Lies, Damned Lies, and Peterborough

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Active History is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

This week’s video is a part of the Storytelling through Film, Graphic Art & Performance panel. Matthew Hayes, a PhD candidate at Trent University, explains two art projects that he undertook in the summer of 2014 in Peterborough, Ontario.  Through these projects he sought to explore the persistence of the myth of objectivity. Along with another artist, Hayes displayed a series of 8 posters around Peterborough during an arts festival. The posters, drawn in black sharpie, were based on historical fact, but not entirely true. Hayes explains how his project met with some resistance by critics who felt that it was dishonest or misleading. 

Although many of the posters were either taken down or destroyed by the elements, others remained and citizens posted photos of the installations on social media sites. Hayes explains that while he set out to explore the effects of the project, due to the ephemeral nature of the art, it was difficult to draw conclusions. However, he was able to speak with some members of the public. Through these conversations, he discovered that some knew the information was not entirely true, whereas others took the information as literal truth and even passed on the stories. This left Hayes asking the question of what made the posters believable and how their belief relates to the larger question of the myth of objectivity.

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