“THEREAFTER, ALL THE FAUXISTS SWOONED AND FELL ABOUT AND BEGAN, AT LENGTH TO PLAN THEIR PUBLICATIONS.”
(by Vivian Ziherl. From exhibition guide of The First Working Retrospective of the Fauxist International, 2010)
The Fauxist International is another politico-conceptual art movement. Founded in 2001 in Sydney and simultaneously globally via the ‘Fauxist Email Bulletin and Soiree Board’, the Fauxists are dedicated to the claims to futurity of ‘sacrificial/invisible economies, cultural experiences, oppressed peoples, unreasonable lives, waste, mistakes’. Now active across four continents, the Fauxists pursue their art-political agendas via forays into fringe science, sex- worker politics, transgender reality and thought experiments in space and sexuality.
In membership the Fauxists are principally comprised of late-20s, art-educated activists experienced in the demise of the anti-globalisation movement and who, at least in part, feel bereft for not having been around at a time 40-or-so years ago when ‘things were going to change’, when protest mattered and when the ultimate proof of radical critique was believed to be immanent.
In this way, the Fauxists acutely access the problem of art after avant-gardism and the related malaise of what, if any, amalgam of art and activism is plausiblein the post-protest anglo-west. The problem is parsed by Australian artist collaborators Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley as a “double demand” of the intersection between art and politics, which can result “in the dismissal and disinvestment of both art and politics”, placing the young artist intent to think art and politics together in an “invidious position”.(1)
The fundamental Fauxist intelligence is their trademark documentation methodology. At their core, the Fauxists share an implicit understanding that the image purporting to depict a protest of 300 people at a given time and place is often worth more than the event itself. Although an ostensibly hackneyed insight, this privileging of document over event has largely evaded the broad activist left whilst
being increasingly employed by the right — most recently, by the American ‘Fox News’ network in their partial manufacture of the far right ‘Tea Party’ movement.
It is not a coincidence that the Fauxists arose from the periphery: where the young and politicised know the stories/mythos of Southern California and New York by rote and can readily pick the faces from within ‘Situationist International’ group portraits, yet struggle to find toe-holds in local buried colonial histories and rarely/barely historicized movements. It is both intuitive and obvious to the Fauxists that the reality embedded within a given iconic image of a given radical social scene is not known; whether person A was actually fed up with person B, or not.
It is the radical ideals and wishes of the viewer that are projected into these images, and it is in their quality as vessels, not as archives, that their true value resides.
Taken to the Fauxist modus operandi of excess, all cultural ‘documents’ are subject to such a logic — with particular delight taken in repurposing and modifying the templates provided by banal literary forms such as questionnaires (The Sex with Aliens Survey), competition call-outs (Digital Space Be In), consent forms (The Xeno-Model Application Form), letters to the editor, small-circulation local news articles, etcetera.
Pervy, deviant and alter-sexuality/ sexual-identity heavily underwrite much Fauxist activity, occupying a porous boarder of ‘queer’ subculture with latent debts to the radical and liberatory ideals invested in hippy ‘free love’, the pseudo-scientific ‘orgone’ therapies of Soviet revolutionary theorist Willhelm Reich and heavily tempered by the lived grist of tranny-on-the-street experience. The conflation of smarts with sex is embodied in Regrette Etcetera, one of life’s original performative personalities, whose 6’ + 10” heel life and style is funded in tripartite by Fauxist appearance fees, top-dollar specialty tricks and ‘commissioned’ academic essays (full marks guaranteed for areas of Fauxist reading and interest). If nothing else, an ideal outcome of The First Working Retrospective with its overt sexuality and ‘varied’ audience would be to return a certain cruising potential to the gallery floor.
The Fauxists’ emphasis on ‘xenophilia’, ‘sex in space’, their flirtations with extropianism and general trans-ness should not be conflated with or mistaken for a movement towards a dematerialised or surpassed body: this would never serve the ends of people who fuck as the Fauxists fuck and who understand the deep physicality of an estranging gaze. Instead, the various thought experiments around ‘sex in space’ have utility to the Fauxists as a limit case in Anglo-American neoliberal puritanism and what the Fauxists term ‘endless colonialism’.2
Of course, the Fauxists aren’t the first to point to the echoes of American pilgrim history within the generations of US space programmes. Icelandic photo-realist painter and collagist Erró wonderfully, charmingly and quixotically rang this bell with his ‘Space’ series produced following a 1974 visit to NASA’s base in Houston, Texas. In particular The Servants of Hogarth (1977- 78) depicts floating cameos of collared and bonneted pilgrims accompanied by space-suited astronauts in a heroic style set in homage to space/fantasy artist Robert McCall. This critique adopted to Fauxist thinking and with inspiration from the ‘Association of Autonomous Astronauts’, renders the NASA missile strike at the south pole of the Moon (July 18th 2009) as the occasion for a Moon Bomb Amateur Telescopy Party held simultaneously in Sydney, Melbourne, Faeryland (North NSW), San Francisco, Ashfield (Massachussets) and Salatiga (Indonesia).
The First Working Retrospective of the Fauxist International is a round-up of Fauxist activities including agit-prop materials, ethnographic objects and relics, subliminal video, working diagrammatics and a fully-equipped Fauxist reading room. The exhibition is also the occasion of the publication of a Fauxist Reader, compiling excerpts of the prolific textual production of the Fauxists over the better part of a decade. Finally, the exhibition is accompanied by a residency with Regrette Etcetera commissioning the preparation and presentation of two lectures detailing the most recent developments in Fauxist thought and activity.
1 ‘Image 21 & 22’: Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley. Inland Empire, 2008’. Sandwich Magazine. 2009. I(5). pp 5.
2 A term which makes particular sense when standing on the sparsely populated colonial expanse of the Australian continent