Friday, 16 January 2009

When is a hoax not a hoax?

I nearly posted about the art project celebrating the Czech Presidency of the EU earlier this week – a giant model kit with different bits by 27 artists, one from each country. The British one being missing, to reflect the supposed attitude to the EU. I thought it was kind of funny. As did the Telegraph’s EU correspondent. The brochure did seem oddly full of visualartspeak though. (Visualartspeak is like artspeak with extra syllables and more reference to French philosophers and less reference to English as it is spoken.)

Well, turns out it’s actually even funnier as there are not 27 artists, just one, David Cerny. This is being reported as a ‘£350,000 EU art hoax’. (Certain newspapers must have thought their dream story had come true but for the absence of explicit reference to asylum seekers. ) It's also caused diplomatic ripples as reported here. So long as David Cerny hasn’t fraudulently made off with money that was designed for other people’s fees, I’m not sure I see this as a hoax so much as a fiction. (Thinking of the way early novels like Molls Flanders and Robinson Crusoe purported to be true memoirs.) He has played with images of artists as well as of countries. It’s a classic kind of arty anti-art gesture, or more simply perhaps a properly serious spoof of the EU, artists, artspeak and the commissioning process. Although it plays into prejudices that all modern art is somehow a confidence trick on the public, it seems a serious, though amusing project.

Whether it's a belly laugh, a smile or a smirk the work raises it's undoubtedly a lot funnier than the new BBC radio comedy ‘Broken Arts’, which is, I think, an attempt to spoof arts programmes and the arts. But then, I do often think certain Radio 4 evening comedies must be hoaxes as surely they can’t seriously have gone through all the commissioning and editing processes and still have been thought a good idea. (I will, however, forgive them a lot for the brilliant Count Arthur Strong and Listen Against.)

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