How do we learn to lie? Who teaches us this skill? And when do we learn it? My answer is that I’m self-taught. I’ve... Read More
How do we learn to lie?
Who teaches us this skill?
And when do we learn it?
My answer is that I’m self-taught. I’ve been learning this craft my entire life. And I don’t believe I’m unique in this.
As children, our elders generally steer us away from lying; it’s just not something good kids do. It’s certainly not a skill typically taught in school. Lying is commonly considered an indecent behavior, so there really isn’t anyone out there directly training us to do it. But we all know how to lie. More often than not, it’s something we teach ourselves.
Over the years, I’ve made any number of mistakes that have provided me with a foundational awareness of what lying is and the actions required to do it. I’ve knowingly twisted the truth, gotten caught by some authority figure, righted my ways, and then fallen back into lying again just as soon as my underdeveloped judgment could lapse. I’ve studied historical figures whose misdeeds simultaneously taught me that lying was bad and how to get away with it if I desire. I’ve watched nightly news reports about criminals and politicians, and I’ve become fairly fluent in how lying functions in our world.
Each engagement with lying has offered me some small lesson about the different categories of lies (lies of omission, lies of commission, lies of influence, etc.). And I’ve learned about the spectrum of severity that sets one lie apart from another: from harmless, soothing fictions to dangerous conspiracy theories. But perhaps most importantly, I’ve discovered that there are circumstances when a lie seems more appropriate than an unflattering truth, that the merits of lying endure with a degree of nuance included.
How Did We Get Here? exists as a catalog of the many teachers, stories, gestures, and influences from my own lying education. From early players like the Pinocchio and shopping store mannequins to more recent influences like a 24-hour news cycle and online “bots,” I’ve recorded figures who’ve proven influential in my ability to falsify. I’ve recorded figures who’ve prepared me to think more critically in an era increasingly shaped by dishonest narratives. Each piece is painted with a certain degree of dramatic lighting or color, but none are painted critically. This is simply a record of those people and ideas who’ve made me a more-savvy connoisseur of lies.
For me, the decision to utilize the portrait miniature format (a format historically reserved for images of cherished loved ones) focused attention on the increasing level of importance that the skill of lying has gained in contemporary understandings of success. These liars and symbols replace paintings of my ancestors and become a new lineage for a modern world where situational morality has replaced the idea of an unconditional moral code. They become a fresh set of forefathers for me, as I find myself advancing further into an age where the best liars gain the most power.
One thing this body of work can’t do, however, is settle questions about the ethics of lying. It might begin a conversation about the harm lying can cause or its necessity in a peacefully functioning community, but it cannot designate lies, lying, or liars as entirely good or entirely bad. These figures persist in our culture and will continue to do so. The best we can do is to take inventory of the good and bad influences in our past and present and shape a preferable future by acknowledging the advantages of our least virtuous ancestors and overcoming the restrictions of our most just counter examples.
Notes: Layout for this piece can vary, therefore the dimension information above is variable. "Other View 1" is one example of a possible layout. Each circular piece is approximately 3.81 cm in diameter and each oval piece is 3.81 cm wide and 4.45 cm tall. The frames add 2.25 cm to each dimension. Each miniature painting has its own title and description available upon request. "Other View 2" is a closer view of an individual piece with its individual title.