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La Bible électronique et la Guerre du Golf

The Gulf War took place in the very places where the three great monotheistic religions were formed. With this installation, the artist proposes, as the Bible did in its time, to write a page of human history in letters of fire using electronic diode newspapers. 

Communication  Criticism and Ethics 

Typology: Installation


La bible électronique


Les robinets planétaires, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie Paris

La bible électronique
La bible électronique
Les robinets planétaires, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie Paris
Les robinets planétaires, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie Paris



The Gulf War took place in the very places where the three great monotheistic religions were formed. With this installation, the artist proposes, as the Bible did in its time, to write a page in the history of mankind in letters of fire using electronic diode newspapers. A sort of table of the law, luminescent chronicles, media events that shake up and tell their own story.
From stone to electronic diodes, history unfolds and is thus inscribed in the relative permanence of the behaviour of the human species.


  • 13 Sayag-Electronic continuous scrolling and flashing banners
  • 7 tonnes of white sand
  • 32 linear metres of BSN mirrors
  • 1 U-matic 3/4 inch colour

Environment presented in two versions:

  • The Bible drawn from the sands" at the CNAT in Reims,
  • The Bible and the Gulf War" at "La Base" in Levallois-Perret.
    To date, this installation is the most ambitious electronic environment created in France using diode-lit newspapers.
    The entire installation can be viewed at different levels, notably from a high passageway that provides a panoramic overview. The installation consists of a 150-metre-long pit, specially constructed with mirrors perpendicular to the ground on all four sides. Six tonnes of fine sand were dumped at the bottom of the excavation, brought in by cargo plane from Kuwait. On the surface, undulated as if by the desert wind, are arranged around fifteen illuminated newspapers of varying sizes. Pointing skywards, they display in letters of fire, in a random pattern, biblical precepts intersecting with war announcements.
    A few metres away, a television set surrounded by an impressive array of cameras serves as an inescapable point of reference, showing an uninterrupted succession of flashes at an accelerated speed. T.V. presenters, emblematic figures of our time, alternate with images of war and the speeches of Sadam Hussein and George Bush.
    The installation operates on two levels: on the one hand, it is a kind of kinetic 'sculpture', whose light flows and rhythm are echoed ad infinitum in the interplay of mirrors; on the other, it initiates a kind of work on text by linking, in a chosen random system, the texts of the Bible with those of the press commentaries produced during the Gulf War.


Exposition personnelle, La Base, 6 rue Vergniaud, 92300 Levallois-Perret (27 juin au 3 août 1991) Présentée par Pierre Restany

The installation "La Bible électronique" (The Electronic Bible) is a high point in Fred Forest's media work. By using a lighted newspaper, he simultaneously combines in the same visual field the definitions of the Bible and electronics taken from the June 1986 edition of the Robert dictionary. In so doing, he achieved a perfect match between the symbol and its medium. The symbol of symbols, the book par excellence, and what a medium! The most available, immediate and direct electronic medium, the ABC of media communication.

Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger need not worry. When they see the Forest version of the Bible, they won't be able to get over it. The last to go in the game of programmed panels, the Blackfoot champion of the aesthetics of communication tops them at the finish. They were too puritanical, too Protestant, too morally committed to dare think of such a simple, desacralising gesture: including the Bible!

Fred Forest doesn't beat about the bush. He starts the programme, sprinkles a bit of sand on the floor, and that's it. In fact, the quotations from the electronically debited Bible go down very well, and are easy to read without any excess of solemn modesty. In fact, they go without saying. The divine message is naturally secularised. The sacred verse becomes the adage of common sense. Millions of preachers around the world should be grateful to Fred Forest for making the Word accessible to everyone.

All they had to do was think about it. A year before the 1992 commemorations, Fred Forest did the same thing to us as Christopher Columbus' egg, and with a masterly hand: with Fred Forest, the biblical symbol becomes the emblem of common sense. As a result, the direction of the message is reversed. From vertical, communication becomes horizontal, that is to say immediate, directly human, without transcendental imposition.

We have been told again and again that the Bible is the mother of the dictionary. Well, Forest brings the Bible into the dictionary, making it its daughter. A miracle, or rather a revolution in truth. Biblical truth is no longer presented to us as the evidence of a revelation; it is presented to us in the most normal phase of its appearance, so normal that it appears to us truer than life. In the landscape of symbol and emblem, the truth of appearance is replaced by the truth of evidence. This is Forest's stroke of genius, which consists in pushing us up against the wall by putting us at ease, by making us spontaneously feel the immense pleasure we all experience in writing prose like Monsieur Jourdain.

Pierre Restany

Paris 4 June 1991

An all-round communications artist, Fred Forest's Electronic Bible offers us an original commentary on current media events that are still hot (Gulf War. The Old Testament, the Song of Songs, reviewed and corrected Schwarzkopf press conference style! A spectacular kinetic-light installation broadcasting semantic flux. Fifteen newspapers with electronic diodes that function like a battery of 'patriots', lined up on rabbit sand. On rabbit sand on which a thousand red-legged insects run in all directions, rewriting for us the Proverbs of Solomon, the Psalms of David, the history of humanity from the creation of the world to the present day.

A number of military experts would like to see the exhibition delayed. It won't be, because the six-wheeled armoured vehicles equipped with mechanical arms that the artist has at his disposal have already been mobilised on the Swiss border in his war against the State of Vaud.

It would be a case of taking a step back to make a bigger leap forward.

Symbolically mixed with the sand of the desert and the silicon of our transistors, the action takes place in a peplum that is the melting pot of the three monotheistic religions - all as one at the Base, and listening to CNN!


  • Catalogue : "Les artistes et la lumière", C.N.A.T., (Centre National d'Art et de Technologie de Reims), 1991.
  • Texte de présentation à La Base, " La Bible électronique ou la révolution de la Vérité " par Pierre Restany.
  • " L'art cathodique " par Catherine Terzieff,, " 7 à Paris ", 24/30 juillet 1991.
    Reportage de Diane de Sainte Foy pour TV5, juillet 1991.
  • " La Bible revue et corrigée ", Nathalie Gillot, France-Soir Ouest, n°60, semaine du 24 au 30 juin 1991, Paris.
France Soir ouest n°60
France Soir ouest n°60




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.