Y is for the insubstantial parenthesis between X and Z — 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.


Y is for the insubstantial parenthesis between X and Z
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.
“What interests me in the notion of format and adaptation is plasticity, transposition, the movement that takes place between separate fields, the encounters that it enables and produces. With Conatus there is a double adaptation, first of all that of adapting a philosophical concept into an artwork, (since it was obviously not a matter of just illustrating the concept, but rather making the work itself an object full of desire generated by a desire, and generative of desire and joy), but also a matter of adapting from series format to exhibition format. Just as Cosmos (the video club) is an adaptation of a novel into a sculpture (in the sense that the cinema makes films from novels), Conatus takes a philosophical concept and turns it into artworks and exhibitions in series form. Conatus is perhaps essentially a production machine, a device that allows me to generate forms (works) that belong to families of forms (mobiles, flowers, corals, for example) included in other forms (exhibitions), all of which are now linked together by cross-references, echoes, connections that develop from exhibition to exhibition, from work to work.”

“This relation can only exist in a space of a certain size. And often, in fact, the pieces and exhibitions introduce new desires, new questions, and new ideas which will be developed at a later stage. And if the gestation period is quite long, they will even be developed within a project, as was the case with Jouer avec des choses mortes.”

“I don’t know if it’s really a story,” said Witold Gombrowicz about his book Cosmos, “our actions are initially inconsistent and capricious, like grasshoppers. They gradually turn into something conclusive as we come back to them; they claw away as if they had pincers, and they don’t let go – so what can we know?”

Between Monday 13 and Friday 17 October 2003, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Boris Achour invited five people to occupy the stage of the Laboratoires d’ Aubervilliers. During this time they were free to appropriate a certain number of objects. Then, later, spectators came and mingled with them. The sculptures were of various origins, qualities and sizes – bags of gold made from resin, three wooden gates, a large pink sausage, a faceted construction, a desk from the set of a television game, and artificial flowers. Little by little, a choreography grew up between the objects and the bodies and, as the hours passed, complicities began to appear.

Lemmy spends most of his free time reading travel guides without ever travelling. He constantly talks about countries or cities as if he had just arrived back from them. His favourite times of the year are when people are just back from their vacations; he goes from table to table in the canteen talking to his office colleagues about their holiday trips. He knows more about the places they have been to than any hardened traveller. Some even consult him on the pros and cons of their next destination. His best friends urge him to contact television producers, not for him to take part in specialised quiz shows, but to be invited in suit and tie onto sociological-type shows. He would talk about his experience as an armchair traveller. Our choices of existence. How you bring about change in your life. I’ve decided to go around the world. I travel in my head. I know the world without going anywhere. I read for adventures. He would receive letters from people who share his passion, be asked to give lectures, get promotional travel offers, contracts with publishers to correct errors in the guides.

A project: that’s what I need! A really unusual project; not like other people’s, something different. A bit stylish. An activity sufficiently discreet for you to be able to get on with it quietly, but that will get known about, by some means or another, although people will know you’re going about it discreetly. A non-media project that elicits a little admiration all the same, a modicum of respect. Something you can fit in to everyday life, working on it in fits and starts, half an hour here, a couple of hours there, another twenty minutes later on, in the hubble-bubble of a life ruled by the fear of emptiness. A project exciting enough to be demanding, but not enough to become invasive, on the principle that the worst experiences are those that become obsessive. Many a Lemmy has ended up blowing his brains out.

Projects to avoid like the plague: model making or stamp collecting or coin collecting or acrobatic rock or gardening and DIY or playing the piano or drawing or singing in a choir or kite flying or tai chi or Buddhism and Sanskrit or coaching or spiritualism or criminal law or paragliding or scuba diving or bridge or olive-oil making or steam cooking, or cosmetic surgery, or the stock exchange, betting on horses and the lottery, or water aerobics, or interior decorating, or collecting teddy bears or car tuning, or American football, or climbing or shooting and fishing and family holidays. Wondering why somebody takes up one thing rather than another.

Translation: Jeremy Harrison