October 1, 2015 - Le Grand Café – Contemporary Art Centre - Agency: Assembly (Generic & Specific)
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October 1, 2015

Le Grand Café – Contemporary Art Centre

Agency
Assembly (Generic & Specific)
October 10, 2015–January 3, 2016

Assemblies:
Opening: October 9, 6:30pm
Thing 002112 (Pull It): October 11
Thing 001796 (Millionaire of the month): November 15
Thing 000868 (Taxidermist mannequins): December 6

www.grandcafe-saintnazaire.fr
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Agency
Assembly (Generic & Specific)
October 10, 2015–January 3, 2016

Assemblies:
Opening: October 9, 6:30pm
Thing 002112 (Pull It): October 11
Thing 001796 (Millionaire of the month): November 15
Thing 000868 (Taxidermist mannequins): December 6

www.grandcafe-saintnazaire.fr
Facebook

For over twenty years, Agency’s sole activity has been to draw up a "list of things" whose definition and status are not clearly established. “The collected ‘things’ are the product of public debate and litigation in the sphere of intellectual property, artists’ or authors’ rights and royalties, and the protection of brands and patents. They concern cases of plagiarism, copying, fraud, transformation etc. The presentation of these real-life cases opens a dizzying, fascinating breach in our thinking on the profound nature of the things of this world.”(1)

These things frequently express a particular tension, between nature and culture. Kobe Matthys pays particular attention to objects that do not fit within any clear category, and which sometimes have uncertain links with the art world. Millionaire game, Stormtrooper costume, hairdressers mannequins are cases where authors are misidentified or whose functionality hides artistic dimension. This is precisely the heart of what Agency is aiming at: the exercise of the doubt, the attempt to define art’s limits.

To highlight the irreducible nature of each case, things are displayed in space according to a very strict visual system: the installation is made up of metallic shelves, on which are disposed plain wooden boxes filled with documents and items of evidence. Specific cases are also presented on tables.

At the Grand Café, Agency presents two assemblages of cases from this list and questions their links with art and its practices. The first is comprised of functional objects within common; while the second is related to the non-humans creation by machines or computer programs.

How can common be included in artistic practices? asks the first series. “Many art practices get classified as common, because they are considered utilitarian. The design of useful articles, no matter how satisfying, gets exempted of copyright protection as works of art. Intellectual property law defines useful article as “having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information.”(2)

The second series of controversies concerns the question of non-humans creation. “Certain art practices involve collaborations with non-humans. At the same time copyright law seems to eliminate non-humans as authors. Although the definition of 'authors' does not explicitly refer to humans, it implies that humans are the intended group. Machine-made things, get exempted of copyright protection as works of art.”(3) These are some research directions that are quite close to the political ecology described by Bruno Latour, who expresses the wish that the country’s Constitution take into account “non-humans." He proposes the creation of a “parliament of things," whereby things would be represented by scientists or persons recognised as competent in a particular field, in the same way as citizens are by traditional elected representatives.(4)

These two series of controversies will be brought together and given form by Kobe Matthys during meetings that he calls Assemblies. In the company of experts, he presents real cases and opens up a frequently passionate and humorous debate, inviting at the same contributions from the public. An experience of dialogue, argument and controversy prevails: the things, presented in the form of texts, discussions and material objects, are like stories or metaphors raising not just legal issues, but also philosophical and artistic ones. In his way of seeking to explore all the mechanisms of intellectual property, Kobe Matthys sketches out a kind of ecology of artistic practices, a science of relations to the world around us, or as the biologist Ernst Haeckel defines it, ecology as “science as the conditions of existence."


(1) Guillaume Désanges, Journal de la Verrière no. 6, Brussels, 2014.
(2) & (3) Kobe Matthys.
(4) Bruno Latour, Nouvelles règles de la méthode scientifique, 2001.
 

Curator: Sophie Legrandjacques, director of Le Grand Café - Contemporary Art Centre, Saint-Nazaire

Press contact: Amelie Evrard, evrarda [​at​] mairie-saintnazaire.fr

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