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
Edgar Morin English version
Harald Szeemann English version
Sophie Lavaud 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)



Frank POPPER (Paris, January 1994 )

Professor of Aesthetics and Sciences of the Art, University of Paris VIII.

It is probably daring to answer straightaway to the question: "what is an artist ?". However, I would take the liberty to make a suggestion: to be an artist, itís choose and pursue, with a certain perseverance, an aesthetic finality. It is this that makes that a man or a woman becomes and remains artist. However, it is necessary to underline that good number of artists defends themselves to pursue an aesthetic goal under pretext that their creativeness is of spontaneous nature and non calculated nor rationally thought. This great objection that often comes back in the mouth of the artists of all kinds is denied evidently by the artists who use the new technologies, and notably by all of them that produce some calculated pictures of synthesis. What characterizes the technological art, indeed, it is the emergence in this domain of a lot narrower relation between aesthetic and technical factors and also the introduction of new notions in aesthetics assimilated to categories as the dematerialization, the simulation, the artificial intelligence, the environment, the virtual reality and the interactivity. I would like to add that the aesthetic categories touched by the artistic creation at the end of the XXth century are of a very high variety and that the different "systems" elaborated by Étienne Souriau, Charles Lalo and Raymond Bayer, among others, would deserve a reactualization that takes into account the introduction of the new technologies by the artists, in their artworks and in their processes of creation.

To approach the main theme of this communication, we will suppose that an artist using the new technologies, it is the one that pursues not only, consciously or unconsciously, an aesthetic finality with a certain perseverance, but it is also the one that chooses to make the beautiful part to the rational thought and to the mathematical calculation. It is necessary to underline, however, that among the artists using new technologies, it is a good number of artists using them in a wild or indirect manner. In this case, it is about, surely, an ironic critique, or even stern, of the scientific thought and sometimes here of a tentative to achieve metaphysical aims. If I chose to concentrate me mainly on artists acquired to the aesthetic values of the new technologies, it is that I believe myself more close to them because of my previous works (on the kinetic Art, the Environment and the Involvement of the public) but it is also to tempt to clear more directly the aspects of a deep mutation of the civilization that seem largely bound to the arrival of these new technologies in all material and spiritual spheres of our life and that touch, undoubtedly, the artistic creation.

If there is any doubt to have as for artist's statute among many practitioners, we could bend on the case of "technological" artists who operates to the confines of the actual artistic field. Fred Forest is an example of them. He dedicates himself indeed to what one can call the art of the communication and it is sure that we are there enough far from the idea of the painter or the sculptor of the past centuries. In the case of Fred Forest, one could even say that the art came out of its field to enter in the one of the media, or even of the advertisement. And yet, an attentive analysis of the course and the activities of Forest reveals us that it is always about a real artist, his options and his behavior being those of a creator of new values of aesthetic order, gotten by a work on the communication, challenging work, certainly but nevertheless sensitive. This step is not illustrated anymore by the production of tangible objects and physically materialized but by the production of systems of communication and various situations.

If one wants to seize the sense of the relations between subjective factors and social factors in the history of Fred Forest, it is necessary to know that he was from 1954 to 1970, controller of the Postes and Telecommunications in Algeria, what had to, we see it, orient his artistic career that first of all took place in the same way to this employ (he was then artist painter), to end up in 1970 making clear him a decisive step. Of agent of the Postes and Telecommunications, Fred Forest became indeed a "artist" of the communication, inaugurating an inventive and creative practice of the networks and of the human relations. This existential transformation is not quite miraculous. It was to replace in the context of 1968-70, at the time of the anti-cultural movements that assimilated the life to the art and that valorized the creativeness of each in the domain of the daily. This existential transformation at Forest is also bound to the new technology introduction in his step. He is at this time among the first, otherwise the first, in France, to use the video and the closed circuits of television. In 1970, he achieves an audiovisual spectacle to the World Fair of Osaka before intervening directly in the press and others mass-media, almost everywhere in the world. His devices of communication use the telephone, the radio, the television, the telematics and the cable.

