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Life as Art, or Art as Life: Robert Filliou and the Eternal Network


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This essay focuses on the Portraits Not Made (1970) by Robert Filliou, a French artist of the postwar neo-avant-garde and a founding member of the international transdisciplinary art movement Fluxus. Interrogating originality and authorship, these ‘Intermedia’ works ‘depict’ artists: George Brecht, Dieter Rot, Dorothy Iannone, Irmeline Lebeer, Josef Beuys, Andy Warhol, John Cage, Arman, and Toi (you). Though virtually blank, they translate between binaries: visual/textual, material/immaterial, made/not made, artist/viewer. Inherently performative, Filliou’s portraits draw the viewer into a ‘poetic economy’ based on three systems: Permanent Creation, the Eternal Network, and the Principle of Equivalence (well made, badly made, not made). Drawing on economic theory shaped by Fluxian absurdity and a Zen-like understanding of reality as at once empty and full, Filliou’s works undermine hierarchies – artistic and political – that privilege individual genius and art as capital exchange. His works propose alternative systems of value by acknowledging the viewer as co-creator.
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Life as Art, or Art as
Life: Robert Filliou and
the Eternal Network
Laurel Jean Fredrickson
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
This essay focuses on the Portraits Not Made (1970) by Robert Filliou, a French
artist of the postwar neo-avant-garde and a founding member of the international
transdisciplinary art movement Fluxus. Interrogating originality and authorship, these
‘Intermedia’ works ‘depict’ artists: George Brecht, Dieter Rot, Dorothy Iannone,
Irmeline Lebeer, Josef Beuys, Andy Warhol, John Cage, Arman, and Toi (you).
Though virtually blank, they translate between binaries: visual/textual, material/
immaterial, made/not made, artist/viewer. Inherently performative, Filliou’s portraits
draw the viewer into a ‘poetic economy’ based on three systems: Permanent
Creation, the Eternal Network, and the Principle of Equivalence (well made, badly
made, not made). Drawing on economic theory shaped by Fluxian absurdity and a
Zen-like understanding of reality as at once empty and full, Filliou’s works undermine
hierarchies artistic and political that privilege individual genius and art as capital
exchange. His works propose alternative systems of value by acknowledging the
viewer as co-creator.
Eternal Network, Filliou, Fluxus, performance art, portrait, Zen Buddhism
In the early 1970s, artist and ‘poet of the everyday’ Robert Filliou pro-
duced a series of unusual portraits (Figure 1). They bear no mimetic
likeness to their subjects; they show little more than the white of the
canvas. On some, Filliou handwrote a name (first and/or family); on
others he inscribed a phrase or an arrow. For one he drew the outline
of a rectangle and below it collaged an image: a picture of himself cut
from a snapshot. On all but one canvas, Filliou stamped a circular seal,
at the center of which were three categories Bien Fait, Mal Fait, and
Pas Fait (Well Made, Badly Made, Not Made) with a line beside each
Theory, Culture & Society
0(0) 1–29
!The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0263276418796563
Corresponding author: Laurel Jean Fredrickson. Emails:; lfredrickson@
Extra material:
Figure 1. Robert Filliou, Section P, ‘Portrait, Portraits Not Made !Cre
´ation Permanente
!Equivalence !Verz. No. 89–91’ (Reprinted from Robert Filliou, Michael Erlhoff and
Hannover, Sprengel Museum (1984) Das immerwa¨hrende Ereignis zeigt Robert Fillliou ¼The
Eternal Network presents Robert Fillliou ¼La fe
ˆte permanente pre
´sente Robert Fillliou, p. 135).
ßCopyright the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany.
2Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
to be checked or left blank (Figure 2). Checking the last category on
each, Filliou designated his portraits ‘not made’.
