THE TERRITORY OF THE ARTISTIC SQUARE METRE
by PIERRE RESTANY
The passage from the concept of the ARTISTIC m2 to that of TERRITORIAL ARTISTIC m2
is not a mere extension of space, i.e. a quantitative development
of the notion; it is the introduction of highly complex and meaningful
dimensions into its units and parameters.
When FRED FOREST defined the ARTISTIC m2, he did so in the abstract,
taking his cue from a wish for methodology, which constituted
his participation in sociological art. Starting then with an abstract concept,
how is it possible to arrive at a concrete notion? Precisely by
manipulating the possibilites offered by dimension, and the nuances that
the abstract concept can adopt when defined with reference to
The ARTISTIC m2 was the square metre of canvas, and therefore, of the "objet d'art".
It was also and quite simply "non-art"
as opposed to this art. The play on this type of concept-colouring
on an abstract level led to a self-contained methodology
for the action undertaken by
FRED FOREST in the ARTISTIC m2 .
The passage from the m2 concept to that of the TERRITORY
implies concrete and actual usage from the start,
which is then transformed from the overt word-play to become the
path of theoretical abstraction and committed action.
In my opinion the operation in its continuity hinges on this very point.
The TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC m2 presupposes the incorporation
of this basic concept into an extremely complex structure, that of life
on our planet. The planetary surface is perceived as the intermediary
level sandwiched somewhere between subterranean life, infrastructure and
Once the territory is regarded as an occupation,
a land development project and a concrete reality,
all the problems likely to ensue are evoked.
One might go so far as to state that the TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC
m2 appears as the fierce wish for a theory and practice of
land development. The "TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC m2 "
is definitely a SPECIAL TERRITORY. It serves the purposes of all
other territories, but has "ambitions" besides, as well as
intention, that defines all the others, and in a way becomes the
common link for all practical purposes. First of all, it is necessary to find
a territory. This territory has to be organized in the manner of a franchise. It must then be divided into plots adaptable enough for these to find
buyers. The prospective buyers' interest in the life on the territory
must be stimulated. An administrative body has to be formed
for all these purposes and also to organize life on the territory, a life
encompassing physical and moral development.
As a final consideration, the TERRITORY
of the ARTISTIC m2 has become a physical entity, and as such
it must watch over the fate of all the specialized plots.
We did once mention a "burial ground
for the living" and in the context of an eternal franchise it
definitely has a striking and even very dynamic analogy with
the TERRITORY. The "zoo" analogy is also fascinating.
In comparison with the zoological garden the ARTISTIC m2
may be considered an anthropological garden.
What is the difference between the two ? Within a deliberately confined space, on which the owner exercises full power, the anthropological garden sets in motion all the individual person's motivations from the moment he decides
to play the game, the moment he feels involved in this type of territorial
occupation. I think the ARTISTIC m2 is a kind of
battery, a kind of magnet setting forces in motion in a bid for
communication, for co-operation,
for exchange. But also in a move towards self-realization
in the sense of individual fulfilment. This is the most spiritually
catalyzing aspect, this will most likely be the main
motive for public participation.
This is the aspect that the bets must be openly staked on. Where each plot takes up a certain amount of space, or is purchased at a certain price, it is obvious
that it creates a relationship, not only mercantile but also intellectual and
emotional, between the holder and his franchise.
This type of relationship cannot be circumvented without
talking of land speculation, for at that level
it becomes purely abstract in nature.
We go from mercantile to abstract speculation as a matter of course.
Beyond the holder/franchise relationship itself
a fringe still exists, that of the occupant's freedom.
The latter manifests itself in the wildest imaginings; entailing
for the administrative body responsibilities, unforeseeable
problems and perhaps even unsolvable ones.
In this respect this project of a territory
strictly defined and tangible at its foundations leads to
voyages of discovery to unknown realms. The territorial administrating body is meant
to manage the territory; it can also give impetus to life on the territory if
necessary; but it can in no way obstruct, censor or interfere with
spontaneous initiatives on the part of different
Hence we have the gateway to the unforeseen, the spontaneous,
the poetical in the lives of all beings. Two dimensions coexist in this
idea of the ARTISTIC TERRITORY of the m2 : one of
"contraction" or geometric franchise of the
m2 or its multiples; another of "expansion". The latter is the dimension
of fulfilment, the dimension of the greatest degree of freedom that can be exercised
on such a small territory; a phenomenon that can be seen as a respiratory one,
involving breathing in and breathing out. This is an image of life itself, mirrored through the anthropological museum.
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that life is a cycle.
We sometimes fear words and thus we hesitate to employ the phrase "burial ground" in respect of a system of franchise, of management and administration.
Yet, the latter structure is precisely what the phrase evokes, while it is
simultaneously the most obvious expression for the revenge of life over death.
That which we start out by visualizing as the planning of a burial ground
ends by blooming into a living garden.
Our anthropological garden. It is qualified anthropological
since the men who enter this zoo
do so voluntarily and not because they have been compelled to or because they are
held in captivity like apes. They enter because they wish to
meditate on their proper human condition.
To a certain extent, it is a garden for meditation on the level of modern
anthropology, linked to the philosophical rites generally
accompanying it. Everyone is free to see a Zen space in the artistic square metre, meant for meditation
on the territory.
These panoramic musings on the territory are in no way
exhaustive, however they are generous enough in their openings for us
to understand how, (over and above the
artistic and philosophical concept which formed the object of FRED FOREST'S sociological procedure from the start) and how much, we are now in the heart of the subject, through impact, of the reality even of human tissue stuck onto the surface of the earth. This encounter with the real is identified
with the human's return to the earth. The stake in the
ARTISTIC m2 operation is contained in the occupation of the territory by men. Over and above the development of the territory, it is a question of creating
a human occupation, an emotional and a spiritual one;
and I think all the criteria have been incorporated and presented
in the FRED FOREST project. With him we have the
possibility of embarking on a great adventure. A human adventure
starting with a tangible basis. So tangible that it is there for us to grasp,
of dimensions we can visualize . This basis is an
ARTISTIC m2, a m2, even when it is multiplied by two or twenty,
still remaining a m2. It is a space and a unit of measurement
completely accessible to Man.
The reference to dimensional relationships
at the end of my development does not, I think, denote reservations
or a constriction of my thoughts; on the contrary, it rather expresses
a cry full of hope.
Inasmuch as the ARTISTIC m2 is tied to its human dimension
and to the corresponding reflex motives of
possession, appropriation and understanding...so the territory operation
is instilled with meaning, with life, with the promise of a future.