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Fred Forest - Retrospective
Sociologic art - Aesthetic of communication
Exhibition Generative art - November, 2000
Exhibition Biennale 3000 - Sao Paulo - 2006
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Louis-José Lestocart English version
Louis-José Lestocart : l'oeuvre-système invisible ou l'O-S-I English version
Vinton Cerf English version
Priscila Arantes Curator of the exhibiton "Retrospective au Paço das Artes" English version
Michaël F Leruth English version
Evelyne Rogue French version
Annick Bureaud English version
Mario Costa English version
Jean Devèze English version
Vilem Flusser English version
Derrick de Kerckhove English version
Pierre Lévy English version
Marshall McLuhan English version
Pierre Moeglin English version
Frank Popper English version
François Rabate English version
Pierre Restany English version
Pierre Restany English version
Pierre Restany English version
Pierre Restany English version
Edgar Morin English version
Harald Szeemann English version
1 - Synthetisis note on the activities of Fred Forest
2 - Manifests Sociological Art (1974) and Aesthetics of the Communication (1983)
3 - The Aesthetics of the Communication by Fred Forest (1983)
4 - For an Aesthetics of Communication - Fred Forest
5 - The Video family by Fred Forest (1976)
6 - Learn to watch TV through the radio by Fred Forest and Pierre Moeglin (1984)   
7 - Why present his candidacy for President of the Bulgarian TV by Fred Forest (1991)



by Louis José Lestocart

This text has been originaly published on the MCX site of the European program on the modelling of the complexity created by Edgar Morin

          The term “work of art” (referring to a painting, installation, sculpture, or video), appeals particularly to visual and sound perceptions and is most often “defined” by its material supports, seems to have become an inadequate term to translate the constantly moving and mutating world that surrounds us.  Fred Forest, academic and communication artist, assures us that works can exist (invisible-system-works) as active “forcefields.”  If there exists a physical world of the invisible that can be recorded and quantified with the help of certain instruments, there also exists, according to Forest, the possibility of connecting with the forces and elementary energies that make us wave fields in continuous pulsation, deciding our particular states of being in the world.  In Les Cahiers and L’Introduction à la méthode de Léonard de Vinci (1895), Paul Valéry cites Faraday’s “lines of force” in relation to the written work and to the construction of the Self, joining what Leonardo da Vinci affirms: “The air is filled with infinite straight and radiant lines, intersecting and weaving themselves without one ever taking the same path as another, and they represent for each object the true FORM of their reason (of their explanation).”  Even if the idea of “forces” in Art History is not new—in movements like Dada (end of the 1910s-beginning of the 1920s) and its survival in Fluxus (beginning of the 1960s), “process-oriented” works-events (happenings) foreshadow the invisible-system-works—it remains topical and promises a renewed vision.

          Influenced by the aesthetic of flux of Mario Costa, co-founder with Forest of the International Movement of the Aesthetic of Communication (1983), Forest defines the invisible-system-work (I-S-W) as an“architecture of information, a spatio-temporal flux, a process of electromagnetic frequencies, bundles of waves (of a physical or animal origin), cognitive work, and manipulations of mental objects without physical supports. [1] ”  This hidden art, beyond appearances and the visible, is also made up of psychic energies and systems of sensation.  A variety of elements underlie the I-S-W, at the heart of a Perceivable Reality itself formed on a variety of levels (geographic, spatial, social, communicational).  To define them, Forest describes several categories: localization, delocalization, memory, communication technology, distant control, distant presence, feedback, recursivity, etc.  These categories are not absolute so as to permit the creation of “dazzling sights” through novel parallels.  They can be summarized by three parameters: 1) systems or “architectures of information” (information seen as a volatile and abstract substance) that are often multimedia in nature with the intention of provoking associative mental images in the spectator; 2) invisibility (the material appearance is not in itself the work); 3) relational principles inscribed in contemporary developments in networking. [2]   The I-S-W joins Umberto Eco’s concept of the “open work,” introducing the notions of system, randomness, and the implication of the spectator in the process proposed by the artist.

