MEDIA MAN No. 1
From sociological art to the aesthetics of communication
The artist whose only wrong was being right too soon
“Fred Forest poses a problem and it is commendable. He’s certainly the artist who was able to anticipate (…) the importance of communication, not as a series of systems designed to comprehend reality, but as volume, an autonomous territory where self-expression is normalised when it comes into contact with other participants in a same social situation”.
A remarkable and prolific artist, Fred Forest is a pioneer in every respect. A theorist and practitioner of sociological art, he was one of the first multimedia artists. He has worked with new media, from the time they emerged in the 1960s and onwards, as resources to fuel his investigation into the overarching field of communication.
The self-taught Fred Forest has never stopped shifting the values of contemporary art, its market and its institutions using, in turn, street installations, technologies and mass media to highlight its concerns and the ways in which it fits into our world.
The objective of this exhibition is to present this extraordinary artist through a journey that represents him over a 50-year period, combining recent works with his oldest creations as well as participative proposals.
Its subject consists of showing the importance of communication in our era, from the moment when our civilisation switched from mechanics to electronics, with all the technological advances that followed. It aims to bring meaning and conscience into the human spirit at a time of major crisis for our civilisation, where the artist creates his work with today’s tools, adding a social, sociological, political and ethical critical value to the intrinsic aesthetic value.
Fred Forest, multimedia and network artist, with a doctorate from the Sorbonne, is professor emeritus in Information and Communication Sciences for Nice Sophia-Antipolis University. A pioneer in video art, from the 1960s onwards he was already creating the first interactive environments, working with both computers and video. A pioneer in every respect, he has used, in turn, a variety of media in his artistic practice: the written press, the telephone, the fax, video, radio, television, cable, the Minitel, electronic billboards, telematics and, of course, today the Internet and Second Life, which has earned him international stature and recognition (http://www.fredforest.org)
Tenured professor at the École Nationale Supéreure d’Art in Cergy, then Chair of Information and Communication Sciences at Nice Sophia-Antipolis University, he directed an internationally celebrated seminar at Cergy’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art on new technologies. Co-founder of the Sociological Art Collective in 1974, he submitted a doctoral thesis in 1984 to the Sorbonne in Paris on Sociological Art and the Aesthetics of Communication.
In 1983, he co-founded the international Aesthetics of Communication Movement with Mario Costa. Awarded the grand prize in communication at the 12th São Paulo Biennale, he represented France at the Venice Biennale and at Documenta 6 in Kassel. In 2005, he organised the first global happening with the Bass Museum in Miami. The Paço das Artes in Sao Paulo then the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia devoted a retrospective to the artist in 2005 and 2006 respectively. He was awarded the " Laser d’or" at Locarno’s Electronic Arts Festival, then the Grand Prix from Locarno for a multimedia work broadcast by RTSI, Switzerland’s national Italian channel. In October 1996, as a world premier, he sold a digital work entitled "Network Parcel" at the Drouot Auction House. In September 1998, he created a spectacular installation, the Center of the World, which functioned in relationship with Internet traffic, at the Espace Pierre Cardin in Paris. In March 1999 he made his first foray into the Internet with another artist, Sophie Lavaud, and on this occasion they created and implemented a virtual reality program that operated with a series of sensors. In October 2000, in Paris, he organised the auction of a series of digital monochromes, under the hammer of Cornette de Saint Cyr auction house, in the form of a website.
Fred Forest has published numerous essays and books: Pour un art actuel/l’art à l’heure d’Internet, Harmatta, Paris (November, 1998), and Fonctionnements et dysfonctionnements de l’art contemporain : un procès pour l’exemple, Harmattan (September, 2000); Repenser l'art et son enseignement, Harmattan, De l'art vidéo au Net Art, Harmattan (2004) and L'Oeuvre-système invisible, Harmattan (2005).
He also founded the Web Net Museum, an online museum, which presents online exhibitions and operates as a research centre (www.webnetmuseum.org).
A prolific and extraordinary artist, he holds a special place on the French art landscape. A radical critic, he stigmatises how institutions operate for colluding with the market, speculation and their enslavement to finance. Resonant actions against the Centre Pompidou for lack of transparency are recurrent.
The artistic practice of misappropriation that Fred Forest has always conducted presents a critical reflection on art, communication, their codes and their ideological, symbolic and aesthetic foundations. As Pierre Restany wrote, he anticipated very early on what we are seeing today, and his latest work on Internet is the logical continuation of the development of an artistic practice that, from the 1970s, has encompassed the notions of interaction, real time, processes, telepresence, omnipresence, remote action, networks and relationships in the social and everyday spheres.
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An exhibition in partnership with :
With the cooperation of the collection of the Frac Haute-Normandie and collection of the National Center for the
Visual Arts - Ministry of Culture and Communication
With Alain - Dominique Perrin's contribution