Philippe Meste

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Meste, Manet, Marcos & Co.

Supplement to a Programme of Global Mutation in the State of the Prevailing Misery that Constitutes Our Time.

1997: In the hypermarket equipped with artistic attitudes and services of all kind, in the department of marked-down performances, promotional hangings and departmental directors focused on their upcoming programmes, what sort of event are we still capable of? What are we the bearers of? The cashier watches with contempt and dismay. They call themselves artists. They will enter the new millenium and do not recognise themselves in their surroundings. They find themselves at the exit; exactly at the turn of a new state of commodification, at the frontier of a new centre of exchange – without mediation, active, in direct access, without commission.


For, in fact, what role do the current actors of art play? In a world imperceptibly burried in conformity, administration, domesticy and blind Disneylandism, what vallency of proposition and difference remains for them? A temperature reading is necessary. Thus meddling with the mercury : widespread anaesthetic, so many currect practises are stuck in laborious concerns that end up above the fireplace (the bourgeois version I), wading in public space (the bourgeois version II), or wavering the circumvolutions of decontruction (the zombie version I) . Bourgeois, zombie: the neverending return, like a bad series endlessly programmed on the airwaves of our conduct. Exhaustion. Sclerosis gains another step; comforted by a small tribe of artists whose practise can be summed up as so many sub-prefecture`s cocktail parties. Supported by a growing desert of cultural institutions whose only ambition is to assure their morose and endless continuation. It is possible today (the first of May 1997: two o`clock according to my watch) that the past lingers so long ? That the 19th century outlasts its own time? Is it possible, at this point, that art has been dispossessed of its liberating potential? That it has laid down its arms? That is has lost its life? In writing this, I no longer know if it is possible to make sense of what I am talking about, so profound is the prevailing neurosis: intoxicating, loss of project, loss of impetus: pertes blanches.


In one word: Stop ! Basta ! The goose has been cooked for the agents of the contemporary (and even decidedly overdone in this exsangious world) – agents whose practise can be summed up as cancelling and slowing down every movement.

For what we are capable of does not resemble what we are shown, nor what we are told.
For in 1997, the filed of arts is occupied by technocrats rotten to the bone.
For a vast suppository surrounds us.
For its possible that you have it in the ass: you`re sitting on your seats.
For we’ll ask nobody for our oxygen.
For in 1997, punks, we’ll never celebrate our 20th birthday.
For the directors of art centres grow beards and wear tweeds.
For there’s trouble in the air; and it’s enough.
For eveywhere smells of cologne, in the subway and the white cube.
For one must reeducate oneself to vomit.
For they want to steal our most precious possesion – the unsubsidizable.
For those remarks are those of love and unsubmissiveness.
For there is still a slap in the face to be gven and that such an attitude (among others) remains the heritage of artists: a luxirious species focused on jests of retort with the primary objective of removing us from the torpor, to see what happens.


It’s certain that, in the last instance, one ever chooses to be an artist, but that one is pushed, like others, into the centre of maquis. It is the fact that Meste bathes, even wallows in this confrontation with a minimum of concession. He throws something back (at us), doesn’t digest the status quo, can’t refrain from vomiting this sad state sandwhich (socio-economico-politico-libidinal) from there where we stand. Openly a-civic, he maintains this jest which is at the same time displaced and frontal, and thus embodies this impersonal and global slap in the face. Like Burden was for the American society of Vietnam war (with less heroism in the performance), Meste is the resistance in French society to Chirarco-Baladurism, anti-terrorist plans and securitan ideologies in general; in other words, to this movement that disposses us of the real under the auspicies of protecting us. In this way, Meste becomes our rebel unconscious that vomits that which limits us and, as such, grows at our feet. The ground is unambigous and slippery: like the commodity of our dogs on the pavement.

«Julio Cortasar said that Marcel Duchamp said that elephants are contagious, and Julio said that he himself, added that revolutions are themselves contagious»

Deputy Commander Marcos, Ants and Elephants (1)


Why get so worked up! Is it necessary or even reasonable? I already hear the following: the art milieu is so fragile that one must watch over it so as not to weaken it further. Let’s settle ourselves into this cultural comfortability, sharing, togther, this warmed-up pizza. Ugh! With Meste, the question remains, embarassing to the point that we don’t dare ask it: what is it in the end, that an artist risks playing today? Today, precisely, where there is nothing left to loose. If art milieu is so fragile, it’s proof that it’s in the process of falling apart. Certainly odds and ends of art will take a blow. The ground will change. Meste with his toolbox intervenes here, in this change of landmarks. The centre and agglomerations of art of all kind enter a terminal phase when it becomes no more than a matter of finding the rinciples of art’s ativity. Explosions in the artistic reservoir. Our thesqurizations become outmoded; our investments superseded.

