[NetBehaviour] Maps for the Outside.
marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Tue Feb 28 03:37:09 CET 2006
Maps for the Outside.
by Brian Holmes
Bureau d'Etudes, or the revenge of the concept
The closure of the gallery space is a classic conceptual gesture.
Witness this proposal by Robert Barry: "My exhibition at the Art &
Project Gallery in Amsterdam in December, '69, will last two weeks. I
asked them to lock the door and nail my announcement to it, reading:
'For the exhibition the gallery will be closed.'"  Conceptual art can
be defined, not simply as the refusal of the commodified object and the
specialized art system, but as an active signage pointing to the outside
world, conceived as an expanded field for experimental practices of
intimacy, expression and collaboration - indeed, for the transformation
of social reality. 
Thirty-two years later, in October-December 2001, the French group
Bureau d'Etudes reiterated the gesture, sealing off the exhibition space
of Le Spot, a converted industrial building in the port city of Le
Havre. Instead of a simple sign, they confronted the visitor with a
book, Juridic Park, which upon closer inspection proved to be a detailed
set of maps to the "legal subsoil" of the city. But these maps, like the
more recent cartographic projects, do not simply embrace the outside of
one of modernity's specialized subsystems. Rather they detail the
proliferating closures of a totally administered society, where almost
every square inch of terrain is strictly codified for exclusive,
proprietary uses. The name of the group, "Bureau d'Etudes," denotes an
expert consultancy, a study office for technical research. Theirs is an
intensely precise apprehension of the world, shot through with flashes
of dark humor. But their work in its broadest dimensions is also the
foundation, or perhaps the springboard, for an antagonistic utopia.
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