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Fred Forest, or the art of the implication

Pierre Lévy (Paris, January 1995)

 Since at least some centuries in West the artistic phenomenon presents itself more or less as follows: a person (the artist) signs an object or a particular message (the work) that other people (the recipients, the public, the criticals) discern, taste, read, interpret, value. Whatever is the function of the work (religious, decorative, subversive.) and its capacity to transcend all function toward the core of the enigma and of emotion that lives us, it registers in a classic communication diagram. The sender and the receptor are distinctly differentiated and their roles perfectly assigned.

 However, the emergent techno-cultural environment causes the development of new species of art, ignoring the separation between the sending and the receipt, the composition and the interpretation. Some artists, as Fred Forest, exploited the opened possible by the mutation in progress, worked to open out the variety of its wealth. This possible is fragile: it would be able very well to close again one day. But it could also represent the future of the artistic creation, or rather its beyond. This new shape of art (or of non-art, but by convention we continue to use the old vocabulary) makes experiment to what is no more a public, other modes of communication and creation.

 Instead of distributing a message to receivers outside of the step of creation, invited to give sense in hindsight, the artist offers here to constitute an environment, an arrangement of communication and production, a collective event that implies the recipients, that transforms the hermeneutics in actors, that puts the interpretation in loop with the collective action. Probably the " open works" prefigure already such an orientation. But they remain even taken in the hermeneutic paradigm. The receptors of the open work are invited to fill the gaps, to choose between the possible senses, to confront the divergence between their interpretations. But it’s always to magnify and to explore the virtualities of an incomplete monument, to initial a guestbook under the signature of the artist... However, the art of the implication doesn't constitute the work anymore to the classic sense, even open or indefinite: it makes emerge some processes, it wants to open a career at autonomous lives, it introduces to the growth and the habitation of a hulls. It inserts us in a creative cycle, in a living environment of which we are always already the coauthors. Work in progress? It displaces the accent of the work toward the progress. We will return its demonstrations to moments, to places, to collective dynamics, but no more to people. This is art without a signature

 Since the end of the years 60, Fred Forest manufactures "machines to imply". These machines invite people to participate in an adventure, to make themselves creators with others. Of the pieces of their own pictures, traces of their gestures are integrated to the informational fluxes that treat the disposition of the communication. There are no more "spectators" separated, moved away. To the contact of the device, people are longed to the interior of a common event, taken in a process that eats their reactions. It’s thanks to this use of living energy of the participants that sometimes an autonomous human being escaping completely the exhibitor of device finishes by emerging. To communicate, it’s to create the community. The result (ideal) of the actor (waited) of the events caused by the art of the implication are intellectuals or "imagining collectives".

The devices of communication of Fred Forest are not made to diffusion but essentially to listen... Art of the gap: sudden the television and the radio listen, the placards don't include any enrollment, the strip video is virgin, the newspaper asks you for writing, the screen pierces itself... The event arrives by the silence provoking the diffusion, by the rip of the exhibition.

 Certainly, one will find sending in the installations of Fred Forest but it will be most of the time only to fill the one of the three following functions: to turn in derision the deaf emitters, to provoke the answer or to restore what has been listened. At the time of the restitution we understand why the message was absent, escaped: the work lodged in the collective answer and not at all where our reflexes were waiting for. Such could be the formula of " the art of the implication": to cause the work instead of to impose it.

 The work "holds" all alone, it possesses a certain density of existence. The work is where the real emerges. It tends to autonomy. This approach doesn't limit the work anymore to messages words or steady shapes. Become also works: the events, process, situations, emotional climates, dynamic of group, ephemeral space-temporal configurations, etc. If the devices of Fred Forest work the expanse, the degree and the quality of the implication of people, it’s at the end to make emerge a risky, non-controlled, open situation, where a dimension of autonomy will be able to spread out.

 To listen and to restore probably constitute by excellence the double psychotherapeutic gesture. Only if we admit its power to take care, we can put in doubt its aesthetic virtues. But take guard not to apply the criteria of judgment for the classic work judgment for the art of the implication. The goal isn’t to evaluate or to taste a separated message, but to live a situation, to participate in an event. Or rather, one cannot taste this work only by participation and therefore by being partially the author. Or we are is implied (and then partially responsible), or we don't have access to what it proposes as essential: we will have only a knowledge by hearsay.

