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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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"AVANT-PROPOS"
Louis-José Lestocart English version
Louis-José Lestocart : l'oeuvre-système invisible ou l'O-S-I English version
 
AUTHORS
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
   
DIFFERENT TEXTS
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)

 

To delight again the world

What is of aesthetic in the communication and conversely

MOEGLIN Pierre (Paris October 1994)

Professor, University Paris Nord, Laboratory of the Sciences of the information and communication

"The step in which I am engaged is a work that takes for object the communication itself. Work of reflection on the communication but also practice of action inside and on this field". Analysis of the communication at the same time as practice of the communication, in the joint of these two objectives resides the essential of the project itself "the Aesthetics of the Communication" of which Fred Forest (1985, p.9) recommends himself as well as to his continuation more than about ten European and Canadian artists. *

Of this project, however, they don't have the appendage. In the plastic arts, the association of an artistic activity and of a step aiming to "construct a phenomenology of the contemporary imaginary" (according to the ambitions of F. Forest and Mr. Costa) goes back, probably less systematized but so actively claimed, at the end of the years 60. Besides, F. Forest (1977, p.33) worked there himself, during several years, within the Sociological Art, movement that he already presents at that time like "an ethics and a praxis of life that founds its means on the empiric development of a sociological practice under pretext of the art, or if one prefers under its cover".

From the Sociological Art to the Aesthetics of the Communication, there are transformations and ruptures however. If these result from the circumstances and the personal itinerary of such or such artist, intervenes there more fundamentally a double awareness done at the same moment and by a high number of plasticians: awareness, on the one hand, of the major role that, conjugating their respective efficiency, audiovisual, data processing and telecommunications start playing in the "life", opening to the artistic intervention as many fields and new objects, awareness, on the other hand exorbitant pretensions of the ideology of the "all communicational" presenting itself insistently as the unique paradigm of a modernity of which, according to Michel Serres (1985), it becomes then urgent "to decipher the messages".

Facing a so insistent pretension, the critical imperative doesn't impose itself less to the artists of the communication that to the researchers on the communication. Deciphering specially urgent than, playing some auto-realization effects, the successes of the communication nourish of themselves. Out of the communication, no saveÖ especially when these are the communicators that, simultaneously, appreciate and make know what deserves to be saved. Such is the context by report to which the project of an aesthetics of the communication asks to be feared.

Media against media

The means of the artists is not those of the researchers. When these demonstrate, leaning on resources of the investigating and with the distance required by the analysis, those show, trying themselves to make of the communication systems themselves, the tools at the same time as the matter of their deciphering.

*This text is published with the agreeable permission of Louise Poissant, professor to the University of Quebec in Montreal, coordinating of a collective work where it represents to appear to the Presses of the university of Quebec).

Also the productions " the more specifically strong, the most strongly specific " (Fargier 1981, p.5) becoming attached to what of media has in our modernity, are they those that make it even inside the media." It is almost, explain J.-P. Fargier, always of tapes and facilities that attacks, one way or the other, to the television. That take by turns the television for target, adversary, rival, alter ego, referent, raw material, model, negative example, loss, brief for Other " And to evoke Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, Douglas Davis as well as Bob Wilson and even Jean-Luc Godard. Tom Sherman (1981, p.28) would deserve also to be for his definition of artist's video: "a television whose particularity makes the whole difference ".

Yet, artists of the communication and researchers on the communication leave all of the same question: from where does come, within our modernity, the devolved central place to the video, to the computer and to the telecommunications? Certainly not, they answer in substance, of the sophistication of these technologies, leading a difference of degree but no of nature in relation to the previous tools. It comes more from that pushing to their limit of the phenomena that are not all new - several are already in germ in the first industrial revolution -, the uses that are made of it are so systematic that they reveal better than before the dimension of mediatization that our relation to the other and to ourselves includes as well as the access that we have to the work, to the leisure and to the culture. And, making that, they also reveal what, via the electronic media, this mediatization can have as specificity.

