What’s So Alternative

Postmasters Gallery, New York
16.06.17 – 04.08.17

In an article published in The Nation at the beginning of 2004, Naomi Klein declared the previous year to be ‘the year of the fake’. Among the then-already bountiful proliferation and post-industrial data dissemination of lies, falsehoods and inaccuracies, the globalised subject-as-spectator saw an action-movie star elected governor in California and a ‘fake President dressed as a fake soldier declaring a fake end to combat and then holding up a fake turkey’, as summarised by Klein.1 In 2005 the fictional television personality Stephen Colbert, in a convincing satire of ( neo- )conservative TV newscasters played by the real comedian of the same name, proclaimed that such political subjects were no longer interested in truth. Colbert, playing the role of ‘Colbert’ ( homonyms across the divide of fiction/non-fiction ) claimed, in not so many words, that we had pivoted away from a Kantian critique of truth claims towards what truly mattered: ‘truthiness’. Rather than fact, the ‘truthiness’ quotient of some claim, story, history, or the like, is not based on whether something can be proved, verified or tested, but is instead dictated by emotion, by something you feel in your gut, so to speak.

And so, here we are: fourteen years after this so-called year of the fake, at a time in history that has subsequently welcomed the further entrenchment of simulacral ‘fake news’ and of the infamous ‘alternative facts’ moniker; the election of liars with ideological platforms rooted in the so-referred ‘double-sided’ truth; and rightist political figures whose rhetoric is given credence due to populist enthusiasm, xenophobic fear, and mass anxiety caused by neo-liberal exploitation. In a recent conversation, published in Texte zur Kunst, Sabine Hark and Sighard Neckel discussed how much of the purported ( white ) ‘working-class resentment’ that predisposed the election of the grandest of all fake leaders – the reality-television celebrity Donald Trump – was a mass reaction to the worker’s alienation via economic neo-liberalisation. This disenfranchisement had been blamed, instead, on cultural liberalisation characteristic of the decades since the events of May 1968. The blame was cast by twenty-four-hour news stations, tabloid news media, and so-called bubbles of information.

During the last two decades, artists employing subversive deception, with practices ranging from ( post- )internet art to illusionistic sculpture, have developed artistic models that produce critical and discursive sanctuaries within the turbulent sea of news coverage, media saturation and omnipresent digital image/information culture. Carrie Lambert-Beatty has termed such models as ‘parafictional strategies’, invoking the work of Michael Blum, Eva and Franco Mattes ( 01.ORG ), and Walid Raad, among others. In ‘Make-Believe: Parafiction and Plausibility’, she describes this use of the parafictional: performatives/premises/imaginaries that are not true, but that cannot be said to be untrue either.2 Such approaches categorise the work of the artists exhibited in Alt-Facts, recently on view at Postmasters Gallery in New York. No Fun ( 2010 ), a work by Eva and Franco Mattes, greets the viewer upon entry and demonstrates both reality and ( virtual ) hyperreality: a video features a split screen composed of a fictitious suicide on one side, and the reactions of randomised users of the online video chat service Chatroulette on the other. It is documentation of their internet performance – playing on a laptop positioned atop an inflatable mattress – in which online avatars were greeted with the morbid scene; their reactions constitute the spectral range of the internet users, from active curiosity to aggressive apathy. In the second of two rooms, New York Times ( 2008 ), by the activist culture jammers The Yes Men, articulates the facility with which ‘fake’ news can be created and distributed, but also serves as the ephemeral residue of an action that provided like-minded readers with a momentary glimpse of media in a post-capitalist ‘utopia’. In The Yes Men’s version of The New York Times, printed in thousands of copies and handed out in the morning in cities across the US in 2008, readers saw headlines such as ‘IRAQ WAR ENDS’ and ‘Maximum Wage Law Succeeds’. In fake advertisements, energy corporations pledged to switch and commit themselves to sustainable energy. What an ( alternative ) world it would be!

