Thursday, January 22, 2009

Magicians... Conmen... Who can tell?

" A successful illusion, no matter how outlandish, will work simply because
of the audience and how much it wants to believe in what it is seeing. In
other words: Who's the April fool? "
- Orson Welles

Here's one for you: I was watching F For Fake, a 1974 Orson Welles film that challenges the notion of what is, and isn't, fraud. Orson muses, " If a hoax isn't a hoax, isn't there a measure of art involved?" Incredible example: Elmyr De Hory, a master art forger who recreated works of the old masters and sold them to major museums, escaping prosecution and jail time simply because the curators of these institutions were too embarrassed to press charges! Clifford Irving, an investigative writer ( who, at the time, was writing a biography on Howard Hughes based on interviews with the man himself ) , was profiling De Hory during the filming of a TV documentary when it was discovered that Irving's bio project was actually an elaborate fake--- it incensed the Billionaire recluse himself to come out of hiding to denounce it to the media!

Welles point in all this was simple--- if De Hory and Irving had fooled so many people, weren't they doing something right? If De Hory could forge a near-flawless Picasso, wouldn't he be as good as the master painter himself? If Irving's Hughes bio was a work of fiction, couldn't it be a work of literature?

"Every true artist must, in his own way, be a magician, a charltan," Welles says.

My thought? if you applied that last line to the field today, then either many of us are not in on the trick, or we're caught up in the con. When I cut away to a commercial, my thought was immediately confirmed: The air of artificiallity nowadays can choke the life right out you... Y'know, the art of convincing you to buy what you don't need in 30 seconds or less...

... Come to think of it, looking at half of the garbage that's out here now, aren't we all buying into the fakers..?

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