The Positions Bureau
With: Vanessa Brito (Lecturer in Philosophy), Anna Dezeuze (Lecturer in Art History), Frédéric Pradeau (Artist), and the students of the Ecole Supérieure d’Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée.
Where do I stand? How can I hold my ground? For how long? These are some of the questions that the Bureau des positions sets out to investigate by focusing on the relation between physical actions – such as taking a stance, occupying a space, holding a position or carrying out a project over time – and their artistic and political implications. Of particular interest is the articulation between the two meanings of the word ‘resistance’: it describes both a physical qualities of materials and bodies, involving phenomena of inertia and resilience, and human efforts and actions ranging from opposition to insurrection and disobedience. At what points do these two meanings intersect? When does a ‘stance’ turn into ‘resistance’?
Are some physical postures, such as the ‘standing position’ described by Roland Barthes, ‘eminently critical’? Could there be a connection, as he suggests, between an uncomfortable position and the feeling of ‘un-ease’ that gives rise to ‘political consciousness’?
As we set up various intersections between different practices – in art, literature, philosophy and science – we will also pay attention to the position effects that result from changing locations and different relations of proximity. We will study the ways in which words, bodies and objects are placed and arranged – whether in the space of the picture or the exhibition, on a stage or the page – according to tensions, the balance between different forces, be they dynamic or static. What does adopting a position involve? In what ways can one navigate a given institutional, cultural or political context? It may be less a matter of finding a place than of inventing shifting spaces of dis-placement, in which everything and everyone is, in fact, always out of place.
Our starting point for this academic year will be Thomas Hirschhorn’s workshop in which the artist asks: ‘Where do I stand? What do I want?’ We will then follow our second guest artist, Julien Prévieux, in his tactical positions in given institutional, cultural and political contexts, as he rolls around his everyday space (in Roulades), sends out Letters of Non-interest (Lettres de non-motivation) or explores the world of patented gestures in What shall we do next.
We will also look at stances such as Bartleby’s (in Melville’s famous short story), which combined different ways of occupying space through immobility with variations on the sentence ‘I would prefer not to’. Such positions can be read as prefiguring ‘Occupy’ movements as much as artistic practices that reject production.