October 11, 2016 - Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA) - Robert Filliou: The Secret of Permanent Creation
October 11, 2016

Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA)

Robert Filliou, Le Siège des idées (The Seat of Ideas), 1976. Private collection, Brussels.

Robert Filliou
The Secret of Permanent Creation
October 14, 2016–January 22, 2017

Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA)
Leuvenstraat 32
2000 Antwerp
Belgium

www.muhka.be
Twitter / Facebook

Robert Filliou
The Secret of Permanent Creation
October 14, 2016–January 22, 2017

Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA)
Leuvenstraat 32
2000 Antwerp
Belgium

www.muhka.be
Twitter / Facebook

In the coming years, M HKA will dedicate a series of exhibitions to key figures of experimental art in the second half of the 20th century, all of them also important presences in Antwerp in the 1960s and ’70s. We begin with the French playwright, poet, artist and thinker Robert Filliou (1926–87).

Robert Filliou: The Secret of Permanent Creation is the first comprehensive survey of his visual oeuvre in Belgium, with almost 200 original works and multiples from public and private collections across Europe.

We’ve made the exhibition because we consider Filliou one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. More radical, but also subtler and gentler than most of his contemporaries and peers, Filliou should be a household name for a large audience. But perhaps it takes the 21st century to understand his greatness.

We want to show today’s and tomorrow’s audiences that Filliou is a voice for them, speaking of the political and poetical economy, of research as "the domain of those who don’t know," of conviviality and play but also of solitude as a productive and even desirable state.

Filliou is often associated with Fluxus, but never "belonged" to this or any other movement or group, although he worked closely with friends such as the artists Daniel Spoerri, Dieter Roth and Dorothy Iannone, the composer and artist George Brecht, the poet Emmett Williams or the architect and artist Joachim Pfeufer.

Together with his collaborators—first among them his partner Marianne Staffeldt Filliou—he coined many concepts that he also enacted in his work, among them the Eternal Network (of like-minded people all over the world); the Genial Republic (whose territory can be claimed by anyone at any time); the Principle of Equivalence (a direct attack on the primacy of aesthetic judgment in Western culture: "it doesn’t matter if something is well made, badly made or not made at all"); Teaching and Learning as Performance Arts (the title of a "multi-book" from 1970) and, perhaps most importantly, Permanent Creation.

It was Marianne who once remarked: "You’re artists when you create. But when you stop, you’re not artists anymore." Filliou realised the need to break with the conventional understanding of creativity as something exclusive and out-of-this-world. One of his multiples bears this inscription: "Art is what makes life more interesting than art."

Here’s the Relative Secret of Permanent Creation: "Whatever you’re thinking; think something else. Whatever you’re doing; do something else." And the Absolute Secret of Permanent Creation: "Desire nothing, decide nothing, choose nothing, be aware of yourself, stay awake, calmly seated, do nothing."

If this sounds like Zen Buddhism, it’s no coincidence. Filliou had first-hand knowledge of the Far East. Having trained as a political economist in California after the war, he was part of the UN team that authored A Five-Year Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of South Korea in 1953, before quitting this career for the precarious life of the free spirit. Moreover, his premature death interrupted a retreat to a Buddhist monastery meant to last three years, three months and three days.

Robert Filliou: The Secret of Permanent Creation is not just a tribute to Robert Filliou’s art and thinking but also a reminder of his close relations with Belgium. He had two solo exhibitions at Wide White Space in Antwerp, in 1971 and 1972, and collaborated for years with Editions Lebeer Hossmann, an art publishing house in Brussels. His work can be found in several Belgian private collections as well as in the M HKA collection.

The exhibition is organised by Anders Kreuger, Senior Curator at M HKA, in consultation with Paris-based freelance curator Cécile Barrault. We thank all the lenders for their generosity, not least the Robert Filliou Estate, managed by Peter Freeman Inc. in Paris and New York. Our special thanks goes, of course, to Marianne Filliou.

The catalogue, co-published by M HKA, Mousse Publishing and Editions Lebeer Hossmann, features the previously unpublished Robert Filliou Dictionary, based on a recorded conversation between Robert Filliou and Irmeline Lebeer in August 1976.

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The Secret of Permanent Creation
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