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1989

Rituels télématiques pour nuits blanches

ARCTIC CIRCLE, U.S.S.R.
4 TO 26 AUGUST 1989

Communication  Criticism and Ethics 

Typology: Mail art

Rituels télématiques pour nuits blanches
1989

Rituels télématiques pour nuits blanches

CERCLE ARCTIQUE, URSS - 4 AU 26 AOÛT 1989

One day, early in the morning, the phone rang on the M2 Territory. A man introducing himself as Misha Lobko (whom I don't know!) asked me: "Would you like to go with me and three other artists to the Arctic Circle? I'm interested in your work. If you're interested in travelling, you've got two days to get me to work on your project and we'll leave at the end of the week". My project, which I improvise on the spot, is to go to the Arctic Circle to prove that the scientists are all wrong and that the Arctic Circle is in fact not a circle but a square measuring one metre by one metre...

We met at Orly airport where I got to know Misha, his secretary, his two cameramen and the two young women artists we had chosen to accompany us. During the journey Misha explains to me that he has been given a budget to make films about the Soviet Kolkhozes and that, as a lover of contemporary art, he is diverting part of it to make this film with us. Before arriving at the Arctic Circle, we had to take the plane several times, as well as rickety buses and unbelievably slow railcars, which allowed us to discover the Soviet Union in all its depths as we passed through St Petersburg. Throughout the journey, I kept a logbook in which I wrote down my thoughts, but also the tickets for the estaminets where we stopped for a quick yoghurt or hot tea. I discover the qualities of Misha of Russian parents, who mothers us individually with the attentive care of a father for his offspring... I can't remember the names of the many towns and villages we pass through. Misha settles all the difficult cases we come across with bottles of vodka, which he miraculously pulls out of his large pockets at just the right moment, and we make our way to our destination. As it was spring, the rivers we took on makeshift boats were no longer frozen and we arrived near Arkhangelsk after stopping for a fortnight in a small town awaiting administrative authorisation. We are in a region that is off-limits to foreigners because of the presence of nuclear submarines. While we waited, Misha struggled with his bottles of vodka to keep our hotel rooms or to find a vehicle to take us a few kilometres away to shoot on a site we had pointed out to him. Misha explained to us as a coach that when we arrived somewhere with his bottles of vodka, he had three people to water in turn: the military, the politicians and the party administration! Every time we stop in a small town, he accompanies me to the post office, from where I send telegrams to the Academy of Sciences around the world to tell them about the progress of my research into the Arctic M2.

Concept

An artistic demonstration that the scientists were wrong! Contrary to popular belief, the Arctic Circle is not a circle, but a square measuring one metre by one metre.
The action unfolds during a journey that takes him to the Arctic Circle and consists of a series of measurements that he takes until the end of his journey. As the measurements continued, the artist's hypothesis was confirmed. Unfortunately, during his last survey at right angles to the Arctic Circle itself, an unfortunate failure in the technology made it impossible to read the result.
Doubts therefore remain... pending a second polar expedition with the same scientific research objectives. Throughout the project, we'll be making visual connections between the respective symbolism of the circle and the square.

Device

  • A 3-person video team, directed by Michka Lobko
  • A cruise ship and an icebreaker
  • A first-generation Mac SE 30 laptop
  • An oscilloscope
  • Portable ultrasonic sonar
  • Logbook and pencil
  • 27 bottles of vodka

During a journey that took him successively to Moscow, Leningrad, Arkhangelsk, the shores of the White Sea and the far north of the Soviet Union, Fred Forest attempted to demonstrate experimentally that the Arctic Circle could be 'squared' using a Mac SE 30 laptop.
This specially adapted equipment will enable him to maintain permanent links simultaneously with five continents, to which he will transmit the results of his measurements on a daily basis (Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Paris - Canadian Museum of Civilisation, Hull, Canada - Centre d'art et de communication, Buenos Aires - Centre Culturel d'Abidjan , Africa - Musée d'Art Contemporain Tokyo, Japan).
He will then travel down the Severnaïa Dvina river to a monastery at Welikii Ouistiouk. There, during the last sleepless nights of the Arctic summer, he will perform a ritual to symbolically synthesise time and space, the alchemy of which is only possible at this particular time of year.
On the threshold of the third millennium, he claims, artists are the last shamans of today, helping to found the new mythologies of electronic time... On the way home, he gave a performance on Red Square in front of the Kremlin gates, which led to police intervention but no action.
Throughout his journey, the artist kept a logbook recording his calculations and observations, which he sent by telegram to the Moscow Academy of Sciences and many other leading scientists...

Unfortunately I was suddenly affected by eczema along my legs. Misha, ever attentive, took me to the military doctor. (He gave me a quick check-up before returning to his office in silence. Both elbows on his desk, head in his hands. After a very long time I took in Misha with my eyes. He shushed me with his finger and told me in a low voice that the doctor was having trouble making a diagnosis because I was a foreigner and that a mistake on his part could be fatal to him in one way or another...

Anyway, I recovered quickly and Misha asked me to go with him to the maritime administration to locate a ship that would take us back south on the way back via the Dvina. The ship was crewed by around twenty sailors and had around thirty First Class cabins, of which I had three to myself! Two musicians had joined us in Moscow, one of them Alexandr Alexandrof, with whom I prepared a new project in advance by commissioning him to write a work entitled "Ballade pour changement de régime en douceur", which would be performed by telephone between Paris and Moscow...

Misha continued to accompany me faithfully to all the post offices in the towns I visited, from where I sent telegrams to scientists all over the world to inform them of the progress of my research into the Arctic Circle hypothesis, which in my opinion is not a circle but a square measuring 1m x 1m! But it was a major disappointment when, at the end of my journey, I was unable to record my last reading because of a sudden breakdown in my computer equipment. So scientists the world over will have to take my word for it. For a fleeting moment, the needle on my metric recorder, before dropping to zero, informed me that my predictions were correct and that the Arctic Circle is indeed a square measuring 1 metre by 1 metre!

LONG BIOGRAPHY OF FRED FOREST

Fred Forest has a special place in contemporary art. Both by his personality and by his pioneering practices which mark his work. He is mainly known today for having used one by one most of the communication media that have appeared over the last fifty years. He is co-founder of three artistic movements: those of sociological art, the aesthetics of communication and ethics in art.

He represented France at the 12th São Paulo Biennale (Communication Prize) in 1973, at the 37th Venice Biennale in 1976 and at Documenta 6 in Kassel in 1977.

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