June, 2015 Monthly archive

Dear Art-of-Peacemaker,

I’ve been trying to draw some very initial thoughts together which might in turn connect Robert Filliou’s thoughts on art, materiality / materialism, network technology and labour. I think doing so might help explain why Filliou was so engaged in utopian ideas of network on one hand but not so much with network technologies on the other. So here goes with a very initial sketch. Discussion welcome.

Let’s begin with the materiality / materialism issue. Filliou’s works are noted for their conceptually-driven ephemerality consisting of performative, often social, gestures and/or economically cheap, disposable material. In combination with his utopian socialism after Fourier and later engagement with Zen, Filliou’s practice is thus read as both a Marxian critique of commodification and a Buddhist critique of materiality. The economic precarity and poverty of his living conditions – he dropped out, remember – is often anecdotalised and to an extent romanticised in recollections. Though declaring the historical avant-garde to be obsolete, Filliou is still in many cases the perfect formulation of the humble but heroic artist disengaged from the vulgarity of making a living and the trap of alienation therin. Still, he was not a hermit as that formulation often requires – he was a networker, and one of few who espoused the importance of social relations as the basis of networked coproduction. His conception of The Eternal Network concerns cosmological consciousness more than infrastructural efficacy but was also a karmic potlatch of hospitality and reciprocity through which the artist could economically survive and creatively prosper. A potlatch where the gift-giving is of innocence and imagination. This network, this La Fête Permanente, is the poetical economy Filliou desired to transcend the political economy and which could only be realised through networked solidarity.


image: postcard of Statue of Charles Fourier, Place Clichy, Paris before German occupation of 1940

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