This Is Not a Hoax shows how the work of some contemporary artists and writers intentionally disrupts the curatorial and authorial practices of the country’s most respected cultural institutions: art galleries, museums, and book publishers. This first-ever study of contemporary Canadian hoaxes in visual art and literature asks why we trust authority in artistic works and how that trust is manifest.
This book claims that hoaxes, far from being merely lies meant to deceive or wound, may exert a positive influence. Through their insistent disobedience, they assist viewers and readers in re-examining unquestioned institutional trust, habituated cultural hierarchies, and the deeply inscribed racism and sexism of Canada’s settler-colonial history.
Through its attentive look at hoaxical works by Canadian artists Iris Häussler, Brian Jungen, and Rebecca Belmore, photographer Jeff Wall, and writers and translators David Solway and Erin Mouré, this book celebrates the surprising ways hoaxes call attention to human capacities for flexibility, adaptation, and resilience in a cultural moment when radical empathy and imagination is critically needed.
About the author
Heather Jessup holds a doctorate from the University of Toronto and teaches English at Langara College, BC. Her first novel, The Lightning Field, was a finalist for the Raddall and Savage Book Awards, and was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award. She is co-curator and lead director of the Prud’homme Library Project.
Heather Jessup asks us to look closely at how, and why, we believe what we do. Often funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and always highly readable, This Is Not A Hoax is essential reading for all of us right now - artists, writers, teachers, activists, citizens – who wrestle with making, or unmaking, the distinctions between fiction and non-fiction, truth and lies. Jessup’s smart, probing, entirely human study invites us to re-see and re-imagine our relationship to these categories, as well as to the hegemonic power structures implicit within every system of classification.
In this immensely readable book, Jessup makes the case for the necessity of disruption. This is Not a Hoax proves that our innate human gullibility can be a powerful tool for questioning the institutions and experiences that shape our lives.
Mandy Len Catron
A parlour game? A sly wink-and-nod? A cruel but usually harmless trick perpetrated on the unwary? All of my previous associations with the hoax have been overturned by this elegantly argued, deeply thoughtful, and passionately political book. Drawing on an abundance of examples from visual arts and literature produced in Canada, Heather Jessup shows us how these seemingly momentary glitches in the fabric of our deeply held assumptions and conventions have the interruptive power to turn our reflections towards the searing disruptions of colonization, genocide, and institutionally sanctioned cruelty. This is a rare, creative work of cultural scholarship.
The art forger concentrates on what our culture expects to see. Heather Jessup, in illuminating the lie, tells us some important truths about our personal, national, and earthly prejudices. This is Not a Hoax is an essential read in an era of fake news.