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Magazine

16 September 2019
Disguised Polyphony

Vatiu Nicolás Koralsky

Someone decides to set up a focus group with twenty Spanish-speaking artists living in Barcelona, originally from various regions of Latin America and Spain, in order to question them and study their opinions on ‘impostures’. Twenty chairs are arranged in a white cube; the participants, all of whom know the password and the reason for their presence, enter the cube. The first minutes are awkward. Someone breaks the silence of the circle saying that imposture has to do with passing oneself off as another. Someone says that it’s a form of deception. Someone lets slip that death is the one thing that cannot be deceived. Someone conceptualises the idea of imposture as the persistence shown by someone or something to become an imposture. Someone tells us that he confuses imposture with posture, and posture with posing and discomposure. Someone says that posture is the way in which a body follows an order, and the risk of maintaining one and the same posture is immobility. Someone says that imposture calls into question the idea that we can be only one. Someone adds that to speak of one’s ‘own’ identity is a fiction. Someone says that identity is the repetition of what we believe we are. Someone says that the only identity they are familiar with is that of wrinkles, those lines on our skin that express our vitality. Someone announces that imposture is something that is put before truth. Someone says that ‘truth’ doesn’t exist. Someone says that they read that ‘Personal success consists in carrying out impostures, in infiltrating vacant identities’. Someone points out that imposture is linked to mimesis, to copies. Someone says that the concept breaks with the idea of the unique, the authentic and authorship. Someone says that no one is one. Someone says that legitimation is produced by repetition. Someone says that both in imposture and in ‘identity’, sensitivity is hardened. Someone says, ‘To speak of imposture is to work with a constellation of concepts, including the true and the false, the aura and the authentic, truths as correspondence, pragmatic truths, the demonstrable, hermeneutics and interpretations, fraud, truth and post-truth, the author as impostor, simulacra, artifice and poses.’ Someone says they prefer to do without academic knowledge and its solemnities, because they too are forms of imposture. Someone says they cried when they discovered – thanks to a scratched record in the middle of an MTV show – that the German duo Milli Vanilli was a farce. Someone picks up a mobile phone and says that they shed tears of joy whenever they see Thamsanqa Jantjie, the fake translator at the memorial for Nelson Mandela. Someone confesses they cry upon realising how much money they spent purchasing slimming pills, stain removers and abdominal appliances over the phone in the nineties. Someone declares: ‘All acts of consumption are acts of faith.’ Someone suggests that Welles was the master of deception, a fact he confirmed in The War of the Worlds and the legendary episode of the radio series The Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast in October 1938 during which hundreds of terrified listeners believed what they were hearing and thronged on to the streets of New York and New Jersey in the hope of escaping the alien invasion. Someone observes that this is the precedent of fake news and of how the media can manipulate us. Someone challenges this by saying that Welles surpassed his The War of the Worlds with his film F for Fake (1973). Someone relates that the film, in its very title, warns that we will be deceived. Someone says that F establishes forgery as one of the fine arts and is an undisputed work of montage. Someone states that they had to watch it three times in order to understand it because they couldn’t follow the story within the story. Someone describes the plot of F for Fake saying ‘It’s about an art forger, Elmyr de Hory, and his biographer Clifford Irving; the former forges paintings (Modiglianis and Picassos, among others) that the latter sells to several international art collections’. Someone says that up to that point it would appear to be just another story but that Welles is responsible for adding layer over layer, manipulating the fragments, presenting a falsehood where we could suspect the truth. Someone believes that Welles confronts us with the limits of representation and puts us in the position of the swindled swindler. Someone considers that Welles subverts the established idea that documentary film reveals ‘what is true’. Someone says that the producers of The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1999) were smarter than Welles as each dollar they invested in the film produced ten thousand dollars in takings, which made it the highest profit-making film in history. Someone says that such fake documentaries are based on found footage. Someone asks what found footage means. Someone explains the technique. Someone says that The Blair Witch Project isn’t a documentary and doesn’t use found footage. Someone says that found footage is old and that