However, while this set of strategies, or perhaps even tendency, has been developed and employed, its use has also been hijacked by original targets of the critique. Accordingly, these deceptions run parallel to, and are often indistinguishable from, the actions that global hegemons and biopowers employ to dupe and control political subjects. When, in 2004, The Yes Men famously subverted a BBC news broadcast through a series of parafictional manoeuvres, they were able to convince the world, and Dow Chemical’s shareholders, that the company would finally, after twenty years, commit to the clean-up and aid of those affected by the lethal Bhopal gas tragedy – if only for two hours.3 Over a decade later, a man identified as Nils Bildt and described as a ‘Swedish defense and security adviser’ spoke on Fox News to defend false claims about increasing crime rates due to immigration in Sweden. The Swedish government later had to alert the world to the fact that they had never heard of him.4

D. Graham Burnett’s essay, ‘In Lies Begin Responsibilities’, published in the catalogue accompanying the 2012–13 exhibition ‘More Real?’ Art in the Age of Truthiness at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and SITE Santa Fe, approaches the notion of parafictional and deceitful practices with due caution, and perhaps even with anxiety. He wonders whether such strategies and practices could inevitably become the oppressive tools of the very figures and tendencies that they initially sought to combat. The current moment makes it clear that his worries were not, and are not, misplaced. As such, Alt-Facts positions the viewer between two propensities, one idealistically hopeful and the other anxiously distressed, to allow her to make sense of the mechanisms by which truth, fact, falsehoods and, yes, even parafictions, are created, circulated and written into the annals of history – for better, or for worse.

Along this line, David Diao’s paintings in Alt-Facts clearly follow the parafictional track. In the same room as the stack of The Yes Men newspapers, the works reposition him into Western modern ( art ) history – a history written predominantly by and for white men. In 40 Years of His Art ( 2013 ), Diao paints and enlarges the famous invitation for Alfred H. Barr Jr’s 1939 exhibition of Picasso’s work at the Museum of Modern Art. In lieu of Picasso’s name, it is of course Diao’s – everything else remains just the same. Near Diao’s paintings, two works by Meriem Bennani mock and simulate two different structures: reality television and advertising. Rather than editing or subverting history in the way of Diao, Bennani’s work, instead, employs satire to interrogate the structures used, to entrench reality further into the fictional. In Fardaous Funjab, Episode 1 ( Pilot ): Fardaous ( 2015–17 ) she parodies reality television, while adeptly mimicking its aesthetic and format. Her show follows and glamorises the fictionalised life of a luxury high-fashion hijab designer. Instead of interrogating the illusions of entertainment media, Matt Johnson’s sculptures deal with material illusionism. They are made from carved wood and then painted, and mimic rumpled avocado boxes, Amazon packages, and the like. In all such parafictional works, the artists take ‘truth’ as a fluid coil to unravel, to investigate and, most importantly, to interrogate, for its processes of construction.

Following the definitions proposed by the crowd-sourced website guide to slang, Urban Dictionary, ‘alternative’ implies something that strays from the norm, from labels that allow for easy branding in creative post-Fordist economies. Clearly, the moniker is itself as subject to the same forms of commodifying value-production as any other ‘non-label’. When Kellyanne Conway rebuffed reporters’ arguments that the President had lied about illegal voters, inauguration crowd sizes and so on, she proposed that he was trafficking in so-called ‘alternative facts’– the contention being that there is an alternative to the reality that is presented to the public. And so, what’s so alternative about such a claim by Conway, given the above definition’s call for individualism? Quite frankly: nothing at all. This is a traditional distortion of data and rhetorical games played by the right, and by globalist neo-liberals as well. The only difference is the discursive packaging of such statements: it is not ‘incorrect’, it is alternative to the norm – and only an ‘outsider’ can provide such alternatives.

Returning to Postmasters Gallery and the artists’ attempts to subvert paradigms of objectivity, we might ask whether those strategies are so alternative themselves? I contend that not only are they ‘alternative’, they are more potent as well. They follow the successful subversive tactics of the twentieth-century avant-gardes – of the staunchly communist surrealists, of the anarchic Situationists, of culture jammers – by proposing different political imaginaries, whether by critique or by parody. They invite your close interpretive gaze onto sex toys designed for DIY prison construction by Kenya ( Robinson ), or via virtual reality glasses in Rachel Rossin’s recreation of a scene from Zabriskie Point. They beckon the viewer to be fooled, which then necessitates a later return to contemplation, countering the characteristic momentary glances of the internet age. The dialectics between the rhetorical strategies of state power and those of such artists remains stark. One could even say that such strategies provide an alternative to explicitly criticising those such as Conway, who only provides fodder for the ‘alternative’ histories they construct and peddle. Perhaps the works in Alt-Facts provide a road to ‘the elusive truth’, after all.

