How much of this is fiction. @ FACT, Liverpool

Exploring the radical shift in the boundary between fiction and reality in a world increasingly governed by ‘post-truth’ politics

Exhibition @ FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool,  2 March 2017 - 21 May 2017
Public Opening: Thursday 2 March / 6 - 8pm / All galleries

How much of this is fiction. is an exhibition, involving artists as tricksters and featuring work which involves the direct use of deception, tricks, hoaxes and hacks. These politically inspired media artists use trickery and deception to exploit the shifting boundary between fiction and reality in a world of ‘post-truth’ politics.

How much of this is fiction. focuses on politically inspired media art that uses deception in all its forms. At the heart of the exhibition is the desire to address one of today’s most urgent political issues: the radical shift in the boundary between fiction and reality in public discourse, in a world increasingly governed by ‘post-truth’ politics. How much of this is fiction. shows the artist as ‘dark jester’, as trickster, using a variety of hoaxes, hacks and ruses to reveal the hidden workings of power structures and the possibility of alternative futures.

As well as acting as a timely reflection on the nature of truth in a time filled with fake news, misinformation, and tactical propaganda, the show also serves a historical purpose. Many of the high-speed media interventions showcased in the show are, to a degree, legacies of ‘Tactical Media’; a cultural and political movement that flourished in the late 90s. Tactical Media was the first to combine the power of art, the practices of PR and advertising worlds, and an experimental approach to digital media, to mount hit-and-run interventions in the media sphere aiming to create chaos as a means of generating political opportunity.

The artists showcased as part of How much of this is fiction. are united in their underlying purpose of engaging with urgent social and political events. The show includes ambitious restagings of installation works by Maia Gusberti, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, and UBERMORGEN, as well as exciting new commissions by Morehshin Allahyari, HeHe, and artist-designer Ruben Pater. Invited on the basis of his own work within the realm of Tactical Media, Pater has produced a new graphic and spatial design for the exhibition. Grounded in a strong activist history (particularly relating to the ways in which the media covers moments of political unrest) and ideas of containment, his graphic design engages with themes of political protest, systems of control, and acts of obfuscation.

How much of this is fiction. will show how the influence of this media movement remains all around us. Whether it be the social media meme tactics of political extremists, the live streaming of police shootings to social and mainstream media platforms around the world, Trump’s midnight tweets, the exposure of the surveillance state through Snowden’s actions, or information unveiled by Wikileaks, it is clear that the critical role of “do it yourself” media politics is as crucial as ever.

David Garcia and Annet Dekker, in collaboration with Ian Alan Paul (Director, Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History)

Event Program

Artist Talk: 'Dark Jesters' in the Spotlight
Thursday 2 March / 12.15 - 2pm / The Box

The artists in the How much of this is fiction. are what we are calling media tricksters and 'dark jesters', who use fiction as a method to unmask, subvert and satirise the workings of power, or to create the possibility of alternative futures by using fictional scenarios to act ‘as if’ change had already occurred. In a series of short talks followed by dialogue with the curators, the artists will explore how their tactics can be differentiated from the deliberate use of fake-news by the insurgents of the new 'alt-right'.

With David Garcia, Annet Dekker, UBERMORGEN, HeHe, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, and Ian Alan Paul.

Symposium: Tactical Media Connections
Thursday 2 March / 3-4.30pm/ The Box

The works featured in How Much of this is Fiction. are related to Tactical Media, an influential movement that flourished in the 1990s that fused art, political campaigning and an experimental use of digital media. In the intervening years the political importance of these kinds of DIY media interventions have been hotly disputed, with some seeing them as a distraction from ‘real’ politics, whilst others see Tactical Media as an important weapon in the battle for the ‘social mind’.

With David Garcia, Florian Cramer, Ian Alan Paul and Mike Stubbs.

Meme Wars: Internet culture and the ‘alt-right’
Thursday 2 March / 4.30pm-5.45pm / The Box / £3, booking required

Writer and researcher Florian Cramer shares some of his research into little known factors influencing the rise of the alt-right - a segment of right-wing ideologies presented as an alternative to mainstream conservatism in the US. His presentation maps the emergence of this large white supremacist subculture, shining a light on the complex origins of the cultist language and image codes adopted by the movement.

The alt-right presence has grown on message/image boards such as 4Chan and 8Chan through its appropriation of the meme, and managed to achieve significant cultural dominance, transforming their own brand of meme culture into a powerful and tangible tool. Cramer’s research has not only charted the successes of this unexpected online activity, but has also illustrated the apparent lack of any equivalent sub-cultural energy on the left.

From Trump and Pepe the Frog, to Kek (the Egyptian God of chaos), Cramer’s lecture will challenge the shallow discourse of fake news and ‘post-truth’, which creates a smoke screen covering the actual dynamics at play, and in doing so will course the continual popularity of ‘Fashy’, or ‘fashionable fascism’.

See more of Florian Cramer’s research here.

Curator tour with Annet Dekker and David Garcia
Saturday 4 March / 12pm / FACT Foyer

Join Annet Dekker and David Garcia, curators of How much of this is fiction., for a tour of FACT’s ambitious new exhibition. Find out more about the concepts behind the works exploring the radical shift in boundary between fiction and reality, in a world increasingly governed by ‘post-truth’ politics.

Annet Dekker is an independent researcher and curator. She is currently Assistant Professor of Media Studies: Archival Science at the University of Amsterdam and Visiting Lecturer at London South Bank University. Previously Annet worked as Researcher Digital Preservation at Tate, London, core tutor at Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam (Master Media Design and Communication, Networked Media and Lens-Based Media). She was also Programme Manager at Virtueel Platform, and Head of Exhibitions, Education and Artists-in-residence at the Netherlands Media Art Institute.

In 2014, she completed her PhD. Enabling the Future, or How to Survive FOREVER; a study of networks, processes and ambiguity in net art and the need for an expanded practice of conservation, at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London.

David Garcia is an artist, academic and organiser. He has pioneered new forms of critical engagement with art and media, based on an occupying of the cracks which began to appear in the edifice of broadcast media in the 1990s. Through a series of events, most notably Next 5 Minutes, Garcia (with others) identified these kinds of interventions as part of a wider trend: a previously uncategorised set of cultural and political practices they called, “Tactical Media”. These ideas caught on and have since been recognised as one of the more significant and distinctive cultural movements of the last two decades. To connect the ‘memory’ of Tactical Media to the radical proliferation and transformation of these practices, Garcia co-founded, (with Dutch Media theorist Eric Kluitenberg), the award winning Tactical Media Files, an online repository of Tactical Media materials past and present.

Alongside these projects Garcia has been active in Higher Education in which he has been instrumental in developing and embedding processes that unlock the radical potential of art as research. He has developed these ideas as Professor of Design for Digital Culture University of Portsmouth & Utrecht College of Art in the Netherlands where he launched the (UN) Common Ground project and publication, based around empirically grounded case studies of collaborations in academia, art and industry. He is currently Professor of Digital Arts and Media Activism at Bournemouth University.


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