Author Archives: Ioana Iliesiu

Project Diagramming

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The British Museum encapsulates a condensed version of the world’s original artefact, gradually collecting the archeological underbelly and filling in the gaps of the original site with fakes. This duality of the artefact, that exists in two different sites at the same time, creates a paradox: if we decide that the original can only exist if it can be experienced and the fake can only exist to be viewed (the illusion of the real), than the artefacts in the museum become, themselves fake.

By gradually replacing the artefacts of today with fake versions of themselves, the collection of originals in the museum expands. Due to them now being devoid of context and interaction (they are displays) these artefacts become fakes, while the fakes replacing them become the original. The Museum becomes a collection of artefacts (present and future), expanding to the point that the city around the Museum becomes museum as well, a sort of nondiscriminatory archive. If the Museum encapsulates all originals, this liberates the world of the historical sublayer, the precedent, which allows for the building of the new – the ultimate negation of the past.

Thus, my project develops two mirrored worlds – the internalised Museum of Originals and the external Anti-Museum, populated by fakes.  Perhaps my Museum then becomes the underbelly of the brave new world of the fakes, occupying the cuts in the city dug out for the archeological incisions and extractions.

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 I. Introduction

The relationship of the forgery and the original

 II. Recon

1.Excavation of the Carceri from the perspective of the two forgers:

1.1. the archeological process; aerial archeology; new methods of archeology

1.2 case study: excavating and preserving pockets of space under Basilica San Clemente, Rome

2. Relationship between the fake and the original:

2.1 the van meegern trial

2.2 Cesar’s Palace in Las Vegas (or other)

III. The Museum (originals)

1. British museum, condensed version of the ancient world (maps):

1.1. British Museum and the Acropolis (case study Elgin Marbles)

1.2.  methods of preserving originals

1.3. methods of making fakes of originals – FACTUM ARTE case study

1.4.  Erechteion (case study)

IV. The Anti-Museum (fakes)

1.Extending the museum into the city in order to house the artefact of today (including architecture) and replacing these artefacts with fakes (the Anti-Museum):

1.1. case study of the expansion of the British museum

2. Faking architecture (the Potempkin):

2.1. the role of light when faking space (Light from a point source travels in a spherical wave, decreasing in intensity (or illuminance) as the inverse square of the distance travelled. This means that a light source must be four times as bright to produce the same illuminance at an object twice as far away. Thus to create the illusion of a distant object being at the same distance as a near object and scaled accordingly, much more light is required.)

2.2 Andrea Pozzo’s etchings in  Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum

3. Case studies:

3.1. the Casablanca film set (airport in a sound stage)

3.2. the Potempkin steps in Odessa

3.3. forced perspective in Santa Maria press San Satiro, Milan

3.4. forced perspective of a doorway in Pezenas, France

3.5. the dome of San’Ignazio, Rome

4. Site of the Anti-Museum:

4.1 case study of Las Vegas and the desert

4.2. find site/s

V. The Museum and the Anti Museum

Construction of the real space and fake space of the Museum and the Anti-Museum which function almost as imperfect mirrors:

1. expanding the British museum to the point that it engulfs chunks of London

2. find a site/s for the Anti-Museum and construct its fakes


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Two Forgers

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The image shows the story of the slate as forgery from two different forgers. Within the round painting/mirror, Piranesi and the forgery of the slate in Plate I, surrounded by forged artefacts. In the room itself three instances of the excavation of the Carceri are shown as forgeries forged by myself.

This play with the artefact as both original and forgery is the link towards the museum, where I populate a room with the fake originals of the Carceri. My intention to develop the project is to expand the British Museum to the point that it starts engulfing bits of the city in order to house artefacts of today that are to be gradually replaced with fakes outside the bounds of the museum.

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Carceri Room at the British Museum

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Of Fake, Fiction and Misreading

I started with what was the oldest recon choice and, ever since then, a big question mark has been hovering above the work – how does Piranesi remain relevant today and, most importantly, why through looking at the relationship between the fake and the fact?


Piranesi’s work is embedded with a degree of narrative, of movement, it almost scripts out the passing through space. Perhaps this comes from his set-design background and is certainly the reason why most of his readers are themselves fiction makers – from the literary, with Poe, to the cinematic, with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or Bladerunner.


Piranesi’s forgeries, his unclassifiable fake antique artefacts, were the physical manifestation of paraphernalia that he populated his partially fictitious renderings of ancient Rome. He attempts a 1700s response to authentic documentation of his pathological obsession with excavation – one embedded with his own authorship and interpretation. Here, an inadvertent accident happens – today’s readers believe in the authenticity of the excavation etching, the factual accuracy of the plan. Thus, these fictitious moments of an imagined ancient Rome are misread as real, including for many, the fiction of Campo Marzio. The two later Carceri additions, finished at the same time as the Campo Marzio series, open towards an imagined ancient Rome. Piranesi almost anchors his Carceri by the means of these wormholes looking into a fictionalised version of a space – from fake temples to a fake St. Peters. In other words, we misread Piranesi’s fiction as real through forgeries.


In the case of Piranesi, it is the way that we read the project, through these forgeries, that accidentally builds a very material alternate fiction in our minds, much in the way that we purpousfuly read the Unbuilt projects of today. I’ll return for a second to the recon example timeline, which start with a very early Piranesi, almost immediately jump into the early 20th century and abruptly stop in the 1970. The reason for this abrupt stop rests, I believe, in the medium. In the past decade we have again started to read the Unbuilt through forgeries, much like we misread Piranesi’s body of work. We live in a world that functions on the copy-paste, a world in which we so often find ourselves asking “Is it real?”. Fakes create alternate fictions within our very lives every day, from boob jobs to CGI to fake architecture in China to photoshopped images that we are inundated with online. This cornucopia of fakes has made us both incredibly accepting of it but also more attune to the fake itself – we are aware that anything we see could be a fake. The way that the Unbuilt is represented today has become, consequently, almost the selling of a fiction through a series of constructed fake paraphernalia, much as I have been doing during my recon, with the artefacts that support the fiction of the excavation of the Carceri. The line that separates the photograph of the built from the render of the Unbuilt has dissolved to such a degree that it almost always requires a double-take. The weightlessness and immediateness of the fake appeal to the digital reader. The fictions of today’s Unbuilt require forged paraphernalia to support its existence.


We have almost come full cycle, from Piranesi’s 1700s to 2013. We started off with misreading Piranesi’s fiction as reality and arrived to the necessity of reading today’s unbuilt through a similar process, only this time on purpose. We have an inherit wish to believe, to emerge ourselves in these alternate realities of Unbuilt. Here lies the paradox of the digital reader – the more he is saturated with fakes, the more he wishes to believe in them.


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I’ve been working on a book that compiles and reviews the work that I have produced so far in the year in order to hopefully (re)present Piranesi through a new light.

The book is divided into folders, each looking at a certain aspect, either of faking a certain scenario,  constructing a fiction, demising a forgery etc. as well as certain folders on research and technical aspects.

Tomorrow I aim to print a mock up of the book and present it as an artefact.

I’ve uploaded a couple of screen shots although I’m not quite sure what you can see in them.

What I’m focusing now (and in my presentation) is why is Piranesi relevant, what the relationship between forgery, fiction and fact.

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Artefact, Screen, Paper

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 20.20.38If the first is the real artefact, the second shows it as a fake, how do I show it as unbuilt, as fiction – the paper stage?

In the previous post I was trying to show this descent into the unbuilt by making the drawing an axo, so maybe the unbuilt is always shown through the axo.



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Piranesi’s Back!

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Working on a drawing that shows the back of one Carceri views as a screen. The drawing presenting the construction of the screen is a 45 axo hung on a wall in the studio – to be photoshopped. It sits next to a series of Piranesi etchings that I’ve modified from plan and section of a temple to plan and section of a “stage set”.

