Grasping at Authenticity - Authenticity? - Impakt Festival 2016

Issue no5
okt - nov 2018

This year’s Impakt festival centred on the issue of authenticity, comprising a range of talks, film screenings and exhibitions spread over different locations in Utrecht. The lectures and panel discussions encompassed a broad range of disciplines, from philosophy to media theory and artificial intelligence, in order to attempt some grasp at what authenticity might be and whether it is relevant at all in a time when images, texts and objects can be so endlessly and effortlessly copied, transferred and distributed.

American art-historian David Joselit provided one of the keynote lectures (the others were provided by Chus Martinez, Franco Bifo Berardi, Ben Rivers, Rob Horning, Pedro Costa), dealing primarily with the relationship between authenticity and terror. Approaching this from the widely documented tactic in recent years by ISIS to either destroy cultural artefacts or sell them to raise funds for further terrorist operations, Joselit suggested that such actions are not simply targeted against individual objects but also the institution of the global humanist museum. Whilst of course careful to stress that these acts against the objects were terrible crimes, he was interested in what this showed about the problematic character embodied in the enlightened museum, stating that the museum has overtaken the church as the site of iconoclasm and the assertion of western values. In particular, he drew attention to François Hollande’s announcement of a $100 million fund aimed at offering refuge to cultural objects caught up in conflict, suggesting that objects are easier to welcome and love than people.

Elise van Mourik en Oliver Laric

The accompanying exhibition, which Joselit and other speakers tentatively referred to as including examples of ‘post-internet art’, presented a collection of works by artists engaging with the redrawing of privacy and publicity. Several of the artists appearing could recently be found in the 9th Berlin Biennale, including the curators of the Biennale DIS.

However, throughout all the presentations, discussions and exhibitions, a definition of authenticity in contemporary culture proved illusive, the different speakers clearly having varying ideas of what this term means, culminating in one of the speakers passionately declaring that all she thinks about in relation to authenticity is Etsy! This type of incoherence in positions needn’t be seen as a problem per se, but perhaps a more focused view of a definition behind authenticity would have led to more productive debates.

This extended to the exhibition, which presented a collection of artworks that worked in very disparate practices and at times it became hard to see the common thread. However this shouldn’t be seen as detracting from the quality of the works, many of which provided interesting insights and raised interesting problems regarding authenticity.

During the conference Oliver Laric, who presents a 3d scan of a defaced relief from the Utrecht Dom in the show, was telling about classical sculptures, which he had placed online for free to be used by anyone. He then tracked their dispersal into realms such as advertising and even the Eurovision song contest, this investigation into the routes they took becoming an integral part of the work.

Laric’s was one of the most successful works in dealing with authenticity, problematising the relationship between the original and the copy, and investigating the plasticity which the copy takes on during its circulation online and though various media. The confusion around the use of the term “authenticity” can be seen as symptomatic of the need for further investigation into this topic, and in this way the festival can be said to have raised more questions than answers. It will be interesting to see if further discourse emerges from the problems raised.

IMPAKT 2016 exhibition at Casco/Fotodok, open through 6.11.2016


All images (except one) courtesy IMPAKT, photographer Pieter Kers

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