Reflection: FRAUD

Sally Wills is an MLitt Curatorial Practice (Contemporary Art) student from Liverpool. She is undertaking a work placement with Kevin Leomo, Community and Engagement Manager for the College of Arts & Humanities. Her research focuses on concepts of dwelling, domesticity and locality. 

I attended the FRAUD Artist Talk on the 6th of March 2024 as part of the Thinking Culture programme. FRAUD is an artist-researcher duo comprising of Audrey Samson and Francisco Gallardo. Their practice involves modes of interrogating the dominant systems in place which are typically ‘unseen’.

The artists introduced us to their current project, EURO-VISION, which is an interrogation of the European Unions’ Critical Raw Materials Act. As part of the act, these natural resources have been plotted on a graph comparing their “economic importance” against their “supply risk”. Supply risk means the EU’s relationship with the host country to access the material. This structure gives intrinsic value to these raw minerals which in turn allows them to be extracted and traded. 

However, FRAUD note how this graph is void of any social, political and racial aspects. It is their aim to look beyond the figures, at our bodies’ relation to the systematic managerial extraction of these resources. To tackle such a complex topic, their method is to focus on an individual substance and perform a “deep dive” – researching, interacting with and responding to the particular mineral. After a thorough interrogation, the two produce an artwork which recontextualises, giving the material an agency to address its own concerns. 

FRAUD recap their investigative journey so far, talking through their previous focuses on Fisheries, Carbon, Silica Sand and Phosphate Rock. They explained that most of these materials originate from, or have relation to, the Western Sahara, a victim of colonisation from both Spain and Morocco, and continues to struggle for self-determination. Under the UN legal counsel, it is illegal to extract from Western Sahara’s resources, however violations of this international law persist. It is important to raise awareness of these common day commodities and to not separate the material from the ontological. 

FRAUD’s practice is meant to be engaged with, so their overall research findings are made accessible, and their artist website acts as an open resource, including podcasts and glossaries, platforming these issues. In summary, their work is a form of anti-colonisation. 

Complimentary to the artist talk, I attended a workshop the following day (7th March) as part of the Laboratory for Civic Arts Research. This was an up-close experience of FRAUD’s research method, that they call Décollage. In art, Décollage is the process of ripping away pieces of an original image to reveal what’s underneath. In a research context, the ‘ripping’ becomes theoretical, allowing researchers to breakdown loaded topic by peeling back its layers. 

FRAUD presented us with a large mind-map, which divided the topic of Fisheries into multiple ‘islands’, including Fishing Technologies, Political, Catches and Weather & Climatic. In this instance, Fisheries became digestible after this initial layer was peeled back. Our task then, in small groups was to conduct independent research into one of the four ‘islands’. Rather than throwing us in the deep end, FRAUD provided us resources on an Etherpad as a starting point. However, we were given free rein to keep the topics broad or to continue peeling back further layers and focus in on an element that really interested us. There was no right or wrong answers to this exercise and how we conducted our investigation. 

We were then invited to print out visual aids and place our findings onto the mind-map; whilst being aware of the existing sources and the X axis – a timeline. Here, I added “Dave’s” tinder profile where he is holding his catch of the day – a modern-day phenomenon. I placed it near “Mark” who was using a drone technology to fish. Additionally, we got to share our findings with the wider group, communicating with each other allowed us to make links between the other ’islands’. You could visually see the research starting to flourish as a result.

The workshop provided participants with a strategy to combat their own loaded topic idea – by stripping back the topic into tangible components, and in turn breaking those down, for a cohesive, connective, collaborative project. 

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