36 WORKS FOR 36 YEARS
Following is a list of individuals related to the project
Buckminster Fuller Richard: I am intrigued by Fuller's dedication to collect throughout his life his correspondence, his publications, tape interviews and so forth. I had the luck to go through part of what he called Dymaxion Chronofiles now stored in a safe in California and visible on request at Standford University. I am also intrigued by Fuller's idea that individuals can accomplish what great nations, great religions and private enterprises wouldn't be able to accomplish. I am critical however of the fact that like other Americans Fuller employed a staff to do the work for him. This is also the case of Microsoft senior researcher and father of the Internet Gordon Bell who got his secretary to scan all his documents to go paperless. It is the case of another American scientist, Vannevar Bush, the scientist allowing the development of the atomic bomb in the 1940s who later thought of a philanthropic system, the Memex, to assist scientists in their work. All of these American born systems which later inspired Steve Mann and the wearable computer group and further down social media, have contributed to a total surveillance society. I stick to my principle that lifelogging ought to be manual and effortful, it has to be more like a Stoic practice, an ethical discipline more in line with for example what an earlier American Benjamin Franklin used to do focusing everyday on a set of 13 virtues (despite many making fun of him).
Cheval Ferdinand: Of this 19th century French postman I am very thrilled of the fact that during his long daily walks to deliver the mail he first built a palace in his head, possibly inspired by the photographic reproductions of distant buildings from around the world, possibly from the very postcards he was delivering. It also inspires me the fact that all alone he built the mental palace, something I have also attempted in my native alps. What is most important however for me is that Cheval has combined different symbols taking from Hinduism and Islamism and Christianity alike. The power of this outsider works lays right here, it generates a form of syncretism of dogmas which otherwise are doomed to come to friction.
Hsieh Tehching: This Taiwanese artist to me represents not only another outsider bringing authenticity to an otherwise formal and stagnating contemporary culture but also he represents the transition between the body art of the 1970s to a more physiologically enduring kind of art which find its stage in life itself. It is no longer the body then to be the material of the artist but his very soul confronted with longer time spams (Hsieh's one year performances) against the technological apparatus (whether a stamping machine or the bureaucracy emancipating immigrants such as Hsieh). More deeply the work of Hsieh represents an Eastern attitude towards culture in a way that it is not focused as in the West on become successful but rather it is focused on renunciation (Hsieh was only celebrated thirty years after his performances).
Llull Raymond: Of this Medieval monk I am fascinated of the fact that he developed the Combinatorial Art, a set of concentric wheels giving answers to any sort of questions particularly of divine order. It fascinates me that these idea was borrowed by the Arab astrologers using a mechanism called zairja to generate ideas. It also has similarities with the Jewish Kabbalah and in this respect the power of Combinatorial Art was to bring these radical monotheistic religions causing so much friction particularly in Spain where Llull was from, to unification. Unfortunately the Pope at that time forced Lull to pursue a more conventional Christian path using the figure of a tree to generate knowledge and Llull was later stoned to death while visiting the Arabs of North Africa. As Combinatorial Art is seen as an early form of computer technology and as computer technologies have created an ever more radical world (at least in my opinion), I believe that a less encyclopedic and more generative/combinatorial approach to knowledge creation is the key to solve nowadays radicalism. The humanities then should recover this path abandoned with the Enlightenment especially now that the very civilizations emerging from it are on the brink to collapse.
Maier Vivian: Beside her well known photographic work of this unknown nanny, I am particularly interested in the collection of headlines and conversations which art curators always managed to disregard. This portable collection for me represents what I define not so much hoarding but rather stowing life for future generations. I am also particularly interested of the fact that Vivian's was somewhat related to an alpine region in France that also involved Cheval and Perec. I am sure there is a relation between coming from a montaniuos region and being a stower.
McLuhan Marshall: Beyond all the abstract and sophisticated theorizing of nowadays theorists, too locked in canons or ideologies, I think McLuhan did his prophetic work by announcing the electric age, the global village and what we know of him. Mostly however there are things he said who do not really come up to the surface and that it is literally his understanding of marginal media artists as those who can rescue life from the development of a new technological paradigm. I feel quite deterministic myself in this respect observing how social media themselves have created many of the populist figures bringing humanity on the brick of a new destructive war. I then believe like suggested by McLuhan that artists should work marginally without seeking any intoxicating success (especially though social media) and create what McLuhan has defined as Noah's Arks meaning ways to rescue life from its destruction or at least, according to him, ways for society to avoid further unnecessary conflicts.
Perec Georges: I am particularly interested about modern French culture and how, starting with Duchamp's ready-made objects, there was an increasing interest on object themselves. We see this in photographers such as Sophie Calle who has used for example the objects she has documented while working as a waiter in a hotel as ways to tell a story. This is very much the case of one of the O.U.L.I.P.O. members, French experimental writer Perec who has spent several years creating lists of different kind of objects to later insert them in a ten by ten apartments condominium where his book Life A User Manual is set. The stories of the book are generated through the very list of objects present in each of the rooms. I am also fascinated of the fact that Perec during the Second World War as a Jewish kid took shelter in a Provence village not too far from where Ferdinand Cheval built his Ideal Palace and Vivian Maier's mother was born.
