Curator: Joerg Bader
Associate curator: Sébastien Leseigneur
fALSEfAKES-VRAIFAUXSEMBLANTS is a continuation of the CPG’s programme planning over the past twelve years, concerned with presenting contemporary artistic positions that are likely to extend into the present the term that Walker Evans used at the end of his life to describe his own approach: “documentary style.” This programme has been constructed in the awareness that style is less a question of stylistics than ethics, i.e. a way of keeping its subject at a distance, of including the out-of-frame as a dynamic produced by the viewer, of thinking not only about the production of images, but also about their distribution, and how they cohabit with other sources of images. These 80 exhibitions have also led towards other fields of investigation closely or remotely associated with the documentary style, whether it be “archivism” or “visual studies.” But perhaps “documentary style” reached its zenith in the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher and the early works of their students—like Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth or Thomas Ruff, to cite only those three—which themselves embody not only the greatness, but also the decadence of that style.
Between the time when they began their work in the late 1980s and today in 2013, the mainly Western elites have profoundly changed the world and the world of images, with the year 2001 as the accelerator for paranoid policies. Lies have come to be justified by the national interest, and catastrophism has become the new religion, promulgated by the mass media. What Guy Debord put forward as a horror scenario in the ’60s and ’70s and Jean Baudrillard prophesied and summed up in the ’80s has taken a turn that neither of the two thinkers—though we are speaking of the most clear-minded that have been known in the second half of the 20th century—could have predicted.
Well before the digitalisation of photographs which started slowly in the ’90s, artists had begun to subvert the notion of “document,” a term that has clung to photography since it became such a fantastic instrument for the advance and popularisation of science, above all—but not exclusively—biology, in the 19th century, supported by positivism. That “belief” in its documentary strength was radically challenged by artists such as Cindy Sherman and Jeff Wall from the end of the ’70s.
As long as the false fake document remained in the symbolic domain, in the field of art, there was nothing to fear. But as photography is an extremely porous medium, capable of eating into categories and hierarchies, it infiltrated (collapsing) museums too with images of current affairs, science, etc. This has resulted in news items and social affairs, for example, being dealt with today by the most interesting photographers in this field with the aim of making their documentary recording veer towards fiction, while the world constructed and shaped by women and men increasingly resembles the déjà-vu, and consequently our points reference are ever more corrupted.
It is from the starting point of such ideas that fALSEfAKES-VRAIFAUXSEMBLANTS attempts not to explain this chaotic world, but to be a chaos in itself, leaving the viewer bereft—initially—of any reference point, but offering through this guide the chance to at least zero in on the violence of the clashes of the fixed and moving images exhibited, coming from the widest variety of sources.
Curator of fALSEfAKES – VRAIFAUXSEMBLANTS
Director of the Centre de la photographie Genève