Both artworks and fossils can be forged. That’s the alliance revealed in a new film by Barrada which takes an artistic look at the forgery of prehistoric life forms.
The forgery takes place in eastern Morocco between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. This region was once the bed of a pre-Cambrian ocean, so real fossils do exist here.
But some have realised it might be easier to fake a trilobite or two, to fabricate rather than excavate. Most of the tour parties who come this way won’t know any better.
Not even the viewer of this slow moving film can be sure what unfolds before the innocent eye. Rough hands, dental instruments, craft skills, strange unctions; all is seen in mystifying close up.
Sometimes the fossil is merely pimped up and polished. Other times it appears moulded or cut out from scratch, with disregard for the hopes and dreams of the passing tourists.
The scenario reminds me of the souk in Marrakech, stuffed with all those craft objects one would hope to find in such a far flung mall. Rumour has it that most of the goods come from China.
In both cases, money or rather economic necessity has undermined the so-called real. Just at the point where authenticity is most desired, it is subverted and traded on in bad faith.
There is an art to this. And Barrada implies that we can barely pick apart the true from the false; so that goes for geological artefacts; craft objects; and, yes of course, art.
In 2013 the Swiss Fine Art Expert Insitute (FAEI) claimed that between 70 and 90 percent of the art which it comes to assess, is misattributed or false. Or faux, to borrow from the title of this film.
But when the very roots of our existence; the beginnings of life on earth; the organisms from which we descend; when these are also faux, we are faced with a very unsettling scenario.
The desert is beyond the reach of the forces of order and the fossils themselves predate laws of trade. So there is something eternal about these dusty workshops of deception.
Faux départ formed part of show Faux Guide at PACE London between 26 June and 8 August 2015.