1. Naomi Klein, ‘The Year of the Fake’, The Nation, 8 January 2004 <https://www.thenation.com/article/year-fake/>.
2. Carrie Lambert-Beatty, ‘Make-Believe: Parafiction and Plausibility’, October, vol. 129 ( Summer 2009 ).
3. See The Yes Men, ‘Jude Finisterra Interviewed’ ( 2004 ), in Institutional Critique: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, eds Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, MIT Press, Cambridge MA and London, 2009, pp. 478–84. See also <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiWlvBro9eI>.
4. Liam Stack and Christina Anderson, ‘Fox News Distances Itself From Controversial Swedish Guest’, The New York Times, 27 February 2017 <https://nyti.ms/2mxuJoy>.

什么是“替代- 事实”中的“替代性”?

《替代- 事实》
Postmasters 画廊,纽约
2017 年6 月16 日 – 2017 年8 月4 日

译/ 顾虔凡

在2004 年为《国家 ( The Nation ) 》杂志所写的文章中, 纳奥米· 克莱因 ( Naomi Klein ) 称其为“虚假之年”。在当时就已经以后工业数据的形式进行广泛扩散的谎言, 假象和勘误中, 这位视二十一世纪的全球化为主体的观察者看到的情形是动作片巨星当选为加州州长,还有克莱因所总结的一位“假总统穿着成假士兵的样子,宣布一场战争的虚假结束,之后还举起一只假火鸡”。第二年,由同名喜剧演员扮演的虚构人物史蒂芬· 科尔伯特 ( Stephen Colbert ) —他是一位颇具信服力的 ( 新 ) 保守主义的电视新闻工作者,声称这样的政治主体不再对真理感兴趣。扮演着“科尔伯特”这个角色的科尔伯特 ( 跨越了虚构与非虚构界限之分的同名人 ) 声称—他倒是没用那么多累赘的话—我们已经远离了康德有关真理的主张而趋近于真正事关重要的东西了,那就是“真实性 ( truthiness ) ”。相较于事实,某些说法, 故事, 历史或类似事物的“真实性”这一商数,并不基于这些事情是否能够被证明, 确认或测试,而是取决于情感,也就是说是由你的内在感受所决定的。

于是,这就是现在的我们:在被称为“虚假之年”的十三年之后,这一历史时期又迎来了更多类似的东西,像是“假新闻”和这个出了名的绰号“替代事实”,以所谓“双面”事实为根基而选出了说谎者的意识形态平台,还有由新自由主义的剥削所带来的民粹主义热情, 排外恐惧和群体焦虑而使得右翼政治人物的言辞听起来颇为可信。在最近发表于《艺术文字 ( TexteZurKunst ) 》的一篇萨宾· 哈尔克 ( Sabine Hark ) 和西格赫特· 奈克 ( SighardNeckel ) 的对话中,两人讨论了有多少所谓 ( 白人 ) “工人阶级的怨恨”导致了最大的虚假领袖—电视真人秀名人唐纳德· 特朗普 ( Donald Trump ) —的当选,整个事件是一次工人们的异化通过经济上的新自由主义化而爆发出来的大规模反应。这种权力的剥夺被归咎于是自1968 年五月事件发生以来这几十年间发生的文化自由化所具有的特征。二十四小时新闻站, 小报新闻媒体以及所谓的信息泡沫共同铸就了这种归咎。过去的二十年间,艺术家采取颠覆性的欺骗手段,他们的实践从 ( 后 ) 网络艺术到虚拟雕塑,已经发展出了在新闻报道,

