Sting in the Tale: Art, Hoax, and Provocation

By Antoinette LaFarge
Foreword by G. D. Cohen

416 pages with 16 pages of color plates
August 2021. Paperback.
$45 | 9781733957953

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An illustrated survey of artist hoaxes, including impersonations, fabula, cryptoscience, and forgeries, researched and written by an expert “fictive-art” practitioner.

The shift from the early information age to our ‘infocalypse’ era of rampant misinformation has given rise to an art form that probes this confusion, foregrounding wild creativity as a way to reframe assumptions about both fiction and art in contemporary culture. At its center, this “fictive art” (LaFarge’s term) is secured as fact by employing the language and display methods of history and science. Using typically evidentiary objects such as documentary photographs and videos, presumptively historical artifacts and relics, didactics, lectures, events, and expert opinions in technical language, artists create a constellation of manufactured evidence attesting to the artwork’s central narrative. This dissimulation is temporary, with a clear “tell” often surprisingly revealed in a self-outing moment. With all its attendant consequences of mistrust, outrage, and rejection, this genre of art with a sting in its tale is a radical form whose time has come.


Antoinette LaFarge is an internationally recognized new media artist with a special interest in speculative fiction, feminist techne, and alternative histories. Her artwork has taken form as new media performance, computer-programmed installations, public exhibitions and interventions, digital prints, and artist’s books. LaFarge was the founder and longtime artistic director of the Plaintext Players, a pioneering Internet performance troupe founded in 1993 that appeared at numerous international venues, including the 1997 Venice Biennale, documenta X, and UpStage festivals. She has authored several books, including Louise Brigham and the Early History of Sustainable Furniture Design (Palgrave Macmillan 2019) and Monkey Encyclopedia W (ICI Press 2018). Her writing and artwork have appeared in Art Journal, Wired, Leonardo, Ada, Gnosis, the Southern Quarterly, the MOSF Journal of Science Fiction, and elsewhere, as well as in anthologies from MIT Press, Oxford University Press, and other international presses. She is a longtime contributor to Wikipedia, where she focuses on filling gaps in coverage of women and people of color.

LaFarge holds an M.F.A. in Computer Art from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and she is currently Professor of Digital Media in the Art Department at UC Irvine, where she co-curated two early exhibitions on computer games and art: “ALT+CTRL: A Festival of Independent and Alternative Games” (2003) and “SHIFT-CTRL: Computers, Games, and Art” (2000), both at UC Irvine’s Beall Center for Art and Technology.

G. D. Cohen is an artist, curator, and scholar of visual culture with a focus on experimental cinema, photography, and appropriation art; landscape theory and aesthetic philosophy; cultural memory and experimental archives; the history and theory of architecture and urbanism; and the intersections of post-war avant-garde art and radical politics. A Continuing Lecturer in Latin American Cinema and Visual Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles, he has served since 2012 as Co-Curator of the Festival of (In)appropriation, an international showcase of experimental found-footage cinema and moving-image art. From 2012 to 2019, he also served as Associate Programmer for Los Angeles Filmforum, one of the longest-running organizations in the U.S. for the screening of experimental cinema. Cohen’s work in video, photography, and installation has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and he is the creator of numerous ongoing multi-media and multi-platform projects, including Grupo Anarquitectura (rama argentina) and The Valaco Archive (featured in issue 6 of Limn magazine).