On the table sits a model of the Carceri, from which the plate is drawn.

The studio itself is in axo – an image, which shows that the forgery transitions to paper, to the unbuilt.



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Nestled Books


The pdf above contains the first pages of my book, which explain why I am dealing with the forgery as trigger for the unbuilt, what roles do the Architect, the Forger and the Archeologist play and how do they relate to Fiction, Forgery and Fact and how the books function in order to tell the story of the Unbuilt.

I’m working on a series of books, one for each character. The books nestle into one another and communicated through cut-outs (sinkholes) which allow for one character to become the next and the artefact to change from fact to forgery to fiction.


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Dip 9 – Conquering the World One Google Search at a Time


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St. Peter’s Court

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Lost in Translation

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Hallstat, China. The early morning smog conceals the newly built homes. A team of developers gets to the quaint little village early in order to prepare for the big day.

Even though their faces are covered by masks, their eyes are smiling, This, of course, is a momentous occasion, one that they’ve been dreaming about for a very long time, ever since they went to Austria the first time. There, they fell in love with a little Austrian lake-side town in the Alps. And love, in the end, is the core of this story, its beginning and end. They returned to Austria several times after that, armed with cameras and little notebooks in which they feverishly sketched. They loved them there, in Austria. Maybe it was the language barrier, but none of the Austrians ever suspected they were anything more than a group of alpine-loving Chinese men. But our three developers had an entirely different agenda, different from holiday snaps. They took the photos back to China, looked for investors and started building.


It was very hard at first, they had started to build back when the Chinese real-estate market was booming. Everyone though nothing could go wrong but, as building progresses, as hard as they tried to sell their project no clients bought the pastel homes they were so lovingly building. So our three developers had a very good idea, a stroke of brilliance. Their little town was ready, shiny, unoccupied so when they brought young miss Bao to live there for free, she was thrilled. A struggling actor, Bao jumped at the opportunity to get involved in the illusion that the three developers had created. She was to live in Little Austria rent free live out the play that would make our three developers a fortune. For now, she just had to wait.

The tree went back to Austria, where they were greeted entirely differently by the confused Austrians who did not understand their homage. They though they had been robbed, somewhat violated. It was odd to think of their homes, copied somewhere in the far East, lived-in by strangers. There was a town meeting and the three Chinese developers addressed the reluctance of their hosts by announcing the first Hallstat Intercontinental Exchange Program.

This program would put in contact the people living in the same house on separate continents. The first Austrian who would get to meet his Chinese counterpart was young Herr Schlit, handsome yet naive. He traveled back to China with our three developers, all expenses paid and was greeted by a bashful Bao.

Herr Schlit stayed in his very own home in China, an experience that he could only describe as “surreal”. So much was the same and yet so different. Bao was the perfect host, accommodating, pleasant and just the right amount of exotic. What had started as a hoax, flourished into a real love story, or at least this is how the three developers sell it. Schlit settled in perfectly in China. In a way, he had never really left home, had he?

Schlit and Bao will marry in a traditional ceremony later today. This is why our three developers are this happy this earl, smoggy morning. They’ve come to prepare thei town for the festivities, hanging banners and ordering food. They were expecting hundreds of Westerners from Hallstadt that day, all of which would be housed in their very own homes. They wanted their town to look its best, even better than the original. It was much newer, wasn’t it?


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The ceremony was beautiful, the right mix of Austrian and Chinese tradition. Even the smog had cleared, to allow for good wedding photos.

The three developers were happy. They showed their very own Hallstat in its best light (as unencumbered by smog as possible) and even convinced some Austrians to buy a second home in China. Truly, a home far away from home!

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Ronchamp and the Chrystal Palace

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Please find Ronchamp and the Chrystal Palace in the images above.


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The Magically Multiplying Tower of London


The original Tower of London



The first copy of the Tower in China. It features two extra modules than the original for more useable space.

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The proposed multiple copies of the Tower whose multiplied towers will house shops on the ground floor, three levels of office space and luxury penthouses in at the top of the towers. Works for the extension will commence in February 2014 and the project is planned to be completed in September 2014. The speed of this project is, of course, made possible due to the fact that most prefab elements are available after the first two towers were built.

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A New Symbiosis

December 2013:

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Zaha, captured by Chinese media visiting the site of the fake Zaha building. The architect was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the down-and-dirty project that she decided to adopt it as an official Zaha. This revolutionary act was the start of the now well-established practice of famed stachitects signing fake buildings the world. This fruitful collaboration between lesser-known studios and more esteemed practices is an amazing symbiosis in the world of architecture. Thus, small practices accumulate precedent and building experience, while the large studios receive a large comission and get to hide the fakes in less visible parts of the world.

August 2014:

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The official opening ceremony in the Fake Zaha. The architect herself skyped the guests at the opening ceremony.

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Chinese Hellstadt vs. the Blobbysphere

A friend of Picasso’s, while in Paris, comes across a dealer who sells him a Picasso sketch. When visiting his friend, he takes the sketch with him in order to verify it. Picasso looks at it for a few minutes and declares “It’s fake!”

Disappointed, the friend returns to Paris and confronts the dealer, who convinces him to take another drawing, also by Picasso, instead. Picasso inspects it yet again and, again, declares: “It’s fake!”

The third time, the friend brings another drawing. Picasso inspects this one as well and, the same as the last two times, proclaims it “Fake!”

“But Pablo, this one was a test. I saw you drawing this one with my own eyes” says the friend.

“That may be but you see, not even I am good enough to always produce Picasso originals!”


This anecdote is very interesting as it exposes the fragile relationship between the fake and the original, or better yet the forgery or the original. If a forgery implies a manufacturing process so similar to that of the original, as in the case of art reproductions, where the forger emerses himself in the style and the technique, how does it fall in such disgrace when compared to an original.

Today, the media that we work with not only makes faking it a possibility, but to a certain extent encourages it. The cut and paste generation, the photoshoppers, work with a medium that so easily generates fake-looking art, even if the intent was not a fake in itself. Due to the equalizing nature of digital design platforms, one can “design” in mere minutes forms that are both very different but ultimately the same. Take the blob for example. Is a blob not always a copy of an original blob, even though it might be more blobby to the left or to the right than the original blob? This sameness in design is in a way caused by this confusion between the fake and the forgery. If forgery involved the illusion of selling an artefact (whose making process involved a degree of involvement similar to that of the original) as an original, and if fake was the immediate copy, today’s mediums erase the line between fake and forgery since the difference in process becomes non-existent. Originals are so immediate that a forgery immediately becomes a fake. Maybe in today’s art world an original is a mere forgery and the forgery is nothing but a fake.

In the case of Hadid, for instance, we can argue that the initial works are the originals of a recipe of design that, through digital platforms, is repackaged to a certain extent in subsequent projects. They are forgeries of the original project.

The original projects so powerful that they generate a Zaha aesthetic and its adherents form a sort of new style. But it is in the formation of the style that the demise exists – all new designs that can be classified as “in the style of” become fakes of the original because their production was filtered through the sleek design-and-print digital process resulting in a general sameness and flashy spleen.

If slew of followers of a style of today generate samey designs, there is the question of outright faking-it. China’s long history of faking, which never became as culturally shunned as in Europe, creates a new aesthetic, an urban-scape collaged from fakes. The much-copied Zaha is probably the victim in the first fake architecture designed to be completed before the original. The Wangjing Soho design is currently being built in Chongqing, after digital plans and renders of the original were leaked. The Chongqing, adapted to the faking it quick-and-dirty method of working, is going to be completed well before the original in Beijing. Hadid is quoted as saying, so long as her cloned buildings include some innovative new mutations then any copy “could be quite exciting”.


Exercise: Which one is the Zaha?

