Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

Nicolas Schöffer

The Prospective and Art
1972 - Writings and Theories

The question can be raised: Why try to forecast the future of the art? We know that because of a permanently accelerated evolution of the various branches of human activity it has become absolutely necessary to forecast the conditions of this evolution, stages of this evolution following one another faster and faster. Without a certain foresight we run the risk of being overtaken by the events or to become disoriented. One useful technique--prospective--has been with us for the last few decades. It uses more and more improved and complex scientific methods to establish lines of interaction and the best conditions for evolution. Prospective has developed in various key sectors--economy, industry, political strategy--and especially in the organization of production and distribution--consumption, that is, in the socialization of products. It matters little whether this technique is used in a capitalist or a socialist system, because both systems must increasingly objectivize their economy to obtain solutions that will eventually be similar.

The only sector that still escapes completely from organized prospective is the art sector [including architecture]. This exception is all the more paradoxical as art is the field of avant-garde par excellence; and it is, in fact in art that prospective has first appeared, and continues to rule, but in an intuitive way, nonorganized and relatively ineffective.

We can say that art is, and must be, prospective in a permanent manner. When art ceases to be prospective, it becomes redundant, folkloric, or commercial.

But while the prospective character of art hardly was noticeable in the rhythm of the past, today, with an accelerated rhythm of evolution, this prospective character becomes evident.

Permanent prospective demands constant effort. From now on, the artist's work must be directed toward a vision and a concept that are instantly future-oriented, and which forbid the artist any retrospective attitude, and even any stagnation.

The artist's work will take place with decreasing intellectual comfort. The artist must be the fulcrum of universal conscience.

The more or less gratuitous appearance of art will disappear as its role will become more visible and more important.

The artist must cease to practice an art of the image and must create an art of conditioning. It will no longer be enough to give the public certain impressions; the public must be impressed profoundly. To reach this goal, the products of artistic creation must enter into the vital circuits of society.

The totality of information networks, of interchange systems of any kind, must be opened up to true esthetic products. But this demands a new artistic technology, and a total transformation of the relationship of the producing artist and the consuming public.

We have brought up the problem of immateriality. When the artist uses the information networks that we are in the process of improving constantly, the immateriality and uniqueness of the object are no long sufficient for the distribution of esthetic products through these networks. On the other hand, the esthetic products, which are linked to the primordial problem of conditioning and are thus destined to impress in depth, must not fascinate in a hazardous, gratuitous, and ephemeral manner, but must become integrated into the basic program that determines the rhythm of daily life and must become the stimulating ferment of our actions, the preparatory elements of our cyclical decontractions, thus creating an optimal, omnipresent, and quasi-permanent environment for the human being.

Nicolas Schöffer, La ville cybernétique

[An Exerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 693]



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