Jemima Brown

Text for exhibition Fake ID, Vegas Gallery, Ken Pratt, 2008

The actualization of an authenticity is an idea that remains bound up in popular notions of the aims of artistic practice. Perpetuated by the osmosis of art historical ideas into the popular consciousness, mass understandings of art often embrace the idea that the artist seeks to present an authentic experience. This is particularly notable in popular notions about figurative and representational art: the artist strives to offer the viewer an authentic insight into the full identity of a portrait sitter or to render a building or vista in a way that offers a true sense of the experience, one that cuts to its essence. If anything, this notion of the artist as someone who can offer us the ‘real’ experience of something in all its beauty or power may even have been heightened in the evolutionary developments to overcome reactionary expectations of representation or realism in the period after photography and movements such as Modernism. Perhaps nothing highlights this preoccupation with the relationship between artistic practices and ‘the authentic’ more than the developments of discourses such as Bourriaud’s notions of Relational Aesthetics in the late 1990’s. Within them there is an intrinsic assumption that artistic practices that seek to engage ‘authentically’ with social contexts constitute a valid and, perhaps, more desirable position for contemporary artists. In many instances, these notions of art that has an authentic engagement with the social context has shied away from artistic practices that results in objects; steer clear of things looking anything like the traditional idea of the painting or sculpture. And yet, both currently, and contemporaneous to the developments of the kinds of practices offered up in a Relational Aesthetics and its adjunct and subsequent developments, there are numerous contemporary artists who, through very different means and to very different ends, intrinsically build in evident artifice and ‘inauthenticity’ to their work. Identifiable fakeness, artifice or even blatant lies appear as content, concept or working methodologies. Sometimes as counterpoint in which questions about the formal orthodoxies of art are challenged, sometimes as juxtaposition playing a game of double-bluff with popular notions of art as a purveyor of an ‘authentic’ human experience, diverse artists adopt strategies in which visual elements of the discernibly false and inauthentic feed discussions about everything from the nature of personal identity and cultural trends to media constructs of the documentary. Fake I.D. is a group show that traces some of these devices and strategies through the work of a handful of international artists producing work today.

JEMIMA BROWN spent years collaborating with her invented twin sister Dolly, both the feature and co-author of numerous works. And not to mention a frequent face in many of Brown’s works. Dolly, an avatar of sorts, often appears as a reasonably direct replication of Brown’s own appearance in some works whereas as much of the other works – sculpture, video and drawings – have progressed into a home-brew process that sees Brown casting faces and body parts from a range of individuals, often family members. From these, the representational potential of the casts are reworked into non-existent beings. They are not entirely figurative of representational, the deconstructionist language of her sculpture being deployed, instead, to develop a sense of an identity, sometimes fantastic, sometimes closer to social observation. Recent bodies of work have seen Brown developing discourses that relate to the world of arty scenes and cliques she observes around her East End studio and home. These are often developed in such a way that the rather bemused social observation develops a context; a historical position in relation to other real or literary art and underground scenes, cliques or circles. Some of these shorthand ciphers for characters or typologies embedded in her sculpture and video works, are drawn from the art world. So, there develops a layer of reflection and critique of the art world’s structures and presentation of itself to the arriving audience. In other works, particularly those that use the readily understood imagery of Dolly, Brown’s invented genetically identical twin, we find the insertion of an alter ego – that one tiny but important step removed from the identity of the artist herself- inserted into video scenarios that have a cinematic quality to them. They are rarely conclusively narrative; mise-en-scène a script short of a plot line. Into their ambiguous moods we can try to insert our own narratives or emotional projections, never entirely sure if it is the real artist to whom they apply.

Ken Pratt, October 2008