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1977 à 1980

Le Territoire du M2

The Territoire du M2 is a work of art that Fred Forest has developed in the form of a narrative over some fifty years, from 1977 to 2020. This composite work incorporates elements of physical reality - in other words, material objects - as well as factual, social, economic and political information into its initial concept of Territoire du M2.


Travaux du Territoire du M2


Pierre Restany parle de Fred Forest en parlant de " supplément d'âme " suivi d'un document sur le M2

Travaux du Territoire du M2
Travaux du Territoire du M2
Pierre Restany parle de Fred Forest en parlant de " supplément d'âme " suivi d'un document sur le M2
Pierre Restany parle de Fred Forest en parlant de " supplément d'âme " suivi d'un document sur le M2


 After the vicissitudes that marked the birth of the m2, with the two episodes of its sale as a "non-artistic" M2 and the meeting of experts at the Hôtel Crillon to determine its true status, the m2's status changed with an extension that transformed it into TERRITOIRE DU M2. The artist, who had abandoned his cramped site in Switzerland for the rest of his operations, now had to acquire a larger site in France, complete with suitable buildings. He soon abandoned Paris, where prices were unaffordable, and retreated to a small commune in the Oise department called Anserville. For a pittance, he bought a hunting lodge at the Château d'Anserville, which was practically abandoned. It just so happened that the person occupying the Château on a life annuity basis was a famous old gentleman, Bertrand de Jouvenel, one of the very first futurologists, whose mistress had been the writer Colette. The artist pays him a courtesy call and talks to him about his plans. When Fred Forest left him, he confessed: "Dear neighbor, I didn't understand much about your plans, but I'm sure you're going to make Anserville famous.

With the property on a steep slope, Forest had to undertake work to level it out, using various earth-moving machines, and redo some of the slate roofs. Living alone on the premises, the doors and windows of this large building were rickety enough to withstand the cold, so he had to huddle under thick woollen blankets all day long. With his meagre income, it took some thirty years for the building to take shape, before what he himself calls his Herculean labors resembled what he wanted it to look like...

In other words, a place of power where imagination reigns before money and finance. With its various rooms parodically representing the functions devolved to any constituted state.

At the very beginning of the project, an artist-architect Guy Lozach', nicknamed the Black Magus by Forest, and a qualified surveyor survey the site just before the earth-moving machinery arrives. The artist, who derisively calls himself the "debonair potentate" of the Territory, assumes this title when he writes to real heads of state, advising them in an abundance of correspondence, or when he holds conferences in the hall of power or proclaims his speeches from his balcony.

Contents :

Explication du Territoire du M2

Le Territoire du M2 est une œuvre d’art que Fred Forest a développée sous forme d’un récit sur une cinquantaine d’années de 1977 à 2020. Cette œuvre composite a intégré à son concept initial de Territoire du M2 des éléments appartenant à la réalité physique, c’est à dire des objets matériels, mais également des informations factuelles, sociales, économiques et politiques. Informations qu’il s’est appliqué, non seulement à représenter, mais à nourrir d’actions réelles et imaginaires, dont il s’est déterminé lui-même comme le producteur privilégié. Cette œuvre totale, pour être perçue à sa mesure, demande un positionnement autre que celui du regardeur habituel qui met en phase la plénitude de ses facultés et de sa culture visuelle pour saisir l’objet qu’il a sous les yeux. Elle requiert même de lui un certain abandon des a priori qui en justifient les fondements naturels par lesquels en général, il y découvre ou non, au final, son plaisir esthétique. Comme c’est le cas pour l’art conceptuel, le substrat de l’œuvre du Territoire (aussi jolies que soient les images qui le représentent) ne se trouve jamais à vrai dire dans les apparences de la forme (sauf quand le regard finit par être dévoyé et perverti par le regard « du monde de l’art »), mais dans son essence-même et la faculté intuitive d’être pleinement comprise.

Une sorte d’œuvre de notre temps qui n’est, bien entendu, jamais uniquement à voir mais, plutôt à « être examinée » en profondeur, certes à l’aide de tous nos sens, mais surtout, et plus encore, avec ce que l’on nomme "l’intelligible" capacité de l’être humain. Nous prônons cette culture-là comme prééminente sur une culture visuelle domin

The Territoire du M2 is a work of art that Fred Forest has developed in the form of a narrative over some fifty years, from 1977 to 2020. This composite work integrates elements of physical reality - material objects - with factual, social, economic and political information. Information that he has endeavoured not only to represent, but to nourish with real and imaginary actions, of which he has determined himself to be the privileged producer. To be fully appreciated, this total work demands a different approach from that of the usual viewer, who uses the fullness of his faculties and visual culture to grasp the object before his eyes. It even requires a certain abandonment of the preconceptions that justify its natural underpinnings, through which, in general, the viewer may or may not ultimately discover his or her aesthetic pleasure. As is the case with conceptual art, the substratum of the work of Le Territoire (however pretty the images that represent it may be) is never really to be found in the appearances of the form (except when the gaze ends up being deviated and perverted by the gaze of "the art world"), but in its very essence and the intuitive faculty of being fully understood.