NO JAM: THE STOOGES, FRANCE, THE BIG FUCK In the era of spineless, Meste is the ransom of our little bourgeoise fantasies that consitute the art system in France. Since after the Second World War, nobody has dared such directnes in such a while. A point of extremity in a period without glory. He is the terminator of the axis Paris – New York, the dull variations of the quinquagenarian couple César-Oscar, the Grand-Daddy Hollywood (so long devoid of any signification), this in the hour in which we celebrate French art with lifeless exhibitions in order to grapple on to something solid. Meste undertakes the magisterial fuck. Meste, born in Fuck-France, city of mental suburbia, land of cyber desertions. Meste, like IAM, articulates the big fuck of the era 1939-1997, from the first housing estates to the fires of Salfrane, from Petain to Chirac, our history’s big No. This explosion (this fart others might say), is vital for us, because it finally exposes us. This directness remains so disconcerting because it contains no personal artistic message. Not unlike what the Stoges staged in 1969 (through thei idiotic sound), the neurosis of a stupefied American society (2), what Meste reveals in France in 1997 and its respective neurosis. Today exhibitions of French art continue: their indigestibility is inevitable.


Making a work means taking money, tools – in short, weapons. The Mestian method, this global act, the GASM (Gun, Action, Sex and Money) disarms the authorisation to take (‘Theft’) and sets it to work (‘Military Post’). But it is, each time, a personal exploitation, an audacity: that the limits that arts comprhends of itself, or that a society comprehends of violence, must be identified (‘Theft’, ‘Military Post’). Meste’s weapons are merely mirrors: it is a question, in their reflections, of identifying our artistic limits, as political …irrefutably.


With direct action, Meste’s hacking departs from the numerical and passes into activity. In the era of cable communication, Meste refuses the traps and decoders, becoming the direct antidote for all the institutional-coded practises in circulation. In the era of the net, he generates viruses without computers, with bare hands, without the detour of software. For it’s the same struggle, whether it be Photoshop of Disneyland. The same screen: a management of death. (3) In short, Meste has grasped the question in our time: a struggle to death against globalised devitalization, a reappropriation of control, resurgency into circulation. ‘The watercolors’ revive the great art of bare hands; turning down icons of fashion splattered with the artist’s sperm: already Manzoni, ‘the Artist’s shit’, here, Meste, nothing other then sperm – and, at the same time, our limits.


Again, the limits, not only of the visible but the admissible. The SM2 (Sex Moderne 2) is not the body without orans; it is the organ without the body: either the extremities (the hands, the feet, the head) or again, the erogenous zones (the genitals, the breasts, the mouth, the face). The SM2 brackets everything of the body that is neither sexual nor a physical extremety, leaving only the erogenous and corporeal limits. The SM2 displays, in its most rudimentary economy and constraint, a body detached from its articulations, reified, mummified in an obsene repose. Or, even, an Origine du monde after Courbet, frontal and strictly personal, immutable and charnel, devoid of a pictorial alibi: a face to face encounter stripped flatness, a frontality in the flesh, an origin frozen before us. White, smooth, soft and hard, the body become a shell, the cube glued to the body. In 1971, for his first performance (and diploma), Burden shut himself in an art school locker during five days, thus reassesing the limits of minimal cube in its confrontation with the body. The SM2 is the solar annus of the white cube. What it demands of us, in a certain sense, that we bury ourselves in our limits in the white cube. What is absurd is not so much this demand, but that, untill Meste, it has never been formulated in such plastic terms. What the cube calls into question is our body, our limits, our acts and what we are capable of: this is its only prerequisite.

FROM MANET TO MESTE & MESTE DIRECT MUTATIONS Certainly Philippe Meste’s contribution resides above all in the conquest of the reality principle and frontality which begins pictorially with the scandal of Manet (a painting that, for the first time does only one thing – looks us in the face) and follow politically with the case of the Deputy-Commander Marcos (a discursive directness without deviation or ideological basis, as Manet had abolished the narative alibi). The turning point begins in this face to face encounter; and the conquest of frontality certainly marks out one of the most important stakes today: to establish a direct relation with the real, without mediation, without a screen (4). It is at the forefront of this direct access that the coming mutations are comitted; for, above all, they reveal a struggle for a shared recovery of the real and for the breaking down of screens of all kind. Thus, Meste’s message is addressed to us, not merely on a personal level (that of a work to be appreciated without equivalence), but as an invitation to everyone for an art and a world without a mediator. Once more – of the real – only auto-determination is real; and of all that is outside of this, there is merely screen, decoration and dispossesion. In his pacific revolt, Meste is perhaps alarming; and this remains reassuring for this very reason. Before us and with us, we have an artist who has finally – irreversibly, without any possible remission and for each one of us – finally abolished our most profound syndrome: security.

Frank Perrin, May 1997

PS. We should never excuse ourselves of insurrection, for we have no other choice.