Stealthily occupying the remote corners of history, literature, and art are curious fabrications that straddle the lines between fact, fiction, and wild imagination — non-existent people and poets, fake institutions, and crypto-scientific objects like fake skeletons and staged archaeological sites. From the intriguing Cottingley fairy photographs, “captured” in 1917 by teenage sisters, to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, fictive art reframes assumptions made by its contemporaneous culture. Sting in the Tale is an illustrated survey of artist hoaxes, including impersonations, fabula, cryptoscience, and forgeries.

The shift from the early information age to our “infocalypse” era of rampant misinformation has made this genre of art with a sting in its tale an especially radical form. Cataloging historical projects and those from the late 20th and early 21st century that probe this confusion, Sting in the Tale foregrounds the medium’s potential for run-away creativity.

At its center, fictive art is secured as fact by creating series of evidentiary objects and by employing the language and display methods of history and science. Using documentary photographs and videos, created historical artifacts and relics, explanatory texts and didactics, lectures, events, and expert opinions in technical language, artists have created constellations of manufactured evidence attesting to their artwork’s central narrative. This dissimulation is temporary in most cases, often surprisingly revealed in a self-outing moment; other times, it is found out. With all the attendant consequences of mistrust, outrage, and rejection, what we can learn from fictive art practitioners both past and present bears on the fragile trust that builds societies, and that when broken, brings them to the brink of chaos.

"A thought-provoking analysis.... extensively researched, clearly written... an impressive journey of revelation and rediscovery." —Artist Profile

For more about the book and the author, read the interview "Blatant LaFargery" with Doug Harvey

Softcover. 432 pages with 16 pages of color plates
$49.95 | 9781733957953

Book Talks

A series of talks with artists featured in the book was launched in November 2021, sponsored by Art Report Today You can sign up for these talks; check the signup page for details about the artists and the time of each talk. The list of confirmed talks is:

...and more to come!

Videos of each talk are posted on Art Report Today's YouTube site and linked from the sidebar on this page.