Physical exploration, staged and questioning—brought about by Xavier Veilhan, the Gelitins and the duo of Abraham Poincheval/Laurent Tixador—possesses a double that is just as fascinating and certainly more infinite and more personal: mental exploration. From a real voyage, whether exotic or not, we can exchange addresses and good deals, show photographs and souvenirs, as is the case in the previous pages. A friend will then follow in our footsteps, obviously not experiencing the same feelings, but seeing what we have already seen and liked. Mental exploration is by definition personal, intimate and unique and traveling through dreams, ideas and concepts is unique to each of us, depending on our references, training and experiences.
Julien PrévieuxJulien Prévieux was born in Grenoble in 1974. He lives and works in Paris. He is represented by the Jousse enterprise Gallery, Paris where he exhibited in 2004 and 2007: commotion and Management of Change and Conflict. He recently participated in the Enlarge your practice group show in Marseille and at the Biennial of Istanbul, and in 2006 organized the La Position du tireur couché exhibition at the Plateau-Fonds régional d’art contemporain Ile-de-France. Among the publications let us cite: commotion, (Paris: éditions Jousse entreprise, 2004), texts by François Piron and Julie Pellegrin, and Lettres de non-motivation (Paris: La Découverte, 2007). www.previeux.net., having attended a commercial preparatory school, a masters in biology, the school of Fine Arts of Grenoble, and having worked for a short time as a webmaster for France Telecom, has chosen to explore, among other things, the world of Economics. Its modes of operation, its references, certain of the ideas engaged in economic processes (value, equivalence, productivity, manufacturing processes) as shifts and deviations that we can subject all of this data to, are the subject of his questioning, parodic, approach to the concepts and forms created by our contemporary world.
On the art of exchange and equivalence
Being a series of paintings called F.A.Q. that present—and let us not right away use the word represent—simple and complex geometrical forms (squares, circles, lines, mazes), juxtaposed or connected and whose stark colors clash and mix. Each one of these forms is placed on a unified background, and we can read at the bottom of each canvas a word or a group of words that belong to a specialized, technical language: “Education”, “Sex in society”, “Successful study strategies”, “Group Leadership”. The logic of the presentation requires that eye and intellect thus weave a connection, creating contact between what is painted and what is written. Despite this human desire to render things legible and intelligible, this intention to create connections and find a meaning, equivalence can sometimes be undermined, especially since these equivalences do not all work on the same principle. Thus, if the “e” which emerges in the tangle of colors evokes “Education” on an alphabetical level, it is more-so a formal parallel that seems to govern the superimposed points of “Group Leadership”. At other times, reading actually becomes interpretation and the title of this series, which regular visitors to internet forums are soon forced to translate, to transcode—“FAQ” for “Frequently asked questions”, the most asked and standardized questions—, highlighting this interpretative appeal. An appeal accentuated by the certainty that, faced with the canvases of Julien Prévieux, each spectator can create different connections between signifier and signified. Since that is indeed what it is about: the versatility of equivalence.
Inspired by the covers of works dealing with the humanities, published in the 1970sNotably by the Penguin Press publishing house where Derek Birdsall/Omnific company (for “Management of Change and Conflict”), Alan Fletcher (for “Education”), Germano Facetti (for “Self and Others”) and David Pelham, Art Director, worked in the 1970s-early 1980s., these canvasses are the result of the artist’s inversion of the relationship between the word and the thing. In effect, generally in this type of work, the title has priority over the imageIn a number of social science collections, graphic constructions have been replaced by narrative images. The reading of the image is supposed to illustrate the title in a mimetic relationship between image and language.. This reversal of values thus questions an equivalence of things and gives form to the question of exchange.
