Joan Fontcuberta – Stranger than Fiction

I became aware of this photographer artist sometime ago but missed his talk at The Photographer’s Gallery. Sophisticated use of Photoshop, a tool so often over-used or merely employed for deliberately deceptive purposes was one feature yet Fontcuberta is also interesting; what exactly is he trying to achieve? To question our compliance with media, our readiness to believe in things because they have a certain authority.

His exhibition at The Science Museum’s Media Space was a must see and I informed the CEO of The Open College of the Arts about it; he replied almost immediately to say a study visit was planned. Meanwhile, I decided to see it on my own, at least with a friend, Daniela, a young woman who is familiar with Roland Barthes, a favourite author of mine. However, we had to cancel because the exhibition was temporarily closed for awhile on account of objections raised about one of the exhibits that has since been taken down. HERE is a link to an article about this.

As for the reviews, there were a number. The Evening Standard liked it and the reviewer gave a brief description of the six fictions Fontcuberta has conjured up.

Here is my account of the visit with the OCA and tutor Robert Enoch. The OCA write up is HERE

On entry, one is confronted by a large photograph of a strange creature … a monkey with wings and a Unicorn head! Welcome to the world of Joan Fontcuberta about whom there are a few lines of biography and text about his work … “His works are an investigation into photography’s authority and our inclination to believe what we see.

What I find questionable about his approach is the degree to which his work is fiction or fact!? One needs to determine which is which if one can!

Lot of play on reality says tutor Robert Enoch.

FAUNA is the first exhibit.

Portrait of Ameisenhaufen is not really of the period thinks Robert Enoch – when might it have been taken? Looks later than the suggested 1940’s!??.

Playful in childlike way with narratives

Satirical of nature photography

RE and I know it is fake: some visitors must drift around thinking it is real !?

A plausible pastiche RE

Richard Meinertzhagen episode; an ornithologist who stole from museums and even murdered rival ornithologists

Creation of animal exhibits which act as models for some of his photos

Pilau serpents adax – furry snake with jaws at one end

Mallard passed off as rare creature and as a tree dwelling bird

reference the Spanish photographer who won the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition but was disqualified; the woolf was a captive!

Video with squeaky music and people talking such as a Tibetan Taoist saying that everything comes from space including the Yeti

Clam like creature with long spindly legs

HERBARIUM

Parody of Blossfeldt’s work
E.g. Metal piping with birds feather to look like a plant – from a distance

I find this less satirical and more an evidence of Fontcuberta’s skill as an artist.

OROGENESIS

Use of computer scanning to create landscapes
Fed in info from paintings and geographers also tones from photographs etc

NB look up other L students www from OCA site

Kind of print seems true ie fact

Feeding in particular images both painting eg Gainsborough, Cezanne and photos eg Fenton, Francis Frith

Photography bears the burden of being a witness; of the way we take photos as fact
Our wish to believe
Repetition of planes flying into Twin Towers so it made sense and emphasised reality

CONSTELLATIONS 1993

photos of dead flies on windscreen of his car that look like images of solar system at night

Fakery has been going on since the inception of photography, before the days of Photoshop
Retouching of faces for magazines

Illusion created in films

Appropriation by Fontcuberta !?

Deconstructing the way we create realities, our readiness to believe … F grew up at the end of a Fascist regime his father worked in advertising which helped him to understand lying

RE is very religious and hence finds the anti-religious arguement anaesthetic rather than humorous

Questioning of authority – we need to also question F

SIRENS

About mythical mermaid; spoof NatGeo article

MIRACLES

Fiction embodies the real

(Me – woman with 6 breasts photo manipulated)

RE feels personally involved as an re person talks about a miracle he saw
My experience of Sai Baba

What is F saying here ?

Fake photos of miracles – taking Mickey as a non believer poking fun

Miracle of Lewis Carroll ; an F self portrait

RE considers it trivial not as good as surrealist approach to photography

RE likes accurate or convincing reconstruction of period photos
The SPUTNIK exhibit was missing owing to intervention by the Russian Embassy in London; here is an article about it.

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