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A superfiction is a visual or conceptual artwork which uses fiction and appropriation to mirror organizations, business structures, and/or the lives of invented individuals (Hill). The term was coined by Glasgow-born artist Peter Hill in 1989. Often superfictions are subversive cultural events in which the artwork can be said to escape from the picture frame or in which a narrative can be said to escape from the pages of the novel into three-dimensional reality. While this may involve a moment of deception regarding the origin, background and context of the presentation, or the veracity of claimed facts, deceit is only a method, intended to condition the observer's perception in a certain way, and it is not the ultimate goal of this artistic practice. Superfictions explore the interaction between the observer's concepts and the actual "objective" evidence that is presented; this is fundamentally analogous to e.g. arranging lines on a two-dimensional sheet to create a perspective illusion, even though the actual works of superfiction often are perceived to push the boundaries of what is considered to be "art".
The Museum of Contemporary Ideas
In 1989 Peter Hill created his fictive Museum of Contemporary Ideas on New York's Park Avenue, complete with its billionaire benefactors, Alice and Abner "Bucky" Cameron who supposedly made their fortune from the Cameron Oil Fields in Alaska. Press releases were sent around the world to news agencies such as Reuters and Associated Press and a range of magazines, newspapers, museums, critics and specialist journals. The German Wolkenkratzer magazine believed the museum to be real and printed a story about it. As a result its editor, Dr Wolfgang Max Faust was asked to chair a meeting of German curators and industrialists to see if Frankfurt could build an even bigger multi-disciplinary museum than The Museum of Contemporary Ideas.
The characters within the Museum of Contemporary Ideas were later "turned" into another Superfiction called The Art Fair Murders and traces of both were exhibited in the 2002 Biennale of Sydney, (The World May Be) Fantastic, curated by Richard Grayson.
With its "Encyclopedia of Superfictions", Hill's Web site is something of an information hub on methodologically related artworks.
Probably the first curated exhibition of superfictions was "For Real Now" (De Achterstraat Fondation, Hoorn, Netherlands) in 1990 .
Roots and precedents
The practice of intentionally blurring the boundaries between fiction and fact has many precedents. Perhaps the best known of these is Orson Welles' adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War Of The Worlds which was broadcast in the style of a breaking-news report in October 1938, and lead many to believe in an ongoing Martian invasion despite a broadcast disclaimer.
Another example are the "snouters" Nasobēm (or Rhinogradentia), an order of animals invented by the German poet Christian Morgenstern in 1905 and then introduced into scholarly publication by the (fictitious) naturalist Prof. Harald Stümpke (1957).
Artists employing superfictions as a focus or significant part of their practice include:
- AA Bronson – General Idea – (1969–1994)
- Lyndell Brown and Charles Green – paintings of fictional worlds (since 1993)
- Kay Burns – performative lectures as the fictitious researcher/ethnographer Iris Taylor
- Janet Cardiff – many audio-walks that superimpose fiction and experience since the mid-1990s, Paradise Institute (2001)
- "et al." – e.g. The Fundamental Practice (2005)
- Joan Fontcuberta – e.g. Secret Fauna (since 1987)
- Rodney Glick – e.g. The Glick International Collection (since 1989)
- Iris Häussler – many "fictitious memories", constructed living spaces of fictional personae (since 1989)
- Peter Hill – Museum of Contemporary Ideas (since 1989)
- Res Ingold – e.g. Ingold Airlines (1982)
- Shelly Innocence – Shelly Innocence is a former supermodel, international athlete and in-store demonstrator marketing Happiness™, Integrity™ and other intangible products. 2005
- IRFAK Fat to Food Recycling, Glocal Affairs 2008, Mieke Smits
- Martin Kippenberger – inventions of fictional artists in the 1980s, within a much broader oeuvre of painting
- Eve Andree Laramee has exhibited works credited to Yves Fissialt, a fictional scientist with some elements based on the artist's father. Eve Andrée Laramée
- Dr James Lattin – founder and curator of the Museum of Imaginative Knowledge
- The Leeds 13 – staging a fictional vacation paid for by real sponsor's and grants funds for their Leeds University Fine Arts Degree project (1999)
- Seymour Likely – a fictitious artist invented by Aldert Mantje, Ronald Hooft and Ido Vunderink
- Beauvais Lyons – Professor of Art at University of Tennessee and curator of the Hokes Archives which includes the Association for Creative Zoology, Hokes Medical Arts and the Spelvin Collection among others.
- Mish Meijers and Tricky Walsh present The Collector Henri Papin
- Patrick Nagatani – Excavations, A series of photographs documenting proof of a worldwide ancient automobile culture.
- Philip R. Obermarck – The Gammon Collection (2012), a collection of artifacts and items recovered from the Great Plains Society for the Dissemingation of Information and Education.
- Eve-Anne O'Regan – BabyFace
- Eugene Parnell – e.g. Lost Naturalists of the Pacific (2005)
- Patrick Pound – e.g. The memory Room (2002)
- Walid Raad's – Atlas Group Archives
- Servaas – a fictional world of fish
- Michael Vale – Le Chien Qui Fume (2002 onwards). An historical satire that positions an icon of early 20th. century kitsch, the smoking dog, as an integral, but forgotten player in the history of Surrealism.
- Jeff Wassmann – an American artist working under the nom de plume of the pioneering German modernist Johann Dieter Wassmann (1841-1898)
- David Wilson – The Museum of Jurassic Technology founded in 1989, Los Angeles
- Alexa Wright – photography, including the depiction of Phantom limbs (After Image 1997) and other works that combine and superimpose visual artefact and documentation