This is a very interesting definition of the genetics of the fake. A fake of a fake of a fake will inevitably suffer a mutation, an accident, that will generate an original. But can this organic genetic definition of a fake happen in the copy-paste world when the copy never looses, never gains any content?

Let’s look at Little Austria, in China, where developers photoshopped google street views of the Austian town of Hallstadt and were building the doppleganger of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Far East. The straight out of a SF scenario involves befuddled Hallstadtinas looking at images of their UNESCOed homes in China. Is the copy-paste rut of design, masked by stylistic preference, simply a copy paste of a quaint little Austrian village in China?

Is design at a stand still, an infinite ctrl-V of an original whose meaning was long lost in the shuffle? Is the immediately satisfying nature of a design produced for a world that functions from deadline to deadline stopping us from ever questioning the design itself?

Or not? Maybe the shift towards a new understanding of space comes from the anomalies and paradoxes made possible by technology?  The recontextualising and the repurposeing of a stale little Austrian helm generates a more interesting discussion, and with it answers, than the blobbysphere ever will.


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Tables of F(ake/iction/orgery)

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The very words of fake, forgery and fiction boil down to a material quality of the making. If fake is a word one would use to describe the qualities of the words forgery and fiction, etymologically it perhaps best describes all three. Fake derives from the Latin word facere, to do, to make, to produce. The notion of making is rooted into the core of the very words fiction and forgery as well. Forgery is a compound of forge and -ery, forge being both the verb of producing metal work as well as the noun describing the location of the forging. Fiction, perhaps most interestingly, after many morphings of its core name has become fully distanced from its origin – from the Latin fingere, to knead, to form out of dough or clay. Fingere, of course, evolves into today’s finger, the instrument of this very tactile quality of making embedded in the three F. Although the table is simply a means of escaping the engulfing fiction of the Carceri, the very quality of the making links well with the surface of the making. As in the case of fingere (an act of making) paradoxically becoming finger (a tool), maybe there is a similar relationship between the made object and the surface it is made on, the table.


Who is the maker that responds to the different aspects and qualities of the Fake, the Fiction and the Forgery? Who better than a fake, an invented character, my paper replica. This replica takes on three roles – that of the Architect, the Archeologist and the Forger. Each of these roles responds in different ways to the fake, the forgery and the fiction according to the context that he is looking at.

The central character (architect/archeologist/forger) fabricates the paraphernalia of four facets of the F(ake/iction/orgery).

I. The Piranesi Table

Piranesi’s Carceri in Rome is a fictional project, populated with imagery of Campo Marzio forgeries and recon-ed through (archeological) fakes.

forgery – fiction – fake

II. Los Angeles Studio Sets

Los Angeles is a city whose very development is a consequence of mass produced fiction, the film industry. The film sets, the sound stages, the sets are forgeries of spaces. At first these spaces might start fakes, facsimiles of a real space, but through the filter of dissimulation of the camera, are seen as real, thus becoming forgeries.

fiction – fake – forgery

III. National Gallery, London

Experts say that, at this moment, almost 40% of the world’s art consists of forgeries. Many forgers sell their paintings to museums, constructing a paper trail that they insert in the museum archives. The National Gallery, according to a famous forger, contains hundreds of forgeries, 20 unnamed ones of which are produced by him. The fake is embedded in the architecture of the building itself – its Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown extension a copy of the original facade.

forgery – fake – fiction

IV.  Chinese factory and/or fake city

China, the mass-producer of fakes, be they products that are shipped throughout the world, or immobile fakes in the form of architecture – such as the deserted fake European cities or the rice paddy Eiffel Tower.

fake – fiction – forgery



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fic·tion (noun)

a :  something invented by the imagination or feigned; specifically :  an invented story

b :  fictitious literature (as novels or short stories)

c :  a work of fiction; especially :  novel

2a :  an assumption of a possibility as a fact irrespective of the question of its truth <a legal fiction>

2b :  a useful illusion or pretense

3:  the action of feigning or of creating with the imagination

see also: fable, fabrication, fantasy (also phantasy), figment, invention

Late 14c., “something invented,” from Old French ficcion (13c.) “dissimulation, ruse; invention,” and directly from Latin fictionem (nominative fictio) “a fashioning or feigning,” noun of action from past participle stem of fingere “to shape, form, devise, feign,” originally “to knead, form out of clay,” from PIE *dheigh- (cf. Old English dag “dough;” see dough). As a branch of literature, 1590s.

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forg·ery (noun)

: the crime of falsely making or copying a document in order to deceive people

: something that is falsely made or copied in order to deceive people : something that is forged

1 (archaic) :  invention

2:  something forged

3:  an act of forging; especially :  the crime of falsely and fraudulently making or altering a document (as a check)

1570s, “a thing made fraudulently,” from forge (n.) + -ery. Meaning “act of counterfeiting” is 1590s

see also: counterfeit, fake, hoax, humbug, phony (also phoney), sham

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fake (adj.) 
: not true or real
: meant to look real or genuine but not real or genuine
fake (noun)
:  one that is not what it purports to be: as
:  a worthless imitation passed off as genuine
: impostor. charlatan
:  a simulated movement in a sports contest (as a pretended kick, pass, or jump or a quick movement in one direction before going in another) designed to deceive an opponentd :  a device or apparatus used by a magician to achieve the illusion of magic in a trick
fake (verb)
:  to alter, manipulate, or treat so as to give a spuriously genuine appearance to
: counterfeit, simulate, concoct
:  to deceive (an opponent) in a sports contest by means of a fake
: improvise
:  to engage in faking something : pretend — sometimes used with it <if you don’t have the answers, fake it>
:  to give a fake to an opponent

Attested in London criminal slang as adjective (1775), verb (1812), and noun (1851, of persons 1888), but probably older. A likely source is feague “to spruce up by artificial means,” from German fegen “polish, sweep,” also “to clear out, plunder” in colloquial use. “Much of our early thieves’ slang is Ger. or Du., and dates from the Thirty Years’ War” [Weekley]. Or it may be from Latin facere “to do.” Related: Faked; fakes; faking.

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The Diagram That Became Artefact

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Madonna with Seatbelt



Tony Tetro painting a Mona Lisa with Seatbelt, commissioned by the LA Transportation Department (they all seem to gravitate towards L.A….)

Tony Tetro, the most prolific American forger of the both century, forged hundreds of works ranging from old Masters to 20th century artists and even a Ferrari.

After being released from prison, Tetro does original artwork on commission. He will gladly include his patron in a Chagall or Da Vinci. You can order a work and have a consultation online, which I am considering doing. We should get a big Dip9 canvas, maybe a Titzian style Bathers what with the amount of women in the unit. Or some sort of reverse da Vinci-esque Last Supper…

Here’s his own account on faking Dali:

Where do I begin? I did most every medium that Dali did with the exception of sculpture, bronzes and jewelry. This includes oil paintings, drawings, watercolors, gouaches, lithographs and etchings. I don’t remember exactly how many oils I did but its somewhere over 25 paintings in different eras. Each painting had to make sense so I wouldn’t put elements that he did in the 40’s and 50’s that he did in the 60’s and 70’s. This of course applies to drawings , watercolors and gouaches.

Dali, unlike Picasso didn’t catalog everything he did. This opened the door for emulating his art which is the only way I did his “original” one of a kind artwork. Dali often wrote about work that he did that I couldn’t find in any art books [ like the six exploding angels and I could only find a couple]. Another way was to take a drawing, watercolor, gouache and even etching he did and use that as the bases for an oil painting. I believe all his lithographs were originally oil paintings.[ I should mention here that I read some people believe Dali never did any lithographs and that all of them were photo mechanically produced by collotype or lithography printed by publishers then Dali would sign them or more common on “pre signed” paper that could be bought in blocks of 500 or 1000 sheets]

I would use Grumbacher or La France oils and mix with linseed oil and a “sicitive dryer” that allows the oil to dry more quickly. This is important because it takes 50 years for an oil painting to dry then “craqular” begins. Craqular is formed when the paint shrinks from evaporation of the oil. Actually “islands” are formed and the perimeter of each island is a crack. But even with the sicitive dryer it doesn’t dry completely but much better than without it.

