multiple spaces of Fred Forest
Jean DEVEZE (Paris,
July 1994 )
Professor in Sciences of Information
Non only Fred Forest lives
in multiple spaces but he haunts them. He is not necessarily
where one believes he is and when he is not already there,
he lets something of him, behind him. It is that he runs the
artist of the communication, of connections in networks, and
manage always to surprise us while being nearby, elsewhere,
where one doesn't wait for him.
His work appears, to the evidence,
in the social space. He speaks of it with peasant's words
whose exactness hits: "I always considered that the field
of the social activity was the natural field of my artistic
practice" (1). But this practice itself appears in a relation
to the material space (all as to the temporal dimension) that
is always present. "The sociological space" evoked by Frank
Popper (2) is pulled by Fred Forest toward a more abstract
shape that he defines as "the space of the social communication",
"the space of mediatization", "kind of surface pulled to nothing
by the technologies of communication as the polders were on
the sea". Still the rural metaphors÷ before affirming with
strength: "the artists probably have of what to reclaim in
this virgin space for them". (3)
The clarity of the language
and the wealth of the rural vocabulary, as the pre-eminence
that Forest claims for the practice, indicate well that this
one forged itself, and probably since his little childhood,
a representation of the physical space and the physical time
that since he didn't stop to refine and to enrich. His work
conceals an original and personal ideology of the space and
of the time.
THE SPACE TO CONQUER
The space is first a place
of course, of exploration, of discovery. Such Alexander or
Gengis Khan, Forest longs to be everywhere. His dream of ubiquity
is flagrant, and the technologies of communication are by
his cares, enslaved to this will of presence from afar that
permits him to make explode the physical measurements of the
limited space or constrained where he stays concretely: the
workshop, the territory or a gallery. For lack of physical
ubiquity, he practices the partial ubiquity with telephone
call, radio, television and satellites÷
Already, in 1973, he makes
enter the Rue Guénégaud in the gallery Germain
and give to see the inside of the gallery to those that pass
in the street. It is then about "reinventing" the space of
the street following a new configuration, to make so that
the street crosses the gallery, and the passersby also. Then
to put the gallery in the street. "The outside put inside,
the inside put outside ! The turn is played. The glove alternately
returned, the obsolete space, the irreparably unsettled time.
A few months later, To São
Paulo, with his friends, under the title "The White invades
the city", he walks during three hours, in the center, ten
"white spaces"; panels that mobilize the media and are worth
him the police's attentions. He organizes an "aesthetical-sociological"
walk in Brooklyn, peripheral district of São Paulo,
dragging the visitors of the Contemporary Art Museum in "an
expedition of ethnographic kind".(5) Once again, the walk
is investigating, exploration and discovery of an environment.
The artist's eye tracks the sign in this environment, and
the sense under this sign.
At the same time, Forest puts
in place, around the sociological walk, another mode of apprehension
of the space,: it is about an organized space, distributed,
geometric. Indeed, the thirty "sociological walkers" had come
at the indicated hour, to the museum, to take possession of
their stool. The stools had been gathered in a space delimited
to the ground by a rectangle of white painting. This space
was conceived in order to let appear to a way of organization,
of production (...). Every stool after its tourist "journey"
would return in the museum to the place that was devolved
to it. (6)
At this stage, it is not useless
to remind his action the "The Stock market of Imaginary "
in 1982 to the Center Georges Pompidou; and the interminable
problems of the artist with the direction of Beaubourg that
transformed in epic the conquest of a space of 300 m2, close,
during three weeks. Let's recall for memory that initially
Forest didn't ask anything and it is Beaubourg that came to
look for it with a stationary idea: to fill the "central hole".