A kind of work of our time that is, of course, never just to be seen but, rather, to be "examined" in depth, certainly with all our senses, but above all, and more importantly, with what we call the "intelligible" capacity of the human being. We advocate this culture as pre-eminent over a dominant visual culture that would confine itself essentially to the analysis of shapes and colours. A masterpiece is not just a work of art to be looked at, but also to be felt, understood, and shared with its creator. Didn't Leonardo da Vinci say that painting was "cosa mentale"?

ante qui s’en tiendrait essentiellement à l’analyse des formes et des couleurs. Un chef d’œuvre n’est pas seulement une œuvre à regarder, mais aussi à sentir, à comprendre, en faisant jouer ses capacités intellectuelles et à partager avec son auteur. Leonard de Vinci ne disait-il pas déjà que la peinture était "cosa mentale" ?

1980 Le Territoire


A physical place for interactive exchanges, based on the notion of network, communication and simulation, where physical persons, on site or at a distance (by post, telephone, fax, citizen band or amateur radio) engage in different types of relationships...

This project is a logical extension of the 'artistic square metre' project, and in a way constitutes a territory, both virtual and tangible, fifty kilometres north-west of Paris. So this is not a place of pure fiction, but a truly real place that Fred Forest, over a period of twenty years, has shaped, arranged and equipped... designing and perfecting its form and system as he went along.

The artist has built a tool that responds appropriately to a new form of artistic activity. It's a bit like a painter inventing brushes, canvas and colours one day, before painting existed as a means of artistic expression... precisely so that he could make them!

A game of communication and simulation, the Territoire project is a complex collaborative work with multiple levels of meaning and intervention.


Implantation Territoire M2

This project, which was set up in 1980, is developing over time without, in principle, ever coming to a halt. Its "multiform" and open nature, in a situation of permanent development and creativity, is likely to evolve according to changes in the environment. It follows on from the media actions known as the "artistic square metre" on which it is based, but with a different purpose.

The work proposed here takes the form of a plot of land and a building that in themselves constitute an independent state within the French Republic. A state that is answerable only to its own laws and rules. These are, of course, established and modified by the artist, who decides on the merits according to his whim and the urgencies of the moment. The buildings house the Territory's central authority and its various departments. The rooms are arranged according to the symbols and functions specific to the system created by the artist in the form of an action museum.

The system functions as a simulation and communication game, using the mechanisms of the imaginary, organised delirium, irrationality and common sense to tackle the problems of society in a dialogical and interactive way. With the agreement of the territorial administration, it is possible to become a citizen of the "Territory" by subscribing to a plot measuring one metre by one metre. This subscription entitles the holder to the relevant titles, which have the value of original documents signed by the artist. Once this formality has been completed, citizens are automatically invited to take part in the communication and simulation game. They can also choose to remain passive spectators if they wish. In both cases, they similarly receive information that will feed the work in progress through material traces, and complete it for each of them, without any fixed end date. The "Territory" also forms the operational basis for specific artistic actions carried out by the artist, in accordance with the practices of Sociological Art and the Aesthetics of Communication.

1977 Création du Territoire du M2

With his M2 now fully recognised, Fred Forest is moving on to the second phase of his work with his Territoire du M2. This involves not only bringing the famous M2 back to France, but also multiplying it in the form of a territory. To set up his Territoire du M2, Fred Forest is looking for a plot of land as close as possible to Paris. He began negotiations with a landowner in the Oise region, who was to give him a grain bunker to convert as the seat of his government. After six months of negotiations, the deal fell through! Finally, near Cergy, he planned to buy a practically new factory for a symbolic franc, because a recent law had frozen all activity on the Cergy plateau for the development of the new town. After six months of talks with the administrative authorities, another setback came in the form of a visit from the architect of the Bâtiments de France, who declared the artist's application inadmissible. But Forest, known for his perseverance, continued his investigations and miraculously found a new solution! Still in the Oise region, he discovered the ideal location. It was the hunting lodge of a neighbouring château, surrounded by a guard wall and practically in ruins. The deal was done, he rolled up his sleeves, got everyone around him to work and the Territory was born before our very eyes, having already been taking shape for a long time in his mind... A piece of land, admittedly on a slope, to be levelled out with large buildings that will become the future seat of his government. In the video included, we see him on the spot surrounded by an architect, Guy Lozach, a close friend of Fred Forest (with Pierre Restany they had taken part in one of his induced actions under the name EQUINOXE) and a professional surveyor who are taking readings of the land destined to become the Territoire du M2 artistique. While earth-moving machines, including a huge Poclain, carry out the work on site, we'll also see the workers redoing the roof, before everyone enjoys a meal and a bottle of wine.