I would sometimes use old canvases if I could find them and strip off the paint with commercial paint remover and then cover the canvas with a water based white gesso. More often I would use new stretcher bars and canvas that I purchased in Paris because they are European sizes and still made by dovetailing and glue and even the nails are the same as 40 or 50 years ago. European canvas and stretchers are not available anywhere in the U.S. Then I artificially aged it by bleaching the canvas and staining the stretcher bars with walnut stain. The bleach would damage or burn the fibers and dry it out and make it brittle. This is good because when a painting is new the canvas is very pliable as it ages it becomes more and more brittle.

On a painting that is older you can press your finger on the back of the canvas and feel the difference. At this point I would dilute raw umber until it had a watery consistency and soak the canvas and the stretcher bars. While I was working on the entire project I would smoke [Lucky Strikes] and put the butts in a 8 ounce glass of water less than half full and put the ashes in another empty 8 ounce glass. I would then cover the entire front of the painting with a less diluted mixer of raw umber to give a slight “patina” depending on what era the painting was completed. How dark the patina was depended on if I wanted to make look neglected or protected and how old it was. Often a painting is neglected by being in an environment that changes from hot and dry to cold and humid. It could be in direct sun light or not. A painting that’s been neglected will also have more craqular than one in a stable environment without direct sun light. I preferred a neglected look most of the time, it seemed more believable.

Now I would use a water based varnish and after It dried to the touch I would bake it in my oven at around 250 degrees for about an hour taking it out occasionally to make sure there was no damage. This would dry out everything, the paint, canvas and stretcher bars. Now I would cover the image with a clear oil based resin. This was never done by Dali or any artist for that matter because it dried so hard it could never be taken off for cleaning or restoration. It was so hard because I had to mix two catalysts together and a chemical reaction would happen. I purchased this in a craft store, old ladies would pour this into ready made molds to make knick knacks. Now there would be another chemical reaction between the water based varnish and the oil based resin. The varnish would crack only slightly. The cracking could be controlled by how much of the water based varnish and oil based resin was used. Thinner coatings produced less craqular. Dali’s generally don’t have craqular because most have been protected in a stable environment but not all of them. Just a touch of craqular seemed to add authenticity.

Because the resin was so hard it made it almost impossible to test the age of the paint although the chemical composition would be the same because Dali used the same oils, La France in Spain and grumbacher in New York. [Dali often spent the winter in New York] If while testing the painting it was found odd that the resin was used it could be explained that someone stupid varnished it because I don’t believe Dali Varnished his own paintings although I don’t know this for a fact. It also could have been varnished at a later time. Never the less the resin wouldn’t dismiss it as fake. Also paintings are rarely tested anyway.

Now I would bake it again when the resin is dry to the touch. This not only helps dry it but also binds the water based varnish and the resin together. Now I would again cover the image with diluted raw umber to fill in the tiny cracks then wipe it down so as not to have to much aging At this time I would take the cigarette butts out of the 8 ounce glass with chop sticks and smear the brown sludge all over the painting front and back including stretcher bars. This would make the patina just right because cigarette smoke is one reason paintings have patinas anyway. Then I would wet the back of the canvas with water and sprinkle on the cigarette ashes I’ve been collecting in the other 8 oz glass and smear it in.

I’ve notice that some old paintings have a gray brown look on the back of the canvas and the ashes soften the raw umber to give it gray tinge. I was at Sotheby’s Beverly Hills in the 70’s before it closed and noticed a man smell a painting. The cigarette smell would make sense. Then I baked it again. Lastly, I use ultra fine wet sand paper and wet sanded the image to scratch it slightly like it! was cleaned with house hold products by a maid or whoever for 40 or 50 years.

Finally I wet the nails [Dali used nails even after staples were used on canvases, also no master European artists used staples] and then salted them so they would rust. I did this after I was done because if I did it before the rust stain wouldn’t bleed around the nails and that gave it another touch of reality.

Now I’d like to mention that the British forgers John Drewe and John Myatt didn’t seem to care if a painting was ever inspected by an expert. The only reason I can think of why Myatt used house paint and K-Y jelly is because it would dry faster. This could have been done better using acrylic water based paints and a drying agent. Acrylic paints are just as vivid as oils and flow beautifully and have a broad range of colors equal to oils. Also Myatt would take a train to meet Drewe with “rolled up canvases” under his arm. So I would assume they didn’t use old or aged stretcher bars.

When a painting ages the stretchers age at the same rate and look like they belong together. I don’t understand why any modern painting would not be stretched. It could happen but why put up a flag. Also Drewe’s ex girl friend said she saw him in the garden rubbing dirt on a canvas to make it! look older. This seems not just amateur but worthless. And last why did Myatt put nails in a pail with salt water to rust them if the canvases were rolled up? If the canvases were not aged and you used rusted nails it would be like putting perfume on a pig, why bother?


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“It’s pretty, but is it Art ?”

Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, “It’s pretty, but is it Art ?”

The Conundrum of the Workshops, Rudyard Kipling

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Orson Wells and the Aliens

“The issue is not weather it is real or fake, but weather it is a good fake or a bad fake.”

Clifford Irving

From crop marks to crop circles. A word used with great frequency when discussing the fascinating world of forgery is hoax. Forgers themselves, when discovered, claim that their fakes were not a criminal enterprise, but a hoax .




Orson Wells considered himself a great prankster and illusionist. His (partially fake) documentary about art forgery, F for Fake, reveals his magician persona, his love for illusion.


As a young man, Wells was working as a radio host and performed one of the biggest hoaxes of the decade, by announcing an alien invasion, poison gas attacks and an imminent war with the invaders. The fake news reports alarmed all of New Jearsy, who, before widespread tv ownership, depended primarily on radio for news. When hearing the alarming reports, many residents abandoned the cities and hit for the hills.


The same hoax was repeated by a copy-cat host in Mexico, who was promptly arrested. Instead of heading to jail, young Orson headed to Hollywood, a city built on illusions and hoaxes, where the young illusionists did very well, directing Citizen Kane at only 26.


You may have recognised the alien hoaxes’ fiction in  Wells’s War of the Worlds, whose remake set we’ve recently seen on the plywood and foam sets at the Universal Studio tour, a fake of a set in themselves. It is very interesting to note that the poster of the original film features the mike as the alien itself, clutching Earth, a very unveiled reference to Wells’s hoax. The aliens are, in fact, called tripods, a commentary in itself about the illusion of the cinematic lens and the visual media that was both invading and mesmerising the world.

This raises the question of authenticity through medium – the news report, the article etc. vs. a work of fiction and how they are perceived by the public.


The above picture is a snapshot from Universal Studios which, I must say, when cropped, looks much more real than it did in real life, where both the context (the tram) and the material reality (the fakeness of the set) distorted the illusion. But the same reality, cropped and filtered through a lens, becomes a new reality, more real than the actual experience, of a plane crash.


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A Bit About Archeology

Some notes, mainly for myself, about archeology… Don’t know how useful it’s turning out to be now with my foray into forgery but I thought I’d just lay them out for later reference.

The process of archeology:

I. Field survey



The field survey determines weather the soil is sterile or not. Sampling and aerial photography (from planes, kites, balloons etc) is widely used. Sampling is a quick way to determine the amount of artefacts in a certain area, while aerial imagery shows underlaying plan of ruins since plants have different growth patterns when growing over walls.

