Fake It Real Examines the Relation Between Truth and Fiction in the Age of Disinformation

by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Brian Hioe

FAKE IT REAL (真相碎片) is an intriguing exhibition at the Taipei Digital Art Center, which runs until October 10th. The majority of the exhibition, however, is not located at the Digital Art Center itself, but at the National Science Education Center. The exhibition concerns itself with the spread of fake news and disinformation globally, featuring works reflecting both Taiwanese and international artists. 

Warren Neidich’s “Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion,” for example, focuses on the bizarre conspiracy theory involving former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, presenting this as a series of flashing images on a screen. Likewise, Neidich’s “From the Society of the Spectacle to the Consciousness Industry” displays a number of touchstones of contemporary discourse as a series of neon lights. With both works, there is a clear focus on presenting contemporary conspiracy theories as information spectacle. 

Haseeb Ahmed’s “Stock Weather” takes a more nuanced approach. The work serves as a form of visualizing global capital flows, tracking real-time fluctuations of the stock market, as wind blowing on an encapsulated sandbox, and subtly changing the landscape. The work ponders the relation between human economics and the natural landscape, drawing viewers in for a moment of critical reflection rather than seeking to overwhelm. 

Less successful may be the Yes Men’s “The Yes Men Fix the World”. The work aims to be participatory, in screening the documentary by the Yes Men of the same title, and allowing audiences to write down their responses. But the work does not truly engage with audience members and is tonally at odds with the other artworks in the exhibition. 

Photo credit: Brian Hioe

Many Taiwanese works in the exhibition, as may be unsurprising in a Taiwanese context, are concerned with contemporary geopolitics. Shih Yi-shan’s “War of Memory” is a near-future imagining of what cross-strait conflict might look like. Liu Yu and Wu Sih-chin’s “Escape Route” focuses on the utopian and anarchic imaginations, with regard to the relationship between the US and Taiwan. These works, too, continue the presentation of fake news and information in terms of spectacle. 

Several works are concerned with the history of the White Terror, such as Chen Chun-tien’s “Chronicle of Nowhere” or Hsu Che-yu’s “The Making of Crime Scenes.” Hsu Che-yu’s “The Making of Crime Scenes” interviews one of the killers of Taiwanese journalist Henry Liu during the White Terror, a former movie director, while combining the audio of the interview with staged wuxia martial art scenes. Chen’s “Chronicle of Nowhere” frames the well-known “UFO Houses” in Sanzhi as a utopian product of the authoritarian era. As many of the video art pieces are from a Taiwan-Korea video exchange program, sometimes the attempt to draw links between Taiwan and Korea brings out the authoritarian past of both contexts. 

Fake It Real proves worth a look for those interested in thinking about the relation between the media, capitalism, contemporary information discourse, and the state. The National Science Education Center may prove a bit inaccessible for many, however, and it is located at some distance away from the Digital Art Center–a thirty-minute walk or fifteen to a twenty-minute bus ride. The exhibition runs until October 10th.