Armand Behar, born in France in 1963, is an artist who has been devoting himself to creating one and the same work since the beginning of the decade that started in 2000: Histoire d’une représentation. In line with this plan, each of the pieces he has meted out in the course of exhibitions takes shape as an advance clue to this imaginary fresco. Like that, through the various formats it may take, he sets out to question the conditions of appearance of the work, as much as the status it will be conferred by the various contexts it will be led to go through in time. The first part of this unending work orbits round a structure, the "Centre de transfert", in the shape of an active platform for the production of works of art. Since 2008, Armand Behar has been working his way through a second part, the images of an imaginary projection where the landscapes and configurations summon up contemporary issues, using the artifice of futurology: issues that in everyday life activate the connections that are filtered and sometimes distorted by the prisms of reality, image and collective belief.
Exhibitions: Ce qui suit dévoile des moments clés de l’intrigue, Galerie Aperto-Montpellier, 2010; La main qui dessinait toute seule, Galerie Magda Danysz-Shanghai, 2009; Au milieu de ces paysages artificiels, seul les restes d’un monde industriel sont bien réels, Centre Culturel Saintex-Reims, 2009.
An interview between Nadia Barrientos and Armand Behar
Armand Behar: What clearly interests me through this work is to question the notion of entirety itself, of consistency into a narrative construction. The viewer of my work, I hope so, tends to question himself about both spatial and temporal boundaries of the fiction. He'll try to determine the consistency of the related story and therefore, of the imaginary society to which I refer. As an object and by its format, the movie or the book ensures a kind of basis. And it's the same for projects whose development requires a time factor (I think about serials or columns): the viewer knows where come back to see what is going to happen next. History of a Representation brings the viewer face to face with questions like where? And when? The fiction reveals itself at differents moments and through various places.
Sooner or later, it's probably that this last one will come to see me and ask me for a postcard, a poster, a playlist, a summary...or something that enables him to get homself bearings. In the hearth of the project, I established a kind of esthetic protocol that I let spread through time. I have not set any limits for this one. It's a continuing world. The global vision will appear consequently at the end of the project, that is to say : at the end of my own existence.
But I decided to create a systematic frame in order to answer at this state of uncertainty. Its principle is quite simple: every two or tree years, I'm going to gather together some produced pieces and I will ask to an art critic, a curator, a philosopher, sociologist...to contribute to writing in a frame in which he 'll have to imagine -and that only from my pieces which work as clues - the twists and turns of the world to which I refer. Like that, the viewer 'll have the possibility of consult this archives in the course of the exhibitions of my work. How to tell a story? It's a question of language. My form of writing consists in creating a network of forms composed by sculptures, installations, photographs...in order to build a fiction. To invent a plastic language in order to display a story: that is the stake. All in my work (materials, colors, sizes and the way for my work to be in line with the exhibition's space too, to integrate into the viewer or not) are closely linked with the matter of the fiction itself: the history of an imaginary society haunted by its desire of transform the world into a representation, of live in a picture, in a way.
At this day mi different exhibitions have enabled visitors to know : that this world is divided in two parts, that there are people from on high and people from on below. The inhabitants from on below get around corridors and look at screens which keep an eye on the landscape of a peninsula which set in from on high. A peninsula which gathers a large variety of nature : polar, desert, volcanic, exotic...and where population act as electronic puppets. In order to go past the floor, one has to register in theaters where to learn the actor's profession and through this, to become an useful puppet in order to integrate oneself into the picture's world depicted by the peninsula. In the hearth of the fiction, so, this is a landscape which is a peninsula...but not absolutely at all. The island is an unity, one can look at it in its entirety. A peninsula entails a gap, a vanishing line, an isthmus which links it together to earth. If this peninsula is an illusion, its openness is a smokescreen. The question of the belief in pictures is another important side of this work.
Nadia Barrientos: The pieces that you realize and that you chime out in the course of exhibitions draw on the interpretation of History of a representation but always through a partial way : they appear as patchy clues that only a reading as a whole should be able to link together and to fathom out. I imagine easily that the end of the story don't form a part of your prospectives and that's why you use its unfolding, potentially endless, as a pretext to write it, paradoxically. Beyond the apparent frustration that could cause us the confrontation with cut pieces of an unattainable unity, I guess some echos with methods used by archaeology. What about this?
Armand Behar: In the first part of the story called La Déconvolution d'Euler that we write together, the question of archaeology appears clearly. This notion that you inspire in our dialog makes me come back to the origin, to the name of my project itself: History of a representation. The question of representation into the writing of the story fascinates me a lot at the time. I interested me in Paul Ricoeur's works and in the adaptation of his reflections to the art history. I enjoy thinking that the artist that realizes a work all his life long, write, at his own scale, an art history...the story of a representation. But what is really fascinating in art history is that, at its two extremes, from prehistory to the contemporary, every day all can change. A new archaeological discovery is enough : an end of wall, a tool, a roll, a parchment...All these objets give us information about disappeared societies...They are like clues. Except the fact that the society to which I refer hasn't disappear. And if it exists, it seems to be ours.