Editor’s note: I read this essay by Momus (a.k.a. Nick Currie) in 2000 on his website (now located at www.imomus.com) where he has an archive of essays on a vast spectrum of topics. This essay is the philosophy of The Fakeways Institute, which investigated Folk Art and added to the pot. Here is a little e-mail exchange following my receiving his permission to reprint the essay:
Dear Mr. Currie,
For the intro to the essay, what is the current status of the Fakeways Institute? Does it still exist? Thanks again!
Since George Bush has taken over many of the key features of fake folk we have, with regret, closed the Institute down. We are now making Shinto Folk in Berlin.
You can read the original article on Momus’s site here:
The Fakeways Philosophy – by Momus
Many of us are, without realising it, victims of the concept of authenticity. For instance, there is a right wing fringe of people who consider non-whites to be less ‘American’ than whites. These people are a fringe minority, but the usual response to them has been a counterclaim from people of colour to the same value, the value of authenticity. Therefore the snobbism of racial purity is simply replaced by a counter or inverted snobbism in which each race stresses the purity of its own roots.
It would be much better to change the value we put on the concept of authenticity, stressing one’s bona fides by underlining the artificiality or fakeness of one’s roots. Fake roots can be embraced by anyone, regardless of their origin. Fakeness should be worn with pride, like nylon clothes. By embracing impurity, bastardisation and fakeness, we open cultural activity up to anyone with the will and the courage to play.
Unfortunately there are many ideologies today which posit the unacceptable idea that some people are more ‘real’ than others.
Just as Soundscan has forced us to see the true diversity of record markets, revealing that record labels and journalists have given disproportionate amounts of money and attention to forms like white guitar rock, so the scientific approach to sex (Kinsey, Masters and Johnston) revealed that there were many ways of skinning the sexual cat.
Exogamy Versus Authenticity
At the Fakeways Institute, we believe that Mother Nature has provided us with an excellent inbuilt mechanism against the concept of authenticity. It’s built into our sexuality, and it’s called Exogamy. It is simply not evolutionarily sound to have sex only with people in an authentic and appropriate racial category. In all regimes where segregation has existed between people of different races (ancient Rome, South Africa, the old US South) it has been sex which has first broached the racial divide. Cross-racial sexual contact and miscegenation, like Thomas Jefferson’s child by his slave Sally Hemmings, are often seen as part of the problem. In fact they are the beginning of the solution.
Music is another important bridger of divides. Even where people are prejudiced against other races, they often consume their music enthusiastically.
As Theodor Adorno has pointed out, peoples who have been dehumanised are often, paradoxically, made into symbols of all that is most human. This is a sentimentalising of inhumanity which merely perpetuates it. That is why, at the Fakeways Institute, we believe that nobody is more human than anybody else, and our solution to hierarchies of authenticity, regular or inverted ones, is the proud proclamation of the fakeness of everyone.
Homo Faker is Homo Faber!
That which is fake has been concocted. It has been put together self-consciously, with the context of other created forms always in mind. It does not spring naturally from the ‘wellsprings of human creativity’ or the ‘collective unconscious’. It is aware of myths like that, and uses them, but is essentially parodistic.
Every shaman is a charlatan. But once we accept this, we accept that there can never again be an ‘unmasking’. The mask and the face are one and the same. Like the regalia of the British royal family, most ‘ancient’ traditions were invented the day before yesterday. They are fake.
Man the faker is man the maker, minus the mystifying ideologies, the unnecessary disqualifications and apprenticeships insisted upon by all those who do not wish to share their capacity to create. There will henceforth be no cultural protectionism. You do not have to be French to make French art. Some of the best french pop music is made by young Japanese women.
The F in Fake stands for Freedom. Freedom from restricting ideologies of authenticity.
The Golden Age Of Fake
As a completely arbitrary boundary, we will propose the year 1970, which Unix programmers call The Epoch, as the end of The Golden Age. The Golden Age is seen as a time of peace, stability and tranquility in which people had natural values, common sense, lasting traditions, stable communities, respect for their elders, etc. In fact it was the opposite. The Golden Age, far from being a Golden Age of the Authentic, was the Golden Age of Fake.
People travelled little, and knew little about the way other people lived. Travellers brought back tales of other cultures, and the credulous believed everything they heard. It was easy to perpetuate fraud and fakery. For instance, you could tell people that sea monsters existed, and that the world was flat, and they would believe it.
Fake = Make + Free
Like Josef Beuys’s Free International University, The Fakeways Institute has no campus and no membership. It can happen anywhere, and anyone can call themselves a representative. You will never be accused of being a ‘fake’ representative of Fakeways. Only those who claim to be authentic and try to show you ID are to be mistrusted.
We believe in equality of inauthenticity.
There is no contradiction between capitalism and Fake Folk. Fake Folk artists can either make money, or make no money. Corporations like Disney can be Folk Corporations.
Folk artists are traditionally defined as people who make art for reasons other than money: neurosis, pathology, for ceremonial reasons, ethnic prerogatives, ancestral tradition, or just a morbid need for attention. In the opinion of The Fakeways Institute, this is too narrow a definition. The term Folk Art will one day be replaced by the term Population Art.
There will be a period of transition from the era of the Fake Authentic to the era of the Authentic Fake. National costume should, during this transitional period at least, only be made in artificial fibres like nylon. Folk music (which, in the era of the Authentic Fake, will be referred to as Population Music) must be played on synthesisers only. This is because, during this transition, we must exaggerate the fakeness of everything. We must underline inauthenticity.
Fakeness is a value that has been hidden and denigrated. It needs help, it needs positive discrimination, affirmative action. One day, however, everything will return to normal. There will be national costume made of cloth, fur and beadwork and folk music made on acoustic instruments, as before. But everything will be different, because people’s minds will have been changed. Folk Art (known then as Population Art) will be consumed by people who understand that it is fake, and no-one will have to stress its inauthenticity.
The Fakeways Institute.
A new way of thinking.
A new way of living.
Be free! Be fake!