Critics’ Picks

Montse Carreño and Raquel Muñoz, Las cajas chinas (The Chinese Boxes), 2011. Installation view.

Montse Carreño and Raquel Muñoz, Las cajas chinas (The Chinese Boxes), 2011. Installation view.


“FAKE. It Is Not True, It Is Not a Lie”

Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM)
Calle de Guillem de Castro, 118
October 20, 2016–January 29, 2017

“The only interesting answers,” Susan Sontag wrote, “are those which destroy the questions.” “FAKE. It Is Not True, It Is Not a Lie” is one of those rare exhibitions that illustrates her point. Organized by Jorge Luis Marzo, this show encompasses fifty artists and art collectives that hijack mass communication, invent artistic identities, and create false documentaries, exposing not only our gullibility but the fault lines of our most preciously held convictions.

In the videotaped action Real Snow White, 2009, Finnish artist Pilvi Takala, dressed as Snow White outside Disneyland Paris, generates excitement and photo ops before being apprehended by security and escorted to the restrooms to change. A mother pulls her child away—“Come on, it’s not the real Snow White.” In 2011, artists Montse Carreño and Raquel Muñoz commissioned Chinese forgeries of five paintings lost during the Spanish Civil War, for their piece Las cajas chinas (The Chinese Boxes), and anonymously delivered them to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, astounding museum officials who eagerly ran forensic tests and then called the police. The signed copies are shown here.

As we descend further in, there’s a video excerpt from The Yes Men Fix the World, 2009, where the Yes Men impersonate Dow Chemical representatives promising a $12 billion payout to victims in India for the environmental disaster the company caused there in 1984. Their hoax sent the company’s stocks plummeting. Deeper in the exhibition, a 1944 Nazi propaganda film of a concentration camp illustrates the most horrific and heartbreaking falsity of all. Here, we reach the dark heart of the matter: not only the way fiction can co-opt reality, but the way we, the audience, are often doing the reverse. On social media, the boundary between true and false is so abraded it defies precedent. Yet there is genuine danger in ascribing truth to falsity, in believing in a “real” Snow White.