It is also part of an amused and distanced reinterpretation of modernism and its formsThese F.A.Q. canvasses effectively raise the question of the signification and interpretation of a whole section of the production of the Bauhaus, from the system developed by Walter Gropius to the compositions of an aging Josef Albers in the Black Mountain College. Artist Daniel Pflumm also drives work that is not without evoking pictorial modernism. By alienating and mutilating the logos of major brands, he frees them from their commercial subservience. Exhibiting them in the form of luminous crates he reintegrates them into the history of forms similarly to what Julien Prévieux does for book covers. The latter also brings a new element to the reflection around the titles of art works and the presence of writing within pictorial space. For more on this subject see Michel Butor, Les Mots dans la peinture, 1969; and my text “écritures peintes, lectures vues” in Hibrid. Regards croisés sur la peinture contemporaine française (Paris: Éditions des riaux, 2007, pp. 19‒28) where a bibliography on the subject can be found.. When one learns, moreover, that the artist is not the one who painted these canvases but that he resorted to a professional painter to realize them, the value of exchange is caught in a new vice, between delegation and copyright. Who is the creator of these forms: who originally imagined them, who used them to create a collection of abstract paintings, the one that really gave them a material existence? In the same way that these works question the relationship between formulation and formalization, between representation and meaning, they also raise the question of the author and the responsibility of the work within a system, whether it be considered from the artistic point of view the authorship or the economic beneficiary of the sale. Many works by Julien Prévieux activate this question of the author and how we can weave an equivalence between an object, its meaning and its function.
Thus, Have a rest (2007), a full scale replica of the supercomputer designed by Seymour Cray in 1977 for the National Security Agency (NSA), or Glissement (2004), a sculpture that reinterprets the metallic crash barrier running alongside motorways, are works that can be read on two levels, slow burning works in a sense. Glissement, for example, proves to be an element of urban furniture, used throughout the world since the 1950s, hijacked and thwarted by the artist. It is doubtless one of the reasons for its title, indicating the parodic function of the work. The work uses an element recognized by all but modifies its form by changing its objective more or less, because this form, failing to fulfill its role—no danger exists on the other side—nevertheless prevents the pedestrian from passing. The original object is not completely modified but amended, corrected, artistically hybridized. This is also the case with Have a rest, a super computer emptied of its technological power that has become a simple and luxurious element of decoration and furniture in beech, sycamore and leather.
Julien Prévieux : "The power of these computers far exceeds what was available on the market in the 1970s and 1980s. Prices were close to $ 10 million. Seymour Cray had concealed the cooling circuit of the computer in seats on which one could actually sit. He offered his customers a choice of colors for the different parts of the machine from a pre-established color range. The ‘architectural’ size of these machines involves taking into account their decorative and functional aspects: the place of calculation becomes a space for rest.”
On the aesthetic of loot and preemption
In these artworks and in the whole of his work, it is possible to summon an aesthetic of preemption. In other words, the right taken by the artist—sometimes to the detriment of the preempted work, as we will see—to give a voice to, before others and after their creator, things, objects and concepts according to a mode that is his own. Preemptive right can also reveal itself to be a specifically artistic strategy, an exaggerated form of the idea of appropriation. If artistic creation is supposed to be a race to originality, why not deviate from appropriation to preemption? In what can “shopping” be considered as art? In the stock of real elements and fictitious elements, it is a question of being the first to grab an element to use as a medium for artistic appropriation. Though this question of “being the first” is far from primordial—it has, let us note, a market value—, this aesthetic of preemption—exaggerated appropriation, sampling—may reveal itself to be pertinent if we add the notion of loot, of war treasure.
What else is “Mallette n°1” (ministère de l’Intérieur-May 30, 2006) if not loot from our society where surveillance and censorship are increasingly present? This work encloses the precious and unusable imprints of Nicolas Sarkozy in a briefcase, at the time ministre de l’Intérieur (Secretary of the Interior), now President. Again, by objectifying the real (here, a public figure) and presenting, much like a salesman’s briefcase, material that is to all intents and purposes non-commercial, Julien Prévieux raises the question of the value of things. It is then a matter of questioning the value of this object, considered as a work of art, and its value of use, namely the possibility of creating fakes, thanks to the availability of the fingerprints of Nicolas Sarkozy. Is it necessary to index the price of a work on its potentialities as an object, even though the value of use of any object is obviously subjective? Indeed, potentialities of use for the work exist outside of the context of exhibition and art and this is one of the questions that this work raises.