Ultraviolet, infrared, ground penetrating radar, LiDAR and thermography are some of the new methods being used. Magnetometers detect magnetic deviations caused by buried metal fragments. Underwater archeology uses sonars.

II. Excavation

Excavation is conducted abiding to Harris’s Laws of Archeological Stratigraphy, a set of basic rules of excavation and documentation of artefacts. According to the type of soil, site and artefacts, topsoil (overburden) is removed with a JCB and then finer tools are used on deeper levels. Extensive photography and detail sheets are filled in.

III. Analysis


Some new disciplines of archeology:

A. Experimental Archeology –  represents the application of the experimental method to develop more highly controlled observations of processes that create and impact the archaeological record.

B. Archaeometry – the study of archeological measurement. It emphasizes the application of analytical techniques from physics, chemistry, and engineering. It is a field of research that frequently focuses on the definition of the chemical composition of archaeological remains for source analysis.

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Where the Lying Kids Go


Looking at Piranesi’s foray into forging of Roman antiques, I delved into the life and work of forgers and discovered a truly fascinating world. It’s worth the read, these people were incredible – the last two I’ve written about are movie material hands down.

Art forgery dates back over a thousand years, when Roman sculptors, in order to indulge the growing taste in Roman art, would copy or replicate Greek statues and sell them as originals.

In the Renaissance, many artists took on apprentices who would learn the trade by imitating the style of the master of the studio. In turn, the artist would sell the apprentices’ works as their own.

With the rise of the middle class, an art market was created to meet the demands of the new consumer. Starting with the 1300s, when Roman statues were unearthed, the taste for antiquities grew and so did the number of fakes on the market. In the early history of art forgery, most fakes were of ancient sculptures, but, when the value of a work of art became linked to its author, the trend soon spread to more modern artists. In a way, what we truly know as forgeries began in the 16th century, when artists started the habit of signing their work. A forgery is not only an imitation of style but an appropriation of an identity.

Durer marked one of his prints with the inscription “Be cursed, plunderers and imitators of the work and talent of others”, such was his annoyance for the multitude of forgeries of his work on the market. Other artists recognized the paradox of the forgery and embraced it, to a certain extent. Picasso famously declared that he would sign any fake that he would judge good enough to be his original, while Jean Corot, in addition to his around 700 original works, flooded the market with thousands of copies he personally signed.

But the central figure in the forgery process is not the imitated but the imitator. Some of the most famous (and then perhaps not some of the best, since what is the greatest accomplishment of a forger if not to go undetected) had immensely interesting lives and personas.



A little known anecdote about Michelangelo’s beginnings is his attempt to sell a fake Roman Sleeping Eros statue, which would have sold for a much higher price than if he had accepted it as his own.   The young Michelangelo damaged his finished sculpture and buried it in his dealer’s yard where he “found” it and later sold it.



John Myatt and Stephen Fry with the Fry as Pope Velasquez

John Myatt (b.1945), together with his dealer, faked a paper trail for his forgeries of Chagall and Giacometti, which they inserted in real archives where they could later be “discovered” in order to prove the authenticity of the works. Myatt admits to have released around 200 fakes and their documents onto the market, but only 60 have been found, which leave 140 works undetected. Myatt was recently released from prison and is working with a team of investigators to track down other forgeries (although not his own). He is currently talking to George Clooney about an upcoming biopic.


Thomas Patrick Keating (March 1, 1917 – February 12, 1984)

Tom Keating (1917 – 1984) was a prolific forger who produced almost 2000 fakes, which, when caught, he refused to name. Keating stated that he produced the forgeries as a rebellion against the art trade and left time bombs and clues within the fakes themselves. For instance he would paint text in white led paint under the painting, text that he knew would be revealed under x-rays. He used modern materials and techniques and painted in a manner very much his own – Titian-inspired Venetian approach to applying oil paints, fine tuned along Dutch lines. Another trap he hid in his paintings was applying a layer of glycerin under the oil paint. When the painted surface would need to be cleaned, the entire layer of oil would dissolve, ruining the work which would then be revealed as a fake. He never listed his forgeries when apprehended in 1977. After serving his prison sentence, he starred on a channel 4 tv series in which he taught viewers how to pain like the old masters. His health deteriorated quickly due to years of inhaling the fumes of the trade – ammonia, turpentine and methyl alcohol. His work has become increasingly valuable, now selling for 10 000 – 20 000 pounds.



Shaun Greenhalgh (b. 1961) is an incredibly diverse forger – he has faked works ranging from 20th century British sculpture to an Egyptian statue purportedly from 1350 B.C., fooling Christie’s, Sotheby’s and The British Museum, as well as other illustrious victims. The Greenhalghs were caught when a British Museum expert noted that Assyrian sculptural relief tablets, supposedly created in Mesopotamia in 700 B.C., contained misspellings in cuneiform. He was convicted in 2008, alongside his octogenarian parents, pictured above.



Tony Tetro (b. 1950) is a very prolific forger whose perfect reproductions earned him the title “genius” in the press. Tetro became successful and wealthy, owning a tri-level condominium, a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit, two Ferraris and a Lamborghini Countach.He gambled in Monte Carlo and frequently traveled to Paris and Rome. With no visible source of income, local police and residents assumed he was a drug dealer and his car was frequently searched. After his arrest, which bankrupted him, part of his sentence included 200 hours of community service in which he was ordered to paint a mural on a public building, one of his only original works.



Yves Chaudron was a French master art forger who is alleged to have copied images of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as part of Eduardo de Valfierno’s famous 1911 Mona Lisa painting theft. After the painting was stolen, the plan was that the original would remain hidden and six copies by Chaudron would be sold secretly to collectors as the original. Chaudron was never charged since the details were only discovered after his death.



Elmyr de Hory (1905 – 1976?) not only faked numerous paintings, but attempted to fake the very reality of his life. He reached fame by being the main figure in Orson Wells’s documentary, F for Fake, and the book Fake by Cliffor Irving. Born in Hungary at a time of great social upheaval, he lies about both his Jewish origins and his sexual preferences in order to avoid jail. He studies in Paris under Fernand Leger and becomes accustomed to a very extravagant lifestyle. He returns to Hungary and becomes involved with a British spy, which lands him in a Transylvanian prison, from which he escapes by painting the warden’s portrait. Shortly, he is imprisoned again, this time in a German concentration camp but escapes from the prison hospital and bribes his way into France. It is in France that he start making forgeries when he is unable to sell his own work. He mainly copied Picasso and Matisse.

He moves to Miami in 1950 and, after selling several forgeries to a Chicago art dealer, is charged with fraud. He quickly flees to Mexico where he is again arrested(!) but this time for suspected murder of his British lover. He pays his legal fees with a forgery and flees back to the US where due to being known as a forger by dealers, was forced to sell lithographs door-to-door. He suffers from depression and attempts suicide by sleeping pills.

He soon becomes involved with a young man named Fernand Legros who becomes his lover and his dealer. Legros sells de Hory’s works and keeps most of the profits, lying to  Elmyr. Legros later meets Real Lessard, with whom he cheats on de Hory, both personally and professionally. Legros convinces de Hory to move to Ibiza, sending him a monthly allowance of 400 dollars, while he and Lessard remained in the States and sold forgeries. The paintings’ quality begins to suffer as de Hory sinks deeper into depression and dealers report Legros and Lessard to the authorities. The two are caught and charged with fraud, but de Hory evades the accusations by claiming that he never signed the fakes, but that Legros did. Without proof of faking a signature, he cannot be tried for forgery but is instead imprisoned for two months for homosexuality.

After his release, he achieves somewhat of a celebrity status and is interviewed by Clifford Irving who writes his biography, “Fake!”. Irving himself becomes a literary forger by writing a fake auto-biography of Howard Hughes. In 1976, his live-in boyfriend and bodyguard finds him dying from a self-administered sleeping pill overdose. De Hory soon dies but there are many who claim, including Irving, that he had ultimately faked his own death and in order to avert the authorities yet again.