Pontormo Jacopo: There are a bunch of Renaissance artists keeping track of things. Beside Leonardo Da Vinci keeping track of his inventions, one example is the book of expenses compiled by Lorenzo Lotto. Lotto's book makes sense for a painter who had to deal with expensive materials on a daily basis.The compilation of the meals eaten and his feelings compiled by Florentine artist Pontormo is much more intriguing as it has no clear practical need other then perhaps enhancing a state of melancholy said at that times to stimulate creativity. We know from Vasari that Pontormo was a very reserved figure often retreating himself in his attic and isolating himself by pulling up the very leader to access it, avoiding visits even from patrons. Very inspiring his also the fact that along with the annotations in his diary are small sketches of what he was able to paint in a chapel which perhaps contained a real Giudizzio Universale, an almost encyclopedic compilation of human figures which was later destroyed as it seemed too immoral. Only some scattered papers of several booklets of this tracking operation was rescued at the beginning of the 20th century from a Florentine archive. The meaningful once again was diregarded, like in Vivian Maier case in which there is so much focus on her pictures and none on her annotations and tapes etc.
Sander August: To me this German photographer demonstrates how non-mainstream artists have the sensibility to adopt the new medium of their time (in Sander's case the camera) and collect what is about to disappear. So not only Sander's collected social figures of a Germany which was about to face a catastrophic war in which millions would died but also later in the 1930s he started to thoroughly document the city of Cologne which in a few years was completely flattened to the ground by the Allies airstrikes. In this respect Sander is a great example of my definition Tebahism meaning an instinct towards stowing elements of life from imminent catastrophes. It also shows how dangerous is to unveil the stowage of the artist in a premature stage as Walter Benjamin did by writing about Sander's photography thus putting Sander in the public attention and later in that of Nazis, putting his operation at risk.
Seneca Lucius Annaeus: His hundreds of letters to Luicillus are an insight into understanding how to keep virtuous especially by means of self-examination. Seneca provides the ethical apparatus for what French philosopher Michel Foucault defined as Technology of the Self. In times of increasing crisis, Seneca's letters teaches us how to remain stoic and face an increasing degradation of human societies more and more epicurean and oriented to becoming imperialistic. I believe that Seneca is a hint for a new kind of Western spirituality that has much to learn from Eastern philosophies such as Taoism.
Turek Janina: The Polish housewife represents for me the ideal shaman of our age. Victim of the Nazi occupation and later of the soviet occupation, locked up in the gray Polish reality, this woman managed for half a century to depict in her journals all sort of facts, all well categorized and kept. She would meticulously write down the people she greeted, the presents she gave, the shows she would watch etc. Beyond simply understanding her behavior as compulsive, I rather see it as Stoic and a good example of what Michel Foucault describe as Technology of the Self. What fascinates me the most is that not too far from her apartment in Krakow is a mound where a Celtic king was buried with his treasure for the journey to the afterlife. She also did the same. Interestingly at the foot of the mound was one of Krakow's concentration camps while she lived right at the beginning of the ghetto, almost opposite to Roman Polanski's birth house.
Thoreau Henry David: Despite the contemporary criticism on the American transcendentalist, something powerful remains in his reflections and mostly a feeling to return to a more natural living especially while technology is becoming more invasive. Thoreau in his Walden pond, in his small paradise on earth, experienced the tragedy of progress and his, in my opinion was an act of going against, an act that brought hundreds of individuals, like ascetics to refuse their commodities and get back to nature, no matter how wild this nature was (one doesn't have to be as extreme as Christopher McCandless to go into the wild). I appreciate Thoureau's cynicism on modern technologies such as the train (he would rather walk) or a tunnel under the ocean to connect North America to Europe only to hear that the Queen of England has the flu (a prophecy of what modern media and the Internet is about). Of Thoreau I appreciate also the disobedience towards the establishment. We ought ourselves to disobey these increasingly imperialistic frameworks (governmental, religious, academic but also industrial including all the social media business) in order to give hope to humanity. I believe then that we can at least learn from Thoureau to attempt to be autonomous (I like this term better than anarchic) and don't take part to any enterprise as they are all without exception result into fascism (especially those claiming to be fully tolerant, gay friendly, multi-cultural as Google and the like).
Vertov Dziga: The Jewish film maker has been to me most inspiring in understanding how to go about my project. Not only capturing reality from all possible angles and circumstances but also adopting all possible montage techniques available at that time, him and his wife were able to create the masterwork "Man with A Moviecamera". This masterwork can be seen over and over and still it talks to us in what believe to be a universal language. After learning about his work through Lev Manovich, I have also begun documenting life using the different off-the-shelf technologies available to me.