What to do with it? This aesthetic of loot is revealed by the “trap” laid by Julien Prévieux to capture these imprints. Present at a UMP meeting on May 30th, 2006, dedicated to sport where the Secretary of the Interior intended to speak, Julien Prévieux imagined his maneuver: “At my request, a security officer placed me on the path that he [Nicolas Sarkozy] would take once his speech ended. A little before six o’clock, the minister headed towards me, I handed him a book and a pen that had been carefully cleaned. Once I had the autograph, I carefully placed the two objects that he had touched into a plastic bag. The next day, I sampled his fingerprints with a magnetic powder usually used by the forensic identification services. Using tape, I transferred the prints onto card stock and I had a set of stamps made that allows me to reproduce them.” And so the reversal reaches its goal: the head of the police is subject to the same treatment as any accused criminal. Besides the fact that this work is a kit and almost a manual of instructions for apprentice forgers, “Mallette n°1” questions the process of reproduction of things, a process often staged by Julien Prévieux. Whether with Have a rest (2007), with the patterns of the F.A.Q. or, in a more roundabout way, with Untitled (Judith and holopherne, Le Caravage) (2006).
In this last work, a wall drawing with dimensions identical to the original, the journey made by the artist’s eyes across a painting by Caravaggio is exposed to the gaze of the spectator. Thus, it is no longer the work that the artist reveals in his appropriative, reproductive approach, but his perception, even his own appropriation of the work, being what he has retained on a retinal level. In a documentary about his work, David Hockney recalls the importance that each view—exploration—of each spectator of a painting is unique, original. If the viewer does indeed make the picture, each viewer makes a different picture. In the case of Julien Prévieux, it is no longer the discourse that comes to describe the painting, as Daniel Arasse would do by showing us the details of the painting, but the simple retinal path, proof and testimony of his reading of the painting. Equivalence finds itself biased, even though the derivative, in principle, carries the same title as the original.
Sampling the real can also be the opportunity for a different reading of it. It is then diverted, parodied, exacerbated, actions that lead us to challenge it. The artist becomes an activist, with greater or lesser means. In the case of Julien Prévieux, we have a low-tech hacker, fighting with means that are efficient, but rather inexpensive and demonstrative. Parody, etymologically speaking, means the way through, the path that is off to one side, a non-frontal engagement with things where it is not necessarily and solely a matter of ridiculing the object being consideredÉclairage illicite, a series of five drawings on paper, reactivates this parody of reproduction, playing on misappropriation. Created in 2006, following a commission from the 1664 firm, Julien Prévieux enjoys circumventing the law to show people drinking alcohol, in this case the 1664 beer. Thanks to the use of a phosphorescent white ink that absorbs light during the day to then reveal itself in the shadow, the scenes of consumption of alcohol that are represented can only be seen when night falls.. It is undoubtedly this parodic practice that corresponds to Lettres de non-motivation and the work in several parts À la recherche du miracle économique. Or what one might call the introduction, the intrusion of one logic into another, an autonomous and meaningful system within an already efficacious and efficient system.
With his Lettres de non-motivation, Julien Prévieux gives insight into the current system of employment and application, turning his counterproductive approach into an act of resistance.
For several years, the artist replied negatively to job offers, making these answers that decline the proposals the material for a full-time job. This complex, costly and ongoing activity (the search for ads to be answered, the search for motivational elements to motivate a lack of motivation, stamping letters, answering eventual responses) then becomes a long and multiple refusal to work, particularly under the conditions proposed by the offered jobs. Indeed, each offer is systematically refused by Julien Prévieux who imagines the privileged recipient of these offers, and in turn takes on different profiles of the unemployed (overworked, illiterate, paranoid, defender of the environment...). Each response gets its own special treatment, a kind of exercise in style in a laborious fashion, and a personalized invention. For example, the non-motivation letter sent to Henkel, a group specializing in applied chemistry, highlights the paradox of a multinational company whose slogan is “A Brand like a Friend” and who produces pollutants and Ecological disasters. Most of the time, responses from the Human Resources Department are standard form lettersOne of the last letters sent by Julien Prévieux is a standard letter of response, itself answered by a standard letter of response...who have not taken into account the goal of the letter or who have not been able to see the particular nature of the applicant. Proof that these letters of motivation, “a one-way social game,” are rarely read or understood. In a few cases, the answer is personalized, essentially when the company sees its reputation dragged into difficult waters by the artist, like in the case of Henkel trying to restore its image.
