Heads, mail art on Facebook

head-213*head-330*The «Heads» project consisted in posting on my Facebook account one drawing of a head everyday  during a complete year, from August 3 2014 to August 2 2015. In November 2017, a book was published by Les Éditions de l’Œil, in Paris, that includes all the  445 drawings of this project.

Heads (1 à 100)

Heads (101 à 200)

Heads (201 à 300)

Heads (301 à 400)

Heads (401 à 445)

I saw it as  a variation on the mail art theme. As in classic mail art, it consists in sending an art piece to receivers, taking advantage of an existing communication system, which in this case is Facebook.  But there are two major differences between the two. First, in the current case, the work being sent was virtual, a digital copy of an actual drawing done with pen on real paper, that stayed in my possession. Second, there were multiple receivers of an undeterminate number. There was also an uncertainty as what is the exact identity of those receivers. In that sense it has to do also with public art, grffittis and the like. They were put somewhere in the public space and whoever passed by could see them. Even if I am in Facebokk relationship with approximately one thousand and one hundred «friends», I was not certain that every head will find its way on the news feed of each of them. Above this, when certain of them decided to share some drawings with their own network of friends, they were then migrating outside my own Facebook constellation into zones that were unknown to me. Consequently, if on the one hand the circullation of my images might have been limited by the opaque Facebook procedures, it could also be augmented in various degrees by the decision to share of some of my «friends». In any case, the precise circulation of my drawings was not under my control.

Why did I draw and post heads? First because since a few years it had become an obsessive theme in my work. I fist did a series of one hundred heads under the title Tropismes in homage to the French writer Nathalie Sarraute. Other series have followed from the same inspiration (Inner Shields). I also dis a series of performance under the title of Tropismes. Finally, there was my most recent film, You look like me, that also develops variations on this same theme of faces and heads. The strong impression that Nathalie Sarraute’s work did on me is still active in those new developments. But other influences started to work on me, that is the texts of Emmanuel Levinas about the face in his book Totalité et infini and also some of Samuel Beckett’s late short texts that were important to me in the eighties and that recently came back to my mind. And I also should mention Henri Michaux.

It also had to do with the “public place” character of Facebook – I should say the false «public place” character , due to Facebook’s cryptic procedure in establishing personalized news feed with the result that nobody really sees the same posts. The outreach of different posts was  thus highly unequal. Nevertheless, Facebook is a “place” where individuals come across one another like people walking by  randomly on the city sidewalks. So it appeared interesting to launch, on a dayly basis, in the ambiguous space of Facebook, drawings of heads that mingle up in the random flux of passersby. A variable number of people could meet them and feel questionned by the strange haze of those heads. I was hoping that they would bear the power to establish another type of presence on the web and that, as a sort of parallel crowd, they would acquire a special kind of familiarity. It is important to stress that those heads are not portraits but references at a very general level to the human silhouette and to the basic structure of the human face. They simply are undefined individuals lost in the crowd, born from the uncontroled interplay of lines and blobs that emerged from the actions of my hand, away from any intention of ressemblance or representation. My aim was that the daily recurrence of those heads create a strong pole of attention in the rather futile universe of Facebook.

It is obvious that the infuence of Nathalie Sarraute was still active in the fact that those heads did not correspond to psychological entities. What goes on here does not have to do with psychology or ressembance but can be better described as an exploration of the anonymous forces of the gaze and a never resolved tension between form and chaos,


May 10 2015

Today, I have finished the series of drawings «Heads». The last one is number 445. With that amount of drawings, it will be possible to continue posting one drawing every week day and two on the Sunday, on Facebook and Twitter, until August 2 2015, as I have been doing it since August 2014. This will also allow me to make a final sprint during the last month of the project. From July 3 to August 2, two drawings of a head will be posted everyday.

It was not meant to be that way. Four hundreth and nineteen drawings should have been enough to complete the project. But when I felt that the end was getting closer, the nature of the process changed and new requirements started to appear. It seemed to me that it was not a possible to just stop the series when the final date would be reached. It became clear that it should go somewhere, that it sould reach an ending that would have an organic character in relation to the whole of the project. Until around three hundreth and fifty drawings, it was all right that it would move forward in a quite open ended manner. That was the crucial thing, that it kept going without repeating itself. Until that point, the progress was based on an alternance of sudden progresses in new directions that appeared in a more or less fortuitous way, and of phases of hesitation and stamping while looking for a new momentum. It was a kind of infinite process that was feeding itself out of a retroaction with former drawings that I was revisiting when I would post them, sometimes months after I had made them. It was a sort of a circular process that I could have decided to continue until it would die out by itself, until there would not be any new momentum. But I had decided that the project would last exactly one year. When I made this decision, the process seemed almost infinite. The focus was all on succeding to maintain the series over what appear to be a very long period of time, and to keep going even in the phases of stagnation. I did not expect the change of dynamic that happened spontaneously and that imposed a different kind of focalisation. So, I spent the last months looking for an ending to the series. It turned out to be more difficult than I would have expected. I started by setting a clearer and more precise rythmic pattern in the series, thinking that it could help. The idea of a progessive vanishing of the heads appeared quite early on but I thought it was a bit superficial, too easy. To make this idea acceptable, I first had to let the internal swarming of the heads to contaminate the external space that up to that point had remained untouched. This was a less obvious idea and finally it took 25 drawings more than was foreseen to achieve this.











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