What is wrong with fake ??
March 16, 2006 4:19 AM   Subscribe

Real good, fake bad ... but, why ?
posted by Brainstormer (29 comments total)
Interesting article. I wonder about the inclusion of the Cottingley fairies and the Shroud of Turin, since these were not art fakes nor done for money.
posted by jfuller at 4:32 AM on March 16, 2006

Well, we don't know WHY the Shroud of Turn was originally done. My guess is, that *somebody* sold it to the church originally. Why else would you create such a fake? I guess there are other reasons, but money seems the most likely to me.
posted by antifuse at 4:37 AM on March 16, 2006

Why else would you create such a fake?

Relics draw pilgrims to a particular church. Pilgrims give that particular church money.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:45 AM on March 16, 2006

Oh aye. Mayor has a point.
posted by jfuller at 5:41 AM on March 16, 2006

Mayor has a point, but it's more likely that the church itself was conned. Selling fake relics to churches and wealthy nobles was a pretty big business in the Middle Ages. Shroud of Turin style cons were extremely common.
posted by unreason at 6:12 AM on March 16, 2006

I think you have to consider the churches pretty complicit:

"What do you have there?"

"It's totally 3 hairs from the tail of St. Bartholomew's donkey."

"He lived over 600 years ago. How can you be so sure?"

"I bought them off this old guy who said he had been to Lebanon and there was, like, this former leper who said he had the hairs and they had totally healed him. But he was willing to sell them."

"Sounds good. Brother James, let the serfs know that we have a cool new relic. And draw up a Certificate of Authenticity!"

(Of course, the Shroud is particularly convincing. But the diocese still had to wonder about it.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:22 AM on March 16, 2006

Without "Real" there is no "Fake" - and it's this hierachy that comprises the most basic tenet of our system of value.
posted by bobloblaw at 6:31 AM on March 16, 2006

"Holly Golightly? She's a phony. But she's a REAL phony!"
posted by gimonca at 6:37 AM on March 16, 2006

Andy Warhol turned the whole real / fake hierarchy on its head of course. "No, this is a *real* fake Brillo box." Mmmmm.... deconstruction.
posted by zpousman at 7:00 AM on March 16, 2006

Not a particularly insightful piece, just your standard mulling-over of the real/fake distinction, but then it's only a newspaper thumbsucker, and not badly done. But I'm grateful to it for informing me about the "Tiara of Saitapharnes" that the Louvre bought for 200,000 gold francs but "turned out to have been made in 1880 by Israel Rouchomovsky, the Russian goldsmith." I did a little research (if anyone's interested, his name in Russian is Израиль Рухомовский, which would normally be rendered in English as Israel [or, better, Izrail] Rukhomovskii) and discovered that after the fake was revealed in 1903 when the goldsmith revealed he'd been paid 2,000 rubles to create it, an American impresario brought him to the States and paid him to do a lecture tour, telling audiences how he'd done it. After his brief moment in the spotlight, he went back to Odessa and was forgotten. (Here's the Russian article I found, with a picture of the notorious tiara—which I personally would call a "crown," but I'm not an antiquarian or a goldsmith, so what do I know?)
posted by languagehat at 7:07 AM on March 16, 2006

I prefer real orgasms, but, if pressed, I will accept fake ones.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:23 AM on March 16, 2006

Andy actually didn't turn the art world on it's head. He turned art collectors on their heads; real artists weren't all that high on the guy.

Art, music, culture is just a conglomeration of forgeries from another time. In a world where they want to call every piece of crap, "art", it's hard to swallow them crying foul about forgers. The skill (not the intent, mind you) involved in creating a good forgery far outshine the original artists in many cases.
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:32 AM on March 16, 2006

Why does anyone care if the Shroud of Turin is fake or real, anyway? It's not like religious belief is based on a sober evaluation of the available evidence in the first place.
posted by koreth at 7:49 AM on March 16, 2006

Funny thing is, the bishops of the diocese in which the Shroud first appeared (Troyes, France) condemned it as a fake at the time (late 14th century). They even, it is said, got a confession from the artist.
posted by gubo at 8:02 AM on March 16, 2006

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. Albert Einstein
posted by nickyskye at 8:04 AM on March 16, 2006

Orson Welles' 1975 F for Fake is a nice meditation on the artifice of art. Primarily focusing on Elmyr de Hory, the famous 20c art forger, Welles, by turning the camera on himself, makes a kind of self-reflexive mockumentary.
posted by xod at 8:38 AM on March 16, 2006

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away. -- P. K. Dick
posted by lodurr at 8:40 AM on March 16, 2006

Appearances often are deceiving. Aesop
posted by nickyskye at 9:01 AM on March 16, 2006

The historicity has value argument is an interesting one, but one that removes value from art as art and puts it on art as artifact. And I'm a little disappointed that he didn't mention Cindy Sherman's Walker Evans rip...
posted by klangklangston at 9:05 AM on March 16, 2006

Selling fake relics to churches and wealthy nobles was a pretty big business in the Middle Ages. Right you are. In Innocents Abroad Mark Twain noted that he saw enough bones of St. Stephen to assemble three St. Stephens if need be.
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:20 AM on March 16, 2006

klangklangston: Sherrie Levine
posted by johngumbo at 10:08 AM on March 16, 2006

... art as artifact ...