Julien Prévieux: "The Turing test is a test designed by Alan Turing in the 1950s. It aims to distinguish man from machine. To preserve the simplicity and universality of the test, the conversation is limited to a textual exchange between the protagonists. Over more than one thousand non-motivated letters sent, only five correspondents passed the test successfully.”
This long-term approach undertaken by the artist undermines hiring processes, while at the same time demonstrating the full-time job of finding a job. A tragicomic variation on the market system when it comes to individuals and products, Lettres de non-motivation follows another, older project and continues to paint a portrait of the artist as volunteer. While still a student at the Beaux-Arts in Grenoble, he had sent letters around the city in which he proposed to work voluntarily, emphasizing his strong desire to “be useful to society.” Few responses followed, leaving the proposal dead in the water, and the energy of an individual dispersed. On the other hand, the artist had volunteered for activities that are usually salaried. For example, by replacing, and improving the service offered by the public transport system of Grenoble, offering to drive people waiting at bus stops home in his car.
On post -production and the use of things
Post-postproduction, the title of a video work, constitutes in itself a program and a manifestoPostproduction by Nicolas Bourriaud (Dijon: Les Presses du réel, 2003), with the subtitle of Culture as Scenario: How Art Reprograms the Contemporary World, contains the key to reading the work of Julien Prévieux. Though this work focuses on artists from a previous generation, from Andrea Zittel to Philippe Parreno, from Carsten Höller to Vanessa Beecroft, the ideas that are considered, such as reprogramming, the network, re-reading, the concept of “working with” are quite pertinent in the context of the art works described here. Obviously, some of Julien Prévieux’s work came after this essay and are demonstrations or challenges. Sections titles and certain chapter titles (“L’Usage des objets, L’Usage des formes, L’Usage du monde; Playing the World: reprogrammer les formes sociales”) find an echo in the art works that deal with work and specific objects, like the big time Hollywood film.. A program because it refers to the work of the artist to create this work. A manifesto because it can be applied to the entire production of an artist who often structures himself around a preexisting object, and a system already in force and that has proved itself. In this particular case, the artist began with the commercialized version of the film The World Is Not Enough, a recent episode in the life of secret agent 007. He then created his own versionSince Christian Marclay and his Up & Out that juxtaposes the image from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow up and the sound from Brian de Palma’s Blow Out, numerous artists have seized the cinematographic object to shape it in their own fashion, often raising the question of copyright and the right of appropriation. Camille Henrot with her recent work King Kong addition, a juxtaposition of three versions of the King Kong films (1933, 1976, 2003), is a milestone in this debate around the re-appropriation of the seventh art by art itself. The work of Julien Prévieux functions more on the mode of addition rather than that of collage as in the examples cited here., with post-production being the final moment of making a film before it is released on the screens. He completely re-worked the film and significantly increased the number of special effectsJulien Prévieux seems fascinated by machines, like the technological monster of the NSA whose unforeseen capacity for the treatment of information and whose modern design is a symbol of scientific progress, like the piece Lesson 1 (2000), where two computers discuss the fundamentals of computing thanks to programming software. Nevertheless, this fascination is not exempt from the challenge of a comical vision. Thus the Xtars Love computers (2006), slideshow, created for the website of the Magasin-centre national d’art contemporain de Grenoble, offers a delightful visual record of images of the contemporary fetishism around the computer thanks to a succession of photographs that show stars and celebrities extolling “life with computers.”(explosions, flames, fumes, water surges or avalanches). From now on, every shot, even the most anecdotal and insignificant, is the scene of catastrophic events and the result of a titanic generosity on the part of the artist. Indeed, Julien Prévieux saturated the film with special effects throughout its running time (120 minutes), which gives birth to a firework display of special effects that, instead of serving the film, parasite and phagocyte it until it becomes unwatchable, incomprehensible.
Julien Prévieux: "We can compare this intensive use of transforming an existing object to the mods created by video game players. A mod (a modification) is a game created from another by adding or modifying game components: additional levels, different scenarios, revised gameplay. While the mods are generally free and distributed by the players themselves, some have been commercialized and become real commercial successes (Counter-strike for example).”