          In relation to the body, the I-S-W is made up of dynamic ensembles of mental and infra-perceptive images, visual and auditory signs that we recall in cerebral activity. [3]   We ourselves are a system that functions in the framework of a more global system called the Universe, a system that auto-organizes its observations and, in turn, regulates its dependent sub-systems.  It is in this perspective that we must henceforth consider art.  The discovery of a universe that defies logic (Lobatchevski’s and Riemann’s non-Euclidian geometries, Einstein’s Relativity, quantum physics and microphysics where the elementary particle becomes readable either in waves or in corpuscles), which proves well enough that nature could escape the visible order, pushes us in this direction.  Relativity in particular asks us to rethink a space and a time that do not exist on their own but rather in categories of organically structured substances (space-time).  Historically, these notions that could be neither observed nor formally examined, tended to be developed considerably in the mind.  In 1922, Nikolai Taraboukine, a Russian constructivist and art critic, thus announced the death of art as a determined form in favor of art seen as “a creative substance.”  And Valéry, in La conquête de l’ubiquité (1928), indicated that the works of the future “would acquire a sort of ubiquity.”  According to Valéry, we would know how to transport or reconstitute, in every instance, every kind of object or event in terms of an image or a metaphor (the Greek word metaphora signifies “transport”) carrying meaning, emotion, and sensation.  A problem currently resolved almost entirely by the mass-media, the Internet, the dominant informational space—along with more recent avatars such as the cellular phone, and GPS, without forgetting the older media (radio, television, video); solutions proving more surprising every day.  When the physical supports remain more or less visible and tangible, they are no longer the constitutive element of intrinsic artistic “content.”

          In this perspective, as early as 1918, Kazémir Malevitch created White on White: a moment of open space and pure spirit, a canvas “pushed to the limits of its frame” [4] which seems to reach for a fourth dimension—indeed an n-dimensional space.  This nth dimension is further theorized by numerous artists of the period including Marcel Duchamp, an avid reader of Poincaré’s Science et Méthode and La valeur de la science“Not to render the visible but to render things visible” (Paul Klee).  Under the aegis of Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass, 1915-1923), in 1942 in the New York review VVV (1942), André Breton evokes the notion of Grands transparents; that is to say, myth as the origin of art.  In 1958, Yves Klein designs an exhibition, The Void at Iris Clert’s gallery as a dematerialization of the work and, at the same time, an exhibition of invisible energies.  In 1969, Robert Barry, at the head of a conceptual movement studying “carrier waves” since 1968, creates a “telepathic” piece.  Other “atmospheric” artists (Olafur Eliasson, Hans Haacke), became famous for their work on the subject.  Closer to our time, Roy Ascott, artist-theorist of telematic art, advocated the existence of moistmedia, an art of “humid” media transforming the relationships between artificial and natural domains, consciousness and the material world.  A meeting of bits, computational systems, atoms, neurons, and genes where the body becomes an interface and where the computer is lived as an environment that permits a global redefinition of the human being and of his environment in terms of interacting energetic spaces.  On this question of the ultimate interface, linking the brain and computer science (the dream of connectionists since McCulloh), Michael Dertouzous, professor at MIT, develops the system of body-network, synthesis of machine and body, of the network and its bodily metaphor. [5]

          It is this role that Forest’s I-S-W would like to fill by linking, in a transdisciplinary aim, themes as varied as neuroscience, esthetics, psychology, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, information and communication sciences, physics (electromagnetism) and to a certain extent parapsychology, telepathy, etc.  As a complex entity, if each work is a whole, this whole is not limited to the sum of its parts but rather becomes something greater.  It constitutes a kind of interiorized mental circulations and remains more than an “organic unit that individualizes itself and limits itself in spatial and temporal fields of perception and representation.”  The intellectual act (intentionality) dominates here and unifies the work.  This intellectual act which is likely, retroactively, to sharpen an intuition that we could qualify as an associative sensitivity.  The I-S-W is also a cognitive work.  Forest understands the word cognitive as a relation between the subject/receptor/host and the reality of the sensation of what he perceives and feels, which we then must analyze and put into signs.