Well, art as a commodity only really makes sense if art is artifact.

This is one of those things where we have a word ("art") that refers to two different kinds of thing: Artistic activity, and the objects (or performances) that result from that activity.

Artistic activity doesn't really have anything inherently to do with exchange-value. At its most basic level, I think the definition of art that makes the most sense -- that's most powerful for explaining artistic activity -- is that art is a means of addressing conflict. If that's not what's happening, you've got craft, not art. Not that there's anything wrong with craft -- not at all, I'm a huge fan of craft (and the assiduous practice of craft can be an artistic act, IMHO -- life as art) -- but craft-activity that doesn't address conflict in an original (to the artist/artisan) way is not artistic.

Unfortunately, to make things sticky, the product of artistic activity (and often of craft-activity) is also called art. That product is what gets consumed; it's in the consumption where exchange-value is generated, not in the making. That's where the value is. And in that sense, all consumed art is artifact.
posted by lodurr at 10:37 AM on March 16, 2006

Yes, the church authorities were skeptical about the Shroud of Turin from early on. Modern discoveries have actually made it appear less likely that the shroud is a medieval forgery:

1) The image appears to be a perfect negative, which wasn't discovered until the shroud was photographed in 1898.
2) The man pictured has a wound through his wrist, consistent with what we now know were actual Roman crucifixion procedures, but inconsistent with medieval beliefs (they thought the nails were put thru the hand, due to a bad Bible translation).
3) The image layer on the shroud is incredibly thin -- about 1/100 the thickness of a human hair. That's too thin to be painted on.
4) The carbon-dating in 1988 that established a medieval date for the shroud now appears to have been done on a patched portion of the cloth.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:06 PM on March 16, 2006

Here's another thing about the Shroud of Turin -- it's executed much, much, much better and more painstakingly done than it ever needed to be to serve as an pilgrim-attracting, donation-sucking artifact (for instance, see the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe). Someone went to a lot of trouble to make this thing. The thinking that went into its visual architecture and design was remarkably original and innovative. All spirituality aside, it qualifies as a good and genuine mystery.
posted by Faze at 1:31 PM on March 16, 2006

Yes, the church authorities were skeptical about the Shroud of Turin from early on. Modern discoveries have actually made it appear less likely that the shroud is a medieval forgery:

Except for the whole scientific dating thing. Oh, let me guess-- some kind of special radiation released when Dingus got called back altered the molecular structure of the Shroud. Because God suddenly decided to pay homage (but not follow) to the laws of thermodynamics, even though he's omniscent and he also previously just ignored them?

Then what is it? Some superhero's last costume? 'Cause SuperJesus got wrapped pretty funny and had some inhuman proportions if that's the case.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:38 PM on March 16, 2006

gumbo: Thanks. I have to remember that I dislike Sherman and Levine for different reasons.

Lodurr: Good, interesting points, even though I don't have time to respond as I'd like.

Re: Turin— One of the more interesting, if not entirely plausible, theories that I've heard is that it was actually an early experiment with photographic printing. Using egg whites and urine (or several other compounds known to have been experimented with in the middle ages) and a camera obscura, it's possible to make images on cloth. I know that it was even posited that Leonardo da Vinci had something to do with the shroud, though I believe that's been pretty well debunked (he did, however, experiment with primitive photographic printing, including silver nitrates).
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 PM on March 16, 2006

Except for the whole scientific dating thing. Oh, let me guess-- some kind of special radiation released when Dingus got called back altered the molecular structure of the Shroud.

Again, the 1988 carbon dating results are now considered unreliable. As for how the image got on the shroud, or whether it was actually Jesus' burial cloth, I haven't the faintest idea. Like Faze said, it's a genuine mystery.

For some mostly non-supernatural speculations on how the image may have been produced, check out Wikipedia.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:32 AM on March 17, 2006

I have a fake Rolex that looks every bit as good as the original, keeps better time, and only cost me $40 so if it ever gets stolen, lost, or damaged i'm not out a huge whack of $$$.

I also have prints of two of Dali's paintings hanging in my office. I've seen the originals, and know that they are about 12' high. But the prints (about 3' high) are every bit as powerful for me, they bring back the memory of seeing the originals every time I look at them.
posted by Snowflake at 9:56 AM on March 17, 2006

Somehow the argument of the article about the value of any piece of art being its place in time and history just doesn't seem quite convincing, a somewhat artificial distinction. Art also has an intrinsic value of its own, however you want to measure it.

I'm a bit surprised that so many jumped on the Shroud of Turin, when the article is really more about the concept of fakery in general. And for those who dismiss it because of one (suspect) radiocarbon dating without considering that a team of scientists using all the most sophisticated techniques available had no clue as to how the image was created have to invent a plausible explanation for how it was done. Whatever your beliefs about the Shroud, it is surrounded in mystery. You cannot take one piece of evidence and ignore all the rest, especially when there is no real theory consistent with all the findings to explain it. For example, if it was an early experiment in photography, why would the cloth contain traces of real blood, meat, pollen, etc? (Just one of the many facts I remember from reading the book about the investigation of the Shroud). In short, there are many things not dreamt of in our philosophies.
posted by blue shadows at 12:34 AM on March 18, 2006

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