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This Is Not A Hoax - Unsettling Truth in Canadian Culture

This Is Not A Hoax

Unsettling Truth in Canadian Culture

By Heather Jessup
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature, Indigenous Studies, Art
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Hardcover : 9781771123648, 208 pages, September 2019

Table of contents

Introduction: Little Disrupters

Part One: A Novel in Three Dimensions

The Haptic Conceptual Artwork of Iris Häussler

Haptic Conceptual Art

The Museum Label’s Pact

Complicated Complicity: The Necessity of a Viewer

With Open Eyes: Revising the Historical Tour

Mistakenness and Disorientation: Responses to Iris Häussler’s Hoax

(Pissing?) On the Museum’s Authority

Part Two: Unsettling Images

Decolonizing Ethnographies in the Artworks of Brian Jungen, Jeff Wall, and Rebecca Belmore

Reverse Ethnography: Artistic Response to Colonialism and Classification

Dubious Origins: Paul Kane’s Nineteenth-Century Canadian Ethnographic Art

The Reverse Ethnography of Brian Jungen’s Sketches Solicited for Wall Drawings

The Near-Documentary Photography of Jeff Wall

Unsettling Acts of Remembrance: Rebecca Belmore’s Wild and Vigil

Part Three: Imagining the Author

The Heteronyms of Fernando Pessoa, Erín Moure, and David Solway

What Is a Heteronym?

Metaphoric Possibilities: Translating the As If of a Portuguese Shepherd

Collaborative Possibilities: The Interfering Theatrics of a Galacian Theatre Director

Critical Possibilities: A Greek Fisherman Suffering from the “Malady of Atwoodism”

Translational Possibilities: (Dis)comforts of the Mother Tongue

Conclusion: The Art of Stumbling


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.