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1983

Espace communicant

In this installation, known as l'Espace communicant, which anticipates the art of 'instant messaging', the artist provides the infrastructure for an independent telecommunications network inspired by the 'wild' networks that temporarily flourished in 1982 by exploiting cracks in the national network that allowed people to phone each other free of charge by dialling certain unassigned numbers normally kept secret. 

Sociological 

Paris (FR)

Typology: Dispositif

1983

L'espace communiquant, Electra, Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris

1983

Electra, l’Espace communicant : Installation de 40 téléphones et 6 minitels

1983

Frank Popper explique Fred Forest

1983

1983 P. RESTANY 1/2 Electra et 2/2 Bourse de l'imaginaire

  • Espace communicant, séminaire sur les lieux de l’Installation l’Espace communicant au Musée d ‘art moderne de la Ville de Paris avec les participations de Pierre Restany, Mario Costa, Derrick de Kerckhove, Leonard Henny, Frank Popper et Fred Forest
  • Le document « La Bourse de l’imaginaire » au ¾ de la fin, est constitué d’images d’animation avec le public, à savoir sa participation critique et ironique à un simulacre de la Bourse pour l’élection d’un fait divers comme fait divers du jour avec, sur place, et également la participation de musiciens de free jazz pour illustrer un des fait divers affiché au tableau choisi et plébiscité par le public.
1983

Electra

L'espace communiquant, Electra, Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris
1983
L'espace communiquant, Electra, Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris
Electra, l’Espace communicant : Installation de 40 téléphones et 6 minitels
1983
Electra, l’Espace communicant : Installation de 40 téléphones et 6 minitels
Frank Popper explique Fred Forest
1983
Frank Popper explique Fred Forest
1983 P. RESTANY 1/2 Electra et 2/2 Bourse de l'imaginaire
1983
1983 P. RESTANY 1/2 Electra et 2/2 Bourse de l'imaginaire
Electra
1983
Electra

1983 ELECTRA, MUSÉE D'ART MODERNE DE LA VILLE DE PARIS
10 DÉCEMBRE 1983 - 5 FÉVRIER 1984

In this installation, known as l'Espace communicant (Communicating Space), which anticipates the art of 'instant messaging', the artist provides the infrastructure for an independent telecommunications network inspired by the 'wild' networks that temporarily flourished in 1982 by exploiting cracks in the national network that allowed people to phone each other for free by dialling certain unassigned numbers that were normally kept secret. Newspaper advertisements invited members of the public to call the telecommunications facility, where they could talk to and leave messages for complete strangers visiting the museum. Unlike messages exchanged on real wilderness networks, those exchanged via the "Espace communicant" are not clandestine: all the calls are instantly broadcast over the museum's public address system; a special interface is created to broadcast some of the calls during a programme on the national radio station RMC, with contributions from actors Paul Prébois and Danielle Evenou. The artist installed around forty telephone lines with answering machines, as well as a number of minitels, enabling visitors to contact complete strangers for exchanges.

Frank Popper, who conceived the general exhibition under the name Electra, in which a number of artists who use all forms of electrical communication and networks took part, assisted by Edmond Couchod and Marie-Odile Briot, has produced a landmark international exhibition.

Fred Forest organised a debate in his space, bringing together Pierre Restany, Mario Costa, Frank Popper, Derrick de Kerckhove and Léonard Henny.

Frank Popper's tests of Fred Forest

http://www.webnetmuseum.org/html/fr/expo-retr-fredforest/textes_critiques/auteurs/popper_fr.htm#text

MULTIMEDIA INSTALLATION / EXPERIMENT 

THE COMMUNICATIVE SPACE
ELECTRA, MUSEUM OF MODERN ART OF THE CITY OF PARIS
10 DECEMBER 1983 – 5 FEBRUARY 1984

In this early example of “instant messaging” art, the artist provides the infrastructure for an independent telecommunications network inspired by the “wildcat” networks that temporarily flourished in 1982 by exploiting cracks in the national network that allowed people to make free telephone calls to one another by dialing certain unassigned numbers normally kept secret. Newspaper ads invite members of the public to make calls to the telecommunications installation, where they can talk to, and leave messages for, total strangers visiting the museum. Unlike like messages exchanged on the real-life wildcat networks, those exchanged through “The Communicative Space” are not clandestine: all calls are instantly broadcast over the museum’s public address system; a special interface is creating to broadcast a portion of the calls during the course of a program on a nationwide radio channel.

Concept

Fred Forest's Espace communicant is a multiplex network providing the public with various channels for interactive exchange: 40 telephone lines giving free access to the national and international telephone network, 40 automatic answering machines to operate the installation when the museum is closed, and the TELETEL messaging system (the forerunner of Minitel in its experimental form).
The Forest concept was born of the idea of a 'wild' network, such as existed in France for a number of months around 1982, where users could make telephone 'meetings' with complete impunity, without having to pay the slightest tax. They enjoyed this rare privilege because of serious technical malfunctions that telecoms engineers were unable to control at the time. The most discerning users made 'conversational' appointments on certain numbers, reputed to be unallocated, on which exchanges proved possible, despite an advertising disc in the background. Needless to say, as time went by, the number of 'insiders' grew and these numbers, exchanged by word of mouth like real state secrets, quickly circulated at the speed of light!

