Soon after the advent of photojournalism, Paul Valery noted that humanity would no longer see its history in terms of an unbroken flow of narrative, one historical text to another, but in moments, picture to picture to picture. Think about how you remember Tiennamen Square: One man standing in front of a row of tanks. The collapse of the Soviet empire: Young Germans clambering up the Berlin Wall. This past election: Portraits of two ignoramuses with fretful looks. But documenting events is just one form of photography, and a new exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Art focuses on photographers who prefer not to preserve a reality but to outright create it. In Is Seeing Believing? The Real, the Surreal and the Unreal in Contemporary Photography
, a photo like Sandy Skoglund's "A Breeze at Work" brings the bright chaos of wilderness into a dull office, while Cindy Sherman's History Portraits
show the artist using period costumes to comment on old master art. The show runs from Jan. 14 to April 1 but for a real surreal indulgence, buy a ticket to the opening celebration on Jan. 13, which features a DJ spinning tunes, a wandering magician and a 10 p.m. screening of Pecker
, the John Waters flick about art photography. Tickets are $25 for the general public. Call 715-5923 for details.