(P016)
Art, Authenticity and Authority: Traversing the Power Struggles
Location Brunei Gallery - B104
Date and Start Time 01 Jun, 2018 at 11:30
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Tereza Kuldova (University of Oslo) email
  • Oivind Fuglerud (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Leon Wainwright (The Open University)
Discussant Birgit Meyer (Utrect University)

Short abstract

Power struggles over the authentic and the inalienable in contemporary disenchanted neoliberal economies, overfilled with copies, fakes, reproductions and profane objects, have become ever more pronounced. The panel aims at a critical discussion of these power struggles, within broader time-frame.

Long abstract

Power struggles over the authentic and the inalienable in contemporary disenchanted neoliberal economies, overfilled with copies, fakes, reproductions and profane objects, have become ever more pronounced and ever more invested with political interests and moral sentiments. Art and cultural artistic expressions find themselves often at the heart of these struggles, as they have been traditionally imagined as the very realms where sacred, inalienable and authentic objects could be produced and authenticated, be it through rituals, certifications or expert knowledge. This discussion panel seeks to deal with questions surrounding the power struggles over and desire for authenticity both in the contemporary global art market and society at large. How have we for instance gone from perceiving cultural appropriation as a positive social good towards lobbying the UN to ban it and make it illegal, and thus to effectively legally reinforce cultural boundaries? Who has the power and authority to draw these boundaries and hierarchies? What charm do all those formerly inalienable objects from around the world, sacred heirlooms and art pieces, that ended up on the art market only to be authenticated and sold precisely for their value as authentic possess? Why is authenticity, now more than ever, in such a high demand and how do we engage with the reactionary political desires that, too, yearn for authenticity? The panel will be structured as a round-table and is organized collectively by Tereza Kuldova, Øivind Fuglerud, Leon Wainwright, Maruška Svašek, Birgit Meyer and Rina Arya.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Art, Luxury, and Crime: On the Mystique of the Authentic

Author: Tereza Kuldova (University of Oslo) email

Short abstract

Why do people long for authenticated originals and look down upon fakes and copies? Why is a fake incapable of producing the same effects as an original? The paper investigates the mystique of authenticity through a series of ethnographic examples spanning from art and luxury markets to crime.

Long abstract

Why do people long for authenticated originals and look down upon fakes and copies? Why is a fake incapable of producing the same effects as an original even when it looks exactly the same? Is knowing the difference crucial for us to be seduced by the original? If we, for a moment, bracket the art market's capacity to stash away the wealth of the rich in the originals, which may as well be part of their allure, we may focus on the modern magic of the authentic in an otherwise disenchanted world. What promise does the authenticated original hold for the buyer, consumer, or merely an admirer? In order to shed some light on these questions, the paper will indulge in a series of ethnographic examples from the art market, luxury market, sacred relics, the trademarks of criminal organizations to murderabilia. It will be argued that if we wish to understand the mystique of the authentic, we must take into account the ways in which it relates to the 'sacred' and to the 'sovereign.' Even in secular times, there is a desire for the sacred, one that can be satisfied, under certain conditions, by the authenticated original. This original is capable not only of representing the prestige and privilege of the subject who possess it, but also empowering the subject by 'setting him apart' from the ordinary and profane, thus also imposing order onto a chaotic world.

Art and Copyright Law: A History of of Originals and Copies

Author: Stina Teilmann-Lock (University of Southern Denmark) email

Short abstract

In this paper it will be argued that copyright law has contributed to the modern formation of the categories and hierarchies of originals and copies in art.

Long abstract

In this paper it will be argued that copyright law has contributed to the modern formation of the categories and hierarchies of originals and copies in art. In support of this argument the paper goes through a series of developments and landmark cases of British and French nineteenth century copyright law making the case that the dynamic reciprocity between the legal and the artistic perceptions of 'originals' and 'copies' has played a major role in shaping our understanding of the concepts in both spheres. Arguably, it is the complicated history of the formation and reception of these concepts —between the spheres of law and art—that accounts for their complex and sometimes paradoxical character. Significantly, originals and copies as concepts handed down to us by legal as well as artistic tradition are antithetically defined. While there is no copy without an original it may be similarly argued that there are no originals without copies.

Authenticity, art and acceptability: Some problems of visualising Caribbean slavery

Author: Leon Wainwright (The Open University) email

Short abstract

Unhappy relations between artworks and their various publics raise questions about the political desire for authenticity in the context of the historical remembrance of slavery, pointing to the especially material limitations that surround art when it is made into a client for memorialisation.