Device

  • 40 telephone lines connected to the external network
  • 40 automatic answering machines
  • 10 minitel stations connected to the teletel messaging system
  • 10 answering machines

In a high-tech setting with all the necessary information panels on the action in progress and how it works.

In the museum space, amplified by powerful loudspeakers, the conversations exchanged, both on arrival and departure, become public in the very instant they are connected!

Daily adverts are placed in the national press, inviting the public to call the Espace communicant numbers where museum visitors can pick up the phone and start a conversation... with complete strangers!

A 60-minute live radio broadcast will be produced by Radio Monte Carlo, as an interface medium for the installation, with comedians Paul Prebois and Danielle Evenou as hosts.

On December 14, 1983, Fred Forest organizes in his space communicant and on the problematic of the Aesthetics of the communication, an exchange putting in relation various countries by telephone to which take part: Pierre Restany in Paris, Derrrick de Kerckhove in Toronto, Léonard Henny in Utrecht, Mario Costa in Naples.

  • " Fred Forest invente la néo-transmission " par Barthélémy, Stratégies N°400, Paris 1983
  • " Quarante téléphones pour les branchés ", Le Parisien, Paris 12 décembre 1983

FRED FOREST ET L'ART DE LA COMMUNICATION

Frank POPPER ( Paris, janvier 1994 )

