|Fred Forest - EXPOSITION NYC 2018
The counterattack of the Square Meter Territory.
We have never seen anything like this! Just a few months after being invited to have a major retrospective of his work at the Pompidou Center in Paris, an artist is returning the favor by making the Pompidou Center the object of an exhibition in New York! I, Fred Forest, am that artist.
As both an artist and a concerned citizen, I am holding this exhibition in a spirit of objectivity and parody. Objectivity insofar as I am content to present the relevant documents with minimal commentary and leave it up to the public to interpret those documents as it sees fit and to arrive at its own conclusion. Parody as is evident the title I have chosen, in a nod to a cult series known to all: “The Territory of the Square Meter Strikes Back”.
As in Star Wars, there is a luminous and obscure FORCE, which artists, like the JEDI, know how to use in ways that defy logic to resist the henchmen of an abusive and usurping power. The force is a principle of metaphysical, ethical, and social equilibrium that exerts itself on the entire universe and against museums, art fairs, collectors and the market in particular. It is treacherous work that one would have to be crazy to do, and no Jedi is ever guaranteed success. No matter what the future holds, it is the fight that matters here and now! So let us fight!
Whoever you are, wherever you live, and however you get here (plane, subway, horseback, on foot, or online), do not miss this exhibition. Depending on your views, you will find it either messianic and consciousness-raising or ironic and amusing. This exhibition foretells of changes in the art world that will be either trivial or irreversible!
In this pivotal moment in history when humanity is confronted with drastic changes that are being felt the world over in every field of human endeavor, you have the choice between being a passive “viewer,” as you are in front of a Duchamp, or a committed “participant” and agent of change. This exhibition presents a dozen actions that demonstrate my lifelong commitment to unsparing institutional and political critique, giving the most attention to the most recent one: the Territory of the Square Meter’s epic struggle of resistance against the Centre Georges Pompidou or, to be more exact, those responsible for its turn to the DARK SIDE. May the Force be with us.
Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the College of William and Mary
Fred Forest has been an outsider and rebel all his life and he is not going to stop now. Not because he is eighty-four years old. Not because it is high time for him to step back and smell the roses as his work becomes the subject of a growing number of scholarly articles, doctoral dissertations, conference presentations, books, and exhibitions the world over (e.g., Brazil, United States, France, Bosnia, Germany). And certainly not because he has just been treated to what any other French artist would consider a consecration: a major retrospective at the Pompidou Center in Paris (July 12 – August 28, 2017). For Fred Forest, being a rebel is not the same as being a terrorist: someone who seeks to stir up discord through sensational acts of destruction. And it is not the same as staging outrageous publicity stunts: cultivating the branded persona of the “bad boy” for the sake of fame and fortune. It is about a passionate, uncompromising, and utopian commitment to freedom. About carving out small spaces, or liminal moments, of freedom—for freer uses of modern means of communication, freer perspectives on society, freer forms of human interaction, freer ways of making and sharing art—in a world where the institutional powers that be would have things otherwise. More controlled. More respectful. More hierarchical. More profitable. More predictable. More passive. More distracted by spectacle. More conservative. More appropriate. More structured. More carefully curated. Think of Bakhtin’s theories on the subversive nature of carnival. Think of Michel de Certeau’s analogy of poachers and trespassers who maneuver artfully in the proprietary cultural and urban spaces (lieux propres) shaped by and for the powerful. Think of Hakim Bey’s temporary autonomous zones. Or think of Forest’s own definition of sociological art, a movement he helped to pioneer: neither sociology nor art, but a form of radical sociological praxis that operates under the cover of art.
Prof. Michael Leruth talks to us about his latest book,
Le M2 de Fred Forest par Sophie Lavaud
DOUBLE STANDARD ON THE PART OF THE MANAGEMENT OF THE POMPIDOU CENTER AND DISCRIMINATION AMONG ARTISTS EXHIBITED IN DIFFERENT CONDITIONS DEPENDING ON WHETHER THEY ARE THE FAVORITE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE SYSTEM OR PARIAS COMING FROM ELSEWHERE …
BELOW ARE THE 18 KEY GRIEVANCES THAT HAVE ROUSED THE TERRITORY OF THE M2 FROM ITS PACIFICISM TO LAUNCH A FIERCE COUNTERATTACK AGAINST THE POMPIDOU CENTER IN THE INTEREST OF PRESERVING ITS SOVEREIGNTY AND INDPENDENCE.A COUNTERATTACK THAT MAY INCLUDE INVOKING THE ARTIST’S RIGHTS AND PREJUDICIAL TREATMENT BY THE CENTER AT THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE.
CONDITIONS IMPOSED ON FRED FOREST
1. Reduction in the duration of the exhibition by five weeks in comparison with exhibitions of the same type that have traditionally been organized for an artist’s retrospective.
2. Rescheduling of the exhibition during the middle of summer instead of what was originally agreed to.
3. The exhibition was relegated to the basement level of the Center even though all major retrospectives devoted to artists worthy of the honor are staged on the 6th floor, the “noble” space that offers genuine recognition to an artist.