          A sensation that would perhaps be Aesthetics, that which we can not usually be represented but which can become suddenly “present,” raising the question: How can art (and how can a being) adapt to the world?  For the creation of such a work, the Other’s presence is necessary.  The I-S-W, then, concerns Life; constantly to be lived, it makes itself through people, with living things (if there is no one, it does not exist).  It also concerns perception, even though it is not summarized by signs that display the presence of something, of a work.  In some ways, this hidden, absent/present work (in absentia) is not revealed until it is announced.  Often we do not “see” it because there are no images.  However, we can feel it through signs, lights, and sounds; there are moments where the work speaks to us.  These moments are due to what the artist/conceiver puts in place and do not render the work “visible” but merely perceptible and readable.  Thus, it can only be manifested under certain conditions; it becomes visible once the artist or the audience signals its presence.  In certain cases, it can only exist through the sensitivity of the audience, in a way that each visitor is a participating fragment in the whole. [6]

          Since it does not have a physical substrate, the I-S-W never (or at least never entirely) manifests itself in a given material object but rather in a mental object, a work of the mind that is shapeless, of a “transparent immateriality,” and based on a dynamic exchange that gives primacy to the relational; it recovers a new artistic practice that can develop works escaping common vision, everywhere in the world, instantaneously, in the “here and now.”  It reconstructs given configurations of invisible networks, with their varying degrees of complexity.  Thanks to their suppleness and precision, the artist can use them to situate his methods of emission and his multimedia and hypermedia methods of reception, all organized as an interactive system.  Conceived as an “anti-milieu” or “antidote” allowing us to better perceive Reality, the I-S-W according to Forest is more than ever a way to change perception and judgment.

Louis-José Lestocart

Translated by Bambi F. Billman

Over the course of his years of artistic exploration Fred Forest has explored many fields, from video art to and from Sociological Art to the Esthetic of Communication.  He is currently engaged in a new problematic reaching toward an aesthetics of Complexity.

[1] According to Mario Costa, philosophical thought can only be the function of technology transferred and translated into thought.  A theme that existed already in the dematerialized fluxes that govern stocks and shares.

[2] Artistic movements like Sociological Art (1969) and the Aesthetic of Communication, both co-founded by Forest, have already referred to these principles and were the foreshadowing of the kind of works for which reception is collectively constituted.  Fred’s “press experiments,” such as the publication of a white space in Le Monde (12 January 1972) consist less of the presence of these spaces (435,000 total) at the heart of a great daily occurrence than in the process it inaugurates: active mental participation on the part of the audience.  Another event concocted by the artist, Parcelle-Réseau (16 October 1996) was to sell at public auction at the Hôtel Drouot an online digital monochrome.  Looking to modify the very notion of art and give the work a new form, these experiments belong to a specific communicational phenomenon that we call the “aesthetic of communication.”  The work is meant to be a communicational event of which certain elements are immediately visible (the object represented) and others are “invisible” (negotiations surrounding the preparation of the event, protocols, reactions, etc.).

[3] According to neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, the latter is like a continuously changing landscape in which objects more or less luminous and more or less noisy are present.

[4] « Le vivant se transformait en un état d’immobilité morte. On prenait tout vivant, frémissant, et on le fixait sur la toile, comme on fixe des insectes dans une collection. » (The living was transformed in a state of dead immobility.  We took everything living, trembling, and we pinned it on canvas as one pins insects in a collection). Kazémir Malevitch, Du cubisme et du futurisme au suprématisme. Le nouveau réalisme pictural (1916).  Ecrits I, Lausanne, L'âge d'Homme, 1974.  p. 56

[5] It is worth noting that these questions of immateriality and virtuality are now completely banal for numerous artistic practices like art on the Internet or; see Forest’s site for some examples.

[6] Thus the exhibition Making Things Public-Atmospheres of Democracy at the ZKM in Karlsruhe (2005) shows a kind of algorithmic abstraction, a “phantom” Démon-démos (this is its name) of the artist Michel Jaffrennou.  Distant mechanisms of interaction (200 sensors in the walls) linked to real-time analytical systems—and all in an Artificial Intelligence architecture made of 350 digital objects—collecting information about visitors (presence, gestures, movements, positions adopted amongst them and in the exhibition) create, step by step, states of the “phantom” of the audience; a sort of “signifying invisible.”


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