Today’s story is that of Thomas Maestro who starts with a quote by George Perec.
“The daily newspapers talk of everything except the daily. The papers annoy me , they teach me nothing. What they recount doesn’t concern me, doesn’t ask me questions and doesn’t answer the questions I ask or would like to ask.
What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs everyday: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?
To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we’re habituated to it. We don’t question it, it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither question nor answers, as if it weren’t the bearer of any information. This is not longer even conditioning, it’s anaesthesia. We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep. But where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space?
How are we to speak of these ‘common things’, how to track them down rather, how to flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they remain mired, how to give them a meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what is, of what we are.
What’s needed perhaps is finally to found our own anthropology, one that will speak about us …”
Georges Perec, L’infra-ordinaire, 1973 (excerpt, translation Ubuweb)
In their book La vie, mode mineur (2015), Catherine Remy and Laurent Denizeau evoke research practices as dependent on two modes: the major mode, and the minor mode. In urban research, the major mode “refers to normative expectations and shared behaviors — the immediately visible layer — of urban situations” (in: Cuny, Färber, Jarrigeon, L’urbain par l’image : collaborations entre arts visuels et sciences sociales, 2020). The minor mode concerns “behaviors that, while going unnoticed, introduce a mismatch, play or irony in relation to the ongoing action” (ibid). In urban research (intellectual research and formal research), these two modes are fundamentally linked to our way of understanding space and time. In my process of the urban collection of abandoned objects, I activate the major mode by my simple presence in space. The minor mode is activated by my behavior breaking with urban dynamics that would like me to be on the street in a simple act of movement. In fact, attention to latent objects acquires the same status as these objects. Thus, my behavior is marginal, as well as the presence in the world of these objects.
As part of the Bolero project, I ask myself the question of the political involvement of my work, considering that the essence of the project is to work from the newspaper as a formal and conceptual material. There is in the idea of a newspaper, something that seems too frontal to me, a relationship to the real that is too direct (which is the nature of a newspaper). My work, in the forms they take, do not have this direct political involvement. In fact, this is hijacked. This is my process, amassing, caring for scraps, which is part of a political framework that is interested in what is on the margins. The minor mode is therefore my preferred mode. So how do we treat a material like the newspaper, which firmly belongs to the major mode? I chose to use the journal not for what it presents (by choosing for example a page dealing with a news item) but for what it is: an exhaustive tool of the major mode, but also a malleable, pliable, blurable material. So I chose to use newspaper pages as cases for the abandoned objects recovered from the street and which are exclusively of the minor mode. The crumpled journal thus surrounds these objects, protects them.
Thomas Maestro, September 2020
Bolero 2021 runs until 10 April and can be visited on the square in front of the Centre André Malraux as well as in the rue des Bons Enfants in Rouen. You can make a virtual visit here.