Elmyr de Hory’s real name is suspected to be Elemér Albert Hoffmann.



Han van Meegeren painting a fake during his trial in order to prove his prowess

Han Van Meegeren (1889 – 1947) is probably the most well know forger of the 20th century. He studies architecture in Delft and is highly appreciated as a student but drops out since he doesn’t want to become an architect. While still in school he designs and builds a boathouse for the Rowing Club DDS. He then studies art in the Hague and is awarded a gold medal for the best project in five years. After graduating, he takes on a teaching position. To support his family, he also sells Christmas cards and portraits.

He becomes relatively well known for his signed work, mainly portraits of American millionaires rendered in Dutch Golden age style, and drawing of deer. His very old-school style is sneered at by Dutch contemporaries as “a gifted technician who has made a sort of composite facsimile of the Renaissance school; he has every virtue except originality.” In order to prove his critics wrong, he sets out to create a work of art so magnificent that it would rival the works of master painters. He moves to the south of France where, for six years, he dedicates his life to developing the perfect forgery. He exercise by copying the styles of  Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch and Vermeer, settling on Vermeer as “author” of his masterpiece. He studies his life, work and technique. He mixes his own pigments from raw materials and paints on genuine 17th century canvases with badger hair brushes that he makes himself. He glazes his paintings with Bakelite and bakes them in order to harden and crack their surface so that they appear 300 years old. He then ages them by filling the cracks with India ink. He finishes several trial Vermeers, which he does not sell. The firs forgery he sells is Supper at Emmaus, which is praised very highly after being declared a lost Vermeer. With the proceedings, he buys a 12-bedroom villa in Niece which he fills with real Old Masters. His forgeries sell for around 25-30 million dollars (in today’s prices) and he leads a very lavish lifestyle.

In 1942, during the German occupation, his dealer sells a forgery to Alois Miedl, a Nazi banker. The painting was not one of van Meegeren’s best since his health had been declining (he was addicted to morphine) but since all Vermeers were in salt mines to be safeguarded during war, a comparison could not be made and Miedl’s purchase is deemed genuine. Miedl sells the painting to Reichsmarchall Herman Göring who stores it in a salt mine. When allied forces storm the mine, the “Vermeer” is unearthed. The painting is traced back to Meegeren who is arrested not for forgery but, more gravely, for treason for consorting the enemy and selling the cultural heritage of the Nederlands. After three days in prison and facing a death sentence Meegeren tells the authorities that the painting is not a real Vermeer but a forgery. The forgery is so good that he must prove this statement by painting another fake during trial, in front of the jury. During a lenghtly process, a large team of experts analyzed the painting and declared it a fake. Ultimately, he is only charged with fraud (a one year sentence) and his posessions are sold (although he had divorced his wife Jo and moved all money and property to her name just before trial in order to prevent loosing his estate). He dies on the day of his sentencing of a heart attack.

He becomes famous and the forger becomes forged himself, the market being full of fake Meegern fakes. His most famous forger is his own son.

With such prolific forging careers, it is no wonder that art historian Thomas Hoving estimates that various types of forged art comprise up to 40% of the art market. Contemporary artists, in order to prevent forgery, now start signing their works using magnetic inks, like those used on banknotes, making artworks virtually impossible to fake. I find this paradoxical since the the very nature of erasure that contemporary art has been through makes forgery both very easy but also not challenging to forgers, who see what they do not merely as imitation but as an artistic expression in its own right.

Some references:

F for Fake by Orson Wells 1973

Fake! by Clifford Irving, 1969

The Art Forger’s Handbook, by Eric Hebborn

Museum of Art fakes, Vienna

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Dante’s Sinkhole Brought to You By Boticelli


Solution Sinkhole Jennings


A Turkmenistan sinkhole on fire due to gas accumulation


Sinkholes vary in size from 1 to 600m and are formed through either a natural process of erosion during the karst process, while open form due to human activity. The latter open above abandoned mines or salt domes (Louisiana, Missisipi, Texas) or, more commonly and in urban areas, due to water main breaks or sewer collapses.

While I am writing this, a developing news story dominates online news about the countdown to a Louisiana sinkhole’s iminent explosion as it fills with gas.

A couple of other sinkhole images as well as a pretty amazing open cast mine:




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Land Art, Mostly Unintentional













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Quick Post Jury Notes (nerves notwithstanding)

Some quick jutting down of the main ideas during the discussion:

– the fake/the facsimile/ the forgery (What is authenticity?)

– the “excavation” of the Piranesi hidden in the Soane museum

– the changes in the archeological processes during the past years (aerial archeology etc)

– the archeology of the future ( both  technologically but also the future as archeological scope)

– the readings of Piranesi through time – see Tafuri, Eisenman, Piranesi

– the rendering technique – a 2013 response to the 1700s print (a bird’s eye view into the sinkhole as reply to the worm’s eye view looking above)

– the mass of the displaced earth

– Florida (sinkholes) meet Rome (very excited about this)

– Robert Smithson land art


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My name is Ioana Iliesiu and I will present the exclusive original folios from the recents Carceri Excavations that have split the streets of Rome. During the past two summers I have been part of the team of archeologists to unearth Piranesi’s Carceri from their depth. The Carceri, a labyrinthine prison that worms its way underneath Rome, were thought, until recently, to have been, like most of Piranesi’s work, a paper project, a capriccio. But the recent discoveries have transformed the 16 plates from paper vedutte to real pockets of space that fill the gaps in Rome’s sections. They exist, in perfect darkness, in the voids between buried basilicas, entombed Mithraic temples and fossilised Roman villas, forming a labyrinthine underbelly, a subversive mirror image of the plan of the city above.  I have brought with me several articles from the initial period of excavation, as well as several analytical X-rays of found artefacts and their detail sheets.


The discovery of the Carceri was made on the 12th of May 2012, when during construction works by Termini Station, a sinkhole was formed. During deep-depth drilling, a pocket of air was hit and a sinkhole formed, opening a wormhole from Termini’s parking lot to the hidden vaulted antechamber of the Carceri. A team of archeologists was called in, who discovered the now famous Carcer slate, a monumental slab (approximately 3.6m by 5m) with the inscription “Carceri Invenzione, G. Battista Piranesi, Architect Veneziano”. The inscription was the key to the discovery of the magnitude of the entire Carceri project.


Due to the chaotic master plan of the Carceri, whose spaces overlap, and expand without any apparent logic, the archeologists had to construct a map of the excavation points based on the clues that Piranesi leaves in the second state of the Carceri prints, which at this point were thought of as being a sort of cheat sheet to the discovery of the project. At that point, two versions of Piranesi’s Prints existed. The fist, sketchier version (1748) and the second, done 13 years later, at the same time as Piranesi was drawing his Campo Marzio project. While 14 originals from the first state are simply re-etched, two new plates are added. By analysing these plates, one can detect the limits of the carceri proper. If the Termini excavations reveal the antechamber, the excavations by the Mamertine prison reveal the entrance to the project. Plate II is radically different from the plates in State I – it cracks an opening in the infinitely expanding spaces but doesn’t open the carceri to a Rome of the 1700s, as one would expect, but to an imagined view of ancient Rome. Specialists are now beginning to think that this plate is the bridge to the Campo Marzio project, published at the same time. Why? It is this detail that is the clue – the Carceri begin at the edge of the Campo Marzio map. (I show the maps while talking about this)


The next spatial clue that archeologists worked with, is plate 4, which positions the next wormhole of the Carceri underneath St. Peter’s Square. The excavations in St. Peter’s square were widely portrayed in the media. Due to the nature of the site itself, the excavations, which took place over 3 and a half moths, were split into four phases of excavations.

