The collective mindset includes a form of fiction born from inherited myths, half-written or half-read news and fake or incomplete information. “The socially assisted do not want to work” is just one such example. The subject of the text is not the truth/falsehood relationship or the fake news. However, being a form of fiction to some extent, fake news can highlight the difference between fiction and fake and the ability of the latter to produce multiple representations of reality – one fiction overwrites the previous one.
The difference between the two is that the former creates ambiguity, while the latter poses as the truth. Ambiguity means inaccuracy; if we regard reality as ambiguous, we leave room for interpretation and debate. The perception is individual, therefore fragmentary – the difference between interpretations is where the fragments meet and rearrange so that, in the end, the overall image becomes visible. By accepting fiction in the process of understanding, we raise questions as a form of pedagogy turned in to itself; this helps us find our way in the world and can produce necessary individual and collective negotiations over some common “truths” and histories. Can we declare, without any negotiation at all, absolute certitudes about the world we live in?
Contemporary artists often try to reveal what lies beneath the surface. We are all, from one generation to the next, caught up in a common effort to understand the world we live in. This is where culture and knowledge come into play, so that this understanding of the world does not start from scratch with each generation. The tension between fiction and reality makes way for vulnerabilities, a dialogue through which past interpretations can be negotiated. But what does this negotiation look like?
Let’s take, for instance, the work Fighting Together (2017) by artists Veda Popovici and Mircea Nicolae, a reading performance that can be accessed online. By building a fictional dialogue between an interviewer and two participants in the 1990’s protests, a student and a miner, they create a possible scenario and history, an imaginary conversation that can clarify a past conflict or a utopia that raises questions: is the information in the interview true? Why wouldn’t this scenario be possible? Was there real solidarity? Are we together in this fight? Then who are we fighting against? Who is responsible for this conflict?
Another example can be seen at the current edition of the Art Encounters exhibition Our Other Us – the Raygun 2017 (2021) installation by artist Flaviu Rogojan, a museum unit storing fictional artifacts from a long-forgotten civilisation. Is this our civilisation seen from a distant future? Or a metaphor for the general subject of civilisations, each ending up destroyed and rebuilt almost from scratch?
Raygun, a weapon borrowed from science fiction literature, which later appeared in films as well and, to some extent, in military conflicts under the form of a directed-energy weapon, is transformed here into an artifact of a previous disaster. The analogy with both modern weapons and the camera – seen as a weapon for manipulating reality and perspective – strengthens the position from which the film shown as part of the installation (Lecture 9: Raygun designs uncovered at 2nd or 3rd Millennium Sites) forces us to look at the present: an ongoing visual conflict, perhaps even a fragment of the pattern of our future destruction.
In retrospect, fictional archaeologists classify us as a society of absorption in which, in a period of scientifically condensed time, a few key moments cause a paradigm shift, the civilisation of the second or third millennium realising they no longer have to launch rays to hurt; instead, they can let the rays inside.
“The gun kills by letting light inside.” We hear this in the introduction of the film. At the end of it, two armed individuals are caught in a film shot with a military surveillance drone. The weapons, which turned out to be cameras, belonged to journalists Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen, who were killed by the US military in Baghdad, during a July 2007 air strike.