The Night of August 4th 2011

Work :

Unethical video footage witnessing the misery nearby. Rue Rambaud .

Action in which the artist offered to sell this video to the FRAC for a symbolic Euro. A proposal which amounted to selling artist’s soul in order to integrate the Contemporary Art Fund.

Location :

Montpellier, France, night of August 4th 2011.

Link to watch the video on Vimeo

Technical support  Geoffrey Mannet

Campement de SDF devant le FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon.


Reference text :

Montpellier, the night of August 4, 2011,

It was in Madagascar that I was confronted with extreme poverty for the first time. Some people have since said to me: “I couldn’t stand that”. Unfortunately, it is not because we are far from it that poverty does not exist. But it’s true that we can tolerate it better at a safe distance… Okay, enough of the irony. As for me, I need to touch things with my hands. This is my way of trying to understand them. However, there are cases that surpass understanding… Cases, above all, where we lose our beautiful illusions… I want to talk about the way in which we imagine that we would react when faced with certain situations. I saw parents throw their newborn babies on a garbage heap because they couldn’t feed them, I saw children with bellies swollen from starvation, others, all over the world, followed me from hours asking for alms. And what did I do: nothing or almost. I continued on my way. Worse, I had to harden myself to try to resist the daily violence of my position, this paradoxical feeling of envy and repulsion that I aroused in those whom I came, as a tourist, to observe with an embarrassed air. universe that I had undoubtedly helped to destroy. Ultra liberal globalization, mass tourism, frenzied individualism. Everything has been theorized, criticized, put into figures and columns…
But no easy shortcuts. Some of those I pitied found it normal to prostitute their little sister to pay for cigarettes and would not have hesitated to strip me completely if the opportunity had presented itself. As she presented herself, that’s exactly what they did! It was fair game, I don’t blame them. This is what we apparently call the law of nature, where those who can eat others to survive. In our civilized society, which keeps our animality at bay, we sometimes tend to forget it.
When the varnish cracks, this reality catches up with us…Others will say that the wheel is turning. Who knows !
Today I no longer talk about this particular space-time that is travel. No, I’m just asking you: What would you do if people were sleeping outside, right down the street from your house?
For me, the question arose in an incongruous way this summer, placing itself in the field of art. I live next to the FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon which at that time was offering an exhibition “on the theme of the bed”. Passing by it every day, I ended up noticing that opposite, only a few meters away, people were sleeping on boxes. On August 4 (…) I thought it was a bit too much for me to remain indifferent. Especially since the presentation note for the exhibition raised the question of the usefulness of art, I quote: “In other words, is not a work of art just as useless as a bed ? » to be understood backwards as: “on the contrary, both are probably essential”. I could have asked this question directly to those who slept there, but out of respect for them, I did not do so. I also didn’t want to settle for a critique of this exhibition, which was initially unwelcome, but which ultimately posed some good questions. I thought of Jacob Riis and his series “The Other 50%: How They Live and Die in New York” which helped change the situation at the time. To Gustave Courbet, to his paintings and even more to his life, example of commitment. To still others, on the contrary, who wanted to edify the masses: “Bilder sprechen” they said. What about today where the manipulation, the burying under the image has reached a stage of saturation.
The benchmarks are blurred, any action seems suspicious, derisory, opportunistic, “recovered” by a system that feeds on it. How to find one’s way between gently subversive creators, stooges of a luxury industry in search of « more product », a billionaire gigolo, Banier, who files a complaint against the homeless man who slapped him after he had taken a photo of it, interns who work for free for art magazines and who, like Catarina at Flash Art, are told by the boss « that with globalization, even the whores speak four languages and master Indesign », artivists who do not necessarily send a press release for each of their operations.
Whatever one thinks, most artists do not look down on poverty, giving lessons in a peremptory manner, they look it in the eye, on a daily basis. However, if they seem legitimate to talk about it, unease remains. This arises from the contradiction, which seems very telling to me and which is due to the fact that denouncing the misery of others can be seen as an ideal “bearing” subject to put oneself forward? I think that artists are in this an excellent example of this particularity of our time, of this generation which struggles to find a place for itself, in a saturated job market as much as in the hearts of blended families. It is driven by the irrepressible desire to express one’s desire for recognition, which we find, for example, in reality TV, Facebook, etc. Some are ready to sacrifice everything and rely on a lot of convictions to be in the light, to feel a little desired. It’s a temptation experienced by most creators who dream of being “exposed”. In this respect, I find the emergence (and first of all the name) of the Anonymous movement particularly interesting, which attempts to put this egoistic component at bay.
However, this narcissistic inclination in no way prevents artists from being sincerely concerned about growing precariousness, starting with their own. How can we raise this concern in the field of art without falling into grandiloquence, miserabilism or instrumentalization.
More precisely, how can I face the situation that concerns me, articulate my contradictions, how can I resist ready-made solutions, the first of which is always to do nothing?
Contrary to what the adage advises, when I can’t think, I am in favor of acting. Without fixed ideas, I wanted to implement a principle of action-reaction, of the butterfly effect. Let myself indulge in spontaneity. It was my way of responding with the absurd to the question from the director of the FRAC. I took this as an axiom of elementary physics: Everything you do has consequences, even exposure.
Video came naturally to me, perhaps a little because it is a medium of which I do not master any of the techniques or any of the codes. With the help of a friend, I decided to get to the point, to simply bear witness to these two juxtaposed realities.

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