Philip K. Dick

The summer 2017 cover of Art Papers magazine.Ed Hall, ART PAPERS’ longtime copy editor and my co-editor for parts of this Philip K. Dick (PKD)-inspired issue, is certain I mentioned the science fiction author in our very first conversation, back in December 2013. I’m not convinced I knew who PKD was at the time, but once he was on my radar I started to see Dick everywhere: many artists and writers, it turns out, are “Dickheads,” or at least are keen to discuss PKD’s critique of capitalism, his gnostic metaphysics, or the role of mind-altering substances in his creative process. Beyond the tangible popularity of his novels seemed to lie a particular urgency in PKD’s works, a renewed relevance to the production and discussion of contemporary art.

Readers of PKD are likely to be familiar with the form of the alternative history (AH) or the alternate universe (AU), fictional devices that posit a reality (or realities) parallel to but distinct from our own—in which we exist under modified circumstances, as we would, for instance, if a major historical event had a different outcome. PKD’s The Man in the High Castle (1962) unfolds in a world where the Axis powers won WWII and the US endures only under the divided rule of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany; from the perspective of contemporary politics and society, this “alternative,” fascist America seems very real. Dick wrote something of truth.

During the production of this issue, contributor Travis Diehl and I disagreed on an earlier source for the idea of the artist as a “liar who always tells the truth.” Diehl attributed the notion to Picasso; I reassigned it to Jean Cocteau. Diehl produced evidence to back up his initial attribution: an interview from 1923, published in an American periodical called The Arts under the title “Picasso Speaks,” wherein Picasso calls art “a lie that makes us realize truth.” I had read somewhere that in a 1922 issue of Vanity Fair, Cocteau wrote of himself, the artist: “I am a lie that tells the truth.” When I couldn’t produce the article, we reverted to the Picasso credit, with Diehl adding a qualifying “apocryphal” to the appropriate sentence. The notion crystallized as a leitmotif for this edition of ART PAPERS, and Cocteau got his own feature, in Ariana Reines’ translation of a monologue, Le Menteur (The Liar).

I still think Cocteau came up with the bon mot—Picasso is, after all, famous for “stealing”; Cocteau is known (albeit less famously) for giving things away. I also think it doesn’t matter who said it first: Cocteau continued to say it. In a 1925 poem “Le paquet rouge” (“The Red Packet”), he describes his blood as ink and his body as a medium, through which the truth seeks to be revealed, paradoxically, as the artist’s poetic inventions—that is, through his “lies.” I am a lie that always tells the truth. Cocteau said it again in 1962, in a video address to the youth of the year 2000, hopeful that art would still be valued for its truth-giving properties. We are seventeen years into the 21st century now, and for various reasons—political, technological—it is fashionable to say that we are living in a “post-truth” society, to talk about how we have entered an age in which the public is bombarded with lies purporting to be truths (while suggesting that it actually prefers sensation, or deception, over the accuracy of information).

I do not favor this position of “post”-ness. To say we are post-truth is to imagine that there was a moment when we collectively lived in truth; clearly, that is not something we have achieved. This is good news: it means that we are still pre-truth, that the lies which seem to inundate us are in the process of revealing, not of occluding, and that art, and artists, still have incredibly important work to do to contribute to an enlightened future.

Speaking of brighter futures, ART PAPERS magazine appeared in print six times annually for 40 years; as we entered 2017—our 41st year—we reduced this frequency and went quarterly, with the aim of creating a publication that celebrates and recommits to the very medium of print, and its history as a communicative and discursive tool of the artistic, literary, and critical avant-garde. We also began to build a new digital platform at, which will launch in late summer 2017 as a place for these voices to expand and energize the forms and ideas developed on the page, to engage and experiment with new ones that cannot be contained here, and to address our community of readers and contributors with more immediacy and fluidity than we ever have before. We’re excited to share these new arenas for dialogue in contemporary art and culture.

Victoria Camblin