媒体饱和和无所不在的数码图像/ 信息文化的汹涌波涛中生产批判性和话语性庇护所的艺术模式。凯莉· 兰伯特· 贝蒂 ( Carrie Lambert-Beatty ) 为这些模式概括出了“非虚构 ( parafictional ) ”策略这一术语,其所指艺术家包括Michael Blum, Eva and Franco Mattes ( 0.1org ), WalidRaad 等人。在《制造- 信任: 非虚构和合理性》一文中,她这样解释“非虚构”的用法:表演性/ 前提/ 意象都并不真实,但是这样教条性的陈述本身也不真实。诸如这样的叙述也适用于最近在纽约Postmasters 画廊举办的群展“替代- 事实 ( Alt Facts ) ”中的艺术家们。艺术家双人组合Mattes 的作品“没有趣味 ( No Fun,2010 ) ”在入口处迎接观众,他们的作品既表达了现实,也表达了 ( 虚拟的 ) 超现实:在这件视频作品中,一边是一个屏幕在讲述一个虚构的自杀事件,另一边则是从在线视频聊天服务网站Chatroulette 上随机获取的各种用户们的反应。这是两位艺术家基于互联网的行为表演的记录—他们的表演通过充气床垫上的一台笔记本电脑进行播放—用户们可以通过网络看到这近乎病态的场景,而他们的反应让我们看到了网络用户们的百态,从积极好奇到事不关己。在画廊两个展厅中的第二个房间里,积极的文化干扰者The Yes Men 团体的作品《纽约时报 ( New York Times,2008 ) 》所表现的是“假”新闻的炮制和传播,与此同时作品也让见解相近的读者们窥探到了后资本主义“乌托邦”中的媒介。他们这个版本的《纽约时报》 印刷了数千份,并且在2008 年的某天早晨分发于美国的各个城市,读者们能看到的大标题有:“伊拉克战争已经结束”和“最高工资法案获准通过”,还有假冒的能源公司刊登广告承诺他们将转而使用可持续能源。这是怎样的一个 ( 替代性的 ) 世界啊。

不过,这套策略,或者甚至可以说是一种趋势,已经被开发和使用了,但它的使用也同样被其原本的批判目标所劫持。因此, 这些诡计通常与那些全球霸权和生命权力 ( biopowers ) 为了欺骗和控制政治主体而采用的行为并行不悖,甚至往往无从区分。2004 年,当The Yes Men 团体非常出名地通过一系列“非虚构” 的策略扰乱了一条BBC 的新闻播报之时,他们说服了整个世界以及陶氏化学 ( Dow Chemical ) 的股东们,这家公司将终于在博帕尔 ( Bhopal ) 毒气泄漏事件发生的二十年之后承诺进行清理并为受害者提供帮助—尽管这个假象只持续了两个小时。十多年后,一个名叫Nils Bildt 的人在福克斯新闻 ( Fox News ) 上发表讲话,支持移民是导致瑞典犯罪率上升的原因这一错误说法。直到事后瑞典政府才表示从未听说过这名抬头为“瑞典国防和国家安全顾问”的男子。4

Petrossiants - Image I (1)

Alt-Facts , installation view, Postmasters Gallery, New York, 2017. Courtesy Postmasters Gallery《替代- 事实》,装置展示现场,Postmasters 画廊,纽约,2017。承蒙Postmasters 画廊提供版权。

Alt-Facts, installation view, Postmasters Gallery, New York, 2017. Courtesy Postmasters Gallery《替代- 事实》,装置展示现场,Postmasters 画廊,纽约,2017。承蒙Postmasters 画廊提供版权。

2012 年在明尼阿波利斯艺术学院和圣达菲的SITE 举办了展览“更真实?奉行真实性时代中的艺术 ( More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness ) ”,随此次展览出版的画册中由D. 格汉姆· 伯内特 ( D. Geham Burnett ) 撰写的文章《谎言中开启责任》慎重而略带焦虑地趋近着“非虚构”的概念及其狡诈的具体实践。他想知道这样的策略和实践是否不可避免地成为了那些它们本来想予以打击的情形和趋势所使用的残酷工具。从目前来看他的担忧一直没错。可以说,“替代- 事实”将观众置于两种倾向之间,一种是理想化的希望,另一种则是焦虑的困扰,这样一来“替代- 事实” 才能被允许将真理, 事实, 虚假甚至是“非虚构”得以在历史中生成, 流转和著写的机制合理化—不管这是好是坏。

