FRED FOREST, NAIVE ABOUT THE INTERNET OR A SHIFT FROM AESTHETICS TO ETHICS
BY PIERRE RESTANY
At the end of a 30-year career, and some, and at a time when I started following Fred Forest from his earliest work, my thought-process on his work ran on various levels. Every fact provided me with an opportunity to measure the conceptual extent of the notion of art through his direct projection on the vital thread of the social fabric. It has always been the artist in Forest that enabled me to appreciate, in relation to the collective expressive urge, the development of the conceptual field of aesthetics. The one and same artist, Fred Forest, made the transition from sociological art to computerized anthropology via the aesthetics of communication.
Fred Forest burst onto the expansive scene of this line of questioning at the time when the Western world was experiencing the precursory symptom of a radical societal change and the production system, i.e. May 1968. That is when the relationship between art and communication shifted into a faster gear and larger realm. Communications, in fact, acquired a new conscience of its artistic territory, and resultant rights and obligations: its critical virtue and its virtue of awakening as to the human and humanistic message transmission criteria gratifying in its truth and not its beauty. This reflection on the profoundly human and poetic nature of all the systems ad methods that enter the social fabric was, of course, trendy at the beginning of the 1970s and it formed the core of sociological art’s collective activities. The transition from sociological art to communication aesthetics, which materialized in Fred Forest’s work in around 1983, raises the bar of this thought-process up one notch. This level excludes any break, rupture in the development of artistic questioning. In Forest’s work this involves a logical sequence, a fundamental adaptation to communication that was characterized, in the 1980s, by an increasingly complex, fluid and rich method of investigating reality in the multiple facets of its independent expressiveness. When Fred Forest speaks of communication aesthetics, he raises the issue of language ethics, a philosophy of action designed in aesthetic terms. Human devices are projected in the social sphere in the same manner in which poetry is projected in language. Communication is part of aesthetics, not in terms of reference input, but in terms of critical conscience: its message is not so much designed to be “attractive” as to be “true”. Major transition from the attractive to the truth. From the legal attractiveness of aesthetics to the truth of artistic sociology, in other words the truth that provides communication techniques with all the structural elements enabling it to build up a system. A system designed from strategic systems and resources that are appearances lending themselves to the dissemination of the truth. Communication aesthetics in fact matches this transition from representation art to presentation art. Fred’s aesthetic activity in communication involves fully taking charge of the operational logic of his systems that are truth presenting devices. And when these systems become networks with planetary reach, the aesthetics of truth move into the realm of post-industrial and digital anthropology.
And in his book "Un procès pour l'exemple" *, in which Fred scientifically analyses the operation and malfunction of the contemporary art scene, he gets straight to the point and shows us in this Internet-dominated age a whole panel of current art, as a humanist vector of communication, radically topple the aesthetics field in that of post-industrial anthropology. His reflection in this work clearly illustrates the logical evolution of his moral conviction. His philosophy of action based on the gratifying concept of truth is no longer formulated in aesthetic terms but in anthropological terms. The shifting of the conceptual field in Fred’s work occurred again, and this time occurred seamlessly in the changing fluidity of computerized communication structures. Sociological art, the aesthetics of communication is today post-industrial anthropology, Fred Forest’s moral thought process develops in perfect harmony with the planetary extension of computerized networks of global culture - the anthropologist and the artist, hand in hand.
Fred Forest’s great worth not only lies in this shift of his thought process’ conceptual field. He quite naturally arrives at the heart of things and takes fully accepts the neo-primitivism of our computerized world. Within him I salute, even beyond the clear analysis of an inspired clairvoyant, the power of his essential conviction. In our conversations, he often refers to it as his realistic utopia. Fred Forest is excessively naive about the Internet and proud of it. This pride, that I salute, should entirely be credited to his artistic talent.
Pierre Restany, Paris, 10 September 1999
* « Un procès pour l'exemple», L’harmattan Paris 1999