Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Who was Robert Filliou?

Born January 17, 1926, Sauve, France
Died 1987, Les Eyzies

Robert Filliou, a member of Fluxus, the 1960's performance group that specialized in esthetic nonevents, believed that art didn't have to express itself in the form of objects. He saw it as a form of play that could even occur as unrealized notions. His minimal-impact works are apt to be made of string, cardboard and wood, the vehicles for stray, vaguely poetic ideas and images. Filliou's ephemeral works undermine heavy notions of what art is or should be.

Filliou said "I am not just interested in art, but in society of which art is one aspect. I am interested in the world as a whole, a whole of which society is one part. I am interested in the universe, of which the world is only one fragment. I am interested primarily in the Constant Creation of which the universe is only one product." For him, the work of art was a means of direct action on the world. Filliou attempted to integrate all the acts in life with artistic duty, "without worrying about whether the works are distributed or not": "When you make , it is art, when you finish, it is non-art, when you exhibit, it is anti-art."

Robert Filliou was part of the Resistance movement organized by the communists and became a member of the French Communist Party during the war; he worked as a labourer for Coca Cola in Los Angeles; achieved a masters in economics; had a dual French-American nationality; while working as a United Nations advisor he was sent to Korea for three years to help write the Constitution and take part in the programmes for economic reconstruction of the country; from there, he travelled in the Far East; he lived in Egypt, Spain and Denmark, where he met Marianne Staffels, the woman with whom he would share his life and his artistic activity. This exceedingly accomplished man and world travellere was not attached to any country and said of nationality " nationality = poet, profession = French".

In 1960, Robert Filliou designed his first visual work, Le Collage de l'immortelle mort du monde [Collage of the Immortal Death of the World], a transcription of a random theatre play comparable to a chessboard on which all sorts of individual experiences are expressed 3. In 1961, at the Addi Kôcpke gallery (Copenhagen), his first personal exhibition, Suspens Poems, was organized, made up of poems in the form of postal dispatches.In 1962, determined to remain outside the exhibition circuit, Robert Filliou carried his gallery in his hat. He became his own exhibition space: "La Galerie Légitime" [The Legitimate Gallery]. His works, gathered together in his beret and stamped "Galerie Légitime Couvre Chef d'Oeuvre" [Legitimate Gallery Masterpiece Hat], circulated in the streets with him (the idea is reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp's suitcase). He then met George Maciunas, the centralizer of the activities of Fluxus. "La Galerie Légitime" invited several artists to exhibit in it. This was an art made up of attitudes and gestures, rather than saleable works.

In 1963, with the architect Joachim Pfeufer, he created the Poïpoïdrome 4 project, a meeting place and centre for "Permanent Creation" located at the crossroads between two currents: action and reflection. There was nothing to "learn" in order to participate: what the users knew was enough. In 1965, with George Brecht, Robert Filliou founded the gallery "La Cédille qui sourit" 5 [The Smiling Cedilla) in Villefranche-sur-Mer, although it was usually closed because the artists were at the local café: "In my opinion, that's where you get your best ideas". They then founded "Eternal Network, La Fête Permanente" [Eternal Network, The Constant Festival]: "The artist must be aware that he is part of a larger social network, part of the "Constant Festival" which surrounds him everywhere and elsewhere in the world."

After the filmographical experiments of "La Cédille qui sourit", he made Hommage à Méliès [Hommage to Méliès] with George Brecht and Bob Guiny to express their delight in their wonderment at the simplicity of the old silent films and, with Emmett Williams, Double Happening, Contribution for Happening & Fluxus, a performance staged in the women's toilets at the Dusseldorf Academy of Fine Arts. with the König publishing company in Cologne, he published a "pluri-book", Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts:
happenings, events, action poetry, environments, visual poetry, films, street theatre, non-instrumental music, games, exchanges of letters, etc.

In 1971, he created "la République géniale"[the Republic of Genius]: people enter its territory to develop their genius rather than their talent. Research is no longer the privileged domain of the person who knows, but of the person who does not know. In Le Petit Robert Filliou, he defined, among other things, the principles of Poetic Economics for which a scale of values had to be worked out.

His films are above all made of humour, derision and random elements, closely linked to the spirit of Fluxus.On January 17th 1973, with the idea of uniting people of all times, he celebrated the 1,000,010th Anniversary of Art at the Neue Galerie der Stadt in Aachen. "Art must return to the people to which it belongs." As 10 years had gone by since Filliou had begun his "Histoire chuchotée de l'art"[Whispered History of Art], 1,000,010 years corresponded to the arbitrary date of Man's appearance on Earth. The artist was working on the search for the origin and proposed a new concept, "The Prebiological Genius".

In 1977, Robert Filliou was living in Canada, where he made several videos. It was not the medium itself which interested him. The artist, who never worried about creating "works of art", chose any material as long as it conveyed his ideas and thoughts, and as long as it linked the territories of geniuses one to the other. It was in this sense that he used video, not only to keep a record of his performances as many artists have been doing since the 1960s, but also so that he could circulate his work: "To contact the audience that we want, I think it's video that will do it". He imagined a "Video-Universe-City" 6 project as a means of propagating Constant Creation.

With his wife Marianne, Robert Filliou withdrew for 3 years 3 months and 3 days to a Buddhist centre at Les Eyzies in the Dordogne (France). In 1987, he produced his last work, Time is a Nutshell, made up of several walnuts emptied so that they could contain a few words. in December 2nd, Robert Filliou died, like a Buddhist, after seeking enlightenment through the texts of the Veda and through Fluxus.