they’re now experimenting with deepfake. Someone looks as if they don’t know what that is. Someone calls into question the ethics of deep nudes. Someone says they’re a friend of Bill Posters’s, the artist who created the deepfake Spectre (2019,) making the image of Mark Zuckerberg telling us how he violates our privacy and uses our data go viral. Someone says that this sort of piece appears in response to the social manipulation produced by Cambridge Analytica. Someone reveals that they cracked up laughing when they saw the deepfake Posters made of Marina Abramovic and Kim Kardashian. Someone recommends seeing the work by the Brandalism collective to which Posters belongs. Someone asks whether it’s like Banksy’s work. Someone adds that Banksy ‘trades on the stock exchange’ and sells at Sotheby’s. Someone comments on the auction of his self-destructive work. Someone says that several different people claim to be Banksy, that there is no Banksy. Someone tells the story of Petia Cervera Krupova, an emerging artist of Bulgarian descent with all the necessary ingredients to be favourite for winning any art competition. Someone adds that Petia is like a fake Facebook profile come true. Someone says that for art juries and curators Petia is the equivalent of Megan in the documentary Catfish (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, 2012), in which the director believes to have found the love of his life in a young girl he only knows through Facebook. Someone says they know who invented Petia. Someone claims to read Vila-Matas and says that his writing is riddled with imposture as a literary resource. Someone remembers Desconocido, Barnaola, Doctor Virgil — three of the characters in one of his novels set in Barcelona, where nobody wanted to be who they were. Someone recommends reading Victoria Ocampo’s El impostor and adds that imposture is a division, a mistake where someone is somewhere he shouldn’t be. Someone says, ‘It’s the replacement of one by another, an act of supplantation.’ Someone says that identity supplantation reminds them of the story of Nicholas Barclay, a boy who went missing in San Antonio (Texas, USA) and was found years later in Linares (Spain). Someone adds that this case is the plot of the documentary entitled The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012). Someone identifies the character and says that the impostor (Frédéric Bourdin, a French youth who was recognised by Nicholas’s own family despite not looking anything like Nicholas and not even being the same age or being able to speak English without an accent) featured in the documentary is a mental patiendurant. Someone empathises with Bourdin and is touched by his deception. Someone says that imposture implies the need and the desire of others for something or someone to be true. Someone wonders whether people are discussing the film by Isa Campo and Isaki Lacuesta (The Next Skin, 2016). Someone mistakes the documentary for the film that starred Angelina Jolie (Changeling, Clint Eastwood, 2008). Someone relates El impostor to the film Time Out (Laurent Cantet, 2001). Someone recites the plot: ‘An unemployed man leads his family and friends to think that he works at the United Nations, keeping up the farce day in, day out’. Someone declares that the film is inspired by the life of Jean-Claude Romand, who claimed he had discovered a cure for cancer and worked as a researcher at the World Health Organization. Someone adds that when Romand was unable to continue his farce he murdered his entire family. Someone says that some impostors, like the Catalan Alicia Esteve Head who passed herself off as Tania Head, a survivor of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, have done a lot to help victims of the Twin Towers. Someone adds that Alicia studied at ESADE. Someone recalls that the father of the impostor is Francisco Esteve Corbella, an entrepreneur accused of fraud. Someone confesses that Corbella’s grandson bought several pieces from her for his private collection. Someone says that they would never sell their work to a fraudster. Someone calls him a moralist. Someone declares he is Alicia’s nephew. Everyone goes silent. Someone strives to resume the talk saying that deceit in commercial films is profitable and that during the past week they saw two films that circumvent the theme of imposture: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller, 2018) and The Kindergarten Teacher (Sara Colangelo, 2018). Someone adds that the two leading figures are white women. Someone begins a debate on colonial practices in Hollywood cinema. Someone suggests they focus on the theme that has drawn them to the room in which they are sitting. Someone says that ‘Everything is related to everything else’. Someone says that if we’re talking about Hollywood, Catch Me If You Can(Steven Spielberg, 2002) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999) are his favourites. Someone refers to the films by Gastón Duprat My Masterpiece (2018) and The Artist (together with Mariano Cohn, 2008), and says, ‘They’re X-rays of the conceit and arrogance that characterise the art world.’ Someone says that one of the greatest deceptions in art was revealed when Max Aub was discovered to be the creator of Jusep Torres Campalans (1886–1957), who had been considered one of the founders of Cubism. Someone observes that in July 1966 Roberto Jacoby, Raúl Escari and Roberto Costa carried out the happening entitled Participación total(Total Participation) or Happening para un jabalí difunto (Happening for A Dead Wild Boar), leading the press to believe in the existence of an event that never actually took place. Someone adds that this experience caused a rare commotion. Someone points out that Jacoby is one of the forerunners of media art. Someone says that the art medium is a huge imposture. Someone declares that she deceives herself every day due to her precarious condition as an artist. Someone announces that if your situation isn’t precarious, you can’t define yourself as a contemporary artist, and that if you’re a contemporary and precarious artist, you can’t afford to produce work. Someone explains that when artists cease to be emerging and become consolidated they lose sensitivity and move away from ‘real’ problems. Someone says that there’s an army of children from white middle-to-upper class Eurocentric families who study art to be a bit cooler and are hipsters, white trash and gender fluid hybrids, leftists who possibly describe themselves as anarchs, vegans and feminists. Someone says that the daughter of President Mauricio Macri, the son of singer Gustavo Cerati or the daughter of television host Marcelo Tinelli are fine examples. Someone cries, ‘Macri  Cat!*’ Someone says that these artists feel ‘class guilt’. Someone mentions the niece of Mario Vargas Llosa and Florencia Kirchner. Someone says they don’t know any of those mentioned earlier. Someone feels offended by the fact of Cande Tinelli being considered an artist. Someone speaks of the burden of ‘being the son or daughter of’. Someone confesses that being an emerging artist forced her to make up another personality in order to carry on producing ‘work’ and surviving. Someone says that after she had completed her university studies and had spent the few savings she had been keeping to pay for their masters degree, once the crop of subsidies and grants had dwindled and she had past the age of thirty-five all she could do was go back to working as a waitress. Someone says that she has to babysit three times a week because what she earns at workshops dedicated to ‘creative writing’ and ‘critical viewing’ isn’t enough to make ends meet and even less to produce her documentary. Someone declares that they adapted their unemployment benefit in order to produce work and are now able to devote six months to their oeuvre. Someone says that being undocumented, the only job they can find is a night shift as a guest-house receptionist. Someone reveals that their boss chose them because hiring migrants is a way of saving a few euros and paying them less than he should, and says ‘He knows I can’t report him’. Someone says that her condition as a working-class daughter is what gives her the moral superiority of thinking and making contemporary art. Someone says that the time it takes her to lobby in the art world obliges her to use her time strategically, therefore she only addresses contacts she finds interesting. Someone says that her greatest imposture is of a levyable nature due to her being falsely self-employed. Someone declares that in order to present a bill as an artist and evade tax collectors they have to live in the chinks that exist between the two laws. Someone announces that as a result of living in the chinks, they lack breathing space. Someone says that in order to be identified as a ‘contemporary artist’, their statement must include at least five of the following terms, and recites: ‘abject, algorithm, alienation, ambience, antithesis, apparatus, archaeology, archive, artificial, automation, capitalism, cartography, choreography, circulation, cis, code, cognitive, collaboration, collective, colonial, community, conceptual, constellation, constructivism, context, counterpoint, , crisis, criticism, crossing, de-automation, deconstruct, de-habitualise, demonstrations, desire, denaturation, development, device, dialectics, dialogue, disconformity, discourse, disruptive, document, domestic, ecological, effectiveness, error, essentialism, exhibitional, exploitation, factory, feminist, fetish, fiction, focus, fragment, geography, gesture, global, hetero-patriarchal, humanism, iconography, identity, image, imagination, impossibility, inclusion, inconclusive, indigenous, individuality, immaterial, installation, instrument, instrumentalism, interactive, interconnected, interdisciplinary, interface, interference, intimacy, intimate, landscape, language, machine, materiality, matter, mechanism, mediation, medium, memory, methodological, migration, morphological, multiplicity, narrative, neo-Fascism, neo-liberal, nostalgia, nothing, object, opacity, organic, paradox, participative, patriarchal, performance, perspective, politics, post (in all its