Sunday, May 08, 2005
The art of FAKING it
Is the world rife with fakery? CJ Stone believes it is and that this has implications for your soul...
This a very stylish column this month. I’m wearing Armani jeans, a Nike top and Nike trainers. The top is white and fluffy with the Nike symbol on the breast; the trainers are a jazzy combination of black and silver with the logo in red; and the jeans are fashionably faded, with a silver Armani badge on the back pocket..
As it happens, they are all fake. Not unlike the writer, you might say. I got them as a job-lot from some friends of mine who have just returned from Romania. Romanians, like Italians, love their clothes, so I am told. But, unlike Italians, they are generally poor. Thus the need for fakery.
The shoes are passable, the top is warm, but the jeans – ah, the jeans! – are as good as anything that Armani could produce, with the added advantage that they were less than a quarter of the price. And in any case, were you to see me walking down the street in this gear, would you know the difference?
It’s the same with the writer. Slap a designer label on me, and how could you tell?
Some very great artists have been fakers, and some very great fakers have been artists. Picasso spent most of his life parodying other people’s styles. Now he has a car named after him. So what is the fake, and what is not? Picasso would certainly not have approved of the car, being, as he was a committed anti-capitalist all his life.
Arguably Picasso’s greatest work was also his greatest joke. He was, of course, the most well-known artist of his day, almost universally recognised, as prominent in world-consciousness as Einstein, say, or Muhammed Ali; so famous in fact, that any new Picasso production was immediately worth obscene and ridiculous amounts of money.
Unfortunately for the buyers of his later art, what they didn’t know was that he was also engaged in a frenzied process of over-production, creating so much art that he was almost single-handedly destroying the Picasso-market as he was creating it. When they opened up his Villa after his death it was literally filled, floor-to-ceiling, with Picasso etchings, making Picasso etchings almost valueless.
And that was the joke: Picasso faking Picassos in order to smash the Picasso brand.
Meanwhile there’s a copy of his great anti-war painting, Guernica, displayed in the hall of the United Nations. You may not know this, but Colin Powell, in his presentation to the General Assembly “proving” the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, had the painting conveniently covered.
Why, you wonder? Because it’s message would certainly have rung out in the hall, showing the Secretary of State’s case for war for what it was: a fake.
We all remember that, of course: the computer-generated images of low flying planes spurting chemical gases, and mobile chemical weapons factories, that later turned out to be helium trucks, and him holding out a little bottle saying that if it was filled with Anthrax it could wipe out several American cities. Not that it was filled with Anthrax, but we ought to be told in any case
The world is full of fakery. Fake dossiers. Fake intelligence. Fake news. Fake elections. Fake democracies. Fake allies. Fake wars against fake enemies in which, unfortunately, real people really die. And then fake photo-ops for fake presidents on aircraft carriers anchored only a few miles from the American shore.
Even the famous scene in Baghdad where they brought down the statue of Saddam Hussein was a fake. Oh the event was real enough. What was fake was the crowd. The square was nearly empty, the “crowd” consisting of about 150 followers of Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon’s chosen successor to Saddam at the time, the whole scene created by the Hollywood technique of close-crop editing, and revealing more about US intentions than it did about the Iraqi people’s feelings.
The news is so severely spun these days that no one knows any more what is real and what is not. Sometimes you have to wonder where all of this will end.
Now I don’t want to end up sounding too political. The editor has already warned me not to discuss politics or religion in this column, but, as I’ve said before, I take political events to have a spiritual meaning. Because, to me, everything is connected.
So I want to try an experiment with you now. I want to prove the existence of the soul. Take a look at the magazine you are holding in your hands. It’s made of glossy paper. The page has my picture on it, and my name. These are my words you are reading. So where am I? I am right here, of course, here in the writing, not as ink or paper, or words upon a page, but as meaning.
So where is this “meaning”? Can you touch it? Can you measure it or weigh it? Does it have colour or texture or form? Can you bang it upon a table to make a loud and satisfying noise?
No. It is invisible. It has no material existence whatsoever. It is thought. It can be understood through material things, it expresses itself through material things, but it is not itself material.
And that is what I take the soul to be: it is the meaning of your life. Which is why all the world’s fakery at this moment is such an affront. It is an affront to the soul, to our collective sense of meaning.
As for my new designer gear: well it’s only the labels that are fake. The clothes themselves are perfectly stylish. I only hope that the same can be said of my writing.