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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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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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