Long abstract

Issues of authenticity and power have long featured as analytical terms in critical art historical discourse, and may be brought into a fruitful two-way exchange with anthropology following its turn to the study of materiality. This presentation will explore why and how authenticity during the twentieth century came to be a fraught area of struggle in the field of representing anti-colonial struggles and commemorating acts of rebellion, with particular attention to resistance to Caribbean slavery. Two artists, Aubrey Williams and Philip Moore, both born in the colony of British Guiana (subsequently independent Guyana) would employ painting and sculpture to visualise and materialise the failed yet heroic rebellion by enslaved Africans against Dutch planters that took place in 1763. Their two artworks - one produced before and the other after the watershed of independence for Guyana - bear fruitful comparison as equally failed gestures. Despite their strident, anti-colonial attempts to disturb the present day political circumstances by way of attention to the historical past, Williams's painting was withheld from public view for much of the 1960s, while Moore's monumental public sculpture met with wide disdain. Such unhappy relations between artworks and their various publics raise questions about the frictions and power struggles surrounding the political desire for authenticity in the context of historical remembrance, pointing to the especially material limitations that surround art when it is made into a client for memorialisation.

Hunting for Authenticity: Anthropology, Art, and Ethnographic Museums in British Columbia

Author: Oivind Fuglerud (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) email

Short abstract

The paper investigates the relationship between anthropology, art, and indigenous identity by using the history of two ethnographic museums in British Columbia and the anthropologists working there as cases.

Long abstract

The paper investigates the relationship between anthropology, art, and indigenous identity by using the history of two ethnographic museums in British Columbia and the anthropologists working there as cases. The interconnected histories of the Provincial Museum (currently Royal BC Museum) in Victoria and Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver are of interest because they circle around two questions that are still vibrant within the discipline of anthropology: one, what constitutes an 'authentic' indigenous identity, and two, how the connection and/or division between ethnographic objects and art should be understood. In British Columbia, these two issues are intertwined because particular conceptualizations of First Nations art have here been vital in shaping the understanding of indigenous communities and their relationship to mainstream society. During the main part of the 20th century the image of First Nations projected by the museums was one of decay and 'cultural dilution'.

In the paper, I will use historical sources to explore different conceptualizations of museum work among anthropologists and First Nations carvers working in the two museums. I will argue that while the anthropologists saw themselves as involved in 'salvage anthropology' initiated to resurrect a glorious cultural past, many of the First Nations artists working with them perceived their own work as part of a continuous and ongoing tradition.

Un/Worthy Presence and Authentication in Czech Art

Author: Maruska Svasek (Queen's University Belfast) email

Short abstract

This paper critically investigates the politics and poetics of authentication in Czech art before and after 1989, exploring dynamics of presence and absence in concrete cases.

Long abstract

This paper critically investigates the politics and poetics of authentication in Czech art, both before and after the 1989 Velvet Revolution. It refers to current interdisciplinary work by scholars who have refused to draw strict analytical boundaries between 'socialist' and 'post-socialist' times. Insisting on the significance of memory, emotions, and imagination to the exploration of people-thing dynamics, it aims to throw light on processes of presence and absence in Czech art worlds. Analysing concrete examples of 1950s Socialist Realism, 1970s Action Art, 1990s Postmodern painting and more recent Documentarist productions, it asks what 'presence' means in each of these cases, and how it is realized and perceived. Who produces the works, how is their presence justified, and who provides financial, organizational and ideological support for their materialization? How do specific works gain or lose value and efficacy as they appear in, and disappear from, different social, political and temporal realms?

Constructing Authenticity: Viennese Artists between the Global Art Market and the State?

Author: Marko Saranovic (University of Vienna) email

Short abstract

This paper investigates the question of the construction of 'authenticity' in artists' practices in order to interrogate the pressures placed on the artists by the global art market and the state. The paper is grounded in an ethnography of the Viennese art world centered around art academies.

Long abstract

Under the postmodern condition of aesthetics marked by an absence of a dominant aesthetic theory capable of distinguishing between good and bad art, the artistic expression and presentation changes. Artistic texts, exhibition practices and appeals to 'authenticity' become more important, as do art dealers and art buyers, replacing the art critics. Whereas global financial centres like New York and London push prices for living artists to sky-high levels, art markets in places like Vienna typically do not cross the 30 000EUR benchmark. In the context of the global art world where high prices serve as one of the most important mechanisms of communication, hierarchically and spatially ordering the art worlds, one's artwork and its relevance become determined primarily by the markets and their valuing mechanism. Artists must become skilled first and foremost at self-commodification, and wooing of the media. They must not only craft an image of desirable 'authenticity' of their artworks, and struggle for visibility within the complex power relations of the art worlds, but also deter and fight copyists - something that becomes particularly difficult in the online media landscapes. Should we consider specific constructions of 'authenticity,' just like high art prices, as communicative mechanisms within the art worlds? The analysis of the Viennese art world can help us understand not only the ways in which authenticity is constructed by the artists both vis-à-vis the market and the state, that funds much of the arts, but also the shifting (social-democratic to rightist) governance of art politics.

