(I am aware that the term “No-Programmation” is incorrect and does not exist in English, therefore I replaced it in the texts with “nonprogramming”)
Flamme éternelle (Eternal Flame)
Flamme éternelle is a situation that provokes a displacement: a displacement of time, of the times—the today—in which we live. It is also a displacement in the sense of presence—within this time. The sense of presence is displaced if I am at a place where I normally go to do something specific but where—for a single moment—I do something other than that specific thing. For example, during a vote at a school gym or at the occupation of a workplace during a strike. Flamme éternelle wants to pose the question of presence—the presence of the body, of my body, of our bodies—and the question of the time during which such presence of the body operates. This leads to the posing of four questions that offer themselves: Why do I do that which I do? Why do I think that which I think? Why do I use the tools that I use? Why do I give the form that I give?
Why do I do that which I do? I do that which I do because I want to create a new term of art. I want to establish—with Flamme éternelle—a “critical body,” and I want to work with a “nonexclusive public.” This is the aim of my work, and I always want to further reinforce it.
Why do I think that which I think? Flamme éternelle is thought of as a deployment of my “Field of Force and of Form,” which contains Love, Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Politics. I think that it is there in the Field where these four Notions interweave that the truth of Flamme éternelle is situated. That truth, which can also be named as “beauty” or “the absolute,” is art, a work of art. And because it concerns a work of art permanently in construction—in the state of becoming “work”—the truth at times crystallizes around the complicated notions of Love or Philosophy, at other times around the even more complex notions of Aesthetics or Politics. I think that which I think because it is the application of my “Field of Force and of Form,” which gives motion and stoppage, dynamic and coagulation, to Flamme éternelle.
Why do I use the tools that I use? I use the tools that I use because I like them. I love them definitively and decisively. I am—indeed—settled on these tools, these instruments, these materials. It’s a decision for which—evidently—I am willing to pay the price, and to be the first to do so. The tools or the weapons used in Flamme éternelle are double-edged: they can turn against me—against me first—but they are effective. Their use is a “headless” use, out of necessity, out of precipitation and urgency. Their use is neither gratifying nor satisfying. I use what I use because I want to work with what surrounds me, with what is available and accessible to me—and thus also accessible to the other.
Why do I give the form that I give? Flamme éternelle is a work based on the following “guidelines”: “Presence and Production,” Admission-Free, and Nonprogramming. These are the guidelines that give the form in which Flamme éternelle is placed and that are necessary to allow the “sense” or “non-sense” that produces this work of coexisting and of having a place or a space. The decision to create the conditions of a space for floating is the decision of form—my gift of form. This is the form in which sense grafts itself to nonsense, and here this nonsense associated with sense floats in space. Sense and nonsense float together in the galaxy that is Flamme éternelle.
If Flamme éternelle at the Palais de Tokyo renders the problematization and the questioning of “the institution” as visible and present—without it being my ambition or my will—it’s because day after day, from the first day, I had to—as always—struggle to be able to do my work. I had to fight for the integrity of my work and I had to insist on the position of my work. This poses further and even more forcefully the four questions.
—Thomas Hirschhorn, May 2014
In the Future: The Necessary Deployment of Public Space in the Museum
Here, in a few words—for the last day of Flamme éternelle (Eternal Flame) —I will attempt to sketch out an idea, a vision, a postulate on the basis of the experience of Flamme éternelle, and I want to share here something I was confronted with in the last fifty-two days: the necessity of the deployment of public space in the museum and in the public institution. The assertion of Flamme éternelle has been the creation—by presence and production and by being admission-free and nonprogrammatic—of a public space, or moments of public space, within an institution. This proves to be necessary, for in more and more of our streets, cities, and neighborhoods, public space is shrinking. There are fewer and fewer public spaces, and hence the question of the extension or redeployment of public space in the museum and in the public institution is the question to be posed from here on.
My experience with work in public space and with the notion of public space—I have produced sixty-six works of public space to this point, eight of which followed the guidelines of “Presence and Production”—shows me that it is possible to touch—that is to say, to create—a nonexclusive public and to do so within the institution, even if—for certain—in proportions that differ according to the location of the work, whether it be a neighborhood in the periphery or a museum at the center of the city. This nonexclusive public for me always constitutes the essential public, the public to conquer and reconquer. This nonexclusive public is definitely the hard core of projects conceived within the guidelines of “Presence and Production.” The nonexclusive public, the heart (hard core) of this genre of work, is an open public (“open” because it is open to an experience) and is composed essentially of people who have free time, who are young or who are at the margins of society, who participate by giving their presence and their production for their own reasons, which remain and must remain unknown.
The open public—logically—constitutes also the heart of the project Flamme éternelle, and this open public, as I have experienced, makes the field of nonsatisfaction possible. The open public has understood—within and together with Flamme éternelle—that it’s not about just any satisfaction or about immediate satisfaction. It has understood first and experienced first—because “receptiveness” is its specificity—the fact that nonprogramming is the novelty, the future, the key dimension of the future. The open public has understood that one has to support, to agree with, even wish for this nonsatisfaction, which derives from nonprogramming. The open public understands that it’s by the state of nonsatisfaction that it participates in the creation of an event. And above all, the open public has understood—and is ready to experience—that an event without transformation is not an event. It knows that transformation doesn’t take place unless nonsatisfaction is experienced as “resistance,” which is itself “transformation.” Because nonsatisfaction is a tool for resisting cultural, economic, political, religious, and social habits. The open public knows that art is resistance, resistance as such. The open public with this resistance renders transformation possible.
I think that the dimension of nonsatisfaction allows the sketching of a new dynamic, a dynamic or a movement in which a new form of public space is created or deployed—or if you will, redeployed.
The museum can become—in the future—a place where the transformation of an event is possible. This novel idea and this new postulate of a transformative event within the institution will become possible by presence and by production. Such a museum will be open at all times, at all hours (24/7), without a single closing day, and will be free for all. It will be a museum where public space is used, thus becoming a living museum, a real living space.
—Thomas Hirschhorn, June 2014