A gestation of three years is going to transform this hole
beaubourgeois in a communicational umbilicus whose author
defines the objectives so: to use "the institutional space
of the Center Georges Pompidou as a place of exchanges and
animation. The instruments of the communication are erected
there in a production that "entertains " the event. The space
is organized on its central part like a place of interaction
with the present public or from afar, and its periphery like
place of presentation of the productions-answers generated
by this last. " (7) One already notes at this time how much
the concept of interactivity is own to him, as well as the
production of the communication means, with the realization
of a studio of animation similar in all points to the one
of a studio of television.
This conquest aiming to abolish
the geographical space continues during the winter 1983-1984
in the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, in Electra,
where Forest presents " the communicating " space, multiplex
network associating telephones, minitels and connected answering
machines on the world telephonic network. He opens an interactive
telephonic dialogue and gives a substance to the macluhanian
concept of "global village". As for the organization from
the physical space of the device to the Museum, it is characterized
once besides by a worry of clarity and rigor that makes of
it a techno-geometric kind of abstraction: consoles and telephonic
stations aligned, batteries of answering machines in parallel,
oblong organization of the whole. Intention clearly expressed
here, once besides by the artist, of production of the tools
of the communication, to underline the aesthetic opinion that
he attends to pull of it.
The very temporary outcome
of this step where the space is an object to conquer meets
also in the "global sculpture" constructed telephonically
around the surface of the globe by Forest and some of his
friends during the F.I.A.C. 85 to the Grand Palais in Paris.
The ambitious project that consists in making circulate in
a successive way, from point to point, a message around the
planet shows the capacity to conquer, only one instant, such
or such part of the enormous and complex world network of
communication, without making the detailed inventory of it.
No matter that the message borrows the cables or the hertzian
bundles, that it passes in transit by submarine ways or the
satellites of communication-relay. The essential is that the
message is looped and, left from the Grand Palais, comes back
there. This last step prolongs the one of Electra and is symmetrical
to it. The containing (the network) is over the content (bla
bla bla bla bla!), the essential being to be plugged (on)
in the network. The "global sculpture" maintains this point
of view, except that the network looks like a " black box".
The essential is then the continuity of the network itself,
that assures the conquest of the space and opens the access
to ubiquity. At this fascinating instant puts itself, inevitably,
this question: is there the "demiurge" in this man?
THE SPACE TO FILL: THE EMPTINESS
IS AN INJURY!
As Jean Duvignaud noted it
with relevance, Fred Forest "uses the emptiness". As call,
stimulation, invitation or of provocation. Because "the emptiness
is an injury! " (8) Duvignaud knew Forest when "he had just
bought a piece of white page in Le Monde. To buy an empty
zone, comparable to the white stains of the old cards of geography
- terra incognita -, there calls reflection. Forest asked
to the readers to fill this white space. With words, drawings,
fantasies. " (8) One knows that this "work of 150 cm2 of paper
newspaper", appeared January 12, 1972, was worth him to receive
800 answers, either of what to make a mosaic of 12 m2. Jean
Duvignaud made notice to Forest that people answered by horror
of the emptiness, that our society of the spectacle was a
civilization of the "full". And that the emptiness embarrassed.
In fact, I suspect the man
not to promote the emptiness that because he causes, nolens
volens, to the best the occupation, to the worse the replenishment.
I would be tempted to evoke,
to his topic, the syndrome of Mascara. I already had the opportunity
to signal the references of Fred Forest tothe earth when he
evokes the space or the spaces. However the geographical space
of his origins, Mascara (Algeria), is the one of the vineyard.
His implicit model of occupation of the space is the one of
the wine grower, the enclosed, where each inch of conquered
ground receives in endowment a foot of grapevine. It probably
explains Fred's propensity to fill - or better yet to make
fill - the empty spaces that he discovers or that he creates
In Tours, in 1969, he falls
in love of a closed Gothic church, become gallery Saint Croix
and doesn't have a rest to create a new environment, to make
of it a place of meeting, of debate, a tribune. His art is
certainly to fill the space, but not anyhow. He cultivates
the art of the shift, telescoping gleefully the containing
and the content. From the Gothic chapel to the sublime arches,
he makes a video, data processing space, there shows the models
of satellites, of the technical consoles. He takes a place
and makes another of it. He plays the formal contrast of the
Gothic and the technological.