versions), power, practice, process, production, proliferation, radical, race, refugee, regime, representation, reproduction, resistance, resonance, series, site-specific, structure, struggle, subalternation, subject, subjectivity, subordinate, support, surface, system, territory, time, trans, transition, twist, ubiquity, vacuum, video, violence, viral, virtual’. Someone recalls how, in an act of generosity, a collector bought practically the entire oeuvre of an artist so they could be treated for an incurable disease. Someone adds that the collector covetously hoped the treatment would fail so that once in the afterlife the price of the work would go up. Someone is appalled. Someone says they are disgusted with the idea of art as merchandise, with money laundering in art and with speculation. Someone remembers a story they often heard as a child, according to which at each social gathering an artist declared that since the eighties he had been making a living producing ‘new’ works by Pedro Figari, and goes on to say: ‘Figari was a Uruguayan defence counsel for the poor, a philosopher and a painter who made a name for himself as an artist after reaching the age of sixty, who found copying easy, as he kept on repeating. I always felt that the man told the story to draw attention to himself, stressing whenever he could his talent for Figariar. One day, when I was older, I found the anecdote interesting when the crooked artist added a chapter that ended up galvanising me, and said “During the last Argentinean civilian and military dictatorship (1976-1983) the government confronted the United Kingdom in the Falklands War of 1982. In a gesture of generosity, I donated one of my pictures to contribute to finance the conflict. A Patriotic Fund was set up with the donations that for three months collected money, clothes and food to resolve the war. A total of US $54 million was raised by the fund. The donations reached a peak of popularity with the television marathon 24 Hours for the Falklands. To date, the final destination of the Patriotic Fund remains an enigma still to be solved. What was tough was when one day I managed to discover where my donation went. A couple of years later, one evening after a vernissage“.’ Someone interrupts the narrator, grumbling ‘What a bombastic word! Why didn’t they say inauguration? It’s even worse today, as English-speaking colonialists have replaced it with opening.’ Someone resumes the story: ‘Figari’s forger was invited to the home of a retired navy officer for a drink; the former soldier wanted to show him his collection of Latin American art and in the living-cum-dining room he recognised his Figari beside a Berni. The work was added to the fraud of the Patriotic Fund.’ Someone proclaims: a defrauded fraudster. Someone is moved by the Falklands and her combatants. Someone recalls the installation entitled Veteranos (2016) by Lola Arias. Someone remembers the missing and the seized babies. Someone relates imposture to the underground years, to the possibility of living through the fiction of another name, without appropriating themselves of anyone’s identity. Someone believes that during the years of clandestinity, imposture was the way to avoid disappearing. Someone asks whether anonymity is an imposture. Someone declares that clandestinity isn’t the result of role play but of political persecution. Someone says that migration for economic or political reasons is a similar process to that of clandestinity, where the attributes people had in one place disappear in another. Someone remembers the novel Los topos (2008) by Félix Bruzzone. Someone adds that the book begins with an epigraph from the song entitled Amor descartable (1984) by the group Virus. Someone says that Roberto Jacoby wrote the group’s lyrics. Someone adds that in 1994, along with Mariana Sainz, Jacoby invented the fake creative agency Los Fabulous Nobodies and signed the Yo tengo sida (I’ve Got Aids) campaign, printing the slogan on T-shirts for mass distribution. Someone says that this was an action that sought to attack discrimination. Someone adds that when they were diagnosed with the virus, a new order of priorities was imposed on their life. Someone explains that an imposture is a way of faking oneself, of resembling something we’re not, of learning a code in order to enjoy our privilege. Someone asks ‘How long can one keep up the pretence of being another? Will there come a time when one actually absorbs the other? Is wanting to be another a form of self-deception? Is impersonating an act of creation in itself?’. Someone says that imposture is awkward, vacant. Someone says that imposture doesn’t hope to attain any result, but is in itself the event.

 

* Macri Gato, in the original. Gato, literally cat, is a Lunfardo term used to describe a sycophant.

 

Vatiu Nicolás Koralsky® embodied curatorial practices. An uneasy pastiche, hypochondriacal, campy, over-psychoanalysed, Piscean, migrant, non-conformist, dyslexic, pseudo-shaman. A Tucumanian in Barcelona's Raval district. A Google of sensitivity. He avoids the shyness produced by lobbies and networking, shrinking away among affinities. Sometimes he barks, at other time he writes. He is ill at ease defining himself.

Articles

16 September 2019

Disguised Polyphony

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