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les presses du réel

Live Recorded Delay (coffret)An Archive of « Il Tempo del Postino »

Live Recorded Delay
A book as a Partition for a Live Replay
M/M (Paris)
(p. 1-2)
© Sternberg Press, les auteurs

In a bright white book titled Alien Affection that glows in the dark, one can read on page 142, typeset in very small capital letters: “He sets out from his base—an apartment, an art centre—where he changes into postman, like Batman changing in his cave, then he moves around the city, leaving a trace—shapes drawn on the urban surface, a bit of blue uptown, a bit of red downtown. There's no way of recording it but the people who receive a visit from the Postman will retain a peculiar image of him.” Alien Affection is the “catalogue raisonné” of Philippe Parreno's works published in 2002, and the caption is a description of Postman Time, one of his pieces from 1994.
We worked on Alien Affection for more than two years after Parreno decided that the only way to structure his own archive was to take a strong editorial decision: we would be the editors of his archives. We all agreed at the time that this was the best way to design a book, which will help people “to retain a peculiar image of him.”
This book is the catalogue of Parreno's exhibition at Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris in 2002. Hans Ulrich Obrist, one of the curators, wrote in his introduction: “In this retrospective [...], the different objects Parreno has previously produced are not on display and can only be seen in the book. In some ways, there are no objects left. Though, with the metaphor of the chain, it is also possible to rearticulate or to connect the different projects produced since the early 90's with current ones.” Obrist understood the editorial decision we made and knew also that this would be the best way “to retain a peculiar image of him.” For Obrist Alien Affection is not only glowing in the dark, but also an active archive.
In 2007, Obrist and Parreno curated together an exhibition in Manchester named Il Tempo del Postino, the Italian translation of Postman Time. The show took place in the Opera House in Manchester from July 12th to 14th, and was defined by the curators as: “What if an exhibition was not about occupying space but about occupying time?”
For during a couple of weeks Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney, Jonathan Bepler, Tacita Dean, Trisha Donnelly, Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Koo Jeong-A, Philippe Parreno, Anri Sala, Tino Sehgal, and Rirkrit Tiravanija spent some time together to build up an exhibition to be performed in front of an audience four nights in row.
We might have short memories but this is an experience which never happened before in the history of contemporary art. They are of course some example of “operatic” pieces performed or produced by one artist. But what gives also another specificity to this event is the fact that we're dealing here with the idea of a group show, an “exhibition occupying time” that articulates together a sum of personalities.
Within the group of artists invited to be part of this, some we had met only once, some others we talked to just for one hour, and some others we knew better and did have extremely fulfilling conversations with, which eventually led to some collaborative creative processes.
We have been following this “extensible” group of artists for over thirteen years. During these years we have witnessed or been involved in exhibitions where the premises were to try to occupy space with a production time, the one which will happen during the show. In spending time together, the people invited would create a parallel reality, the one of the exhibition. And by experimenting this new reality the viewer could eventually reconsider the reality he's living in.
To archive and record those kinds of exhibitions, we basically had to invent each time an original editorial solution.(1) One usually expects a group show catalogue to compile the objects that are part of the show. Often, a group show happens before the show itself. In those situations, the shows were about displaying the formalization of intuitions. The exhibitions themselves were productive processes, and the shows would display the results of these processes. To record such events, we decided to collect symptoms, seeds of ideas, and then articulated them within a book. The publications were finally a collection of trajectories leading to the present time, the one of the shows.
Beyond the idea of an exhibition occupying time, the particularity of Il Tempo del Postino is that it artificially created a group of people crystallized around a set of rules played within the specific territory of Manchester Opera House. Football players playing a match are producing a representation of the reality at the scale of the time, the rules, and the pitch. Actors within a Greek tragedy and its sets of rules (unities of time, place, and action) are also intending to produce a scaled-down representation of reality. In these two cases the set-up is simple: a representation of reality (the one of the football game or the one of the tragedy) mirrors reality. This reflecting structure helps the viewer rethink the reality in which he lives.
All this said, we are now in 2008 and we went since then through many situations where we had to construct archival procedures for this kind of unstable events. So this was a very natural and logical decision that Hans Ulrich and Philippe took when they invited us to find a way to create an active archive of Il Tempo del Postino.
With our experience, we came to the assumption that there were two powerful ways of archiving such events: books or films. Both are powerful in such contexts as unstable events hold together because they are potential scenarios at the scale of the reality. So books or films are perfect tools to encapsulate those kinds of events, sophisticated enough to be able to record in full scale and to give back to the reader or the viewer in full definition the taste of an event. Books and films are containers for potential narration. So we have constructed through those years documentary procedures, that have given us the ability to record the reality in real scale. The documentary will then exist in the most suitable format as a book or a film, depending on the context and the situation.
To produce an active archive of Il Tempo del Postino, we have chosen to create a book.
In looking at what happened in the Opera house of Manchester from a distance, one can see a miniature world populated with its own inhabitants, and where each of them are full of human contradictions. We see this group as extremely heterogeneous, yet completely homogeneous because of the game they agreed to play together. It is a group made of peculiar identities, and each of the members of the group is a specialist with its own skills. Like in The Magnificent Seven (directed by John Sturges in 1960), in which seven extremely egocentric specialists decide to live for one last time in their life the experience of altering reality together. The experience is only possible because each of them decides to use his specific skill not to black out his fear of being human, but on the contrary to be able to accept his weakness of being fully human within a group. Instead of watching seven people living apart from each other, we are watching the life and death of a group, The Magnificent Seven.
For Il Tempo del Postino, the “vanishing point” lies for us not in the event itself but around it, within the experiences shared by the people that are constructing it. The density of the event comes from the relationships and interactions between the different characters. By drilling the perfect peeping hole, we were able to watch the event and eventually record it. So we have improvised ourselves as photographic reporters sent to photograph unknown territories. By choosing to use a Leica and only two specific lenses, we openly decided to construct a subjective point of view to build a collection of images, which can be titled Around Il Tempo del Postino as Seen by m/m Eyes and Mind Through The Viewfinder of a Leica. We believe that one cannot produce an image without attaching to it a subjective point of view. Without a well-drilled peeping hole, the image simply stays invisible. It is only by creating a strong point of view and describing the event through this point of view that we will have the chance to take the viewer out of the reality and to propose to him a vision of a parallel reality.
Instead of recording the effect of the event, we are recording what affected it. To the series of photographs shot during the rehearsals, we added a series of eleven drawn portraits, which have to be considered as “psychological” close-ups of some of the “characters” of the Opera. We think it is important to give some detail to our group portraiture and to anchor it even deeper to our point of view. To do so, we selected the persons we know well enough for us not to be shy to look at them for more than a couple of hours to be able to draw them. The other persons who are not yet part of the series of drawings will be part of it when we will know them better.
We believe the quality and strength of some events are related to the fact that they are only apparitions. The story of the apparition becomes thus a new reality, a parallel reality. To articulate this apparition within the reality, it is then crucial to create a celebration to reactivate the apparition. The visual material, articulated to two texts—a live description of the timeline of the Opera by Philippe and an edited version of Hans Ulrich's conversations with each of the artists participating to the show— is our proposal for a procedure that could allow the event to be replayed endlessly. The book is the partition of Il Tempo del Postino.
To produce this partition, we discovered a new recording procedure. The exercise of portraiture is very helpful in order to depict a live event, as a live event is made of human beings. So in this case, we would like to thank Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney, Jonathan Bepler, Tacita Dean, Trisha Donnelly, Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Koo Jeong-A, Anri Sala, Tino Sehgal, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Darius Khondji, and Peter Saville to have given us the opportunity to create our first ever portraiture of a group.

