‘How much of this is fiction’ opens at FACT next week; Exploring fiction, reality & ‘post-truth’ politics

Wachter & Jud, Zone*Interdite (2000-ongoing)

How much of this is fiction. Exploring the radical shift in the boundary between fiction and reality in a world increasingly governed by ‘post-truth’ politics

Showing at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool from 2 March until 21 May 2017, the exhibition 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.

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.

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.

The exhibition is organised into two principal areas, Zone 1: The Newsroom and Zone 2: Guantanamo Bay Museum for Art and History.

The Newsroom looks into hacks and fabricated ‘news fictions’ where deception or provocation has interfered with the media landscape, and opened it up as a platform for discussion and debate. Famous examples include American media pranksters The Yes Men’s impersonation of a Dow Chemical representative apologising for the Bhopal Catastrophe on its 20th anniversary live on BBC World News, and UBERMORGEN.COM’s large-scale action of ‘media hacking’ during the Bush vs. Gore US presidential elections in 2000, where they adopted and revamped the domain name voteauction.com into a website where American voters had the opportunity to sell their vote to the highest bidder. Showcasing a collection of interconnected works, this zone demonstrates how these tactics are grounded in a long history of politicised hoaxes and hacks, eventually morphing into contemporary, web-based activism.

For the second part of the exhibition, the curators invited artist and chief-curator Ian Alan Paul of the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History (GBMAH) to co-curate and present a series of interconnected installations revealing how the trickster ethos is used to address a number of urgent related themes and issues. Works range from the subversive redefinition of spaces and architectures of containment by Wachter & Jud, to digital acts of cultural reclamation from Morehshin Allahyari; a reimagining of the roles of drones in the near future by design studio Superflux; and the latest satirical campaign of The Yes Men.