In China, Facebook is called Weibo, by Constant Dullaart

08.10.2013 – by Constant Dullaart
Untitled (Weibo), screengrab taken through Constant Dullaart 2013

In China, Facebook is called Weibo and Whatsapp is named Baidu. Google is Baidu and Youtube Youku. They’re all the same, but very different. As much as China seems to be a world on its own with its distinct worldview, their version of the internet also happens to be completely different. It’s like looking at reality through a completely different type of window. Wikipedia doesn’t function over there and you can’t reach (our) Facebook either. The replacing websites work in about the same way, the differences are subtle but crucial. Weibo makes you login with your Chinese ID number. ‘Dissonant’ posts are not appreciated and you receive virtual medals when you report violations to the site’s moderators. Since recently, a post about a politician can land you in jail once it’s been shared more than five hundred times. But there’s a solution. After paying a fee, you can use a ‘virtual private network’ that allows you to use the internet as if you are using it from a different country. That way you can enter still Facebook, because foreigners can’t use many of Weibo’s services.

Thanks to whistle blower Edward Snowden we know by now that American web services keep track of who posts what, just like China does. And that seems to be the best tactic, keeping an eye on people’s online activity, as we’ve seen during the Arab spring. You can say whatever you want, but it’s being monitored and it can be used against you anytime later. I created a Weibo account using an adjusted Chinese ID. After applying an auto translation I gazed at the internet through that other window. This constantly changing view on the online landscape demands for a critical eye and for new art works regarding this landscape. It’s good to see as much as possible and to be on the look out for any beautiful landscapes.

YouKu / YouTube, Constant Dullaart 2012, online video.

Untitled (Weibo), screengrab taken through Constant Dullaart 2013

The Master of Light and the Master Deceiver, by Hanae Wilke

13.08.2015 – By Hanae Wilke 

The immense hangar, an old converted bread factory, is lined with market stalls where families sell their old wares: junk that, pulled from the bottom of cellars and the dark corners of garages and cupboards, momentarily regains value, however slight. Hands grope through second hand clothing, mostly chain bought and cheap, grouped in slightly musty smelling endless piles.

At the far end of a table covered in yellowing art books, old editions of classics frayed at the edges, and stacks of thriller pulp, sits a large folder. It opens to a collection of drawings, watercolours and sketches that are mostly abstract and frantically scrawled. I look up and catch the gaze of a tall, melancholy man with long mousy brown hair and silver rimmed circular spectacles. With a nervous excitement, the seller explains that these are the remains of his artist days that he sells alongside the used books. I buy an odd, demonic depiction of a creature drawn with Indian ink over a printed pencil drawing.

One late night sitting around my dinner table, a friend notices the ink drawing on the wall, and after taking a closer look, asks if it’s a genuine Han van Meegeren, the great master forger. As it turns out, the backdrop to the demon creature is a copy of Han van Meegeren’s most prolific pieces, namely ‘Hertje’ (or ‘Little Deer’), reproductions of which hung on the walls of thousands of Dutch homes in the 1920’s. But van Meegeren’s style was caught in the past and completely irrelevant in a world of Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism, and he was derided by the art world for his lack of originality.

At the start of the 20th century, detecting a forged painting was a fairly simple process: a swab of alcohol was wiped over the dubious canvas, a needle carefully inserted and checked for any oily residue. This would be the mark of a forgery, as an age-old canvas would be thoroughly hardened and deliver a clean needle.

Han van Meegeren bought cheap 17th century paintings to scrape off the original painting. Instead of oil, he used an early form of plastic named Bakelite to mix his pigments into paint. He would then bake his freshly painted antique canvas until the plastic fully hardened, and finished the simulated aging process by rolling the canvas and cracking its surface. Voila, instant Dutch Master!

Relatively few paintings by Johannes Vermeer have survived the ages. When in the 1930s a series of paintings began emerging from his supposed unknown religious period, they were eagerly snapped up by collectors, including the Rotterdam museum Boijmans van Beuningen, who paid what would today be more than 4,5 million Euros for Vermeer’s Supper at Emmaus. The painting, revered by art critics as Vermeer’s masterpiece, was nothing more than a carefully executed van Meegeren.

Having foiled the art world that rejected him, van Meegeren lived a wealthy and lavish life all through the Second World War. But his life of decadence was disrupted when, after the end of the war, a Vermeer was found in Nazi henchman Herman Göring’s largely misappropriated art collection, and was traced back to van Meegeren, who refused to name his source. The outrage was immense: how dare he allow Dutch national treasure to fall in the hands of a Nazi? He was arrested for treason, a felony that at the time was punishable by death.

His plea to innocence was simple. He couldn’t possibly be a traitor, because the painting he had sold to Göring was not a Vermeer, but a forgery by his own hand. A sensational trial was carried out in a courtroom hung full of van Meegeren’s fakes. The art world was stupefied – how could they have been so utterly mistaken – and he was deemed to be a liar.

A space was cleared within the courthouse and fashioned into an artist’s studio where, in the presence of reporters and court officials, van Meegeren was summoned to forge his last Vermeer. This proof of innocence transformed him into a national hero, and he was championed for his trickery of the art establishment, but most of all for being the man who swindled Göring. Despite the many millions he cheated out of his customers, van Meegeren was only sentenced to a year of confinement for fraud.

As a free man, Van Meegeren passed away from a heart attack before he could begin his prison sentence, and after his death, his paintings became so desired that van Meegeren forgeries began to flood the market.

My own Hertje still hangs on my wall, covered by the market man’s inky black drawing. Is he still no longer an artist? A failed artist can become a most tragic creature, overcome by vanity, envy, and consumed by bitterness. But Han van Meegeren’s exclusion from the art world led him to what is probably the most extensive art scam ever. “But sir, I’m sure about one thing: if I die in jail they will just forget all about it. My paintings will become original Vermeers once more. I produced them not for money but for art’s sake.”