press release


The concept of this exhibition comes from the shared view of the three curators that some aspects of contemporary artistic practice could be analyzed through the analytical prism of writings of the 19th century French sociologist Gabriel Tarde (1843 – 1904).

In The Laws of Imitation (1890), Gabriel Tarde described social logic as an extensive network of imitations, repetitions, and of individual inventions. According to his thesis, social fact is the result of a triple dynamic: imitation, opposition and adaptation. So that art, as well as fashion, ethics, or religion, is a realm governed by imitative flux. Thus, an encounter between two opposites doesn’t necessarily mean a radical confrontation — where one would fail or disappear under the other - on the contrary, this event generates something different, a sort of innovative adaptation.

The subtlety of Tarde’s thought lies in the broad definition of “imitation” which includes invention as well as counter-imitation. Tarde argued differently from the strict scientific understanding of imitation, reincorporating the conscious and unconscious dimensions of imitation, but also the importance of “inter-spiritual” simultaneity (zeitgeist and chance). He claimed that “social facts - as much as they could seem on the surface to be repeating themselves – only become visible because of their damaged and interesting aspect, perpetually updated and infinitely diversified.”

From obvious elements to almost invisible details, this repetition mechanism seems to be a recurrent aspect within the practices of the artists involved in this exhibition. However, this does not negate the physicality of the artwork, its visual appearance, or its status as an object. Instead, it remains fundamental to the potential interpretations of each work, and to the understanding of the exhibition as a whole. This exhibition represents a synthesis of the three curators’ research and integration of different personal interests going back to 2006. Through this triangulation, the working methods of the artists, and the decision to realize the project in London, have all functioned as a process of propagation.

As a response or a consequence of our interest in Tarde’s theory, we have been led to consider the propagation of his ideas into Anglo-Saxon sociology (especially in Everett Rogers’s book Diffusion of Innovations, 1962). As an on-going mechanism we found that through the appropriation in this new realm Tarde’s thoughts have been subversively reified as a basis for marketing and management strategies. From these methods Frank Bass (1926-2006), an American professor in marketing, developed the concept of the “Bass Diffusion Model” which describes how new products get adopted as an interaction between users and potential users. This appeared to us as being relevant with regard to the artworks we were gathering and to the current state of globalisation where the differences between museum, supermarket, club, airport, industrial building, and leisure centre have become confused or blurred. It suggests an exchangeability or an equality of the artwork with any other object produced in our societies. This connection between different realms of research highlights the relation between social mechanism as described by Tarde and the status of the artwork as an anthropological object including its status as a commodity.

Concretely, the process of rumour, fragmentation of information generating various forms of narrative, techniques or technologies taken out of their primary functions are recurrent elements of the artworks and refer directly to propagation of ideas or savoir-faire as described by Tarde. Such as an echo of the marketing strategies influenced by Tarde, the physical and visual experience offered by an exhibition – which consists of gathering objects – call into question the relation to physicality, image and text combined by the artworks.

Artworks formally and conceptually quote art history as well as modern and contemporary art, also occupying several positions simultaneously taking ideas and methods from non-artistic fields. Thus, artworks can be analyzed as cultural markers, as well as commodities. By being put into the art market, the artworks commercial and symbolic value evolves. Therefore the artwork embodies in various ways the concept of propagation. It brings together images and ideas which are constantly renewed, increased, but also fragmented through the logic of displays and circulations. But physically the object remains the same. Here is a similar process to that which marketing strategies such as the “Bass Diffusion Model” attempt to understand and control: the concept, the immateriality which will encourage people to consume one object rather than another one, and thus will reaching new consumers.

As a criteria for valuing artworks, materiality was abandoned a long time ago, which opens the possibility of a common approach between commodity and artwork (certainly where Tarde’s theory and marketing meet in the field of contemporary art). Therefore, an interesting opportunity arises to interrogate the complexity and the fragmentation of the ideas that are generated by the artwork. However, contrary to its physical aspect, the becoming of an artwork, as any other commodity, depends on the concept or networks of ideas it produces; and also necessarily requires the reverse process, the reassembling of those ideas as a key to access the object itself. This is the way curators, art critics, viewers as well as statisticians, sociologists or marketing companies attempt to define and control objects whatever they are: artworks, anthropological objects or commodities.

artists: Julien Berthier, Gaëlle Boucand, Valentin Carron, Julien Discrit, Elise Florenty, Fabien Giraud, Swetlana Heger, Peter Joslyn, Pierre-Yves Macé Genêt Mayor, Alexej Meschtschanow, Emilie Pitoiset, Magali Reus, Clémentine Roy, Clotilde Viannay and Philippe Vasset, Marie Voignier, Christoph Weber

curators: Gallien Dejean, Mathieu Larnaudie, Caroline Soyez-Petithomme

publication: The Mix, 2008 by Christian Egger, Manuel Gorkiewic, Christian Mayer, Yves Mettler, Magda Tothova, Ruth Weismann, Alexander Wolff

only in german

Kuratoren: Gallien Dejean, Caroline Soyez-Petithomme, Mathieu Larnaudie

mit Julien Berthier, Gaelle Boucand, Valentin Carron, Julien Discrit, Elise Florenty, Fabien Giraud, Swetlana Heger, Peter Joslyn, Pierre-Yves Mace
Genet Mayor, Alexej Meschtschanow, Emilie Pitoiset, Magali Reus, Clementine Roy, Clotilde Viannay / Philippe Vasset, Marie Voignier, Christoph Weber, The Mix  (Christian Egger, Manuel Gorkiewicz, Christian Mayer, Yves Mettler, Magda Tothova, Ruth Weismann, Alexander Wolff)