On Parafiction 

Salomé Lamas has produced over thirty projects, which have been installed and screened internationally, both in cinema auditoriums and contemporary art galleries, and museums. Each of them opens a door onto a different social reality, usually characterized by its geographical and political inaccessibility. The artist’s interest in impenetrable, politically ambiguous contexts is guided by concerns and the need to problematize reality that otherwise would not be possible. The web of relations making up the socio-political fabric of her projects is made visible through representational strategies, for which she adopted the term parafiction. Rather than obeying to a shapeless meaning of parafiction —for which there is no established terminology — she proposes its expansion and resignification.

In her artistic practice, parafiction can be read in the light of its prefix “para-”, in which we encounter various disruptive effects that are vital for its comprehension. Derived from the Latin, “para-” indicates “alongside, adjacent to, beyond or distinct from, but analogous to”; in certain word combinations it can also mean “wrong, irregular” pointing towards an “alteration” or “modification”; further, “para-” implies “separate, defective, irregular, disordered, improper, incorrect, perversion or simulation.” In this way, a parafiction would be something in which fiction has been perverted, altered, modified or pushed beyond its point of reference, as opposed to remaining within the boundaries of the category of fiction. It can also be understood as a “simulation” of fiction, pointing to a distortion of the border around what is considered fiction, thus reaching what is on the other side of that border: that is, the world of non-fiction, or seeking the “real” world. Thus, instead of fiction being used to blur the border with non-fiction, it is used as a way of expanding and transcending those boundaries.

Salomé Lamas begins from the principle that we do not have access to a stable reality. Instead, we have an excess of meanings, interpretations, explanations, manipulations, (de)constructions and evaluations that go into narratives and systems that sustain and occupy us. Consequently, the need for appropriating the idea of parafiction comes from a questioning of how human subjectivity is formed, drawing on psychoanalysis, with the aim of clarifying and expanding concepts such as real (something that is out of reach), reality, symbolic and imaginary. Thus, she is led to operate at the border between fiction and non-fiction, employing representation and hypothesis generation through certain meditative criteria and a deontological code relative to what is plausible, assuming consciously the  “task of the translator” — comparable to illusionism — and pushing its boundaries.

In this context, she draws on distinct non-fictional strategies that include ethnographic research, as well as thought experiments, reflexivity, restaging and performativity, among others, to explore the limits of fiction. This can be visible in the development of a working methodology, where we find various manifestations of parafiction, such as scenarios where characters and fictional stories intersect with the world as we are experiencing it. These combined strategies, to the detriment of other speculative aspects, forms a sort of hypothesis that retains a level of exactitude with reality, but also questions its authority. Through parafiction it is possible to take a convention and deconstruct it, distort it, expose the impossibility of providing evidence for the truth, to the point that doubts are raised about its validity, yet still producing reasons for understanding it as plausible.

Salomé Lamas problematizes both sides of the border between historical and imaginary worlds, and records how they have changed over time, by understanding parafiction as a fundamental translation tool for defining identity, language and culture. Intensifying, exaggerating and speculating on how the world is made sensible, by triggering moments that reveal their fabrication, in a post-truth context heightened by the technological and globalized nature of our times. To reveal this transformation is a continuous and thorough undertaking, but also spiritual, having the ability to relate the individual sphere (private) with the social sphere (public) and so introducing new information and perspectives on our past, present and future. Thus, although conscious of limits and apparent contradictions, it helps give form to the chaos of life and endow it with significance, in a compromise between reality and its fictionalization.

Today, the discussion has grown, and a lot can be said about the term and its generalized appropriation by artists, filmmakers, and theorists. These practices can take many shapes, subject matters, starting points, methodologies, and exhibition modes, but above all there is a unifying thread that forces us to return to some fundamental questions about perception, subjectivity, and representation while acknowledging the progressive dissolution of the entire system of individualization, measurement, and localization that makes the earth an inhabitable, political space.

Timeline of adoption of the term parafiction*

2012 - Terra de Ninguém (film premiere) Berlinale Forum, Berlin, 2013.

Beginning of a theoretical-practical research project “Problems of translation and critique in Parafiction”, alongside educational activities.

2015 - Paraficção (solo exhibition) Museu de Serralves, Porto, curated by João Ribas, author of the preface to Parafiction I (selected works 2010–2016).

2016 -  “The Working Hour Salomé Lamas Eldorado XXI” (article), Michael Sicinski, Cinemascope magazine: “Lamas herself refers to Eldorado XXI as a ‘critical media practice parafiction attempt’, and while that string of verbiage may seem like a great deal of post-structuralist throat-clearing, her tentative genre designation is well worth considering.”

2016 - Parafiction I (selected works 2010–2016), Mousse Publishing.

2023 - Paraficção (solo documentary exhibition) Batalha Centro de Cinema, Porto, commissioned by Guilherme Blanc.

2024 - Parafiction II (selected works 2017–2023), Mousse Publishing.

* Carrie Lambert-Beatty. 2009. “Make Believe: Parafiction and Plausibility”, October Vol. 129 (summer 2009), pp.51–84. MIT Press.


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Texts copyright Salomé Lamas and the respective authors.