By following an underground passage from the St. Peter’s excavation, two more important artefacts were unearthed – what was thought of as original Roman and Egyptian artefacts – part of an architrave and three fragments of an obelisk. These fake artefacts are placed in the project by Piranesi, who had a passion for excavating, documenting, collecting but also creating fake mutations artefacts and selling them as real.

The archaeological team was, by this point, uncertain about the nature of the project. Was Piranesi creating a project by excavating pockets of space buried deep underneath Rome and recontextualizing them, joining spaces them together, bridging in the gaps of disparate fossilised chambers and inhabiting them with mutant facsimiles? Was Piranesi, the Venetian architect, as he signs the Carceri, a master of the spatial collage, or was he constructing an underbelly master plan of a Rome he hated, design to look like a set, incorporating disparate architectural fragments, facsimiles and archeological paraphernalia, as he was doing when drawing the plan of Campo Marzio.


The last phase of the excavations took place at the Trinita Dei Monti site, indicated in a caption at the bottom of plate 5 – Piranesi’s studio on Strada Felice, near Trinita Dei Monti church. The house above the approximate location of the studio was sealed off and the media prepared for the monumental discoveries predicted by out team of archeologists. In the studio, we predicted we would discover the key to the Carceri – an elaborate bridging of found spaces or a stage set constructed from Piranes’s antiquity fakes. X-ray of the deep underground levels helped our team navigate through the layers of earth and pockets of space underneath the street level.

The chamber that we reached at 32.5 m underground revealed a small dark chamber, a fossil of a 1700s studio. Un the table, partially unfinished, was a print, which, with great care, I will reveal to you know. Please bare with me while I unseal the print.


This print, which we have now catalogued as the lost Carceri print, is plate 17, of the Third State. This print is a sort of Alice’s mirror which subverts the project. At its lowest level, it shows the studio, which morphs into a view of an underground Carceri. Through a gap in the floor, a via apia composed of facsimiles of ancient artefacts. The etching converges towards the top, where it passes a layer of underground pipes and modern foundations, and bursts, through a sinkhole, into the street above. This print both closes the loop, spatially returning the project to the sinkhole at Termini, where our journey began, but also shattering the reality of the excavation itself. It reverts a built and/or found project back to paper. The Venitian Architect who signs the slate becomes a fantasy of a disgruntled Venetian draftsman and the paraphernalia that Piranesi embeds in the project disperses. His fake archives, his lions, his tortures, his prisoners, his smoke and mirrors, are replaced by the paraphernalia of the excavation, transforming the reality of the x-ray and newsprint to fantasy, confusing the very image of the central figure, the Architect.

If all was a fake, who is the Architect of the project. Was it Piranesi who, in his Third state was designing a scenario of a future excavation of his built project, or was it I, inhabiting Piranesi’s project and adding new layer of fake paraphernalia, who becomes the architect?

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The Lost Piranesi (Plate 17, Third State)




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Archeologist’s Paraphernalia





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File VI – Chamber/Studio

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File IV

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File IV – Wormhole

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File III

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Journal of Field Archeology, vol. I and II

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File I – The Slate

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File I – Rip

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Recon. The Archeologist’s Set Up

For the Friday presentation I will become an Archeologist involved in the Carceri Excavation project.

I will bring with me a series of props:

I. archeological files

II. light box to read X-rays and documentation photography

IV. acetate wrapped, Piranesi etching

III. rubber gloves and Indiana Jones hat


The files are brown card files that contain original documentation from the 2012 – 2013 Rome Carceri excavations. The files are certified by the official excavation stamp.

By opening the files, I, the Archeologist, present the narrative of the excavations, from the initial crack in the surface of Rome (the sinkhole by Termini), to the final discovery of the buried chamber by Trinita dei Monti, Piranesi’s studio.

File I – Rip

– article presenting the accidental sinkhole to the entrance in the Carceri

– article about the start of the excavations at Termini

– the discovery of the Carceri plate

File II – Worm

– the construction of the excavation maps of the Carceri

File III – Off The Map 

– the “campo marzio” artefacts from Plate II

– hand sketches of the Mamertino and River excavations

File IV – Wormhole

– St. Peter’s excavation article

– view & map

File V – Chamber

– article of sealed house

– X-ray views of excavation

Appendix File (VI)

– the three versions of the Carceri

– the timeline


The original Piranesi etching overturns the narrative – it is a worm’s eye view of carceri and modern Rome elements.




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Blogging Conundrum

So clearly word press hates me…

I can’t log in on my phone and when I’m trying to blog a post that contains an image, it simply won’t do it. I can upload photos to the library but it won’t transfer them to a blog post. Anyway, it might be my connection since I’m using one of those internet sticks. There are images I’ve been uploading during the day in the media library if anyone wants to check them out. I’ll try putting them in a post tomorrow from school.

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Preparing excavation documentation


I’m starting my files on the Rome Carceri excavations.

Each of the excavated artifacts will have a file complete with a filled in form (above), article clippings, photos, drawings, site sketches etc.

I’ve also ordered an official stamp to authenticate my documents (picking it up on Tuesday).

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Plate I State III – in progress

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Speculative Excavations Of Piranesi’s Carceri d’Inventione. Ioana vs Piranesi

“I arrive at Termini in Rome and find the city is cracked. The excavations split the streets and allow glimpses of the layers and pockets of space below. I fall off the sidewalk and into the depths of the excavations of Piranesi’s Carceri.
Armed with Piranesi’s a map that I have constructed I discover the impossible unraveling of the buried carceri. As I go deeper into the carceri, I discover that the carceri is either built on or merges with another Piranesian capriccio, the ruins of the Campo Marzio. I pass by underground ghost fields and ruined basilicas, under super-scaled arches and duck under lowered architraves. I hear the Tiber, sometimes above, sometimes deep underneath. My only reference points are fragments of present-day Rome and a white sky seen through the excavation holes. I have the feeling that I am constantly being followed. At one point I startle when I catch a glimpsed of moving white but realize it was simply an oversized statue.
At one point, the I pass under an oddly seventies-looking carved arch flanked by bits of Roman ruin and stone lions and enter a fossilized circus. In a frozen explosion of stone, monoliths that half-remind me of something align.


I climb a series of steep staircases towards a round opening high above. I attempt to count the steps but lose count. The hole is a threshold between the vast underground labyrinth and a small, dusty room. The room has no ceiling, only a grid of excavation strings. The unexcavated area of the floor is cluttered with dusty  artifacts – bits of Roman and Etruscan architecture, stained models, oxidized copper plates and yellowed prints. On the opposite wall, framed by bind windows, four large prints hang on the wall. I switch the light of the archeological tripod bulb and the room is flooded with light.
The first wall hanging I see myself falling into the excavations at Termini. I the second I see myself at the threshold of street and excavated carceri. In the third I am entering the circus of the unbuilt. I peer at the last one which shows the studio I am standing in. But I am falling back into the excavated hole. Suddenly I slip.”