Certainly and probably, the book and the writing remain in general from afar the fashions the more used. But the hypothesis is that it is not anymore them that structure prioritary our existence and crystallize our representations. As R. Charrier writes (1992, p.96), prolonging Mr. McLuhan and J. Goody, " If the texts emancipate themselves of the shape that escorted them since the first centuries of the Christian era (...) these are, indeed, all intellectual technologies, all operations working in the production of the significance that will be modified. " To what corresponds this subject of F. Forest (1985), widening the perspective to the relations between television and painting: " The first steps of Armstrong on the moon followed on the cathodic screen by hundreds of millions of viewers revitalize our emotion of contemporary man well more that can make it the smile of Mona Lisa and the brush of Leonardo today ".

It is of this dematerialization of the communication by dissociation of the message and of the medium, of the cause and the effect, of the object and its referent, that ensue the symptoms of the communicational modernity: acceleration and transnationalization of the networks of information, computerization of the exchanges and other daily activities, unrealization of the social link and of the public space and increasing duality of the collectivity submitted to a modernization to forced walks that accentuates (rather than it attenuates) the cleavage between those that decide and those that execute (Virilio 1988).

Exasperation

Outside of all judgment of value, to begin the less, merely favored and exemplified by the artists, the revelation of these phenomena already has the tendency to acquire a clearly aesthetic statute. Characteristic, in this respect, the commentary of D. PaIni (1982, p.27) about the videos of Bob Wilson on the " hemorragic working of the television ": " therefore it is not from a denial of the television working that Wilson invents these spots, but it is in aggravating his logic ".

The same "exasperation" is worth for all other media: "To work with the media, on the media, to work the media, it is the same thing", written Jochen Gerz. And to specify: "One doesn't exist without the other. I don't make the painting, the sculpture, the drawing, but I use the photography, the text, the sound, my body and also the mobile picture. " (in The Nouene 1986, p.13). It is why the artists in question are not strictly speaking nor painters or photographers, nor sculptors, nor video-makers or infographist, although using the supports of these arts and enough often combining them with more traditional fashions. What justifies the appreciation of Claude Faure (1991, p.46) for who "the new technologies applied to the arts don't have an autonomous territory. "

Inversely, to resort to the new technologies is not more sufficient to become artist of the communication. It is only by a troublesome confusion that it arrives to the film-makers and experimental video-makers or practitioners of the technological arts to be ranged on the side of those that become attached to what is aesthetics in the communication. In fact, they only put new surfaces of enrollment and other materials to the service of unaltered preoccupation. While being wrong to hold for bygone the practices bound to the "infographical painting", whereas all shows that they won't disappear as quickly (that he hopes). Roy Ascott (1990, p.73) characterizes them pertinently explaining that " even though he was sometimes reduced to striking expressions of simulation, it is the real world that stayed again the main reference. Canvas was digitalized, it is all ".

Also the holdings of the electronic arts raise of the traditional artistic practices or (by the design) of the industrial imagery. In any case, they continue, to the surface of the screens and using renewed devices of visualization, to produce works where, to take the formula of Bill Viola (1984, p.72) "the picture is considered like a stop of the time, a suspended action, an effect of light". More maliciously to their subject, Wolf Vostell exclaims: "the video, it is the watercolors of tomorrow! " (Sorin 1981, p.13).

The artists of the communication, on their side, don't aim in priority to produce some pictures. It is rather against the pictures that they produce something else. The whole question will be to know what.

Devices

At the intersection of the scientific stept and the artistic practice, they achieve devices of communication. Less facilities or environments that real protocols to heuristic finality supposing, at the begin, a familiarity to what Piotr Kowalski (1991, p.15) calls "the objective knowledge" of the phenomena n game: " only the science and the objective knowledge allow this access the real on which each artist wants to act and wants to manipulate".

