X is for anonymous — Éric Mangion — 2018

This text was written for the book ABC B.A. published in 2018 by Dent-de-Leone and distributed by Les presses du réel. This monograph is composed of a collection of texts and critical essays in the form of a abc-book. Based on key words, twelve art critics, curators or writers wrote a text commenting on Boris Achour’s work. The book also includes an iconographic collection offering an overview of the artist’s work.


X is for anonymous
NB: All paragraphs enclosed in inverted commas are quotations from Boris Achour, taken from various interviews with Sophie Lapalu, François Piron and Éric Mangion. The other sections were written by Éric Mangion.
“You know those films or novels in which a character wakes up having forgotten everything about his identity and his life, and has to reinvent and reconstruct everything, all the time. No past, no future, just the present moment.”

“Since Ghosty didn’t respond to what passers-by asked him, he almost got beaten up twice, which I hadn’t anticipated at all and was something I absolutely hadn’t intended to provoke. For me, he was someone who had escaped from an amusement park, like a Disneyland character wandering round a city. Except that he wasn’t wearing the mask of a famous person, but his own face.”

“Ghosty’s violence is his silence and his expressionless face, the fact that he doesn’t respond to being talked to and flouts the norms of sociability. When I redo Burden’s Jaïzu performance, there’s a respectful silence to begin with, but after a few minutes, you start to hear a scraping of chairs, throats being cleared, and then embarrassed titters, until people become exasperated, because it’s boring looking at someone who doesn’t move or speak. It creates a situation of violence, especially when one person defies a group. What you might call passivity, and I would prefer to call withdrawal, is a way of fomenting tense situations.”

Like Ghosty, anonymity can provoke situations that end badly.

Like Jack Griffin, the albino engineer in H.G. Wells’s story.

After fifteen years of research and spending that have ruined him, he invents a formula to render himself invisible. After experimenting on his neighbour’s cat, he decides to try the invisibility formula on himself, using it to flee his creditors. He then becomes totally invisible and gradually lapses into madness. Taking advantage of his condition, he starts to indulge in petty theft, first shoplifting, and then stealing from private individuals. He feels invincible and kills with impunity. Holding a small town under a reign of terror, he displays messages proclaiming himself to be master of the place and the Queen to have no authority there. After multiple chases, the inhabitants end up capturing him, and then they lynch him. His body gradually becomes visible as he dies.
Every filmmaker who filmed The Invisible Man faced the same dilemma. How do you make visible what is supposed to be invisible? Few famous actors would accept a role where they hardly appear. An invisible man is not absent. The strangest version must surely have been that of James Whale in 1933. It was partly due to his choice of theatre actor Claude Rains in the role of the protagonist; it was his first film part. He was chosen for his hoarse, rasping voice, the result of exposure to toxic gases during the First World War. In those early days of sound cinema, his voice functioned as a form in itself. Whale also developed effects of negative presence through the movement or modification of objects: armchair cushions showing signs of someone sitting on them, pyjamas worn, a cigarette being lit, an overturned pram, for example. Actions like that made the film into a something of an artwork.
Who hasn’t dreamt at some point or other of being invisible? Being locked in alone in a supermarket overnight. Hanging out in the kitchens of great chefs. Sleeping in the Romanée-Conti cellars. Gate-crashing showbiz parties and pissing in the handbags. Helping yourself to mountains of cash from the coffers of an offshore bank. Sleeping in the best hotels. Never paying your fare anywhere. Pestering your worst enemies. Causing a run on the stock market.
The invisible man can do practically anything he wants; his transparency protects him from disgrace. He can change the course of the world. But of all the heroes he is the only one who suffers from loneliness, the only one who is not turbo-charged; he is as weak as a wingless fly. He can do whatever he wants, but invisibility is not easy to live with. The ideal invention would be part-time transparency, transparency on demand. Just press a button in the hem of your jacket and select the required length of time, enough for a discreet investigation. A real James Bond, new style, without gadgets, no big cars, no dolly birds. Naturally, you have to be the only one who has this power. If everyone could become invisible, transparency would be pointless.

Translation: Jeremy Harrison