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Fictive artworks have multiplied rapidly in the last two decades with a wide range of artists who have worked in this genre and generated its upsurge in popularity.
Some of the projects covered in this book have strong cult followings, so it will appeal to people fascinated by the Codex Seraphinianus and the Voynich Manuscript, for example.
Concluding considerations include contemporary internet-based artists, NFTs, and the role misinformation has played in recent politics and events like the January 6th attack on the US Capitol.
The self-referentiality of fictive art allows for critical conversation about the social contract and aspirations toward a just society in the age of rampant misinformation. It differs from cons and hoaxes, pyramid schemes, identity theft, forgery, impersonation, etc. in that its goal is to be eventually found out, revealed as an elaborate fabrication, and appreciated as a fiction-based form of art.
As the author writes, the book highlights artists "who trouble our ideas about gender and identity, who use the form to expand on the larger social context of art: what it means to have to pass as someone (or something) else, to be invisible or mis-seen, to perform as a trickster due to low status, to be unable to contribute to the narrative around what counts as art. In other cases, fictive art arises out of resistance to cultural change and comes from those who benefit from the status quo."
The book connects the long history of the “trickster” in art to the contemporary urgency to use art as a socio-political tool for productive mischief-making.
LaFarge is a known academic expert, having originally conceived of the term “fictive art” and presented it during a 2004 panel at the annual College Art Association conference. The term is now cited by others writing about the field.
The launch of the book will roughly coincide with the announcement about The Getty’s acquisition of LaFarge’s long-time collaborative project with the late artist Lise Patt and others. This project, the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (ICI), was a museum/library/exhibition space/cultural production center and publisher, whose 20-year history will be widely celebrated.
LaFarge is Professor of Visual Art and faculty member in the Electronic Art and Design department at University of California Irvine and has multiple contacts nationally and internationally through whom she will be promoting the book.
LaFarge has been an influential artist in the realm of “fictive art” since the early 1990s, starting with her “Museum of Forgery” and including several elaborate fabrications, one of which provoked outrage when she trained an actor to become her real world avatar and present papers, interact with unknowing scholars, and communicate on LaFarge’s behalf. This project was eventually published in Art Journal under the essay title, “Social Proxies and Real-World Avatars: Impersonation as a Mode of Capitalist Production.”
Alongside her trickster activities, and in part because of them, LaFarge has a great respect for history and regularly donates time as a Wikipedia master editor, with contributions of over 400 biographical articles resuscitating marginalized women and people of color who contributed to the arts, humanities, and sciences.
From research for one of these Wikipedia entries came her latest book, Louise Brigham and the Early History of Sustainable Furniture Design, published in 2019 by Palgrave McMillan.
LaFarge has created or co-created over two dozen original new media performance works and installations in the United States and Europe. She co-curated two early exhibitions on computer games and art and is the founding director of the Plaintext Players, an online virtual performance group that has been widely written about and has appeared at numerous international venues, including the 1997 Venice Biennale, documenta X, and UpStage festivals.
The timeliness of this book is evinced by the fact that art historian Carrie Lambert-Beatty, who wrote an essay in October titled “Make-Believe: Parafiction and Plausibility,” is working on a new book for Univ. Chicago Press that will likely focus on fine art, political-leaning works, and on the literary rather than the visual/performative aspects of this kind of work. There may be opportunities for more visibility and press coverage due to having multiple scholars publishing around the same time, though LaFarge hopes her book will be first.
The book design by LaFarge and Ako Joop amplifies and riffs off of the idea of cryptoscience, found manuscripts, taxonomic inventions, and the hybrid nature of the artists’ practices with the incorporation of an invented alphabet—a boon for readers who like treasure hunts, hypertexts, deep dives, and easter eggs.
The font for the book is Faune, a 2018 chimera-inspired, easy-to-read font created by French designer Alice Savoie as a commission by the Centre National des Arts Plastiques. Combining a variety of weights and a mix of serif and sans-serif, the font is a veritable bestiary inspired by natural history, the plurality of the animal world, and hybrid or mythical creatures.