The Art of Lying by Stewart Graham Hyde

This was an art project that I did as part of my Art & Design Foundation in 2014, it was inspired by two of my previous projects; ‘Beauty in modern popular culture’ (June 2013) and ‘The Division Bell’ (Dec 2013). At the time I was coming to the end of my apprenticeship as a bookbinder and was keen to utilise some of the skills I had learnt alongside the project.

The focus of the project is in the area of ‘Lies’ or ‘Lying’. A common definition of Lying is ‘to intentionally mislead anyone’. I have become more and more fascinated by peoples potential to intentionally mislead, or tell lies. Lying is not necessarily bad or wrong; many lies are harmless, trivial or have good intention, and it can also be said that many lies are not only wrong, but can, and in some cases do have the intention of doing harm.

I am particularly interested in the everyday lies people tell. My research led me to academic studies and artists who have at some time focused on lies in their work;

• Artists; Joseph Kosuth, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Susan Hiller, Banksy, George Grosz, Andy Warhol, Honore Daumier, Cornelia Parker, Stig Evans, Gustave Courbet.
• Academics: Human Communication Research – R Halevy et al. 2013, K Serota et al. 2010, English Victorian Polymath & Anthropologist Francis Galton, Oscar Wilde (Specifically ‘The Decay of Lying’ an observation)

Following my initial research I setup an experiment to collect peoples lies, I placed a questionnaire around the college and online in order to collect lies….. this is what it asked;

Tell me a lie

‘I am interested in the truth and lies in people’s everyday communication. The Oxford definition of a lie is to ‘intentionally try to mislead someone’. Some lies are big while others are small; some are completely false statements and others are truths with a few essential details made up or left out. Some lies are obvious, and some are very subtle. Some lies are told for a good reason. Some lies are selfish; other lies protect others. I am interested in all these types of lie’.

So if you would like to participate please write a lie you have told on a slip of paper and put it in the box. Feel free to write more than one lie, or come back to contribute again any time.

I am also looking for volunteers to take part in a ‘Lair study’ where I would ask you to keep a diary of daily lies you tell for a period of weeks, if you would be interested in taking part please go to the visual arts office and speak to Jackie or Sharon.

I am Stewart Graham-Hyde, I am studying Y2 Art & Design Foundation. Inspired by a previous project about communication, I have become more and more fascinated by peoples potential to intentionally mislead, or tell lies. I will be using the lies I collect to feed into and drive my final major project, all lies will be treated as anonymous and no reference will be made to any individual who participates. There will be an end of year show that will include my work so you will get an opportunity to come and see how your lies were used….

Thank you for your participation

As a result of this questionnaire I collected over 200 individual lies and 25 people participated in my diary project. I compiled statistics based on the lies I had collected, this helped me to understand who tells lies, what they lie about and why they lie.

So it seems from my research that people’s lies fall into 5 main areas;

1. Feelings – How we feel about an issue, person or people, or our state of mind.

2. Time – How we manage our time, how we keep time and what we tell others in relation to this.

3. Food – What we consume, be it too much or not enough, and what we think of other peoples food

4. Appearance – How we think we or others look, our vanity and our judgements as a result.

5. Protection – Mostly to protect ourselves, but also others we love and care for.

Then I looked at each of these areas in turn to try to understand what lies people tell within each of these areas, here are some of the most common ones;

Feelings – I’m Fine

Time – I’ll be there in 10 minutes

Food – Wow that tastes great!

Appearance – You look fantastic!

Protection – I love you too

I was surprised at how I felt reading peoples lies. I felt almost privileged. It almost seemed obvious which were genuine and which were not, although that is something of a contradiction in itself. I felt I could tell who was male and who was female. Some lies are sad, some happy and of course some silly.

It became apparent to me that not only do we all tell lies on a daily basis, but that the lies we tell are on the whole a protective mechanism, either to protect ourselves or those around us. Also that the vast majority of the lies we tell are told with good intention. It seems when we think about lying in general we do not consider the everyday lies we tell, we are immediately drawn to politics and the media and are overall sceptical and negative in regard to our attitude towards them. However when we look at our everyday lies they are clearly a shield to protect us from the world around us and allow us to move forward in whatever way we can. This is how deal with, or push aside the difficulties that confront us.

What we lie about seems to be directly connected to our feelings, or feelings of those around us, although in my study it should be noted that ‘What’ we lie about produced by far the most number of categories, it appears we lie about every aspect of our lives, it seems almost unconsciously. Often if we are not questioned we don’t even realise that we are lying or what we are lying about. We find ourselves in a position where we have a reason to lie and the rest gets disregarded.

When I looked at who we lie to it quickly became apparent we lie to those closest to us, be that friends, family or most commonly ourselves.

So in short from my study I have found that the everyday lies we tell are on the whole good, and are told with good intention, even when the lies themselves may suggest otherwise. This is something of a contrast to our general understanding of lies as a whole in our society.

The culminating art work that was born as a result of this study and resulted in 2 books shown below;

I separated the lies into what I considered big lies, and small lies. The big lies are printed and bound into the small book, and the small lies are bound into the big book. The big book shown here is an A4 book which gives you some sense of scale regarding the small book. The small book is a half bound leather binding with patterned paper sides, and the big book is quarter bound cloth with patterned paper sides, I cut through the paper in the circled areas to expose the cloth underneath.

The patterned papers I made by photographing ink in water on a light box, with text from some of the lies I had collected printed on acetate underneath. The end papers below we made using a photo manipulation program and the moiré effect was created by offsetting transparent sheets with duplicate text printed on them. All these ideas and techniques were formulated as a result of visual experiments during the course of this study.

This project ran into several other projects as part of my Final Major Project within my foundation course. I will continue the story in future blogs.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I hope you enjoyed it and that it was of some interest. If you have any comments or questions regarding this blog, or feel free to tell me some of your lies and the project can go on!

Till next time…..


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