Worth a Damien?

June 25, 1999

As a PhD candidate at RMIT University in Melbourne, the article on The Leeds 13 ("No artist is an island", THES, June 11) was of enormous interest. My research project is concerned with "superfictions"- fictional situations created by visual artists that fool the eye (in the trompe l'oeil sense) and subvert organisational structures, particularly the media. The Leeds 13 are typical of this burgeoning movement and will be added to my Encyclopaedia of Superfictions at the Museum of Contemporary Ideas on New York's Park Avenue, sponsored by the equally fictitious Cameron Oil company: www.nymoci.com But superfictions are being created worldwide and give the lie to postmodernism's "death of everything but history" stance. These "synthetic modernists" look to the future with as much enthusiasm as they look to the past.

For example, in Cologne a Swiss artist called Res Ingold runs a fictitious airline called Ingold Airlines. In Amsterdam the Dutch artist known as Servaas takes the world of deep-sea fishing as his raw material for art-making. In Los Angeles David Wilson runs the Museum of Jurassic Technology (like many superfictions, an oxymoron), and in Spain Juan Fontcuberto uses taxidermy to create lost animals from the 19th century.

But that is just the start. Young artists are building on the heritage bequeathed them by Marcel Broodthaers and Guillaume Bijl, the grandfather and father of the superfiction. In Western Australia Eve-Anne O'Regan created a fictional brand of cosmetics called Baby Face and in Tasmania Raymond Rohner created a fantasy world that explores the optics of the pig (www.art school.utas. edu.au/pigvision/ Of course, the other question your story raises is how can such work be assessed, especially if it is a "team effort"? The classic example of this is the work of the identical twins Jane and Louise Wilson. One was studying at art school in Dundee, where I then lectured, and the other was at Newcastle. Their honours submissions were identical. To their credit - and that of their supervisors and examiners - they both received first-class honours. In art-world rhyming slang they both got a Damien (Hirst -first).

Peter Hill

The Museum of Contemporary Ideas

Hirst's outer limits, page 20

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