— May

This is the first issue of a projected three issue-series documenting the early 1990s in France, covering a short period of time between the years 1991 and 1995. The presumption at that time was that it was possible to overcome the overshadowing intellectual and artistic guardianship. Finding a point of entry was no small task. To circumnavigate the expected exhibitions, magazines, and art centers, so symptomatic of the time and to not get caught up in the quarrels of the experts of contemporary art, the stories of the groups of artists and to guard against apologetic testimonies.

As usual, it is more about questioning documents that pertain to this period, in order to understand our own.

The thread is articulated around the reading of Felix Guattari that took place at that time, and around our reading of it today. What became of what Guattari described as the “winter years” of the 1980s, in contrast to “the spring that promised to be endless of the 1960s[1]”? To whom was it really of interest at that time? It is clearly referenced in the introductory theme of the first issue of the magazine Purple “Indian Summer”, and an exhibition organized by Purple in 1993 titled “The Winter of Love”. But it is a counter-reference, dealing with the idea of glaciation, or of an endangered Indian summer.

Then, within the preface of the recently re-published book “The Winter Years”, Francois Cusset suddenly gave a new enthusiastic re-interpretation of these texts, which read “like breathtaking expectations of ours—dizzyingly accurate and dizzyingly intact.” For Cusset, the last three decades were of the same sort, and the period under Mitterrand formed an incredible double bind for French intellectuals.[2] Winter had become truly immortalized and Guattari found himself “all alone”. Even though the experiences of collective struggles were based on the same principles of arranging subjectivities and new territorialities in the 1990s, the development of the Internet allowed for the development of “temporary autonomous zones”and perhaps new arrangements of subjectivities.

Perhaps the other thread would be to take some distance to grasp what Paris signified, as a cliché and as a value to the artists, like for instance the German artist, Martin Kippenberger and how misunderstandings and the ineptitude of the French art institutions at that time, literally decimated their possible reception.

We will also see how the œdipal relations were replayed as if in a burlesque in Kippenberger’s work, to better sap the essentialisms and the institutions.

  1. [1] Félix Guattari, Les Années d’hiver [The Years of Winter] (Paris: Les Prairies ordinaires, 2009).
  2. [2] François Cusset, “Critique des années Mitterrand”, Le Monde, May 9th 2011.
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► From the same author
Preface in May #19
Preface in May #18
Interview with Ilaria Bussoni. On the symposium “Sensible Commons” at GNAM, Rome in May #17
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Preface in May #8
Interview with Olivier Zahm in May #7
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