An illustrated survey of artist hoaxes, including impersonations, fabula, cryptoscience, and forgeries, researched and written by an expert “fictive-art” practitioner.
In her groundbreaking book, internationally recognized multimedia artist and writer Antoinette LaFarge reflects on the most urgent question of today: where does truth lie, and how is it verified? Encouraging readers to critically question the role art plays in shaping reality, Sting in the Tale: Art, Hoax, and Provocation defines a new genre of art that fabricates evidence to support a central fiction. Interweaving contemporary "fictive art" practice with a lineage of hoaxes and impostures dating from the 17th century, LaFarge offers the first comprehensive survey of this practice.
The shift from the early information age to our "infocalypse" era of rampant misinformation has made fictive art an especially radical form as it straddles the lines between fact, fiction, and wild imagination. Artists deploy a wide range of practices to substantiate their fictions, manufacturing artefacts, altering photographs, and posing as experts from many different fields. A fictive-art practitioner herself, LaFarge explores and underscores the myriad ways art can ground or destabilize one's lived reality, forcing us to question our subjective experience and our understanding of what counts as evidence.
Many examples of these curious and sometimes notorious fabrications are included - from nonexistent artists and peculiar museums to cryptoscientific objects like fake skeletons and staged archaeological evidence. From the intriguing Cottingley fairy photographs "captured" in 1917 by teenage sisters, to the Museum of Jurassic Technology; from the work of artists like Iris Häussler, Joan Fontcuberta, and Eva and Franco Mattes to the enigmatic encyclopedia known as the Codex Seraphinianus, fictive art continues to reframe assumptions made by its contemporaneous culture. With all the attendant consequences of mistrust, outrage, and rejection, fictive art practitioners both past and present play upon the fragile trust that establishes societies, underlining the crucial roles played by perception and doubt.
Foreword by G. D. Cohen
Defining Fictive Art
- Pseudonyms and Personae
- The Alienable Self
- What Counts as History
- Travelers' Tales
Institutions & Movements
- Fictive Museums
- Artist as Institution
- Geofictions and Micronations
- Movements and Religions
Cryptoscience & Taxonomic Inventions
- Fictive Zoology and Paleontology
- Fictive Botany
- Fictive Archaeology
- Taxonomic Inventions
Conclusion: Culture Jamming and Social Media
With Sting in the Tale, Antoinette LaFarge has crafted a masterful study of fictive art — a genre of geofictions, fictive museums, art movements, and invented persona which predate and challenge our current affliction of alternative facts and terrifying political fabulations. At once entertaining and edifying, this scrupulously researched study is a model of interdisciplinary scholarship, bound to generate significant debate for years to come. If Philip K. Dick invented an academic historian to define and taxonomize the interdisciplinary genre of our age, Antoinette LaFarge would be it.
— Thyrza Nichols Goodeve