Copies, Fakes and Forgeries

Group displays at the Mansfield Cooper Building, University of Manchester, 2010-11

students with their display
Students with their display

Students in the core course 'Managing Collections and Exhibitions' curated in four groups, a display case installed in the foyer of Mansfield Cooper Building at the University of Manchester. Each group developed a mini display on the broad exhibition topic ‘Copies, Fakes and Forgeries’. The purpose of this project was to:

  • Offer students an opportunity to critically reflect on the themes, lectures and readings of the course by developing an exhibit
  • Provide students a practical aspect of the course’s teaching and learning
  • Develop students' team working skills
  • Provide a showcase for students' work

Do you fake it?

Our group uses the most popular examples of the knockoffs to try to raise awareness of the visitor concerning the impact of the knock offs industry with regards to social justice. Our group is interested in the notion of tolerance; the extent to which society accepts fakes, copies, and forgeries, in what contexts it accepts these fakes, and why. Our goal is to raise awareness of the visitor concerning the impact of the knock offs industry with regards to social justice. We will be using six to ten objects, including bags, belts, a pair of earrings, two watches, and DVDs, all of which are examples of popular knockoffs.

Our approach is functionalist and analytic; we are using the objects to make a point about the social implications of the knockoff industry. By using the design theme of a shop front window, and very popular, frequently copied objects, juxtaposed with the cost in human terms, we hope to create a link between the purchase of counterfeit goods and various forms of violence. The approach is primarily maieutic; by posing the title question "Do You Fake It" and supporting that question with sales signs representing how much money is made and what the money funds, the visitor's own experience will draw forth a better understanding of the social dynamics, rather than imposing upon the visitor an overt directive as to what they should think and feel.

We have chosen an emphatic organisation—to place objects in juxtaposition to images of where the money goes, and the conditions that the production of knockoffs fosters. We are also choosing a typological taxonomy, clustering the objects together as “accessories,” “jewellery,” and "technology". The overall aesthetic is the impression of a shop front, employing multiple levels of display support, and strategically placed 'sales/bargain' signs.

Can you read my poker face?

A famous piece of art can be copied numerous times over through other images. These new images, subsequently, take on lives of their own. How does one connect this new “copied” image with the original? Or, does one connect the two at all?

Using the renowned image of Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci, with Dali, Raffo and Warhol as the “copied” images, we will show how these new images are well-known in their own right, sometimes completely out of context of the original Mona Lisa.

These images will be juxtaposed with a recently discovered painting by DaVinci; a nude portrait of whom some scholars believe to be the same model who posed for the famous Mona Lisa portrait. This questions what we know about the Mona Lisa and why it has become so frequently copied. Each "new" artist either memorializes the image of Mona Lisa herself or exploits her famous face to get a less-than-conventional and often controversial point across to a wider public.

We will take this further by creating six new works based on the Mona Lisa image from our own interpretations.

Posed Personas: Do you know the real you?

Our group aims to explore how public icons have, throughout history, projected a 'fake' image of themselves. They have always sought to portray a public persona that is dramatically different to their private image. This is not just a modern phenomenon as the media often suggest, although today this is not just done by famous people, but by everyone, especially through social networking sites etc.

We will display a range of recognisable images of famous people from the past and present, for example: Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth II, Roman generals, Henry VIII, David Cameron, Pageant girls, Paris Hilton, Barbie and Action Man etc.

We will use a contemporary style of display, influenced by the work of Christian Boltanski. He displays his photographs in a very clean, modern way which is highly effective and creates a powerful atmosphere. We plan to have a text panel, entitled 'The F Word...Fakes' to explain our display, but inside the case will be images without text to create a clean, uncluttered composition.

Our selection of images will be mounted on board and then hung inside the display case at various depths and heights using fishing wire to secure them. Each mount will have an image on either side: the front image will portray the subject's public persona and will face outwards towards the viewer. The opposite side of the mount will face away from the viewer's gaze and be directed at mirrors attached to the back of the display case. This will produce a 'reflection' of the subject that perhaps reveals an image of their 'true self' (or is it?). We will also invite people to see their 'true selves' by looking into a mirror that reverses their reflection, displaying how other people see them.

Relics: Suspicion and Devotion

Aims of the exhibition:

  • Visually appealing. Eye catching.
  • Wanted visitors leave with a question in their mind – does it matter if a relic is fake or not? Or is it more about the story and history behind an object?
  • Wanted people to think about potential relics in the future.
  • Relevant for the audience – students, university staff.

Rationale for the approach that has been adopted:

  • Chronological timeline display – questioning the authenticity has gone on for nearly as long as the notion of relics has existed.
  • We choose to look at relics because we thought it highlighted ideas of authenticity well.
  • Historical perspective.
  • Wanted the display to be provocative and possibly slightly controversial.
  • Decided to use relics from different cultures and we picked a mixture of religious and non-religious objects. This will be reflected in how we define a relic. We also recognised the need to be culturally sensitive.
  • We have made and found objects for our exhibition for obvious reasons of cost and logistics.