The hero of the film is no longer James Bond but rather the renewed and everlasting explosion. And this, in a mimetic way, with the same means and techniques as those used by the emitting production: the Hollywood film industry. The voluntary nature of this action is essential in this work and once again brings into play the question of value since, through his simple unpaid will, the artist succeeds in producing a version of the film that the producers would not have dared to dream of. The voluntary character of the post-postproduction can then be applied to all of the work of Julien Prévieux, a work of replaying, of redistributing the senses, starting with elements from reality or art whose meaning and ambition were unequivocal.
In three older works, the artist staged himself in what could be likened to an adventure film, in a no budget Jackass styleJackass is an American television show, originally broadcast on MTV, that shows a group of young adults doing humiliating, dangerous and ridiculous stunts, with no other goal than having fun. There is a “market” version of this video, presented within an installation that imitates a fair stand selling T-shirts that are featured in the video and that acts as a demonstration program.. In Roulades, an individual—the artist?—from morning till night rolls through a number of different places, taking possession of the space in a continuous and fluid movement, to the sound of repetitive music. In Crash Test – Mode d’emploi, a man dressed in a T-shirt bearing the yellow and black crash test target, runs into everything in his path: cars, architecture, passers-by, furniture. In Pendu, photographs from 1998, the artist poses in the urban environment and becomes a motif applied to architecture and everyday reality, a parasite challenged by the body. A means of bringing the burlesque into the urban landscape as with this suspension at the “Pedestrian Access” signpost. In this group of works of the same year, that include the human body in real spaceThese two forms disappear more or less completely afterwards from the repertoire of Julien Prévieux, marked by the reproduction reality and the management of different products, that we could call manufactured., the artist questions the world as an obstacle and as an environment to be apprehended and invested in by simple, radical gestures, repeated in a loop, kinds of deviant and more or less violent and burlesque behaviors. Our perception of the context is upset by these excessive gestures, as a safety ramp can be troubling when mishandled in Glissement.
These works also lead to the examination and questioning of the work of Julien Prévieux from another point of view: that of history of art and the referential context of its practice. As the artist himself suggests, Glissement can bring to mind a Land Art sculpture, or even a work by Donald Judd, and it is certain that this abstract sculpture would be right at home once placed in public space. Similarly, as François Piron writes in “commotion”, the hot head style video works of the late 1990s are reminiscent of “certain performative gestures of the 1960s and 1970s: Crash Test – Mode d’emploi evokes Velocity Piece by Barry Le Va, the photographic series Pendu refers to the falls of Bas Jan Ader or Chris Burden, while the video Roulades comically recalls the performance Roll by Dan Graham.” One could also mention Dennis Oppenheim’s Parallel Stress performance or other body art actions where artists adopted “different” behaviors in public space, on the lookout for external reactions. Nevertheless, as François Piron indicates, the meta-artistic perspective, “the appropriative citation does not seem to be the issue” of the work of Julien Prévieux, rather it is a matter of “de-dramatizing” historical influences by activating them in a banal urban setting, of “expropriating” them by valuing them as gestures without authors and without meaningful significance. The artist places himself in the position of “user As proof of this “user” dimension, François Piron notes that, in Roulades, the main protagonist meets another roller, the comic proof of a collective movement. In Postproduction Nicolas Bourriaud highlights this phrase by Wittgenstein: “Don’t look for the meaning, look for the use” and speaks of “filling daily life with passion again.” At the end of his text, François Piron concludes: “a sign of the times, Julien Prévieux performs a bergsonian comic turnaround, not by slapping the mechanical onto the living but rather the living, in other words the accident, onto the mechanical.” in commotion, p. 3.”, as is often the case in his work, and not as an author. This path of expropriation is also at work in one of the artist’s emblematic works, À la recherche du miracle économique, a work at the crossroads of many of its centers of interest, and which turns out to be a new way of struggling against the clarity of things and texts.
On labor value and intellectual property
The series of works that go under the emblematic title À la recherche du miracle économique [In search of the economic miracle] intends to find lost time or, at least, lost meanings. It is once again a question of the revealing the true meaning of things. Julien Prévieux sought in this work to give meaning to economic events, to update Karl Marx’s Capital along with texts by Smith and Ricardo while diverting the whole thing through an effort of fictionalization and charlatanism.