 Strictly speaking, the work is not very in the device of communication. It is necessary to think this device as breach in the inertia of the daily, emptiness in which a collective dynamic will be able to emerge. In my sense, Fred Forest arrives to the summit of his art when he succeeds to cause real collective intelligence. Surmounting the organized separation by the media and the institutions, peoples implied in his communicating installations are going to confer, to coordinate themselves, to invent and to play together, to manufacture suddenly community, as in "watchtowers of the peace", to make hear a collective voice. Forest doesn't show us the earth of the men view from high, photographed by a satellite. He calls us to measure actively the diameter of it, to give us the hand by telephone, to dance around the world an electronic round. When we participated in some of his telephonic installation, it is a little bit as if we had held, all together, the earth between our arms measuring its rotundity of our collective flesh.

 One hopes that the way of research inaugurated by Fred Forest and some others will lead one day to extraordinary shapes of art that will make us progress again in the constitution of intellectuals or "imagining collectives". In particular the resources of the cyberspace will permit us maybe to cause some communities capable to forge some languages. In this respect, the classic work is like a bet. More it transmutes the language that carries it, musical, plastic, verbal or other, more its author takes risks: incomprehension, absence of reprise. But more the stake is important - the degree of recast or fusion to which one sends the language - more the gain is attractive: makes event in the history of the culture. However, this game of language, this bet on the understanding and the recognition is not reserved to the artists. Each to his scale, as soon as we express ourselves, we produce, we reproduce and we let vary the language. From singular express in creative hearing, the languages emerge and drift thus in the long course of the communication, carried by thousands of voices that question and answer themselves, risk, provoke themselves and disappoint themselves, throwing the words, the turns, new accents above the deep abyss of the non-sense. An artist can therefore, when he seizes it, make evolve one fashion of expression received from previous generation. Besides such is one of the main social functions of the art: to participate to the continuous invention of the languages and signs of a community. But the creator of a language is always a collective.

Radicalizing the classic function of the work, the art of the implication will be able to put in tension human groups and will be able to propose them the machines of signs that are going to allow them to invent their languages. But, one will say, these languages we produce them since always. Probably, but to our unawareness. Not to tremble before our own audacity, to conceal the emptiness under our steps, or maybe only because this adventure was so slow that it became invisible, or because it enveloped too much crowd in walk, we preferred the illusion of the foundation. But we paid for this illusion by the feeling of the defeat. In defect facing God's language, worn out by the transcendence of the Logos, bloodless to the look of the spurs inspired of the artist, imperfect according to the correction of the schools, bearing the weight of the dead languages, we fall down before the exteriority of the language. We have already suggested; the art of the implication wants to be therapeutic. It invites to experiment a collective invention of the language that would know itself like such. Making that, it points toward very essence of the artistic creation.

 Come out of the bath of their life and of their interests, far from their zones of expertise, separated the ones of the others, the individuals "have nothing to say". The whole difficulty consists in seizing them - to the emotional sense as to the topological sense - in group, to hire them in an adventure where they will take pleasure to imagine, to explore, to construct together sensitive environments. Even if the technologies of the direct and the real time play their part in this enterprise, the own time of the collective imagining overflows with all sides the chopped temporality, accelerated, almost prompt of " the interactivity". The insufficiency of immediate, of the zapping without memory, doesn't send back us either to the long chains of the interpretation, to the infinite patience of the tradition that envelops in the same length the ages of the living peoples with those of the deaths, and that makes work quick water of the present to the edification of a wall against the time: as the madrepore raises of the coral reefs, the commentaries, stratum after stratum, always turn into object of commentaries.

 The art of the implication doesn't hold for acquirement nor the time nor the space. And for reason: it produces them. One will see in the step that Fred Forest develops how all artifices of the communication are convened to cross the heterogeneous temporalities, to evoke impossible uchronies, to cause the ambiguous simultaneity, to warp between the lengths of inextricable circularities. In such installation, what we believed in the past... proves to be present. There, the present was already of the past. Here the future seems to act on the present. Elsewhere, the times interpenetrate and color themselves mutually. One will browse this on-line retrospective of Fred Forest like a space-temporal book of alchemy.