Familiarity with the "objective knowledge" going sometimes until collaborations with researchers in communication: research provides to the artists the means to catch the situations of communication and these, in return, present to him some more meaningful experimental situations than those of the reality. The example of Roy Ascott (1991,p.19) is characteristic of what gives or could give such a coming and going. Evoking his readings of N. Wiener, he writes: "Then I had the revelation that an art as mine, in the center of which was put the question of the change, could find in the concepts of feedback, of interactivity and relation, axioms equivalent to those that the anatomy, the drawing after model and the formal studies had provided to the art of the past ". Passing what he calls the " primary cybernetics", he works then to implant the networks of which one of the most meaningful applications is, in 1983, "The pleat of the text". It is about, by the telematics, one of the first experiences, as much sociological than aesthetic, of writing from afar in real time and at two levels, every local group, in sixteen cities of the world, elaborating in direct its contribution to a collective text.

Of other artists, notably to the sides of Fred Forest, Natan Karczmar, Stéphane Barron, Christian Sevette or Put Mitropoulos, have, otherwise advanced farther, at least sought-after more systematically these collaborations with teams of researchers. For example, at the time of sessions where two dancers had to coordinate their gestures to achieve an interactive ballet from afar, Mitropoulos finalizes, at the end of the years 80, almost experimental protocols where, better than in the real situations, is showed the function of the procedures and non verbal strategies of communication in video-conference .

Crisis and critique of the modernity

These exchanges of good process by fertilization mutual, exceptional anyway, only correspond to an all small part of the path that scientific step and artistic practice make in parallel before the artists of the communication outrun with the means that are theirs what they know (often very well) of the sociological or psychological approaches of the communication.

For which end? To illustrate what, from a critical view point, they say of the communicational modernity but especially to realize on one more sensitive mode than intelligible of the constituent crisis of this modernity. In other words to express to their manner what takes out of these analyses and especially to answer the questions that they formulate without to be able always to answer.

Crisis of modernity, indeed, whose nature has been well analyzed by M. Weber (1963, pp.69-70) asking the question of what makes the superiority of the modern man on the Hottentot. According to him, this superiority doesn't come from the knowledge that the first has of his environment. On the contrary, if one of both prevails in this respect, it is well the Hottentot. This one, indeed, knows "perfectly how to do to obtain his daily food and he knows what are the institutions that help him". In comparison ourselves, that use the tram daily, we have no idea of the mechanism allowing the machine to start. What on the other hand we know, add Weber, that we can count on the tram. There is the whole difference: the savage lives surrounded of mysterious and unforeseeable powers that he tries to implore by the magic while civilized man believes that, if he wants it, he can master all thing by the forecasting". This belief comes to him from the millennial process of intellectualization resulting of the science and the technical progress and that translates, what Mr. Weber calls, the "disenchantment of the world ".

However, since the time of M. Weber, this process is intensified and, while the disenchantment didn't stop growing, the belief herself poses more and more problems. It is not yet that the new technologies of communication don't try to accredit the idea of a generalizable control everywhere, of an universal transparency and a capacity of intervention omnibus, so long as we wanted it. This idea is even so itself widespread that when it meets some resistance - pandemic, stock crash, pushed of barbarism - these are clearly incomprehensible. Maybe, we tell to ourselves with less and less conviction, we don't want enough to surmount them. Not long ago, in France, the announcer of a meteorological bulletin made this experience, less joking than one could think, to invite the viewers to sign a petition to ask for the return of the beautiful weatherÖ However the problem is exactly that all petitions of the world cannot make come back good weather. The hyper rationality turns around in its opposite, letting see its underlying irrationality. Also, on these two sides, the critique of modernity nourishes the most of the approaches critiques. The side "disenchantment of the world" shows for example of the "dusky perspective of modernity" own to W.Benjamin (1982, p.113) as well as, in another context, of the denunciation by J. Habermas (1973) of the "colonization of the lived world" by "systemic constraints" that make utility in relation to the economic system, the unique criteria to judge the whole human activity. Associated to the other side - the one of irrationality - it also meets in the analyses of J. Baudrillard (1983, p.16) on "the hypertelia", "fatal" excess of causality and finality, presenting itself as the modern society answer to their increasing fragility. Answer, illusory, however, because, at a time vector and factor of this "hypertelia", the "delirium of the communication" (p.95) reveals the very limits of a modernity whose universal mastery will proceeds in fact of a fundamental paralysis: the sense gets lost under the accumulation of the signs. Probably thinking a con trano to the enchantment of the Hottentot or his brother of traditional societies that the ethnologist G. Balandier (1985, p.197) diagnoses: "In this scrambling resulting of the increase and the acceleration of the media flux, the sense dims".