1. Some of these publications, in chronological order:

Traffic, exh. cat. Curated by Nicolas Bourriaud. CapcMusée d'art contemporain (Bordeaux).
Nuit blanche, exh. cat. Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Laurence Bossé. Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris Musées.
Berlin/Berlin, exh. cat. Curated by Klaus Biesenbach, Hans Ulrich Obrist & Nancy Spector, edited by Miriam Wiesel. Berlin Biennale, Cantz.
La ville, le jardin, la mémoire, exh. cat. Curated by Laurence Bossé, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Hans Ulrich Obrist. Académie de France à Rome, Villa Médicis.
Voilà, le monde dans la tête, exh. cat. Curated by Suzanne Pagé, Béatrice Parent, Christian Boltanski, Bertrand Lavier. Text by Pierre Joseph. Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris Musées.
Philippe Parreno: Alien Affection, exh. cat. Curated by Laurence Bossé, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Angeline Scherf. Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Les presses du réel/Paris Musées.
Coollustre, exh. cat. Curated by Eric Troncy. Collection Lambert en Avignon. Les presses du réel.
Pierre Huyghe: Le Château de Turing, exh. cat. French Pavilion, Venice Biennial 2001. Les presses du réel.
The Populism Catalogue, exh. cat. Curated by Lars Bang Larsen, Cristina Ricupero, Nicolaus Schafhausen. Contemporary Art Centre (Vilnius), National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design (Oslo); Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt am Main). Lukas & Sternberg.
Pierre Huyghe: Celebration Park, exh. cat. Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris/Tate Modern (London). Paris Musées/Tate Publishing.
Rirkrit Tiravanija, A Retrospective (tomorrow is another fine day), edited by Francesca Grassi & Rirkrit Tiravanija, JRP|Ringier.
00's—The History Of A Decade That Has Not Yet Been Named, Biennale de Lyon 2007, exh. cat. Curated by Stéphanie Moisdon and Hans Ulrich Obrist, JRP|Ringier/Les presses du réel.

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