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La conférence de Babel

Fred Forest said he would like to provide more information on this action so that his comments can be clearly understood.


Paris (FR)

Typology: Dispositif


Conférence de Babel, Espace créatif, Paris. Avec des interventions de personnalités politiques

Fred Forest has expressed a desire to provide further information on this action so that his comments can be clearly understood.

Of course, his approach is intended to be critical, as everyone will understand. His approach involved journalists from the magazine T.E.L (Temps, Économie, Littérature), which Olivier Poivre d'Arvor was directing at the time, and a handful of intellectuals. As Fred Forest's work was taking place shortly before the elections, the intellectuals were more than happy to get involved, as each issue of the magazine featured a large article about them. For Forest, this was the reason for inviting T.E.L journalists, who were able to attract politicians that he himself would never have been able to get to his show. Over time, the candidates grew in number and importance, giving journalists the widest possible choice. So much so that at one point the T.E.L. journalists appropriated the system put in place by the artist and acted as if they were the authors, when in fact they were only the guests...

In order to put an end to the misunderstanding they had been perpetuating, Forest obtained space in the daily newspaper Le Monde, where he was able to rectify everyone's roles in the exhibition of which he was the sole author. Radio Ici et maintenant, which he himself had invited to take part in the show, stood shoulder to shoulder with the power represented by T.E.L.'s journalists and censored him, contrary to what his host claims on the video.

But Fred Forest, which can be seen as a flaw or, on the contrary, a quality, never forgets those who are on his side as well as those who have done him the worst dirt.

Wanting to teach these T.E.L journalists and the host of Ici et Maintenant a lesson, his fertile mind came up with the idea of a radio station that would make fun of their sycophancy and whose programme would cover the airwaves of Ici et maintenant. It would be Radio Bla-Bla-bla like the politicians'. But he soon realised the power of reality over mere ideas. He soon had to abandon this solution after a few unsuccessful attempts to find a transmitter and, above all, the conditions for its implementation...

His idea of a replica was based on the misappropriation of media, as he had done in his exhibition. As he had conceived in his exhibition with the hijacking of the personalities who appeared on Europe 1, it was to catch the host of Ici et maintenant in the same trap with his crass sycophancy.

By dint of going round in circles around this concept, the solution suddenly appeared even more seductive! He had to sign a contract with France Telecom for a dedicated line so that the radio station could broadcast from the Espace Créatis where the Forest exhibition was being held. In a way, this line belonged to him for the duration of the exhibition. So he could use it as he wished... This sudden realisation redoubled his playful energy. He immediately recorded a jingle that would be his new pirate radio station, which he immediately named BlaBlaBla Radio. At his signal, a friend would go down into the cellar where the specialised line ran and, using an ordinary pair of pliers as a tool, would simply plug in a tape recorder. All you have to do now is watch Minister Bouchardeau's astonishment before her hilarity as soon as she realised the subterfuge employed by the artist. This diversion was greeted by all the guests with general amusement, except for the furious host of Ici et maintenant, who accused Forest of having used some rival radio station, even though it was he who was broadcasting the pirate signal. Jacques Seguéla, who is still calling Forest a little communications genius, concluded: "Once again it's Fred Forest who has won the day by making the event", while Olivier Poivre d'Arvor vainly ran after me, trying to empty the pots of speeches by throwing them at me.

My Babel conference was attended by: Jean-Philippe Lecat, Minister of Culture, Bouchardeau, Minister of Ecology, Olivier Poivre d'Arvor, writer and diplomat, Jean-Marie Benoît, writer, Philippe Sollers, writer, Jacques Séguela, advertising executive and... dentist, Daniel Fabre, Director of Cabinet for Minister Questiau, Bernard Stasi, former French Ombudsman, Abraham Moles, academic, etc.


Forest, so to speak, 'exposes' the political discourse, making it an object of critical reflection. He invites us to question its purpose, its codes, its clichés, its images, its actors, its music...
By making political discourse 'visible' from a parodic distance, he is demonstrating his desire, through both the theme chosen and the means employed, to initiate an art form that is in direct touch with the times.
A video environment recreates an international conference of heads of state around a monumental table. Superimposed shelves display a hundred jars of canned speeches. A podium identified as the central place of entertainment: the place where political figures are welcomed.
To mark the occasion, Forest devised a clever system for hijacking a peripheral radio station (Europe N°1, Club de la presse) broadcast in a pirate fashion by the free radio station Ici et Maintenant. This pirated broadcast was simultaneously inserted. A system baptized by Forest: "the media on the media. "


  • 8 Sony 3/4-inch U-Matic video recorders
  • 10 Sony widescreen monitors
  • 3 Sony 1800mm cameras
  • A series of jars containing canned speeches in the form of alphabet pasta
  • Live radio broadcasts from the Gallery: Radio "Ici et Maintenant
  • Events with journalists from the T.E.L. editorial team (Temps, Économie, Littérature,)

On-site participation of political and cultural personalities:
Huguette Bouchardeau, current Minister, Jean Philippe Lecat, Minister, Bernard Stasi, Vice-President of the National Assembly, Philippe Sollers, Jacques Séguéla, Abraham Moles, Jean-Marie Benoît, etc.

  • " La conférence de Babel ", entretien Pierre Restany / Fred Forest, Artiste, Paris 1983.
1983 Conférence de Babel
1983 Conférence de Babel


1983 Conférence de Babel
1983 Conférence de Babel


1983 Conférence de Babel
1983 Conférence de Babel



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.