This short text is structured in two parts. The first one defines a significant part of my artistic practice as finding a way to represent thought, to transmit the action of thinking, this being done by means of short notes, diagrams, drawings, and sketches in a notebook. The second part defends an idea of art as accessible and necessary for everyone, pedagogical not in the sense that it “should” transmit knowledge but in the sense that it constructs a society where learning is pleasure.
Once, a friend, Guillaume Désanges, told me that, in the exhibitions of my work, one could only see a very small part of the thought processes that linked the exhibited pieces together, and that there should be a way to present—as honestly as possible—all the connections, side alleys, forks in the road, roads not taken, repeated names, repeated figures, fleeting mentions, tentative suggestions, ideas en passant … that there should be a way to present these ideas and the transitions between ideas without being hermetic, pedantic, or overwhelming. The answer to this, I thought, was in my notebooks. I don't really make drawings or sketches, but I do try to relate and name “honestly”—that is, for myself—all the elements of an ever-expanding network of ideas that eventually become my artistic practice. I am able to go back to these notebooks and trace the genesis of an idea, and I believe that others could too. The following pages are a way to present content by using mostly diagrams, graphics, and image patterns—and this comes, I believe, very close to the way I think.
Art production is often accused by neoliberalism of being elitist, and at the same time of living on subsidies. These paradoxes are frequent in the neoliberalist idea of culture; for instance, neoliberalism often characterizes the left at the same time as being “gauche caviar” (so, rich) and as being unable to make a living. At the same time, neoliberalism and capitalist predecessors are very comfortable with the idea of art as a luxury product or a prestige token for those who can pay for it, and in this order of things, the educational and the pedagogic in art have no place. Therefore, it is only logical that in this order of things, the educational is equated with a low-quality product. But in the context of crisis—that is, now—we are happy to remember and celebrate the tradition of pedagogy in art, which is inextricably linked to the left ideal of a society of equals. In a society of equals, everyone has a right to culture. The right to culture is the right to both produce and receive culture, which are as closely linked to each other as writing and reading. What is at stake is not whether art should or should not be pedagogical (I am afraid art is quite indifferent to such “should”s and “shouldn't”s) but the possibilities for constructing a society where learning is a pleasure and where this pleasure is within everyone's reach.
“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
— Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations On Education and Social Change