Category Archives: Joan Fontcuberta

Joan Fontcuberta : Stranger Than Fiction

Joan Fontcuberta b1955

Stranger Than Fiction , a retrospective of three decades and six bodies of Fontcuberta’s documentary work , opened at the London Science Museum in 2014.

Images are just constructions ” Joan Fontcuberta

Joan Fontcuberta Fontcuberta’s art questions the trustworthiness of imagery and he warns of the need to be sceptical of the perceived function of photography as a conveyer of truth, always question , never presume. Propaganda , censorship and suspicion were commonplace in Catalonia where he was brought up during General Franco’s regime. Fontcuberta says he “ like all my generation suffered from the lack of transparency and the doctoring of documents to re-construct history” (Guardian 2014) .

He disputes the validity , influence and accuracy of photography hence everything you see is not quite what it seems , yet because the various works are so realistic it is easy to believe them to be truthful despite the somewhat fantastical subject matter. Fontcuberta aims “to challenge disciplines that claim authority to represent the real-botany , topology , any scientific discourse , the media , even religion . I chose photography because it was a metaphor of power” (Guardian , 2014) . His methodology may be humorous but is also certainly thought provoking

Herbarium , 1984
Black and white images of outlandish rare plants which are all the more convincing with their Latin sounding names and photographed in a traditional documentary style. In actuality the exotic plants were created by Fontcuberta using waste animal and plant material.

Fauna 1987
Supposedly made in collaboration with a fictional writer / photographer Pere Formiguera the installation included field notes , X-rays , recordings and stuffed specimens. The work was based on the alleged discovery of archives belonging to a certain German zoologist , Dr Ameisenhaufen , who we are told vanished in 1955. Viewing the work within a museum environment adds to it’s authenticity making it appear totally truthful and believable.

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When I presented Fauna at the Museum of Natural Science in Barcelona , I saw a family looking at the pictures of these fantasy animals . The father said , ‘ It’s so great we came here. I had no idea these animals existed. They’re amazing.’ The son looked at him and said , ‘But they’re not real , dad. They’re fake!.’ The father got angry , slapped him on the back of the head and told him that because they are in a museum they must be true. It was interesting to me that the child wasn’t educated in the truth of the museum:he wasn’t perverted by culture. This is a very important political concern” Joan Fontcuberta

Constellations , 1993
Far from seeing distant stars in outer space these are in fact photograms of the detritus on Fontcuberta’s car windscreen .

Sirens , 2000
Fake mermaid fossils were placed in rocks by Fontcuberta at the Réserve de Haute-Provence , South of France. Linked to a subsequent documentary about their discovery by French priest Father Jean Fontana , who incidentally bore a striking resemblance to Fontcuberta , the hoax has all the qualities of an authentic scientific investigation.

Orogenesis , 2002
Landscapes created using military cartographical software that turns maps into 3D images of the territory. However Fontcuberta fed misleading information into the programme . Rendered more like traditional paintings or photographs , he both misinterprets and determines the resulting image.

Karelia , Miracles & Co , 2012
I particularly like these see HERE , a sublime narrative about Fontcuberta’s journey to a Finnish monastery.

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