Among his numerous interventions, I will mention the "Sociological Walk in Brooklyn", peripheral district of São Paulo, to Brazil, in October 1973. The artist publishes daily announcements in the local press and to the radio, inviting all publics confounded to call the MAC (Museum of Contemporary Art) to take rank and to enroll, in order to do a walk in his company. In a way Fred Forest proposed to the participants to move in the district, according to a prepared in advance itinerary. To every stage, the group visited different trades: the record-dealer, the greengrocer, the shoemaker, the bank, the supermarket, the church and finallyÖ a gallery of art. Fred Forest aimed thus to the investigating of an urban zone identified through its different activities: commercial, administrative, cultural. With the help of the participants, he wanted to make the experience of the daily reality, to reveal the internal relations and to create micro-events of communication permitting the establishment of a circulation of information by a direct intervention on the environment. The artistic career of Fred Forest is also marked by his adhesion to the Collective of Sociological Art, active until the end of the years 70, then to the International Group of the Aesthetic of the Communication. The one and the other of these movements united the plasticians and theoreticians (sociologists and beauticians) and gave them the possibility to appear individually as artist practitioner after having tempted in common a theoretical development.

Lately, Forest dedicated himself to the production of works and environments on newspapers to electronic diodes uniting two features of his step: the one of the prompt interventions in the mass-media and the one of the use of the advanced technologies. One of his last works of this type, the " Bible pulled out from the sands " that was titled to the origin the electronic Bible and the Gulf War, made to appear simultaneously, a luminous parade of quotations of the former Will and excerpts of articles of newspapers telling the fights of the Gulf War. So were juxtaposed, as in the painting of quotation, long enumeration of military equipment and long genealogies pulled out from the Bible. Forest wants thus to attract the attention on the fact that history can repeat itself through similar speeches: he evidently ridicules also the stereotyped declarations of the politicians and the military leaders. All the interventions of Fred Forest that fit in the socio-politic actuality are of nature defiant and critical but they invite to pursue a reflection, even though they irritate a little some by their aggressiveness. They have at the end a function of questioning, of communication, of interactivity, of relational, that confirms the artistic objectives of Forest whose fiercely independent character can be compensated thus by will to bind intense relations with those that he meets around the events that they provoke. This step conceals a whole aesthetic objective range bound to the techniques of the communication: in particular the dramatization of the physical presence from afar, the telescoping of the immediate and the retarded, and also the combination of the memory with real time. One could discover again in the step of Forest multiple aesthetic aspects bound to the question of the interactivity and the human relations.

At Fred Forest, as other artists of the aesthetics of the communication, the introduction of new technologies in their processes of creation and in their works has for result to answer at a time their individual ambitions, of psychological order, and to their desire of social insertion. On the one hand, there is the stake to their disposition of very effective tools that allows to the artists a greater choice of shapes and of colors and encourage a better control of the spatial and temporal parameters of the creation. They are so placed in a situation where the exercise of their power of creation is amplified, what can only reinforce their artistic personality. On the other hand, it is sure that the artists of new technologies withdraw a high satisfaction and a good existential stimulant of the abstract information handling, at a time mentally and manually (it is especially the case in the art of the computer). The abstract data manipulation cannot only lead to the virtual reality institution in a cybernetic space but also to the realization of aims even more utopian and metaphysical.

As for the influence on the social level of the adoption by the artist of new technologies, we saw in some cases what role they can play, for example while opposing of fact to the artist's traditional solitude. Good number of artists opted indeed for a team work in a perfected laboratory that it was until now impossible to install and to maintain oneself. However, insofar as we attend a more and more widespread miniaturization of all technological devices (and especially of the computer), it is not anymore as difficult to procure themselves nor to install them at home, what could really send back the artist to his initial isolation if we didn't benefit otherwise from the development of the networks of telecommunications.

In any case, it is obvious that for the technological artists - as for all artists in general - the auspicious mixture between lone creation and collective creation, or between necessary solitude time at the conception and time of confrontation with other creators or with the public, represent a vital necessity. Maybe what I find more successful among the technological artists, it is the passage from one to the other of these modes and therefore a very flexible coming and going between the psychological and the sociological. Among the artists of the new technologies, there is necessarily a bigger necessity to confront not only his aesthetic options with those of the other actors of the artistic stage but again to compare the state, from day to day, of his own technical devices with the whole of the technological domain in constant development.

To be artist, to feel such, to be recognized like such depends therefore, as we saw, not only of psychological and sociological factors but also of aesthetic factors - which are closely overlapped with the first. Thus, it is not necessary to underestimate the fact that the pursuit of an aesthetic finality such the visualization of the hidden phenomena in the universe, the enhancement of new temporal and spatial aspects, or the establishment of unpublished reports between artist/work/spectator by interactive processes, from more and more numerous artists, everywhere in the world, has as consequence the formation of a tendency or a very definable artistic current that can be designated under the term of technological art or techno-scientific art.

In conclusion, I will limit myself to observe that the adhesion to a tendency or to an artistic current anchored in the movement of the ideas of the time, appears to me more than ever indispensable to define himself and to be defined as artist; and in all state of reason, Fred Forest is well one of them!


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