exhibition.
“More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness” is presented by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and SITE Santa Fe.