October 26, 1977, for a moderate
sum, he invests the luxurious lounge of the Ambassadors of
the Crillon Hotel to proceed to "the parody of a ritual to
the level of the legal structures, of the cultural codes,
of the mechanisms and of the systems of information. " (9)
It is about the official opening of the letters of offered
prices receive in answer to the call of offers international,
thrown in Europe by Le Monde and the Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung for the sale of an artistic m2. There again, while
choosing a prestigious luxury hotel to put to the test and
to the question the working of the market of the art, he shows
his worry to occupy the space in a completely new manner.
He explained himself of it: "one of the particularities of
the Sociological art holds in the will of its protagonists
to appear in other places that the recognized cultural places.
Places of the social reality and of the daily that become
sudden fields of experience opened to all possible. Places
of which the working and the usual destination are brutally
TO SHOW THE EMPTINESS
In June 1976, in Cologne, Fred
Forest experiments in an empty apartment, pending of renting,
inspires to the artist a reflection: in the type of urban
concentration that the society offers, the space constitutes
in itself the individual's real luxury. This apartment, he
goes, no to fill it, but to populate it (like all conqueror
discovering a virgin land): he lodges in it a perfectly contemporary
and banal German family that he invents for his demonstration.
Only shift that he approves: it is the family VIDEO. As its
name indicates it, this domestic occupation of the space is
first videography, before organizing the visit of the domestic
apartment for two hundred people in quest of the one of an
apartment, the other of artistic emotions. After having invested
the space, populated the apartment with the help of the family
VIDEO, he organizes the invasion. He exults, enjoys and laughs
some again! That one judges: "soon, it will be impossible
to contain the stream of the visitors on the landing. They
invade the apartment in tight ranks. Take possession of the
ground. Organize the systematic combing of the video territory.
Some whole hordes stroll of a piece to the other (...) In
less than two hours, two hundred thirty people will march
so÷ will survey in all senses the video apartment÷ ";. " Fred
Gengis Khan " meets there the Germanic hordes that rejoice
him. The space, of emptiness, rocker in the overflow. He notes,
in full happiness: "I am literally flooded". It is that one
of the objectives confessed of the device is the planning
of an experimental space, space of dialogue and critical reflection
of the market of the real estate. Another of his objectives
is to manage " the proof that today the artistic act can live
without the museum, of the gallery÷ "; (12)
Following his reflection, he
expresses: " if the family became an emptiness in an empty
apartment, the artist's function will be to make feel this
emptiness. To show this emptiness÷ to hit on its cockle is
sufficient to note that it sounds hollow. And in this hollow
the murmur of the emptiness resounds more and more strong,
as in our apartment populated of televisions ". (13)
THE SPACE TO ADMINISTRATE
There is a third face of Forest,
completely paradoxical, but perfectly identifiable in his
relation to the space: the one of the civil servant that he
was a long time and that he continues, mentally of the less,
to be, whatever he thinks and that he can say some.
It is also the geometer's face,
the surveyor, the administrator and the administrator that
synthesizes, roughly, the one of the civil servant. In actual
fact, it would not surprise me that the artist appears one
day under an avatar (to the Hindu sense of the term) of this
kind. Because, contrary to the appearance, he became otherwise
a man of order, of the less a promoter. He gives the proof
of it, in January 1986, to the school of Fine arts of Paris,
but it goes back up well farther. The organic necessities
of his enterprises, their technological complexity as the
budgetary destitutions drove him irreparably to this paradoxical
attitude: to organize the conditions of production that that
mediocre minds call, to wrong, the mess, and that I will name,
for my part, the entropical bubbling, that means, for example,
the deviation, the diversion, or even the reversal, the questioning,
the setting in question, the radical critique, ÷
But this affirmed worry finds
a powerful counterweight claimed by Forest himself: " if,
in all honesty, I consider retrospectively the environments
that I achieved these last years, I must recognize that the
worry of formal presentation of these wholes appears lawfully
evident÷ With regard to the style÷ it is maybe only the direct
consequence in complex operations (to the visual level and
contents) of a worry of clarity that appears me more and more
necessary÷ It is maybe also for me a reaction of natural compensation
and visual revalorization of the anarchical side (not to say
rough draft and "bordélique") of everything that was
the Sociological art production in the previous years. (14)
The cause is complete: Forest
claims the creative bubbling but in a coherent organization,
visually clear, and - why not?- provided, by addition, by
the appeals of the formal beauty. The adventures of the "artistic
m2" proceed of this frame of mind.