For a dietetics of the communication?

"Is it necessary to find a dietetics of information? , wonder then J. Baudrillard (1983, p.18). In this sense a solution would be to trust the reason: to let to the saturation of the networks and the overcharges of information the care to make the demonstration of their paralyzing effects. So that in counterpart, renewed uses of these systems encourage what J. Habermas (1973, pp.67-68) names "a public discussion, without hindrances and exempt of domination (...) only middle inside which something is possible that deserves to be called "rationalization".

Numerous are the researchers, like J. Habermas, to hope on the regeneration of the communication by the "communicational reason". However, the problem is the one of the conditions of possibility and of the concrete realization of such a revitalization of the public space. Indeed, what is worth the "ideal situation of discussion without hindrances" that has just been suggested when no indication from sociology or political sciences can until now corroborate the idea that it could encourage, telematics and interactive television helping, the advent of a "new public space" (Ferry 1989)? On the contrary, don't the new media add to the ambient hubbub?

Or, second solution, it is necessary to wait that the reason operates against herself, as well as J. Baudrillard suggests it (1983, p.217): "The work of the reason is not at all to invent the sequences, the relations, the sense; of all of this, there are in excess to the departure - it is, on the contrary, (...) to demagnetize the constellations, the inseparable configurations to make some erratic elements vowed then to find their cause or to wander at random " (p.217). Again however, one badly discerns in which conditions the reason, pushing her critical role as far as becoming subversive, could commit herself in a regression process called to open on disorder and luck.

Symmetrically on all sides, one sees it, the critical theoreticians of the modernity meet similar aporias. Beyond the initial pessimism, their hesitations are those of which already testified the thinkers who precede them. Such Mr. McLuhan, oscillating between the denunciation of the cultural massification and the praise of the global village, or the theoreticians of the cybernetics, there seeing by turns and contradictorily the perfect "machine to govern " (notably, the Father Dubarle in France) and the origin of the supreme alienation (N. Wiener).

Disorder of the order

At the origin of these aporias and oscillations that ensues of them the ambivalence own to the inspection by the communicational ascendancy. The artistic practice is well placed to give back. Indeed, on one hand, the regime of a communication affected by the industrialization and working by the industrialization of the society to the standardization and to the normalization of the behaviors as well as to the generalization of the regime of the merchandise that Horkheimer and Adorno (1983, p.129) denounce as the "law of bronze" of the production of the cultural goods. On the other hand, in the very moment where it conditions and normalizes, this regime let nevertheless always place to the critical distance. Especially critical than its conditioning is more violent, would remain to the consumer to tilt before the triumph of the advertisement but "knowing very well to what to hold" (Horkheimer and Adorno 1983, p.176).

Dialectically, therefore the maximal alienation creates the optimal conditions for the return of the Hottentot: the summit of the insurance supposed to have foreseen everything only makes, by default, accentuate the unforeseen of the accident and the breakdown more, that they are either wanted or accidental. The disorder doesn't emerge against the order; it is in the order. And it is to make feel it that the artists of the communication work, on the mode of the radical contest (as Vostell) or on the one of the game (as Paik and Forest). Programmed to be unforeseeable, the landscapes of E. Samakhs and the interactive robots of Norman White are in this respect par excellence the illustrations of this association that, in the same movement, bind the order and the disorder, denying the order by the disorder. Symbols of the calculating reason, they aim to reenchant the communication for reenchanting the world .

Reenchant the world.