His aim, with these artworks where he updates a network of ideas, a map of connected terms from a cryptographic reading of founding texts of economic thought, is to predict or reveal, like a capitalist Nostradamus, events such as the 1929 crisis, the Enron scandal, the crisis in Asia or contemporary economic situations such as tax havens or the informal sector. Thus, terms such as “N.Y.S.E.” (for New York Stock Exchange), “Hoover,” “recession,” “bankruptcy” to announce the crisis of 1929 or “downsizing,” “demonetized” and “neo-state” for local retreat gravitate around a block of text, treated like a painting or a poem in prose.
Often presented as foundational and unavoidable texts—Engels considered Capital as the Bible of the workers’ movement—these prophecies play with the mystical investment of these texts and lead to the conclusion that the economic miracle is not feasible in our capitalist society, as these prophecies only predict repeated disasters. Between an instrumentalization by art and a criticism of the instrumentalization and manipulation of texts for ideological purposes, Julien Prévieux’s process of decoding gives shape to economic complexity. Here again, the notion of the author is challenged since the artist only paraphrases and decodes a first work to ultimately divert, or even cannibalize it.
Julien Prévieux: "On the subject of consumers and readers, Michel de Certeau writes: “In the built up, written and functionalized spaces where they circulate, their trajectories form unpredictable phrases, partly illegible ‘crossings.’ Although they are composed of the vocabularies of received language and remain subject to prescribed syntaxes, they trace the tricks of other interests and desires that are neither determined nor captured by the systems in which they develop.” (The Practice of Everyday Life, translated by Steven Rendall, 1984)”.
It is also question of salvage with La Soufrière, a new controversial variation on this famous labor value. With this work, voluntary work becomes hidden and, again, the work of the artist makes use of an intermediary, namely children who make salt shakers on an assembly line. By transforming a section of his gallery into a workshop for clandestine production during a personal exhibition, the artist again raises the question of the author of the work and of its belonging. It is the children who make the work, while these objects, apparently playful, contain within them calls to rebellion. Indeed, there are colored dots on the back and corresponding to them on the front cover are exact replicas of the instructions distributed by the CIA in Nicaragua in the 1980s that aimed to destabilize the Sandinista regime. The spectator who takes a close look the salt-shakers, available in a corner of the gallery, like the child who would see what he is folding, can read: “block the roads with nails and rocks,” “get in late to work” or “break shop windows and public lights.” This work then becomes the area for a series of reversals of work and volunteer work, the value of this work and clandestine activity, the joint presence of a figure of innocence and the salt shakers, intended to camouflage the call to insurrection.
“What shall we do next?”
This question is the title of a work in progress by Julien Prévieux. It consists of a series of drawings that show gestures broken down into three steps, each movement being referenced at the bottom of the sheet according to the patent number given by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to these gestures and to the corresponding functions. Developed by individuals or companies such as Apple or Nintendo, these three-handed models—one would say “patterns” in sewing—constitute a stock of behaviors that we may use one day in our daily lives, an “archive of future gestures,” privatized for the time being, in a future that is common to any user of possible interfaces or electronic devices.
Placed under the sign of such a programmatic question, this work also enlightens all of the practices and modes of action of Julien Prévieux that are examined here. His activity of redistributing forms and meanings, of reformulating signs and uses acts as an existential, behavioral questioning, let us say, to be less connoted, of the contemporary world, and in particular its economic relationships, and the notions of use, value and equivalence which are not only found and don’t only operate in this field of economics, but also in the human, social, cultural and artistic fields. Or, perhaps, these notions have contaminated all human relations and creations?
Thus, the postures of exploration, research and use, and even post-use—second hand—taken on by the artist reveal a critical approach that questions objects and forms. An approach that structures them in a new way, translating them into a language of its own. From there, his work is enhanced in turn by a programmatic dimension in the sense that it proposes modalities of use of the real, that h influences tangentially in certain projects as when he behaves as a user, intervening after the fact. His creative mode and reflection also allow us to renew our modes of observation of the representation of the real and the sign. By examining, with the same attention and the same concerns, various objects, such as the foundational books of economic theories, the symbols of the technological revolution as vernacular objects, social exchanges and contracts of reciprocity, Julien Prévieux determines and emphasizes the symbolic life and aura that can be attached to certain tools and elements of functioning of our daily lives, whether these be founded or the result of mystifications, or theoretical, social or economic accompaniments as these few paragraphs on his work may well be.
This article first appeared in Stream 01 in 2008.