 We said, the art of the implication doesn't aim the work to the classic sense but the event. It valorizes the present, the ephemeral, the enjoyment, the life. But paradoxically this orientation comes with a kind of obsession of the trace. The trace is like the shade of the event. And Fred Forest seems to strive to put in evidence this dark part of the action: the fascination of the recording when one gave up the memory. By passage to the limit, the event can cut down exactly to lived of an event like trace, or for the trace. As soon he knows itself as ash, the fire doesn't burn with the same flame anymore. Its future of the past comes to gnaw the present. the recording finishes to condition throughout. The possession of the object (of art?) substitutes itself to the ephemeral enjoyment... And finally, beyond all it traffics of temporality, Forest seems to aim a very archaic time, a time before the history, a return at this time where ritual (magic, religious, artistic?) made the seasons, the years and the cycles. As if we were again in this fabulous instant, before the origins, where the history has not again begun to flow.

 The collective event always raises for a part from a subjective, emerge "out of the time" that it is impossible to return to the watch or the calendar. The ultimate aim of the art of the implication is maybe to cultivate this time of the collective subjectivity. For an art of the future, the rhythm of "the imagining collective" caused by the event would resemble to the one of a very slow dance. It would raise from a slow-motion choreographs, where the gestures adjust little by little, answer themselves with infinitely of precaution, where the dancers discover progressively the secret tempi that are going to put them in phase, to baffle them. Each would learn some from others the entry in a calm, belated and complicate synchrony. The time of the collective intelligent would spread out, would get confused and would recover quietly, as the drawing restarted of the delta of a big river. The imagining collective would be born to take the time to invent the ceremony that inaugurate it. And it would be the celebration of the origin and the origin itself, again undecided.

 To the look of the watch or of the calendar, the temporality of "imagining collective" could seem deferred, interrupted, exploded. But all would be played in the dark folds, invisible of the collective, the melodic line, the emotional tonality, the secret beating, the correspondences, the continuity that it would link to the very heart of the individuals that composes it. The art of the implication discovers the up-stream of the music. How to make elevate a symphony from the rumor of the multiple? How to pass - without previous partition - from a murmur of crowd to a chorus? The intellectual collective puts back continuously in game the social contract, it maintains the group to the newborn condition. Paradoxically it spends of the time, the time to imply people, to weave the links, to make appear the objects, the common landscapes... and to come back to it. A length and means of which the artist of the implication doesn’t have today. Having filled marvelously his function of scout, of awaker, having designated the possible, he passes the relay. Who will seize it? He asks to widen the circle of the dancers. Who will accept to release takes?

 Pierre Lévy

Introduction by Rossella Cillani and Nicolas Ballet, curator

Fred Forest and Information Technology: Archives of Video and Digital Projects

 Fred Forest, a pioneer of video and one of the very first artists in France to embrace it, has dedicated his career to exploring mass media technologies. A professor of information science and communication, with a PhD from the Sorbonne, he is one of the founders of the Collectif d’Art Sociologique (Sociological Art Collective) and the Esthétique de la communication (Aesthetics of communication). While developing his initial knowledge of networks working as an inspector of post and telecommunications, he used video as early as 1967, extending his practice also to press, radio, telematic networks, net art, virtual reality and NFTs. With deliberately provocative actions conducted before a large audience, his work questions how these technologies transform our social and media environment. His participative experiments overturn the relationship between media and spectators, urging the latter to see themselves not as passive receivers of information but as players of their own design. Fred Forest thus explores the artistic and emancipatory potential of communication technologies and the limits of the power relations they establish with individuals.

Based on many actions in France and internationally, this exhibition presents an ensemble of archives of this work which, since the 1960s, has systematically accompanied the evolution of new media.

Rossella Cillani, Nicolas Ballet and the New media Mnam-Cci service of Centre Pompidou


The exhibition you are now visiting is the result of a long process of thought, which ultimately led me to choose the most radical form possible for its presentation: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE OBJECT.

The form I have chosen is a deliberate break with the immemorial tradition of museums, where since the dawn of time we have endeavored to present tangible material objects, hung on picture rails, in display cases or on pedestals. This concept took shape with me in 2006 at the XXVIIth Sao Paulo Biennial under the name Biennale 3000, following on from the XIIth Biennale 2000, which I created in 1975 to oppose the official Biennale on political and ethical grounds. The choice of participating artists was an arbitrary one, made exclusively by institutions and the art market, with no consultation of the artists who were the primary stakeholders. The Biennale 3000 was a resounding success. 