“I fell into the carceri right after I arrived in Rome, in 1748 and, for 13 years, search for a way out from their labyrinth, a labyrinth that for me mirrored the Rome that I suddenly found myself in, chaotic, dirty and so far from the ordered marbles of the ancient city.
To escape the impossible spaces of the carceri I attempt to find the order of the ancient plan underneath them and I obsessively gutted out rome, excavate and document the old city. It took thirteen years to find an opening from the carceri into the old Rome. After my discovery, I buy back my original 14 plates from the Frenchman who had publish them and rework them. I add the depth and confusion of the spaces that I have been captive of. I then add two new plates that rip the surface of the carceri and open to a new and glorious ancient Rome, the rome of the Campo Marzio. These two plates are the gateways from 18th century Rome to ancient Rome and my Campo Marzio series which I publish shortly after the second state of the carceri.
So this is how I escaped the carceri, through creating the Campo Marzio. I never though I would revisit them again but I fell back when I got my first and only commission for built architecture – Santa Maria del Priorato. When the Pope commissioned it, I was wildly excited at first but then fell into a deep depression since the singularity and pressure on this one built work augment my displeasure with my position of paper architect catering to tourist guides.
I designed a view, a keyhole that acts as entryway to the third state of the carceri. Through several layers, the keyhole, the trimmed hedge passageway, an illusion occurs. One sees a facsimile of St Peter’s, an entrance to my third version of the carceri. It is a new kind of carceri, which I am imagining as built – possibly a response to my lack of building. They worm their way under a Rome of the future which will be excavated and gutted in order for my Carceri to be discovered, like an ancient relic. It looks as if this future Rome is bursting at the seams and my Carceri are opening up to the sky.
The carceri, especially in this last third state, I now realize, are a tome to the unbuilt architect. They are an underbelly of an underbelly of an underbelly, a deep labyrinth where Rome in different times collapses, where unbuilt projects are fossilized in stone monoliths.
I am in my studio, lost in this labyrinth of the third state, looking down onto the dusty artifacts that make up the carceri. Models, fakes, roman artifacts, prints. Maybe I’ll sell them to tourists tomorrow…”

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Plate VI – Third State (set up)

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The set up for the sixth plate – the unbuilt carceri/circus.

Peeks of Rome through excavation gap in the ceiling, the Maxxi as arched entrance from the carceri to the circus grounds, a selection of unbuilt project (from front to back – Newton’s Cenotaph, Dutch Parliament extension, Petersschule, House of Industry) in a glorious micromega confetti explosion, cheering crowds and lions.

Hopefully it will look less like a spaceship once I start photoshopping and add a couple of lions and loads on Roman/Etruscan paraphernalia in the foreground…

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Soane Recons


Joseph Gandy’s interior of the Soane Museum



Joseph Gandy’s rather bombastically titled “Perspective of various designs for public and private buildings executed by John Soane between 1780 and 1815, shown as if they were models in a gallery”



Anne Desmet for Senses of Soane





Emily Allchurch for Senses of Soane


Above are pics from Senses of Soane (what is up with these titles) which was up last year at the Soane Museum.

Next up – a visit to the Soane museum for some much needed collage material to fill my Piranesi excavation…

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Plate I – Third State (set up)

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Plate XVI – Third State (set up)

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Plate I. Third State (sketch)

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sketch sq

Sketches of the displaced space between the Nolli plan and Google maps at Termini station, where I start excavations.

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The Start of Excavations


Guided by Piranesi’s plates, I begin to uncover the Carceri that worm their way underneath the city of Rome. Like Piranesi who feverishly excavated the ruins of ancient Rome, I attempt to uncover the Carceri. His 16 views are framed snapshots of the vast labyrinth that expands through the cracks in Rome’s mapped surface – each view a wormhole in one of the map’s fragments.


The Carceri exist in the cracks of space and time.  I start my excavation by overlaying three different plans of Rome – the Google map (my Rome), the Nolli Map (the Rome of Piranesi) and the Campo Carceri (Piranes’s plan for a perfect ancient Rome). When layered, the map vibrates – the details don’t coincide, creating the cracks in space and time that allow for the Carceri to unravel. It is in these displacements, in these cracks, that I discover wormholes to Piranesi’s labyrinth.


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Mamertino. Because Architecture Kills

While in the Mamertino, unfortunate heruspex Herennius Siculus hit his head on an architrave and died a day before he was to be pardoned from execution.

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The Prison That Fell Off the Map


Piranesi fell into the Carceri in 1748 and, for 13 years, he wondered these impossible spaces that he imagines. At first glance, the carceri are a fantasy, a capriccio thought by a wannabe architect, frustrated by his lack of commissions and responding with a proposal doomed to be forever stuck to paper. The core of the Carceri is real – it sits at no 1, Via Clivo Argentario in central Rome. Just below the heated tourists trampling the Forum, the depths of the Carceri starts to unfold.


The dungeons of ancient Rome, the Carcere Mamertino, used to hold prisoners awaiting a baroque execution on the Gemonian stairs nearby. Six meters under the nondescript entrance, a cistern. Through an opening in its flooded floor, unlawful Romans were lowered into its deep dungeons, where a slip could mean a much more private and timely death. A bit more gloomy than the baffling openings of Piranesi’s Carceri.


Pathologically obsessed with all that was Ancient Rome, Piranesi sees the Mamertino as a failure of Ancient Rome, just another empty ruin of the Nolli Rome. Instead of the terrifying dungeon, the Mamertino was a place for tame pilgrimage – it had been transformed into a chapel dedicated to St. Peter, said to have been imprisoned in its depths. So Piranesi starts to reinvent it, to expand it, to rediscover it. But, inevitably, he gets trapped in its depths and becomes the prisoner of the invented carceri for 13 years.

In 1761 he re-etches the 14 original plates, still shots of the vast city-wide labyrinth of his carceri, brings them new depths and impossible planes, a mirroring of his captivity. The 14 prints of the first edition have expanded so that they include bits and pieces of Nolli’s Rome – spires, obelisques, St. Peter’s colonnade. But he adds to new plates through which Piranesi breaks the planes of space and time – the two plates open cracks in the surface of the carceri allowing glimpses of a fantasy ancient Rome full of Etruscan paraphernalia, invented temples, centurions and super-sized lions. In fact, the two plates do not open towards Nolli’s Rome, nor to Ancient Rome, but to Piranesi’s Rome, the Rome of the Campo Marzio. These two plates are, in fact, the first two in the Campo Marzio series.

mamertine martio

When overlaying the Campo Marzio plan over Rome, the Mamertino sits right at the edge, at the inked rip of the map, in its inky blackness. The Carceri are the unformed, the unbuilt, the empty paper, the off the grid and off the map. They are the chaos that lies beyond the plan.

off grid



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Research Conundrum

Calling out to all fellow dip9ers!

Looking for: competition entries (preferably post 1980s) that were never built in Rome

Key words: second place, also-rans, always-the-bridesmaids, defeated, under-achievers, over-achievers, expensive, vanquished, annihilated, non-environmentally friendly, puzzling, impossible, off the mark, boring, extreme, impossible, forgotten, stuck to paper, losers and other failures

Please help me bring them to light!

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Piranesi the Gamemaster

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Adobe Photoshop PDF

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Carceri – The Escape

game piranesi

In 1748 Piranesi falls into the Carceri Labyrinth and, for 13 years, is unable to escape. It is a space of illusions, infinite and confining, torturous and languid which expands from the carceri cell to the city, slowly engulfing Rome. The city morphs into the carceri while the carceri inflate to urban scale, confusing the accidental prisoners through its games of impossible planes and scales.

But Piranesi attempts an escape. In 1761 he buys the copper plates from his publisher and reworks them, painting with a chisel the new depths, the chiaroscuro of the carceri but also, slyly, adding two new plates. These new plates break the laws of space and time and create cracks in the carceri that open towards a fantastical ancient Rome, a Rome where Etruscan ruins, collumnas, invented temples and centurions are glimpsed. These two new plates, Plates II and IV, are the key of the labyrinth, its exits and/or entrances.

mamertine martio

The Carceri are hidden underneath, amidst and above (!) an imagined Rome that exists on several time and spacial plans, but their core is real. It is the Mamertino Carceri, the ancient Roman prison that falls just outside the edges of the Campo Marzio plan, layed out by Piranesi at the same time that he was etching the two new plates and reworking the fourteen earlier ones.

The Carceri are the outskirts of the Campo Marzio, the ruins that fall off the map.

I will attempt to reconstruct these outskirts, stitch together this labyrinthine map and, under the game-master Piranesi, attempt an escape.

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