4. After being asked to come to the Center some time before the opening of the exhibition for a recording intended to be used during the celebration of the Center’s 40th Anniversary, the artist was disappointed to find he had been a victim of censorship: his sequence had been cut at the last minute without explanation or apology.
5. Following the refusal to give the artist a contract (letter of intent), said artist had to wait in limbo for two years and six months from the moment he was officially notified about the decision to hold the exhibition before any concrete steps were taken to planning for it. This was detrimental to the proper preparation of the exhibition.
6. In the absence of this legally binding document, the artist was unable to take the necessary steps to find sponsors, who were indispensable considering the lack of funding from the Pompidou Center. Although this is supposed to be its purpose, the Center’s patronage and development department categorically refused to have any contact with the artist. This was also the case of the publications department, responsible for publishing catalogues.
7. The grid-like layout of the Territory, which should have been traced on the pavement of the Place Georges Pompidou according to the original project agreed to in principle, was never carried out, thereby depriving the artist of a key presence outside the building for involving the public.
8. For the first time ever since the creation of the Pompidou Center, an artist given a retrospective was not given a printed catalogue published by the Center. Once the artist had found the funds needed to print one on his own, both the Director of the Pompidou Center’s National Museum of Modern Art (MNAM) and the exhibition’s curator refused to write a preface and introduction, as is normally done.
9. Compared to the initial project, duly accepted by the Center, the Institution did not make sufficient resources available to carry out the project in spirit or form.
10. The retrospective was grossly incomplete because the last 20 years of the artist’s activity, certainly the richest insofar as they encompass his pioneering work on the Internet and Second Life, were totally overlooked.
11. Given the public success of the exhibition, acknowledged by none other than the General Secretary of the Center himself, and in consideration of timing during the summer—a period of the year when many people who might have been interested were on holiday—the artist made a legitimate request for its extension or reprise at a later date; however, neither of these suggestions was accepted.
12. Total dereliction of duty on the part of the exhibition’s curator, who was noticeably absent during its preparation as well as during the staging of the two collective performances that were planned for the project a long time in advance.
13. A further failure on the part of the curator to make inquiries about the exhibition’s travelling to a foreign institution in spite of contacts that were obtained for her by the artist.
14. The curator is also responsible for cancelling a joint project with the National Museums of Canada and the BRAVO Association that the artist had himself initiated.
15. The cherry on the cake: the invoice issued by the Pompidou Center, which the curator personally delivered to the artist in an attempt to force him to pay for the museum’s security guards for the duration of the exhibition, the staff members on site to coordinate things, a number of insurance premiums, and finally the cost of setting up the installations involving the Virtual Reality and network actions. Why not also the buffet served on the day of the inauguration (if there had been one)? Obviously, the artist will never accede to this demand for payment (see the attached copy of the document in question).
16. Also left uncovered by the Center were the costs relating to Michael Leruth, an academic specializing in the artist’s work, who came from the United States in order to take part in a round table discussion of the artist’s career with the curator.
17. Finally, the head of the Center’s communications department hit rock bottom with the preparation of the artist’s network action. Incapable of anticipating or appreciating how the institution’s image on the international stage would benefit from a large-scale operation using the Internet, he preferred to put the key under the mat and go off on holiday, designating two subordinates from his department to take over. I did not have the opportunity to meet the two individuals in question even once, despite my many attempts.
18. To end on a more positive and personal note, I would like to say that I am very pleased to have been able to stage this retrospective exhibition in spite of the innumerable problems which I sadly had to face. Difficulties are part of the game and I consider myself privileged because many other artists will never have this chance! Nevertheless, I must confess that the existence and success of this exhibition were both due solely to the artist and his capacity for resistance against the Institution’s calculated arbitrariness and hypocrisy.
Now it is time for younger artists to take back power from the Institutions. I have just shown that it is possible.
Letter of “Discharge of Liability” that the Pompidou Center, through his curator, wanted to make the artist sign—something that he has steadfastly refused to do in spite of the implied threats of cancellation that were left hovering over his exhibition.
Discharge of Liability
I, the undersigned, Fred Forest, as artist and lender of all of the works, installations, and documents listed below, have been informed of the security conditions of the Forum -1 space without the presence of security and reception personnel. I therefore declare myself to have been informed of the risks incurred by the items presented for the duration of the exhibition, including assembly and disassembly.
However, a precise inventory of the items will be made by the Pompidou Center at the opening and closing of the exhibition.
Accordingly, I am releasing the Pompidou Center from any liability in case of disappearance or total or partial deterioration of the items and I expressly waive any claim to compensation or restoration due to total loss and/or depreciation resulting form any natural or manmade disaster that could affect them for the duration of the exhibition at the Pompidou Center, or during round-trip transport and assembly/disassembly operations.
… some pictures of the exhibition space :
White Box (WBX) is a non-profit arts organization located in the Lower East Side – Chinatown. Founded by a group of international artists and curators in 1998, WBX’s mission continues to follow the core of its original mandate, which is to develop and present a dynamic roster of engaging programs that give visibility to thought-provoking and socially relevant art. WBX is committed to not only showcase experimental work by local, national and international emerging and/or established artists, but to also spotlight those that are underrepresented, providing them with the opportunity to connect with diverse audiences.
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