RF, Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts, 1970, p.23
Dedicated to the artist Robert Filliou and to all of us, talentless geniuses here and now.
Troubled children of the economy, we blindly get off on precarious happiness, capitalizing on the successes from past generations. We envy neither the comfort nor the security of our elders. But in today’s day, we have nothing else left except our ideas to develop. The issue at hand is not necessarily to create new business or new deals, but just simply maybe to develop a market of proximity. Well aware of the conditions of the over-loaded employee or the over-qualified unemployed person looking for a job, we attempt the acrobatics of new modes of living, both with and without a safety net. “What a shitty time this is for the youth” harp on and on the news media. But let’s not be too certain about what they’re saying. Once immunized against the effect of nostalgic lamentations and clenching conservatives, surely there must remain something for us, some passion and energy, at the end of the day. So as we slave away, thrilled to do so, let us try to make use of our zeal with confidence.
There was the beat generation then the “tweet” generation. Our contemporary society has made us into gossips, impatient and idly standing by as we ‘wait and see what happens’. How to fix a washing machine today or to catch a river trout by oneself ? Therein possibly lies the fundamental problem : Our generation simply has neither the time, nor the ambition to pursue either. And yet, with the aim of giving back to Joe Schmoe one’s ability to master the production of objects and the basic materials linked to his or her daily life, the Do It Yourself / Do it Together culture goes beyond the framework of the weekend hobbyist ; with all due respect to grandma’s cookies and knitting projects. To make something by oneself would bring about a different form of satisfaction than just gratifying one’s own consumption needs. To make something by oneself today aligns oneself to being a committed activist : Appreciating once again the very nature and value of things, taking one’s time, working within one’s own means, and sharing one’s knowledge, skills and experiences, these are all equal means to becoming anew a proactive participant in one’s daily life. According to the theories prescribed by the artist Robert Filliou, we are all geniuses whose acquired skills, sometimes a bit overdone, have ousted our innate intuitions. Would it be enough to forget and leave behind a few of these skills in order to have a go at fending for oneself ?
What does the word artist really mean today ? A job, a social status, a dream, an on-going practice ? What would happen if artistic practices were no longer the work for only those who claim the title of artist ? Taking into account activists, humanists, do-it-till-it’s-done-ists, idealists and other dreamers, who don’t put great value into titles and denominations, let us reconsider the artist as a “presenter of thought”, a term Robert Filliou chose in order to define his commitment as a creator across various fields ; from economics to poesy, from spirituality to education. The very one who proclaimed that “art is what makes life more interesting than art” defends innocence, imagination, freedom and integrity as the principal qualifications required of the new artist. It’ll soon be fifty years since he penned these thoughts, but Filliou’s life work was to expand on art from that of concept to a real and existing, omnipresent creation. He would laugh to observe how even still today the fields of art, design, fashion and architecture guard and defend their respective turfs, not fully letting omnipresent creation flow between their fields.
In opposition to the notion of a political economy, Robert Filliou introduced the Principes d’une Économie Poétique, (Principles of a Poetic Economy), which was no longer based on the criteria of productivity and output but instead was based on a new theory of value aiming for creation as the new “art de vivre”, or art of living. Filliou envisioned a new understanding of how man, in his role of taking part in the development of society, should fulfil the necessary tasks at hand that have to be fulfilled by “no longer viewing work as a burden but rather seeing work as a game”. Following his idea, the tasks at hand to which we daily give ourselves over to, would draw us closer to those activities, which are spontaneous, playful, liberating and free, instead of towards a brain-dead and mindless servitude ; however pleasurable the latter may be. The crisis has rarefied employment and in doing so it has impelled us towards a preference for new ways of thinking about work and the estrangement of labor. We work on Sundays and occasionally not Thursdays. We work late at night but in the company of friends. At a time when it is declared, “I don’t have the time”, and the days whither and gangrene by, we capitalize on the possibility to be the employer of time according to as we see fit. What if in reality we only had free time… And what about you, what do you do in life ?
It is in a residential house, located at Arthur Fontaine street, in the Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, that we have organized an extraordinary gathering whereby the “the art of living” was the central theme. We print these words without the goal of an alliance ; we wish only to celebrate the voluntary innocence of today’s utopia. And what if you were there, a part of it ?