The idea of Forest is simple:
to put on sale to the public bids, among works of art, and
under the hammer of ivory of an appraiser, in a regular sale,
a parcel of ground of one square meter. During his consultations,
his mind of geometry blows him a daring extrapolation: to
parcel out an apartment and to resell it cm2 by cm2! He buys
20 m2 of agricultural ground close to the Swiss border and
founds the "Real estate Civil Society of the artistic square
meter", with 20 parts, each giving property and enjoyment
of one square meter÷ The price of purchase of the ground is
of twenty francs, either 1 FF/m2. But every social part of
the S.C.I.( Real estate Civil Society) equals 100 FF and the
social capital rises to 2 000 FF. This multiplication
by 100, even it is justified by expenses (notary, geometer,
registration), before all operation on the ground, shows well
the capacity of Fred Forest to administrate and to manage
the space÷ The marked artistic m2, demarcated and surveyed
on the ground is, besides÷ framed of a dark wood setting!
Of the way, the artistic m2 is inserted "in a setting with
an human figure"! (15)
The district attorney of Republic
having made interdiction to appraiser Mr. Jean-Claude Binoche
to proceed to the Cardin space to the auction, Forest changes
of space, as merely as others change of sidewalk. Certainly,
he keeps the Cardin space like theater of his production,
but he substitutes to a ground of m2 from Savoie, one m2 of
wool cloth and tergal and to his "artistic m2" a "no-artistic
m2". Certainly the m2 of cloth costs him dearer (59 FF) that
the m2 of grass near the torrent (1 FF). But the genius of
administrator of surface of the artist is going to operate
again. At the time of the sale, he proposes the piece of cloth,
downtrodden by the helpers, of a m2 that he signs and dates
before all people: he explains, dry humor, that "this work
doesn't have any report with the one forbidden of the sale,
nor in the mind, nor in the shape. " (16) It is true, but
stays the surface and its dimension. Started at 59 FF, the
bids will stop to 6 500 FF. In less than one minute and half!
The demonstration of practical work of applied speculation
is succeeded, in return for a change of support, but with
conservation of the surface and the space, to the sense of
the mathematicians. Who would dare to say, after this glaring
demonstration, that Fred Forest doesn't treat the space in
artist? And preamble this remarkable increment (x 110), that
he is not a prudent administrator of space?
THE MEDIA SPACE
It is not a space, to the physical
sense of the term, but it is one of those where Forest snorts,
gambols, moves, is agitated with an obvious joy and an incontestable
success. About the tribulations of the artistic m2, he assures
to have wanted to verify the following hypothesis: "an isolated
individual is able, alone, to put a device in place susceptible
to create an event of communication on a national scale. (17)
He made the inventory of the
necessary means: permanent capacity of initiative, high suppleness
of adaptation and of reaction, systematic will of research
of information, faculty to imagine immediate ripostes, patience
to all test÷ But he adds immediately that the success of such
a project leans on the good knowledge of the working of the
media. In fact, he knows how, better than whoever, to mobilize,
or even to manipulate press, radios and televisions. There
are two possible explanation levels to this outstanding faculty.