顺着这条线索来看,刁德谦 ( David Diao ) 在“替代- 事实”中的绘画显然遵循着“非虚构”的轨迹。展陈在与The Yes Men 团体的报纸作品同一间展厅里的这些画,将这位艺术家置于西方当代 ( 艺术 ) 史中—这部历史本身主要由白人男性所书写,也是为白人男性而写的。在作品《他40 年的艺术 ( 2013 ) 》中,刁把小阿尔弗雷德· 巴尔 ( Alfred H.Barr Jr. ) 1939 年在纽约现代艺术馆 ( MoMA ) 策划的毕加索作品展的邀请函放大着画了下来。当然了,刁自己的名字替代了毕加索的名字—其他内容都保持不变。在他的画旁边是玛利亚姆· 贝娜妮 ( MeriemBennani ) 的两件作品,它们戏仿并模拟了两个不同的体系:电视真人秀和广告。不像刁那样对历史进行编辑和篡改,贝娜妮的作品用讽刺的手法质询这些将现实进一步构筑进虚构的体系。在作品《FARDAOUS FUNJAB 第一集 ( 试行 ) : Fardaous ( 2015-17 ) 》中,她一边恶搞电视真人秀,一边熟练地模仿它们的美学和形式。在她的秀中,她跟踪拍摄了一位奢华时尚的穆斯林头巾 ( hijab ) 的设计师。马特· 约翰逊 ( Matt Johnson ) 的雕塑并没有质问娱乐媒体炮制的假象,而是在处理有关物质幻觉的问题。这些雕塑以绘制过的木雕为主要材料,在外观上模仿的是褶皱的鳄梨包装盒, 亚马逊的包裹等诸如此类的物件。在所有这些“非虚构”的作品中,艺术家将“真实”作为一种流体进行拆解和调查,最重要的是,他们质询的是其建构的过程。

根据俚语指南“城市词典 ( Urban Dictionary ) ”的释义,“替代性的 ( alternative ) ”一词意味着偏离常规标准的事,它们偏离在创意的后福特经济中允许进行轻松的品牌推广的那些标签。显然,这种说法本身也受制于任何其他“非- 标签”所受制的那种商品化了的价值- 产品。当凯莉安· 康维 ( Kellyanne Conway ) 谴责记者有关总统就非法选民和就职仪式参与人数的问题撒谎的论点之时,她认为他只是在兜售所谓的“替代性事实”—她的主旨是,呈现给观众的内容中存在着一种替代性的现实。那么, 考虑到上述定义对个人主义 ( individualism ) 的诉求,到底什么是康维观点中的“替代性”呢?坦率来说:什么也不是。这就是右翼惯用的对数据和修辞进行扭曲的游戏,不仅右翼如此,还有全球主义和新自由主义者们也是如此。唯一的区别仅仅是将这些说辞嵌套在不一样的话语之中,那不是“不正确的”,那只是偏离于常规的一种替代—而唯有一个“外来者”可以提供这样的替代。

回到Postmasters 画廊的展览以及艺术家们试图颠覆客体范式的企图,我们或许会问,那些策略本身究竟是不是那么的具有替代性?我认为,它们不仅是“替代性”的,而且是更有效的。它们通过提出不同的政治想象,无论是批判还是戏仿,来遵循二十世纪的先锋们—那些坚定的共产主义和超现实主义者, 无政府立场的情境主义者, 文化干扰者—成功的颠覆性手段。他们邀请你将诠释性的目光投注到由肯尼娅 ( 罗宾森 ) ( Kenya[Robinson] ) 为DIY 监禁结构设计的性爱玩具上,或是通过虚拟现实眼镜来看瑞秋· 罗辛 ( Rachel Rossin ) 对《扎布里斯基角 ( Zabriskie Point ) 》电影其中一幕场景的重塑。它们都召唤着让观众被愚弄,然后则需要他们稍后回归到沉思,以此反抗最具互联网时代特征的那种惊鸿一瞥。在政府权力和艺术家们所使用的修辞策略之间的辩证关系仍然差异鲜明。人们甚至可以认为,这样的策略为批评诸如康维之流提供了替代,这仅仅是在为他们构建并兜售的“替代性”历史提供养料。也许,在“替代- 事实” 展览中的作品最终能提供的是一条通往难以捉摸的“真相”的道路。

1. 纳奥米· 克莱因,“ 虚假之年”,《国家》,2004 年1 月8 日, https://www.thenation.com/article/year-fake/
2. 凯莉· 兰伯特· 贝蒂,“制造- 信任:非虚构和合理性”,《十月》, 第129 期 ( 2009 年夏 ) 。
3. 参见:The Yes Men,“Jude Finisterra 受访”,《体制批判:艺术家写作文集》,Alexander Alberro 和Blake Stimson 编辑,第478- 484 页, ( 马萨诸塞州剑桥和伦敦:MIT 出版社,2009 年 ) 。
4. Christina Anderson 和Liam Stack,“福克斯新闻将自己与受争议的瑞典嘉宾撇清关系”,《纽约时报》2017年2月27日,获取于: https://nyti.ms/2mxuJoy