Published in Valeurs Croisées, Les Presses du Réel, Dijon, 2008


Boris Achour, a hitch-hikking French coyote artist, ill-advisedly narcoleptic in gardens in residential neighbourhoods of Los Angeles, or gentle dove-loving guerrilla? Boris Achour’s work, by definition, beggars definition, being many-faceted and multiple.

Since 2005, the artist has been developing the Conatus series, in the sense of a TV series, where each show is a new episode. As part of his residency with the Diana Ingredients company, Boris Achour is creating a new opus: Conatus Sunrise. The “conatus” is a Spinozan concept of desire as driving force, with a strong tendency to persevere in the being. “Conatus” literally means “effort”, but stems from “conati”, translated by “to undertake”.

Somewhere between taking and putting. Between takes and acts. Undertaking and intervening, during the company’s “intermissions”, this was the shared experimental terrain used by Boris Achour and Diana Ingredients.

Shots and takes. Acting and folding. Lots of folds. Crumpled like the ball of yellow paper looming up from one of the screens, between two letters, between two images.

Conatus Sunrise is a work where form and content intermingle and complement each other, with an explicit absence of hierarchies. The overall form of the work, akin to that of a crystal, is developed thanks to a rudimentary material (sheets of extruded polystyrene). Within it, five monitors broadcast as many sequences which bring together images of very different origins. Views of the production unit rub shoulders with 25 sunrises, taken from YouTube, broadcast in a speeded-up loop version; in the middle, filmed with night shots, the face of a sleeping child, where just the quivering eyelids are evidence of life. A latent world is traced, between awakening and reawakening, fiction and reality. Sunrise in black-and-white. Motionless child. A sterilized, mechanized undertaking and a crystallized void. Absence of life, absence of actions.

In The System of Objects1, Jean Baudrillard deals with “this systematic, homogeneous and functional world of colours, matter and forms, where impulse, desire, and the explosive force of instinct are everywhere not denied but disavowed, belied, and omitted” . In Conatus Sunrise, desire actually seems to be absent, because it is stripped of any conscious subject in which to dwell and grow. But in the accepted Spinozan sense, has desire not evolved as fast as the society based on growth, and the production of goods and needs? The conatus seems projected, reactivated in the entrepreneurial world, in production machines which are, more or less consciously, with either pride or disgust, not used as an extension—function of the tool—but experienced as a reflection of postmodern man. Baudrillard explains that “technical objects exercise a different fascination in that they refer to a virtual energy, and are thus no longer receptacles of our presence, but bearers of our own dynamic image.”2  The conatus thus appears in the undertaking, and through each image, in the negative.

But the sun rises! Desire springs from the absence of desire and blooms in the process of creation, be it sculptural, philosophical, or dreamlike. Boris Achour’s oeuvre highlights an approach of definite formal and intellectual experimentation, and gives pride of place to action, over and above the illusion of quantifiable results. Posing questions without imposing answers, “injecting fiction, hypotheses, points of departure and not arrival. Folding rather than closing.3

As a vital process, the conatus is fashioned and constructs us, even in the state of projection or dream. Within and without, without and within. And within and without. And without and within. Conatus Sunrise—let the sunshine, let the sunshine in!



1.Jean Baudrillard, Le Système des objets, Gallimard, « Tel », 2007, p.88.

2.Ibid, p.166.
3.Boris Achour, “Dream Team” in Trouble, no5, 2005, p.21.