In three floors of galleries, “Fake News,” a new exhibit at the Haifa Museum of Art, explores the definition of news, truth and realism in the era of US President Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump is our poster boy, he’s the ultimate example of fake truth, of alternative facts,” said Svetlana Reingold, chief curator at the museum.
The American president has repeatedly used the term “fake news” to describe reports from particular media outlets as well as the outlets themselves.
“We’re living in something that couldn’t have happened before,” said Reingold. “This entire period of fake news, of social media and its effects, has changed the whole concept of news. It’s a state of mind that didn’t previously exist.”
It’s an era in which “two plus two equals four, but could also be equal to five,” she added.
The exhibit, which opened March 30, gave 48 artists from Israel and around the world the opportunity to create a reality — or a work that brings forth a lie based on reality — said Reingold.
On the top floor, 15 works of celebrated British artist Damien Hirst embody the creation of art based on a questionable reality. Hirst readily lent his sculptures to the museum, the curator noted.
Josyane Vanounou and Dov Or Ner’s “Jesslyn Fax Stories,” a massive print on canvas of dozens of Time magazine covers from the 1960s and 1970s of world leaders, leads the exhibit. Its title refers to the French movie star who acted in Albert Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” as well as to the fax machine that reproduces texts for distribution.
Upstairs, the cutout photographs of American artist Karl Haendal insinuate what’s intentionally left out of photographs or news articles, directing viewers and readers to a particular slice of the news rather than the whole story. Items include an image from Egypt’s Arab Spring, in “Arab Spring no. 2” from 2013, and a photo of Gorbachev for a Louis Vuitton advertisement, with the Russian leader seated in a car with the French-made bag on the seat beside him.
Artists Tsila Hassine and Carmel Barnea Brezner Jonas created “Fake Truism,” a working news reel of thermal paper, manufacturing truths and mimicking the activity of the newsroom. They used a printer connected to a search engine that prints only stories containing the words “fake truth,” said Hassine, and the print will have disappeared by August because of the paper it’s printed on.
The Overload gallery hosts a series of works by Israeli artists that offer a subtle look at the effects of fake news.
The realistically sculpted mouths of Ronit Barnega in “The Walls Will Talk” are plastered into a corner of one white-walled gallery, some in clusters, others alone in a corner, reminding viewers of how insidious loose lips can be.
Barnega began by sculpting a mold of her own mouth in her Zichron Yaakov studio.
“I would have let it go throughout the museum if I’d been allowed to,” said Barnega.
Alon Kedem’s “One Day” triptych offers three massive paintings that appear to be an explosion of computer parts, but painted in bright, fresh colors that feel like a puzzle, rather than something malicious.
“There’s no hierarchy, everything can be anything,” said Kedem. “It’s a portrait of intent” — perhaps of the internet, or social media, blowing up into smithereens.
An entire gallery is devoted to Israeli politics and its collection of fake truths as defined by the artists in a series of pieces, including video art, photographs, prints and sculpture.
Finally, upstairs, viewers reach Hirst’s works — the “found treasures” from a shipwreck reportedly rescued from the Indian Ocean, the salvage of which was said to be funded by Hirst.
The sculptures, however, are not treasures long lost beneath the surface of the sea. There’s a sculpture of Mickey Mouse encrusted in coral and shells; several solid gold sculptures, including a golden monkey and Medusa, snakes twisting sinuously from her head; and a long piece of carved basalt, out of which is sculpted a female body.
Hirst created the collection for the 2017 Venice Biennale, which became the subject of a Netflix mockumentary, “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” which chronicled the fictional story behind Hirst’s Venice exhibition.
The film and exhibit suggested the show was the debut presentation of long-lost treasure discovered by a team of archaeologists and divers off the coast of east Africa. The treasures were said to be dated from the first or second century, the belongings of a former slave who became fabulously wealthy, and was named Cif Amotan II. The name is an anagram of “I am fiction.”
The Netflix film followed a team of researchers as they identified Amotan’s shipwreck beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean. They needed a benefactor, and who better than the fabulously wealthy and eccentric artist, Damien Hirst.
Hirst’s exhibit — including its fictional storyline — was considered a comeback for him.
For the Haifa Museum of Art, it proves the point, bringing home the message of artists who create a reality, often based on fake news.