Professor of Aesthetics and Art Sciences at the University of Paris VIII.
 It is undoubtedly audacious to try to answer the question "What is an artist? ". However, I would like to make a suggestion: to be an artist is to choose and pursue, with a certain perseverance, an aesthetic goal. That's what makes a man or woman an artist and what keeps them that way. It should be pointed out, however, that many artists deny pursuing an aesthetic goal on the pretext that their creativity is spontaneous in nature and not calculated or rationally thought out. This major objection, which is often voiced by artists of all kinds, is obviously contradicted by artists who use new technologies, and in particular by all those who produce computer-generated images. What characterises technological art, in fact, is the emergence in this field of much closer relationships between aesthetic and technical factors, and also the introduction of new notions of aesthetics that can be assimilated to categories such as dematerialisation, simulation, artificial intelligence, the environment, virtual reality and interactivity. I would like to add that the aesthetic categories affected by artistic creation at the end of the twentieth century are extremely varied, and that the various 'systems' developed by Étienne Souriau, Charles Lalo and Raymond Bayer, among others, deserve to be updated to take account of the introduction of new technologies by artists, in their works and in their creative processes.
To address the main theme of this paper, we will assume that an artist using new technologies is one who not only pursues, consciously or unconsciously, an aesthetic goal with a certain perseverance, but also chooses to give pride of place to rational thought and mathematical calculation. It should be pointed out, however, that many of the artists who make use of new technologies do so in a wild or roundabout way. In this case, of course, it is an ironic, even severe, critique of scientific thought and sometimes even an attempt to achieve metaphysical aims. If I have chosen to concentrate mainly on artists who have embraced the aesthetic values of the new technologies, it is because I feel closer to them as a result of my previous work (on Kinetic Art, the Environment and Public Participation), but it is also in an attempt to identify more directly the aspects of a profound change in civilisation which seems to be largely linked to the arrival of these new technologies in all the material and spiritual spheres of our lives, and which undoubtedly affect artistic creation.
While there is no doubt about the status of many practitioners as artists, we could look at the case of 'technological' artists who operate on the fringes of the artistic field proper. Fred Forest is a case in point. He devotes himself to what might be called the art of communication, and it is clear that this is a far cry from the idea we have of the painter or sculptor of past centuries. In Fred Forest's case, we might even say that art has left his field to enter that of the media, or even advertising. And yet, an attentive analysis of Forest's career and activities reveals that he is still a true artist, his options and his behaviour being those of a creator of new aesthetic values, obtained by working on communication, a work that is provocative, admittedly, but nonetheless sensitive. This approach is no longer illustrated by the production of tangible, physically materialised objects, but by the production of communication systems and diverse situations.
If we want to grasp the meaning of the relationship between subjective and social factors in Fred Forest's story, we need to know that from 1954 to 1970 he was a postal and telecommunications inspector in Algeria, which, as we can see, was to guide his artistic career, which initially ran parallel to this job (he was a painter at the time), before finally taking a decisive step in 1970. From a postal and telecommunications agent, Fred Forest became a communications 'artist', inaugurating an inventive and creative approach to networks and human relations. This existential transformation is not entirely miraculous. It has to be seen in the context of 1968-70, the era of counter-cultural movements that equated life with art and valued individual creativity in everyday life. Forest's existential transformation was also linked to the introduction of new technologies into his approach. At the time, he was one of the very first, if not the first, artist in France to use video and closed-circuit television. In 1970, he produced an audiovisual show at the Osaka World Fair, before working directly with the press and other mass media around the world. His means of communication include the telephone, radio, television, telematics and cable.
Among his many interventions, I would like to mention the "Sociological Walk in Brooklyn", an outlying district of São Paulo, Brazil, in October 1973. The artist published daily advertisements in the local press and on the radio, inviting all kinds of people to phone the MAC (Museum of Contemporary Art) to line up and sign up for a walk in his company. In a way, Fred Forest was inviting participants to move around the district, following a pre-prepared itinerary. At each stage, the group would visit different shops: the record shop, the fruit shop, the cobbler, the bank, the supermarket, the church and finally... an art gallery. Fred Forest's aim was to investigate an identified urban area through its various activities: commercial, administrative and cultural. With the help of the participants, he wanted to experience the day-to-day reality, reveal internal relationships and create communication micro-events to establish a flow of information through direct intervention in the environment. Fred Forest's artistic career was also marked by his membership of the Collectif d'art sociologique, active until the end of the 1970s, and then of the Groupe International de l'Esthétique de la Communication. Both of these movements brought together visual artists and theorists (sociologists and aestheticians) and gave them the opportunity to express themselves individually as practising artists after having attempted a joint theoretical elaboration.
Recently, Forest has devoted himself to the production of works and environments on electronic diode newspapers, bringing together two characteristics of his approach: that of one-off interventions in the mass media and that of the use of advanced technologies. One of his most recent works of this type, the 'Bible drawn from the sands', originally entitled the Electronic Bible and the Gulf War, simultaneously displays a luminous parade of quotations from the Old Testament and extracts from newspaper articles reporting on the fighting in the Gulf War. In this way, long enumerations of military equipment and long genealogies drawn from the Bible are juxtaposed, as in quotation painting. In this way, Forest wants to draw attention to the fact that history can repeat itself through similar discourses: he is obviously also making fun of the stereotypical statements of politicians and military leaders. All Fred Forest's contributions to current socio-political events are provocative and critical in nature, but they do invite further reflection, even if they irritate some people with their aggression. In the final analysis, they have a questioning, communicative, interactive, relational function, which confirms Forest's artistic objectives, whose fiercely independent character can thus be offset by the desire to forge intense relationships with those he meets around the events they provoke. This approach conceals a whole range of aesthetic objectives linked to the techniques of communication: in particular the dramatisation of physical presence at a distance, the telescoping of the immediate and the delayed, and also the combination of memory with real time. We could also detect in Forest's approach multiple aesthetic aspects linked to the question of interactivity and human relations.
For Fred Forest, as for other artists in the aesthetics of communication, the introduction of new technologies into their creative processes and into their works has the result of responding both to their individual ambitions, of a psychological nature, and to their desire for social integration. On the one hand, they have access to high-performance tools that give them a wider choice of shapes and colours and greater control over the spatial and temporal parameters of their creative process. They are thus placed in a situation where the exercise of their creative power is amplified, which can only strengthen their artistic personality. On the other hand, it is certain that new technology artists derive great satisfaction and existential stimulation from handling abstract information, both mentally and manually (this is particularly the case in computer art). The manipulation of abstract data can not only lead to the creation of virtual realities in cyber-space, but also to the realisation of even more utopian and metaphysical aims.
As for the social influence of artists' adoption of new technologies, we have seen in some cases what role they can play, for example by effectively opposing the traditional solitude of the artist. Many artists have opted to work as a team in a sophisticated laboratory that, until now, it has been impossible to install and maintain themselves. However, with the increasing miniaturisation of all technological devices (and particularly computers), it is no longer so difficult to obtain or install them at home, which could well send artists back to their initial isolation were it not for the development of telecommunications networks.
In any case, it is clear that for technological artists - as for all artists in general - the right mix between solitary and collective creation, or between the time of solitude necessary for conception and the time of confrontation with other creators or with the public, is a vital necessity. What I find perhaps most successful in technological artists is the transition from one to the other of these modalities, and therefore a very flexible to-and-fro between the psychological and the sociological. For artists working with new technologies, there is necessarily a greater need not only to confront their aesthetic options with those of other players on the art scene, but also to compare the day-to-day state of their own technical devices with the whole of the constantly developing technological field.
As we have seen, being an artist, feeling like one, and being recognised as such depend not only on psychological and sociological factors, but also on aesthetic factors - which are closely interwoven with the former. For example, we should not underestimate the fact that the pursuit of an aesthetic goal such as the visualisation of phenomena hidden in the universe, the highlighting of new temporal and spatial aspects, or the establishment of new relationships between artist/work/spectator through interactive processes, As a result, an artistic trend or current has emerged that can be described as technological art or techno-scientific art.
By way of conclusion, I'll confine myself to observing that belonging to an artistic trend or current anchored in the movement of ideas of the time seems to me to be more than ever essential for defining oneself and being defined as an artist; and that, in any case, Fred Forest is indeed one!

1983 Espace communicant
1983 Espace communicant

 

1983 Espace communicant
1983 Espace communicant

 

1983 Espace communicant
1983 Espace communicant

 

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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