Demonstrating that one artist alone, with no financial or institutional resources, was capable of competing with a state institution. It was already an online-only Biennale that ran on its own for some fifteen years, before being destroyed by some profoundly moronic individuals. You know, we're talking about one of those destructive species that exist in all fields, and who feel a perverse pleasure in eliminating anything of interest to others ... before one day being eliminated in their turn!

This "immateriality" already highlighted in the art of an artist like Yves Klein, as my friend Pierre Restany used to tell me, finds a wider field of application for me on the politico-social level with the evolution of techniques and the idea of generalizing online exhibitions. Which, moreover, is good for the economy and virtuous, ecologically speaking, avoiding unnecessary and untimely transport of works around the world for the pleasure of a privileged few...

A type of exhibition of which I can be proud to have been one of the precursors, having conceived, produced and introduced it, despite internal resistance, thanks to the open-mindedness of Laurent Le Bon, current President of a major national museum. This was also the case in 2017 during my retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, where only its President at the time, Alain Seban, supported it against all its curators...

I therefore present this exhibition as probably: the first official exhibition of its kind ever held, to our knowledge, in a museum of this importance, and exclusively online.

It begins with a title chosen by the institution: "Fred Forest and information technologies: archives of video and digital projects".

It stretches from 1962 to 2024, with over 246 actions and 296 online videos. It took me a lot of energy, strategy and even cunning to get to where I am today. I invite my fellow artists to regain their confidence. Let them know that the world is theirs, but only if they want it badly enough... If I wasn't able, in my lifetime, to convince others to follow in my footsteps, I know that in future generations, there are many of them, ready to take up the baton and restore dignity to artists in the face of a market whose values are distorted by speculation and arbitrariness.

Finally, please don't leave us without donating one of your two feet to the FOOT BANK ( BANQUE DU PIED).

At the very moment when the Centre Pompidou is closing its main building for renovations, I'm offering it an unlimited participatory extension across global networks. An exceptional marketing operation with no agency fees. Yet another gift from the artist to the Centre Pompidou, following the one he made a few months ago with the donation of his: NFT-Archeology

https://nft-archeology.org (invaluable because it was with this work that I anticipated the NFT concept in 1996, when I sold his code under the gavel of Maître Binoche at Drouot). Our project multiplies the Centre Pompidou's surface area in square meters ad infinitum, creating an unlimited Territory. Unlimited by your imagination, your sense of the disruptive and the playful. For every human being, the appropriation of a Territory takes place after birth, through the first steps they take in discovering the world. You'll be stepping into art yourself, with the opportunity to take part in a group exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, probably for the first time. You'll be able to move around the Centre Pompidou yourself, or even remotely from the Centre Pompidou.

You'll be stepping into the art world yourself, with the chance to take part in a group exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, probably for the first time. Whether you're in New York, Osaka or Carpentras, you'll have all the time you need to create a real work of art by dressing your drawn foot in all the shapes and colors of the rainbow. (Factual information to follow) 

Yet another novelty introduced with this “participatory-network-work”, which will give you the opportunity to fleetingly appropriate the walls of the Centre Pompidou: a large digital screen, where all the digital submissions will be displayed one after the other on a screen wall inside my exhibition at the Centre Pompidou or on your computer, tablet or smartphone here: https://flockler.embed.codes/j59zej

Thank you for your generosity !

NB: Neither the Centre nor myself can be held responsible for the accidental loss of your foot. To protect yourself against this hypothetical and absurd inconvenience, you'll need to take out free virtual insurance. Finally, we'd like to point out that if, for whatever reason, you can't walk back home, you'll have to take a cab... which you'll have to pay for yourself.

Fred Forest


Here is the information: The image collection for your "foot bank" project will be visible from any web browser at this URL: https://flockler.embed.codes/j59zej

Visitors can also participate to The Foot Bank (La Banque du pied) from anywhere by posting their images using the following methods:

1. Link to the form to upload an image directly:



2. Mail method: I send an image to this e-mail address, and the image is retrieved in a folder for publication. Address to labanquedupied@centrepompidou.fr




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.