In this enterprise the experience of the communication and the one of aesthetics conjugates themselves closely: reenchant the communication, it is not only see and make see its sensitive part all of opacity and of unforeseeable. It is not also only to try "to conceive the culture (ethical) of a "technologized" nature (Musso 1991, p.108). It is also, the other way, to see and to make see the dimension of communication in the heart of all aesthetic experience. Meaningful of this coming and going where the two shapes of reenchantment reinforces themselves mutually, the use of the telematics by Roy Ascott (1991, p.21): "Finally the telematics makes explicit what is implicit in all aesthetic experience, during which the creative element is also distributed between the perception of the viewer and the artist's production. The notion of collective author (dispersed authorship), determining in the works that I propose, underline to what point the interactivity characterizes all contemporary artistic step. The interface is a threshold opened on the undecidable, on a space with the infinite material and semantic potentialities. However, the opening of this "space" supposes the conjunction of the two experiences. The gesture that makes it possible is indeed simultaneously, on the one hand, the one that permits to make escape the real practices of communication of the determinism of what is prescribed to it by the instructions for use and, on the other hand, the one that, in the artistic experience, institutes or restores the principle of an invention shared between those that conceive and those that receive the work.

The same conjunction meets, in a different context, expressed by the "theory of the rabbit" of T. Sherman (1982, p.28) exposing his "theory of the rabbit". Resumption, to the departure, of the critique of the television consumption:

" We have all learned to collect to the television an information of low caliber through the redundant formulas, the implacable strength of the dramatic narration and the visual sensationalism of special effect. "What to do?" It is necessary for us to free us of this conditioning. It is necessary for us to go out, to walk, to breathe the pure air, to recover us ourselves. When we will come back before our television, it will be once more obvious the programming is always a little the same". Nevertheless, if, along the way, we made the unexpected meeting of a rabbit (and, we will add, even if it is not the one of Alice), "the unforeseeable rabbit can however make us see the things in a different way".

From where will the rabbit arrive? There are few chances that it is still pictures themselves. T. Sherman suggests it, counseling us to go out to take air. F. Forest (1985,p.9) confirms it: "the inflation of the pictures conducts inevitably to their devaluation. The Aesthetics looks elsewhere that in the incarnation of the plastic sign his lands of election". Unless, as B. Viola suggests it (1984, p.72), the picture is not where one believes but "in the spectator's head (...) and it is the interaction between the spectator and the picture that counts".

"Elsewhere that in the incarnation of the plastic sign", the artistic intervention produced devices of which it will have there nothing to wait only the unexpected. Unexpected correspondences for example between two spaces - two cities, two museums, two actors and two languages - at D. Davis, one of the first artists (Jochimsen 1985, p.234) to solicit the communications by satellite in real time. More unexpected correspondences again between two times, with Dan Graham making cohabit by mechanisms of slightly deferred retransmission, the present picture and the one recorded some seconds before. Or, more striking again, correspondences between two times or two places so different, as writes it Derrick of Kerckhove (1988, p.122) notably about Tom Klinkowstein and Jean-Marc Philippe, that "the problem is not anymore to know how being at two places at a time, but rather to know what to say and what to do of the between two space".

One could multiply the examples, the important being however to avoid to forget what makes the specificity of the arts of the communication. Not more that they don't confound themselves with the electronic arts, not more they wouldnít be the annex or the reserve of creativeness of the sciences of the communication.

Whatever in this respect say the researchers and sometimes the artists of the communication themselves, it would be notably vain to lend to this last, under pretext of their expertise in unforeseen, talents of the type of those that economist A. The Diberder (1993, p.69) believes find for example at the Nam June Paik of 1963: "The 73 distorted Tv sets constituted the first translation of what was there, at that time, a genius's intuition: the destiny of the television goes beyond the television (...) While clearing the limit of a television of pure receipt, and with more than thirty years of advance, Paik ridiculed the protocols and the classic interfaces, to propose two revolutions,: the interactive television and a new interface with the user." Paik, in other words, would have had, before the sociologists and the specialists of the marketing, the foreknowledge of the new shapes of television.

Reducing and distorted vision, according to us, because if indeed Paik probably ridiculed the classic interfaces, he ridiculed all as much to invent the interactive television. What interested it - and continues to interest it - it is what there is of interactive in the television. It say, more generally, that in the parallel and the circumstantial crosschecks that, in some cases, can be established between Aesthetics and sciences of the communication, it would be illusory to discern the prodroms of a synthesis by confusion of the genres. Would it be placed under the prestigious patronage of a new BauhausÖ.

