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Faking your own art?

Posted 14 February, 2007 in Artmaking

This story is related by Robert Anton Wilson in Ishtar Rising:

An art dealer once went to Pablo Picasso and said, "I have a bunch of ‘Picasso’ canvasses that I was thinking of buying. Would you look them over and tell me which are real and which are forgeries?” Picasso obligingly began sorting the paintings into two piles. Then, as the Great Man added one particular picture to the fake pile, the dealer cried, "Wait a minute, Pablo. That’s no forgery. I was visiting you the weekend you painted it." Picasso replied imperturbably, "No matter. I can fake a Picasso as well as any thief in Europe."

[Source, via Chris Rywalt]

Funny, yes, but is it really a larger question? Every try to take something you made that doesn’t speak to you and try to tart it up to make it look like it does? What would that mean, anyway: faking, or working to bring out the "you" in your own work? Useful/not useful?

I have a bunch of photos in a holding bin that do nothing for me, but I can’t quite write off, either. Every once in a while, I go back and revisit them. Sometimes I start fiddling with it, radical cropping, monochrome vs colour, toning, viewing it at different sizes… although I don’t think that’s trying to fake my work—sometimes you have to shovel a little shit before you find the pony—it sometimes feels like it in the moment.

By the way, this doesn’t work most of the time. But sometimes it does: I’ll come back after a few months and see something in a completely different way, and it ends up becoming one of my favourite pieces.

Which leads me to another question: are some of these questions really worth examining this deeply? Most of the artmaking process doesn’t make intellectual sense to me. Yeah, you can say that artmaking trajectory X generally has a set of properties and perils, but at some point, I have to just play it as it lies. I’ve accepted that the above is part of the editing process. It simply is. Why put it under a microscope?

That said, sorting out what the perils are really is important, I think, because once you have a map, you are usefully disabused of the notion that you’re alone in this game. It’s pretty much the same for everybody. You are not a unique and special snowflake on the path of artmaking. While this goes against the grain of the Artist Mystique, I think it’s great, because there are nuts and bolts problems that can be overcome, and how to do so doesn’t have to be a mystery.

Comments

beck

Very interesting post, Nic. And yea, is there truth in photography? Well, sure there is, the camera doesn’t lie….or does it, or is it. The answer is yes…and no. For example…when using negatives, either ones that don’t look like much, or may do, that is when I like to scan them together and make a, composition. A single image. Not just any negatives thrown together, but ones that yield mood, and more importantly, balance. Sometimes when scanning as such, there are those who ask me if that was one frame composed with good intentions, or, well, a, fake.

Then I’m reminded of the few great photographers back in the beginning with this very idea of truth, to the matter….and how pictures were forged and manipulated and not necessarily depict, truth. Controversy. Stay with me on this, it’s early in the am.

Help from Wiki….

Combination printing is the technique of using two or more photographic images in conjunction with one another to create a single image.

Combination printing was popular in the mid-1800s due to the limitations of the negative’s light sensitivity and camera technology. For example, the long exposures required at the time to create an image would properly expose the main subject, such as a building, but would completely overexpose the sky. The sky would then lack detail, usually appearing as a solid white hue. Hippolyte Bayard was the first to suggest combining two separate negatives, one of the subject matter and a properly exposed negative of clouds, to create a balanced photograph.

The technique was also used to create new, original compositions. Photographers such as William Lake Price and Oscar Rejlander are famous for using combination printing. Rejlander’s Two Ways of Life is one of the most distinguished examples of the technique, combining 32 negatives to create the final image.

Controversy broke out in the photographic community about the use of combination printing in the mid-1800s. Photographs originally had been regarded as truth and that the camera never lied. However, with the ability to manipulate the final product, it shattered the notion that photographs depicted “truth.”

In a nutshell, if you will…

I like playing with my work…and while I cannot achieve that in a darkroom, I rely on PS. Sue me. There are a hundred things I could do to make my images more…well, imagery. And often times, those are the ones that appeal to me most…the artist side to me I guess. “Radical cropping.” Interesting. I did something like that yesterday with a negative of mine and brought closer what were three Amish girls walking down a road….but they are so far away into infinity in the photograph itself…I thought what if I were to crop the neg, radically, while in preview mode on my scanner. Yikes, scary, but interesting. I might put that up on my blog and compare the two.

Bah, it’s early as I’ve said and this probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense…but that is just me and we’ll do just fine. Try and decipher what it is I was trying to relate to my dear. Great post…

Nicolai

Beck, I’m still trying to process that. Haven’t forgotten, but it’s some pretty deep shit to try to make sense of.

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