One is the one that Forest suggests, modestly: the good knowledge
of the working of the media themselves. The other is perfectly
narcissic: he speaks of communication and of media to the
men of media and communication. His position of explorer of
the media, of adventurer of the communication makes that the
"pros" suspect in him one of these vague cousins that it is
worth better to know and to recognize for the case where there
would be something to recover from his experiments. The insertion
of Forest in the media system is more the fact of illuminated,
lucid mind, and÷ cynical than the mark of a generosity that
the "pros" generally ignore. His own genius is without doubt
to let glimpse to his interlocutors possible recoverable repercussions
and to offer some, from time to time, thanks to the systematic
stake of a permanent activity of conservation and storage.
Because he is a remarkable
curator, stocking with method every trace of his acts, of
his gestures, of his devices, of his environments. Working
in the ephemeral, he manufactures what Abraham Moles named
so exactly the "cultural canned food". Of the mountains of
videograms, of the heaps of letters, of drawings, of photos,
of plans, of diagrams, of sketch, of archives inexhaustible
and neat, such is the space of the cultural canned food that
is in Fred Forest the result of his practice, the material
trace of his past "work" and the material of the one to come.
I don't speak of globes of alphabet-pastas locking in the
derisory signs of the political speeches of Babel, but for
example of these about ten letters of refusal, polite or no,
of the institutions of which he made, by the game of the exhibition,
as many firecrackers gushing to the nose of those that had
believed to get rid of him too quickly. The objects so put
canned are ready to be consumed and Fred, on occasion, can
serve them cold. Of it also the media are conscious.
The activity of Forest is centered
mainly on the creation and the critical use of the communication
spaces that he considers like grounds where to open out relational
phenomena between the men, and on occasion with machines.
But it is not of communication space that doesn't lean on
concrete, physical spaces and on spaces mental associated.
The modes of representation of the space, that is geographical,
urban, farming or architectural, plot the mental, conceptual
and spiritual intellectual spaces of each. Gaston Bachelard
in his Poetics, Abraham Moles and Elisabeth Rùhmer
in their Psychology, showed us these close interrelationships.
That these modest reflections
on the spaces of Forest can help the reader to measure the
size and the wealth of his views and his practices of aesthetics
of the communication, such is the sense of this contribution:
- the space to conquer suits
to the artist who is as him convinced that the art doesn't
have any borders;
- the space to fill answers
this worry to populate it of messages circulating in all senses;
- the space to manage is the
place of the straightening of an activity that doesn't wish
to be activism;
- the media space and the one
of the canned food are different: they don't present themselves
as objects or as the fields of action for the artist. Their
investment, as their mastery, are necessary and therefore
indispensable conditions to the success of his works.
The spaces of communication
in which he opens out his inventive talent borrow few or many
to these various spaces. His cerebral shaker assures the good
dosage. He didn't finish to agitate it under our amazed eyes.
1. FOREST (F.), Thesis of Doctorate,
Experiences of sociological art and artistic communication,
2. POPPER (F.), "Art action
and involvement in The artist and the creativeness today,
Klincksieck, Paris, 1980.
3. FOREST (F.), Thesis, p.420.
4. FOREST (F.), " Rue Guénégaud
", in the television in sharing, File NÉ3, Institute of study
and research in visual information, Lausanne, 1974, p.32.
5. FOREST (F.), Thesis, p.
6. FOREST (F), idem, p.244.
7. FOREST (F.), idem, p.322.
8. DUVIGNAUD (J.), "A pirate",
preface to the book of F. FOREST, sociological Art, U.G.E.,
10/18, 1977, p.15-16.
9. FOREST (F.), idem, p.281.
10. FOREST (F.), idem, p.155.
11. FOREST (F.), idem, p.302.
12. FOREST (F.), idem, p.305.
13. FOREST (F.), idem, p.320.
14. FOREST (F.), idem, p.351.
15. In announces in Le Monde
of March 10, 1977 by Forest himself.
16. FOREST (F.), Territory
of the artistic m2, s.d., Paris.
17. FOREST (F.), idem, p.169.