The portrait of Miguel de Cervantes: Authenticity and censorship in Spanish institutions

Author: Santiago G. Villajos (Autonomous University Madrid) email

Short abstract

This paper provides a case study that assesses the social construction of authenticity within the Spanish society. It takes the Nara Document as a frame of reference, and tests its validity in relation to the media and official institutions for the representation of Miguel de Cervantes.

Long abstract

The paper focuses on the issue of authenticity in the portraits of Miguel de Cervantes both from ethnographic and historical perspectives. Since 1916 none of the writer's portraits is recognised as a factual representation of him by scholars. This fact was agreed after five decades of debate, when a taxonomy of portraits was published by a historian of the Spanish Royal Academy who was five years being funded by the King and the Government. However, it changed in 2016 when a forgotten portrait of the writer was brought to public opinion. It was originally published in London in 1854 besides a certificate of authenticity written by Louisa Dorothea Stanley, the translator of Persiles and Sigismunda, who said the portrait was owned then by Arthur Aston, a British ambassador whose name was wrongly transcripted by the Spanish historian in his study. Thus the portrait was badly transmitted as fake to society. For its recovery, it was supposed to be part of a memorial exhibition in La Mancha, but both political and cultural authorities rejected it. Debate was opened though through a public mural, a press release and applications to official institutions (Cervantes Institute, Spanish National Library, Senate, Ministries of Culture, Economy and Treasury, Royal Academy of Language, Museo del Prado), that allowed testing the Nara Document from an ethnographic research on authenticity and authority at the country who uses a deliberately known fake portrait of the writer on the Euro coins of 10, 20 and 50 cents to represent its identity.

The Transcultural Nature of Huang Yong Ping’s Oeuvre

Author: Remy Jarry (China Academy of Art) email

Short abstract

Having left China for France in 1989, Huang Yong Ping (1954-) has developed an original relation with his homeland. While disapproving the ideology prevailing in Mainland China, he remains also very critical about the Western-centrism prevailing on the international scene, including the art world.

Long abstract

In parallel, he treasures his Chinese cultural heritage and uses it as a prism to approach and decipher the fundamentals of Western culture. By avoiding the binary opposition between East and West, his work explores an alternative path: instead of choosing a camp, he looks at the main touch-points between the two civilisations and cultures in order to anchor his work.

Far from becoming diversionary, Huang's work regularly tackles the main historical challenges and social issues of our time: the rise of radical Islam, the globalisation, the quest for world power, the climate change, the migrants, among others. Moreover, Huang Yong Ping contributes to update the French trope of "artiste engagé” ("engaged artist" in English) that has been popularised over 20th century: his main ambition is to deconstruct the so-called cultural identities, while unveiling the processes and forces at stake in their development. Thus, he brings politics into his art, rather than diluting his art into politics. Interestingly, his work has been censored in both China and Western countries.

Besides, Huang Yong Ping’s transcultural path enables to raise compelling theoretical questions, such as the relevance of the notion of “Chinese contemporary art”, which he considers as a Western construct. Furthermore, it provides an appropriate framework to reflect the ongoing process of westernisation that China has gone through over the last decades.

Partition, nationhood and metamorphoses of the 'authentic': The art of ancient Bengal in the contemporary global art-market

Author: Archishman Sarker (Jawaharlal Nehru University) email

Short abstract

This paper is about the ethno-epistemic effects of the Partition of the Bengal region which continues to this day; and which shapes the way in which we write cultural history and perceive 'authenticity' in artefacts from Bengal in the global art market today.

Long abstract

The art from the Bengal deltaic region in the Indian subcontinent is the national heritage of both India and Bangladesh. The Partition of 1947 and what followed it created conditions in which any kind of a posteriori analysis of cultural historiography gets determined by prevalent political power struggles, which also in-turn refracts and even radically transforms ideas of empirical and cultural 'authenticity'. In art and the art-market, this gets further exemplified. In 1993, The Museum of Indian Art in Berlin was at the centre of a controversy about a fake bronze from Bengal called 'Śiva's marriage'. The debate was a tension between prevalent epistemic traditions based on textuality and iconographical analyses; however, it underscored a myriad of problems as regards to constant metamorphoses of our comprehending the 'authentic'; which is but a culmination of cultural gap, changing patronages and upheavals following Partition and Bangladesh's independence in 1971. In recent times, with technology challenging hegemony of certain ideas and facilitating information flow; the turf itself having transformed seventy years after Partition, these phenomena get more problematized and diversified, making it more interesting to study such power-relations and the corresponding impacts on the quest for 'authenticity' in history and culture of a region. Knowledge, thus posited, is then a reflection of authority, from the 'regional' to the 'national' and vice-versa. Any case-study of the cultural historiography of the Bengal region is unique as a microcosm of the impact of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent on geo-culture and historiography in South Asia.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.