Bibliography

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-Ascott, Roy (interview with, 1991): " Les artistes devant les nouvelles technologies. Roy Ascott " (The artists before the new technologies. Roy Ascott), Art Press/H.S. Nƒ12, pp.19-22.

-Balandier, Georges (1985): Le Détour Pouvoir et modernité (The Detour Power and modernity), Paris, Fayard.

-Baudrillard, Jean (1983): Les Stratégiesja tales, Paris, Grasset.

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-Faure, Claude (1991): " Mosaïque "(Mosaic), Art Press/H.S. Nƒ 12, pp.40-46

- Ferry, Jean-Marc (1989): " Les transformations de la publicité politique ", Hermès 4, Cognition, communication, politique " Le nouvel espace public " (The transformations of the political advertisement, Hermes 4, Cognition, communication, politics "The new public space", Paris, Editions of the CNRS, pp. 15-26.

-Forest, Fred (1977): Art sociologique (Sociological Art), Paris, UGE, 10/18.

-Forest, Fred (1985): " Manifeste pour une esthétique de la communication ", (Manifest for an aesthetics of the communication),+ - 0, Nƒ43, Brussels, October 1985,.

-Habermas, Jiîrgen (1973): The technique and the science as ideology, Paris, Gallimard, French translation.

-Rorkheimer, Max, Adorno, Theodor W. (1983): La Dialectique de la raison (The Dialectics of the reason), Paris, Gallimard (French translation).

-Jochimsen, Margarithe (1985): " Le temps dans l'art d'aujourd'hui : entre la borne et l'infini " in L'Art et le temps, regards sur la quatrième dimension, (The time in the art of today: between the boundary-mark and the infinite " in LíArt et le temps, regards sur la quatrième dimension, catalog of exhibition, Brussels, Palais des Beaux-arts, pp,.219-239.

-Kerckhove, Derrick of (1988): " À quoi servent les arts de la communication " (To what serve the arts of the communication), Art Press 00122, February 1980, pp.18-20.

-Le Diberder, Alain (1993): " Le déclin de la télévision " (The decline of the television), Médiaspouvoirs 0030, April - June 1993, pp.67-73.

-Le Nouéne, Patrick (1986): "Interview with Jochen Gerz" in Gerz, works on photographic paper 1983-86, Calais, musée des Beaux-Arts, Chartres, pp.12-18.

-Musso, Pierre (1991): " L'Art de l'ordinanthrope " ,Art Press/H.S. nƒ12, pp.103-108

-Paini, Dominique (1982): " Bob Wilson et l'invention de la vidéo " (Bob Wilson and the invention of the video), Art Press, hors-série, special Audiovisuel, June - August 1982, pp.26-27.

-Serres, Michel (1985): Interview , Le Monde 12-13.V.1985, P.IX.

-Sherman, Tom (1981): " La Théorie du lapin et la transformation psychologique des données ", in Musée d'art contemporain (1982): Un aspect différent de la télévision. Tom Sherman: Vidéogrammes et écrits " (The Theory of the rabbit and the psychological transformation of the data ", in Museum of contemporary art (1982): A different aspect different of the television. Tom Sherman: Videograms and written), Montreal, March-April 1982, pp.23-28.

-Sorin, Raphael (1981): " Comment en finir avec la télévision. Dix tentatives de Wolf Vostell " (How to finish with the television. Ten tentatives of Wolf Vostell), Artpress hors-série spécial Audiovisuel, June - August 1982, pp.12-13.

- Viola, Bill (interview achieved by R. Bellour with) (1984): " Líespace à pleine dent" (The space to full tooth), Cahiers du cinéma nƒ hors-série (1986), " Où va la vidéo ?" (Where goes the video?) , pp.65-73.

-Virilio, Paul (1988): La Machine de vision (The Machine of vision), Paris, Galilee.

-Weber, Max (1963): Le Savant et le politique (The Scientist and the politician), Paris, UGE, French translation, reedition.

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