1978 – From the Artistic m2 to the Territory
Editions du Territoire, Anserville, 1978
To go from the concept of ARTISTIC m2 to the concept of the TERRITORY OF THE ARTISTIC m2 does not only entail operating a transition in space, in other words a quantitative development of the notion, but to introduce a considerable complexity, in any case an extremely significant one, into its elements and its parameters. When FRED FOREST defined the ARTISTIC m2, he defined it in the abstract based on a methodological willpower which formed the basis of his participation in sociological art. How, based on an abstract concept, can one reach a tangible notion? By toying, in fact, with the possibilities of dimension, the possibilities of coloration that the abstract concept can take on when it is defined in relation to concrete terms. The ARTISTIC m2 was the m2 of the canvas, hence of the art object. It was in fact also, quite simply put, the “non-art” in relation to that art. As long as one toyed with this type of coloration of the concept on the abstract level, one was able to reach a whole methodology of action which was FRED FOREST’s in the ARTISTIC m2. To go from the concept of m2 to that of TERRITORY implies initial servitudes which are real and concrete, which are no longer a play on words but which are the passage of a theoretical abstraction and a committed practice. I believe this is where is in fact located the hinge of the operation within the logic of its continuity. The TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC m2 implies the insertion of this basic concept in an extremely complex setting; that of life on the surface of our planet--surface being conceived of as the medium term, meaning the intermediary level between subterraneous life, life in an infrastructure and life in a superstructure. As long as the territory is conceived of as an occupation, as a planning project for a tangible reality, it of course brings to mind all the problems which this type of reality can give rise to. One could almost say that the TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC m2 presents itself as the extreme will of an urban planning theory and its practical application. It is certain that the “TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC m2” is a “special” TERRITORY. It has all the servitudes of any other territory, but in addition it has “ambitions” and a finality which determines all the others and becomes, in some way, the common link to all practical servitudes. First, a territory must be found. It must be organized as one would organize a concession. It must then be divided into sufficiently flexible plots in order to find buyers. One must then make these buyers take interest in the life of the territory. For all of this, an administration must be created and this administration must organize life on the territory, not only on the level of physical planning, but of moral planning as well. Finally, the TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC m2 has acquired a physical reality and henceforth follows the destiny of all specialized plots. We had spoken, at one point, of “cemeteries of the living” and it is obvious that there is in this idea of the in perpetuity burial plot a striking analogy with the TERRITORY, a very dynamic analogy even. Another analogy--that of the “zoo.” In comparison to a zoological garden, the ARTISTIC m2 can be considered like an anthropological garden. What is the difference between a zoological garden and an anthropological garden? The anthropological garden mobilizes on a voluntarily reduced space over which the owner is all powerful, all of the individual’s motivations as long as he plays the game, as long as he feels concerned by this type of occupation of the territory. I believe the ARTISTIC m2 is at the same time a sort of battery, a sort of magnet that mobilizes energies in the direction of communication, in the direction of cooperation, in the direction of exchange. But also in the direction of self-realization; in the direction of individual fulfilment. This dimension is the one that is most spiritually energizing and stimulating and the one which, without a doubt, will be the main motivation for the public’s participation. The one on which one must lay stakes in the most direct manner. It is certain that, given that each plot of territory occupies a specific space, is bought and has a certain value, it creates a relationship, not only a mercantile one, but also a relationship of intellectual and emotional value between the concessionaire and his concession. One cannot avoid this type of relationship without speaking about land speculation because on that level, speculation becomes entirely abstract. One inevitably goes from mercantile speculation to abstract speculation. Beyond the very concessionaire/concession relationship, there exists another scope and this scope is the occupier’s freedom. This occupier’s freedom translates itself by envisaging the craziest of possibilities; in this sense, the administration of the territory will have unexpected responsibilities and problems which may even prove impossible to resolve. There is also in this territory project, the starting points of which are very rigorous and tangible, a flight towards the unknown.
The administration of the territory is a managerial administration but if it can, possibly and when necessary, energize the territory’s life, it cannot block, censure or intervene on the spontaneous initiatives of the concessionaires of the different plots. Herein lays the opening overture towards the unknown, towards spontaneity, towards the poetry of the lives of beings in common, or simply of the life of beings, plain and simple. Two dimensions coexist in this notion of TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC m2: both a dimension of “contraction” of the m2’s or the multiples of the m2’s geometric concession and a dimension of “expansion.” A dimension of plenitude, of the optimal degree of freedom which one can exert over such a small territory, a phenomenon which can be considered like a respiratory phenomenon, in other words a phenomenon of inhalation and exhalation. It is the very image of life which is reflected, to a certain degree, by the mirror of an anthropological museum. The more I think about it, the more I believe that life is a cycle. We are sometimes afraid of words and that is why we hesitate to use in relation to such a system of concession, of management and of administration the term cemetery. That is indeed what brings to mind this type of structure, but it is, at the same time, the most obvious expression of the revenge of life over death. What could appear at first to be a cemetery’s cadastral structure ends up flourishing into a living garden. The living garden is in fact our anthropological garden. It is an anthropological garden to the extent that the men who enter this zoo enter into it voluntarily and not because they are forced to do so or captured like monkeys. They enter into it because they want to reflect on their own condition as human beings. It is, to a certain extent, a meditation garden on the level of modern anthropology, a meditation freed of the philosophical rites that usually accompany it. Everyone is free to see in the artistic square meter the Zen space of a meditation about territory. This discursive panorama about the territory is far from being exhaustive, but it is sufficiently large in its overtures to make us understand to what extent and how with this impact, beyond the artistic and philosophical concept which was at the beginning the object of FRED FOREST’s sociological approach, we now enter the thick of the subject: the very reality of the human fabric stuck to the earth’s surface. This encounter with the real identifies itself with human beings’ return to earth. The great issue of the ARTISTIC m2 operation lies in this occupation of the territory on a human level. Even more so than urban planning, it is about creating on the level of the artistic m2 a human occupation, an affective and spiritual occupation and I believe that all the elements are integrated and present in FRED FOREST’s project. With him, we have the possibility of attempting a great adventure. A human adventure based on a tangible basis, and all the more tangible as it is within our reach, in our scale; this is about an ARTISTIC m2, and a m2 will always remain a m2 even if it is multiplied by two or by twenty, in other words a space and a unit of measure within man’s immediate grasp. I believe that the reference to this relationship of proportions in the conclusion of my speech does not correspond to a reservation or a shrinking of my thought process but expresses on the contrary a cry of hope. It is insofar that the ARTISTIC m2 is linked to its human dimension and to the corresponding reflex motivations of possession, appropriation and understanding, that the territory-operation has a meaning, a life and a future.