Work / Opinion

James Cartwright and Rob Alderson debate Fabrice Le Nezet’s fake project

Last week we were duped into running a project on the site that turned out to be a hoax. Here Rob Alderson explains what happened and why it’s left an unsavoury taste, while James Cartwright disagrees and congratulates the artist on a spoof well done. As ever you can leave your thoughts using the discussion thread below…

Rob Alderson

Last week It’s Nice That covered Fabrice Le Nezet’s “new sculpture” at an east London station. My colleague Amy Lewin wrote the piece but I brought it to our weekly editorial meeting and I pushed for it to be published on the site. I got done like a kipper.

Fabrice is a sculptor who has been on the site before; we even included his work in our first ever It’s Nice That Annual. I love the way his pieces explore tension, pushing materials to what seem to be their physical limits as they teeter on the edge of collapse. So I was excited to learn that he’d created a set of four new sculptures in Dalston Junction station and eager that we cover them.

In reality, there was no such sculpture. Fabrice claims that what started out as a real project evolved into something else during the planning phase. “While working on it, it came to me that this project was raising some questions and interrogation. What are the credibility of the pictures in a society in which most of the art pieces are seen through a screen? Does a sculpture have less value because it’s made digitally?”

So the work was disseminated and various blogs and websites fell for it hook, line and sinker. It’s particularly embarrassing for us because Dalston Junction is only about 15 minutes’ walk from our studio. But had we heard about this project in San Francisco, or Buenos Aries, I would never have considered dispatching someone to check it was actually there.

Also we didn’t just see something pretty online and throw it up on our site no questions asked. We did ask questions; we interviewed Fabrice about how the pieces were made and the public’s reaction. The question we never asked was: “Does this really exist?” But when would we ever?

If this sounds like sour grapes then I suppose in part it is. To carry on lying when someone takes the time to find out more about the project seems like an unfair extension of the original ideas he was exploring. I’m a little less trusting than I once was, and I am not sure that’s a good thing.

James Cartwright

First and foremost I’d like to congratulate Fabrice for having the balls to undertake a piece like this. As someone who specialises in ACTUAL sculptural commissions it seems like a daring move to change the rationale behind your practice and attempt to push it in a new direction; potentially wrestling with new themes and motivations along the way. Taking the decision to trick people with whom you have an existing relationship also requires a lot of nerve. As Rob mentioned above, we featured Fabrice’s work in our 2012 Annual, but perhaps we’ll strike him off future publications for making us feel daft.

Of course we won’t though, because even if we do have egg on our faces after his latest stunt, his ability to conceive of a practical joke like this and then follow it through is undoubtedly worthy of respect.

In terms of motivation Fabrice claims his viral campaign was an attempt to disseminate his ideas online quickly and efficiently, to bypass the red tape involved in such an ambitious public project. To build a real sculpture in Dalston Junction station would take months, if not years of planning, and of course there’s no telling whether the public would engage if it did exist. His film and the resulting press demonstrate that people are interested, that they do care and he can use that as leverage when he finally approaches the station to commission the work.

Then there’s the conceptual part. Fabrice also suggests that he’s questioning the media’s ability to interrogate thoroughly and to present facts to their audiences instead of fabricated fictions. Whether art and design websites are the most guilty of this kind of misinformation is up for debate, but it’s startling to think how often we accept the information we’re given online and in print and allow it to shape our own world views – whether it’s a fake sculpture or a doctored image of a war zone.

It’s in this area that I have the most respect for Fabrice, and have to applaud him for raising our awareness of our own vulnerability to misinformation. Perhaps when we’re covering installations in our own back yard we DO have to be more thorough as a rule. We should go and visit them in person and engage with them physically, otherwise we run the risk of perpetrating the regurgitation of stock imagery online. The fact that Fabrice lied to us is neither here nor there, it was a necessary part of fulfilling his own brief, and a necessary evil to prove his point.

So hats off to you Fabrice. You made us look stupid, but you also made us think about the way we work, and as a result I appreciate your dishonesty!