THE TERRITORY OF THE ARTISTIC SQUARE METRE
by PIERRE RESTANY
The passage from the concept of the ARTISTIC m2 to that of TERRITORIAL
ARTISTIC m2 is not a mere extension of space, i.e. a quantitative
development of the notion; it is the introduction of highly complex
and meaningful dimensions into its units and parameters.
When FRED FOREST defined the ARTISTIC m2, he did so in the abstract,
taking his cue from a wish for methodology, which constituted
his participation in sociological art. Starting then with an abstract
concept, how is it possible to arrive at a concrete notion? Precisely
by manipulating the possibilites offered by dimension, and the
nuances that the abstract concept can adopt when defined with
reference to concrete terms.
The ARTISTIC m2 was the square metre of canvas, and therefore,
of the "objet d'art". It was also and quite simply "non-art"
as opposed to this art. The play on this type of concept-colouring
on an abstract level led to a self-contained methodology for the
action undertaken by FRED FOREST in the ARTISTIC m2 .
The passage from the m2 concept to that of the TERRITORY implies
concrete and actual usage from the start, which is then transformed
from the overt word-play to become the path of theoretical abstraction
and committed action. In my opinion the operation in its continuity
hinges on this very point. The TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC m2 presupposes
the incorporation of this basic concept into an extremely complex
structure, that of life on our planet. The planetary surface is
perceived as the intermediary level sandwiched somewhere between
subterranean life, infrastructure and super-structure.
Once the territory is regarded as an occupation, a land development
project and a concrete reality, all the problems likely to ensue
are evoked. One might go so far as to state that the TERRITORY
of the ARTISTIC m2 appears as the fierce wish for a theory and
practice of land development. The "TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC
m2 " is definitely a SPECIAL TERRITORY. It serves the purposes
of all other territories, but has "ambitions" besides,
as well as intention, that defines all the others, and in a way
becomes the common link for all practical purposes. First of all,
it is necessary to find a territory. This territory has to be
organized in the manner of a franchise. It must then be divided
into plots adaptable enough for these to find buyers. The prospective
buyers' interest in the life on the territory must be stimulated.
An administrative body has to be formed for all these purposes
and also to organize life on the territory, a life encompassing
physical and moral development. As a final consideration, the
TERRITORY of the ARTISTIC m2 has become a physical entity, and
as such it must watch over the fate of all the specialized plots.
We did once mention a "burial ground for the living"
and in the context of an eternal franchise it definitely has a
striking and even very dynamic analogy with the TERRITORY. The
"zoo" analogy is also fascinating. In comparison with
the zoological garden the ARTISTIC m2 may be considered an anthropological
garden. What is the difference between the two ? Within a deliberately
confined space, on which the owner exercises full power, the anthropological
garden sets in motion all the individual person's motivations
from the moment he decides to play the game, the moment he feels
involved in this type of territorial occupation. I think the ARTISTIC
m2 is a kind of battery, a kind of magnet setting forces in motion
in a bid for communication, for co-operation, for exchange. But
also in a move towards self-realization
in the sense of individual fulfilment. This is the most spiritually
catalyzing aspect, this will most likely be the main motive for
public participation. This is the aspect that the bets must be
openly staked on. Where each plot takes up a certain amount of
space, or is purchased at a certain price, it is obvious that
it creates a relationship, not only mercantile but also intellectual
and emotional, between the holder and his franchise. This type
of relationship cannot be circumvented without talking of land
speculation, for at that level it becomes purely abstract in nature.
We go from mercantile to abstract speculation as a matter of course.
Beyond the holder/franchise relationship itself a fringe still
exists, that of the occupant's freedom. The latter manifests itself
in the wildest imaginings; entailing for the administrative body
responsibilities, unforeseeable problems and perhaps even unsolvable
ones. In this respect this project of a territory strictly defined
and tangible at its foundations leads to voyages of discovery
to unknown realms. The territorial administrating body is meant
to manage the territory; it can also give impetus to life on the
territory if necessary; but it can in no way obstruct, censor
or interfere with spontaneous initiatives on the part of different
Hence we have the gateway to the unforeseen, the spontaneous,
the poetical in the lives of all beings. Two dimensions coexist
in this idea of the ARTISTIC TERRITORY of the m2 : one of "contraction"
or geometric franchise of the m2 or its multiples; another of
"expansion". The latter is the dimension of fulfilment,
the dimension of the greatest degree of freedom that can be exercised
on such a small territory; a phenomenon that can be seen as a
respiratory one, involving breathing in and breathing out. This
is an image of life itself, mirrored through the anthropological
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that life is
a cycle. We sometimes fear words and thus we hesitate to employ
the phrase "burial ground" in respect of a system of
franchise, of management and administration. Yet, the latter structure
is precisely what the phrase evokes, while it is simultaneously
the most obvious expression for the revenge of life over death.
That which we start out by visualizing as the planning of a burial
ground ends by blooming into a living garden. Our anthropological
garden. It is qualified anthropological since the men who enter
this zoo do so voluntarily and not because they have been compelled
to or because they are held in captivity like apes. They enter
because they wish to meditate on their proper human condition.
To a certain extent, it is a garden for meditation on the level
of modern anthropology, linked to the philosophical rites generally
accompanying it. Everyone is free to see a Zen space in the artistic
square metre, meant for meditation on the territory. These panoramic
musings on the territory are in no way exhaustive, however they
are generous enough in their openings for us to understand how,
(over and above the artistic and philosophical concept which formed
the object of FRED FOREST'S sociological procedure from the start)
and how much, we are now in the heart of the subject, through
impact, of the reality even of human tissue stuck onto the surface
of the earth. This encounter with the real is identified with
the human's return to the earth. The stake in the ARTISTIC m2
operation is contained in the occupation of the territory by men.
Over and above the development of the territory, it is a question
of creating a human occupation, an emotional and a spiritual one;
and I think all the criteria have been incorporated and presented
in the FRED FOREST project. With him we have the possibility of
embarking on a great adventure. A human adventure starting with
a tangible basis. So tangible that it is there for us to grasp,
of dimensions we can visualize . This basis is an ARTISTIC m2,
a m2, even when it is multiplied by two or twenty, still remaining
a m2. It is a space and a unit of measurement completely accessible
to Man. The reference to dimensional relationships at the end
of my development does not, I think, denote reservations or a
constriction of my thoughts; on the contrary, it rather expresses
a cry full of hope.
Inasmuch as the ARTISTIC m2 is tied to its human dimension and
to the corresponding reflex motives of possession, appropriation
and understanding...so the territory operation is instilled with
meaning, with life, with the promise of a future.