F for Fake, a documentary by Orson Welles was an interesting analysis on authenticity. He investigates and addresses individuals directly involved with forgery in one way or another — Elmyr de Hory, a unstoppable art forager, his “hoax biographer” Clifford Irving, Orsen Welles’ partner Oja Kodar and Orsen Welles himself.
The interesting part is that at the very beginning of the film and even in the name of the film, Welles is admitting that the documentary is addressing the concept of ‘what is fake’?. That in turn (like Andrew Lazarow did on the board on the first day of class by writing “Everything on this board is a lie”, “I love ITP” — does that mean that the second sentence is a lie? Or is the first? Or are they both?), makes you think what in this documentary is actually true? Because the topic, right out of the gate, is about fakery, what can be truthful here, really?
Welles interviews Elmyr on his process of creating forged art of many great painter’s work. They are so accurate that even the experts couldn’t determine they were fake. Elmyr would sell these paintings to the galleries and the galleries would put an exuberant price on this precious artifacts of art which would sell. It’s interesting that the curators would somehow decide what the price of these paintings would be– one could be worth tens of thousands of dollars or more— and then in a split second, Elmyr could claim it as his and the painting would immediately be worthless, right in that moment. It interesting that we can affix worth on something one moment, and then remove it the next.
In class we talked about the definitions of an illusion (fake) versus a con (real fake). A con makes you believe that something false is true; and an illusion makes you believe something impossible, even though you know it’s false.
With those definitions in mind, I believe that Elmyr would have been more on the con- side of the spectrum. He created false paintings that he sold off, and convinced others, were real.
on the other hand…
I feel that Orsen Welles and the way he told his stories in the documentary were more of an illusion partly because there seemed to be an air of humor in the way he told his false tales, and also he did have FALSE flash across the screen many times throughout the documentary. I feel that his fables were easier for people to forgive, because he gave himself up in the end stating his story with Oja was incorrect. If he didn’t mention that the tale was false at the end of the documentary, it might be harder choice where to place him on the spectrum of con/illusion.
Overall, if was an interesting social experiment on furthering the thoughts and concepts around illusions and cons.