That’s starting to get confusing. Hans Wahr, the chief official in the “Office for the Whole Truth”, brings up two studies. According to the first, every person lies 200 times a day, according to the second, 1092 times a year. And men would lie far more often than women. What do you think of it, what is fake, what is truth?
Visitors to the exhibition “Fake. The Whole Truth” is excited after the intro on the continuation in the interactive course. The curator, philosopher Daniel Tyradellis, first designed it for the Stapferhaus in Lenzburg/Switzerland and has now expanded and updated it with his team for the Dresden version.
A post-bright yellow “Office for the Whole Truth” was installed in the museum. The authority consists of nine departments, they are arranged immersively, the participants are always challenged to find their own relationship to truth and lies. Individual knowledge should come about through personal experience.
At the beginning there is a video with said Hans Wahr alias Martin Wuttke (the general public still remembers him as Leipzig “Tatort” commissioner Andreas Keppler). In front of each room, the actor slips into ever new official roles, sometimes humorously and sometimes seriously illustrating the importance of the topic in question. There is a “Department for Strategic Deception”, a “Commission for Credibility”, a “Laboratory for Lie Detection” and a “Media Office for Old and New Fake News”.
It gets tricky, i.e. particularly challenging, in the “Department for Lying Education and Applied Pinoccio Research”. An oversized board game is offered here. If the visitors always tell the truth in decision-making situations, such as a police check or an upcoming family visit, one has measured the room completely in four moves and has thus arrived at the “exit”, in Tyradellis’ words at death, end, exit.
Of course, a life of such purity and clarity and truth would have a huge disadvantage: more solitary, more lonely, certainly boring. But for the one who compromises with the truth, avoids it, gets tangled up, it becomes alive – and undoubtedly human. Honestly, do you always want to tell the whole truth or do you prefer to lie? And when a lie is collectively shared, doesn’t it actually become shared truth?
If you are not sure of your own ability to find the truth, you can take a test on a lie detector in the “Lie Detection Laboratory”. Funny to embarrassing, because the surrounding audience participates in lies and truth.
The lie is as old as the truth, its variety of fake news is more recent and of urgent relevance. It is very likely that former US President Donald Trump can boast of origins. In 2017 he insulted media such as CNN or the New York Times as “you are fake news”. An animation in the show shows the rapid and global spread of this statement, the Trump statement can be seen as a catalyst in the increased and never decided battle between lies and truth. It becomes clear that the lie was and is obviously faster and faster and with the advent of the new media has suddenly gained in spread and weight. There may be comfort in knowing that fake news, alternative facts, disinformation of any kind are not an achievement of the Twitter age, but are much older and come with the multiplication of the media.
The exhibition is ambitious in reflecting the relationship between lies and truth back to the visitor. The “Central Lie Contact Point” asks which lies are forgivable and which are deadly? Which ones might even be necessary? A “testing center for counterfeits” investigates the question of why originals have their very own appeal and why counterfeits such as perfumes or soccer jerseys still have their appeal. Not to mention vaccination cards.
One thing is clear: the world also wants to be deceived, lied to. The lie always needs someone to tell it, ditto the truth. You can simply condemn the lie, but that doesn’t get rid of it. And what truth endures forever? If, for example, a science only ever wants to nail down one knowledge, progress will dwindle. A lie does not immediately have to be the denial of a truth, it can also activate its relationship, i.e. the positively meant doubt. And that is at least as much a motor of every personal and social movement as mere curiosity.
So that there is no misunderstanding: “Fake. The Whole Truth” is not a celebration of fake news, fake profiles, fake products. Disinformation is shown as a threat to democracy because it can lead to the destabilization of a society. Such powers of influence are not placarded in a forefingered manner, the show is designed to be more subversive. Their main tool are questions that are put to the visitors or by the visitors themselves.
In the excellent accompanying brochure (available free of charge in the museum shop), the philosopher Hannah Arendt is quoted: “The ability to lie alone confirms that there is something like freedom.” A bold, false, a correct sentence? “Fake. The whole truth” she places in the museum room. Chief official Hans Wahr says at the end of his video introduction: “The truth needs you!” More urgently than ever.
“Fake. The Whole Truth”, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden, until March 5, 2023. Further information at www.dhmd.de