This video is a great way of showing you how the Territoire came into being half a century later... 😊

Projet : Qu’en pense-t-on donc du côté du Territoire du M2 ?

Before his sudden death, this project should have been carried out with TV presenter Yves Mourousi, as a platform for information and action in the form of a regular programme featuring contributions from various social leaders in the M2 area: politicians, trade unionists, scientists, writers, sportsmen and women, etc., giving us ideas for tomorrow's society.

The work I undertook in developing the concept of "What do people think of the M2 Territory?" was intended to give this project a national dimension. A project whose new form would escape the criteria generally attributed to productions of pure and simple art and become a large-scale social media event.

Using its physical form as a base, the Territory would also become an informational platform for occasional interventions by individuals representing a recognised role or function in society (political leaders, trade unionists, intellectuals, business leaders). The latter are invited to put forward radically new and imaginative proposals that necessarily go beyond the usual commonplaces to offer alternative solutions. To implement such a project, I had to meet the following conditions:

  • To have a mainstream media audience through a TV programme that would have the time to introduce the concept on a regular monthly basis.
  • To have convinced a star presenter of its interest so that he would agree to invest enough to make it his own creation
  • The setting had to be the M2 Territory itself, in Anserville in the Oise department.

Yves Mourousi, a brilliant non-conformist TV presenter who was equally at home in the studio and interviewing heads of state thousands of miles from Paris, was the right man for the job. In my opinion, only he in France could have been the providential man to play such a role, bringing to the project his provocative profile, his sense of humour, his verve as a great professional and above all his professionalism. I had the chance to meet him in 1982 when I was working on the 'Bourse de l'imaginaire' project at the Centre Pompidou. We hit it off immediately and, being curious about everything, he saw beyond the provocative aspect of my approach to its serious critical and idealistic side. He was always on the phone with me after one of his assistants interrupted our conversation during the preparation of the Journal. He had left his handset open on his desk without hanging it up, having forgotten me for more than fifteen minutes, leading me to understand what he was thinking (badly about a politician of the time). When he picked up the receiver again, surprised that I was still there, he laughed out loud at the situation and made me promise not to say anything to the person in question... whom he called copiously during the conversation.

This joke became a recurring one between us whenever I happened, by chance, to be able to get him on the phone. When, much later, he was preparing the festivities for the Year 2000, he was no longer the star presenter of a TV news programme, but he did, of course, have the necessary audience in the TV circles of the time to find a slot for our programme on the theme of the M2 Territory.

Unfortunately, Yves died of a heart attack just as the project was about to be set up and launched...

I would like to continue this work on the media and social networks by imposing, as an artist but also as President of the Territory by dint of repetition, the formula of : But what do people in the region think? This would make sense of the somewhat parodic recurrence of my own photo in a presidential chair whose power as an artist is, alas, only symbolic today...

The Territory being a de facto non-standard territory whose message is always a shifted and critical opinion of the society in which we live, is the challenge in which we find ourselves which is by no means simple to solve. The political role in the noble sense of the term that I want to give as a priority to my project for the Territory goes well beyond the artistic meaning that it also carries, of course.

A bit like the meaning that Picasso perfectly and formidably combined in his work Guernica.

But the success of such a formula is not easy to impose on its own, nor by the derisory and purely symbolic means at my disposal. It would certainly require imagination, time and hard work, but it would also require the exceptional conditions that constitute an extraordinary factor of chance! After all, moving from the role of artist to that of politician is no mean feat. But in all the cases that present themselves as possible, only the combination of external historical conditions can make it possible. When they are there, it's up to the artist to seize them!

Territoire du M2 - Webmuseum snip anglais
Territoire du M2 - Webmuseum snip anglais


2019 Performance Mains d’œuvres

December 2019
At the invitation of Juliette Bombois, Director of Mains d'Oeuvres, Fred Forest went to Saint Ouen one Sunday to visit the site and propose a project around the Territoire du M2. The idea was to transform the 4,000 m2 of buildings in the complex into an extension of the Territoire du M2 for the city of Saint Ouen.

Télécharger PDF


  • " Le Territoire ", Coloquio Artes, Fondation Gulbenkian, textes de Pierre Restany, René Berger, Fred Forest n°44, mars 1980, Lisbonne.
  • " Le Territoire ", Jean-Louis Pradel, Opus International n°72, Paris 1979.
  • " Le Territoire ", Vilém Flusser, " +-0 " n°17, Bruxelles, Belgique 1977.
  • " Le Territoire ", Fred Forest, Opus International n°77, Paris, 1980.
  • " Le Territoire ", Éditions du Territoire, Pierre Restany, Anserville 1979.



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.