Filliou’s ambition for the Portraits non fait (Portraits Not Made) was
to create portraits of all the artists he knew and all those he did not
an implausible goal, rendered more so because for him everyone is or
can become an artist. The named artist subjects were friends: George
Brecht, Dieter Rot, Dorothy Iannone, Irmeline Lebeer, Josef Beuys,
Andy Warhol, John Cage, and Arman. There is also a self-portrait, a
portrait of toi (the informal pronoun for you), and one of the ‘Not-
Made’. Inscribed names, words, images, and stamps seem enveloped in
the nothingness implied by their virtually blank canvases. Simply exe-
cuted, with little if no artistry, the very vacancy of the Portraits Not
Made invokes Umberto Eco’s conception of the ‘open work’, under-
stood as rich with multiple significations that defy singular interpret-
It is precisely Filliou’s refusal to contain or limit meaning or to
ignore the viewer as a co-creator that warrants analysis. The
Portraits Not Made establish a translational space between the visual
and the textual, the material and the immaterial, the made and the
unmade, and artist and viewer (who becomes an artist); each work
seems a constantly unfolding and shared form between things living
and non-living that cannot be contained nor completed because exist-
ence cannot be contained or complete. Informed by Filliou’s back-
ground as an economist, the Portraits Not Made are also shaped by
a Buddhist view of reality as a void at once empty and full, vivified by a
Fluxian appreciation of the absurd. The concept of the not made is
the key to Filliou’s art: empty and full, it is a category for all that is
latent not yet made, not yet imagined, or never to be.
Figure 2. Robert Filliou, Stamp of the ‘Principle of Equivalence’, c.1968. ßCopyright the
Estate of the Artist, Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery, London, UK.
Fredrickson 3
Like Filliou, many of the subjects of his portraits were members of the
art movement Fluxus. In 1959–60, artist Daniel Spoerri introduced
Filliou to a transdisciplinary, postwar neo-avant-garde whose ethos
was captured by the term ‘Intermedia’. In 1965 artist, poet, and publisher
Dick Higgins (2000) adapted the word from the Romantic poet Samuel
Coleridge to categorize experimental art forms that synthesized two or
more disciplines or mediums, and for which there were not yet names.
Beginning with the first Fluxus festivals in Europe in 1962, Filliou parti-
cipated in concerts, exhibitions, and fluxed activities alongside other key
figures, including (in addition to the artists referenced above) Emmett
Williams, Alison Knowles, George Maciunas, Ben Vautier, Benjamin
Patterson, and Yoko Ono.
Like his peers, Filliou rejected commercial-
ism in art to engage the ephemeral and contingent in works that seem
incomplete, often bricolaged from materials at hand.
Although a central figure in Fluxus, Filliou’s work has not received
adequate attention, despite participation in Documenta 5 and 6, and a
recent retrospective at M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art
Antwerp (see Filliou, 2016; Harren, 2012; Tilman, 2015). Although
an influence internationally, as Martin Patrick points out, Filliou
remains underrated, particularly given the extent to which his approach
portended interactive art of the 1990s, defined as an encounter, as
‘relational aesthetics’ by French curator/critic Nicholas Bourriaud
(1998; see also Patrick, 2010: 45). Many works by Filliou elicit partici-
pation mental and/or physical from viewers considered collabor-
ators. Portrait non fait: toi interpellates the viewer as the subject,
situated with the other (named) artists (Figure 3). The portrait
solicits ‘you’ to join in a performative process that goes beyond such
oppositions as sentient and inanimate, to time as a creative flux in
which all reside.
Filliou’s art works prompt viewers to recognize their inherent creativ-
ity to act differently, despite demands for conformity indicating new
possibilities for engagement, and for seeing the familiar anew. Filliou’s
works, especially his Portraits Not Made, are experimental models of
communication, using simple means to elicit response in an exchange
that is ongoing, for when a viewer recognizes herself as an artist, she
may transmit this knowledge to another. In this way the portraits emerge
from the key principles of Filliou’s triadic creative system which, though
its branches bear different names, are aspects of an overarching structure,
or differing ways to convey that structure. His systems of Permanent
Creation, the Eternal Network, and the Principle of Equivalence, visua-
lized in the Portraits Not Made, propose that we recognize a dynamic
balance between what is and what might be but is not.
4Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
Zen Buddhism
Though Filliou died in a Tibetan monastery, it was the Rinzai tradition
of Zen that informed his art in the 1960s. He may have first encountered
Zen while in Japan. In Europe, Daniel Spoerri introduced art and artists,
some familiar with Buddhism, like Nouveau re
´alist Yves Klein, who had
studied Judo and Zen in Japan and read Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki, a
primary transmitter of Rinzai teachings in the West. In addition to
books, Suzuki’s influence on the neo-avant-garde came through lectures
and courses that he gave on Buddhism and other philosophies, especially
those at Columbia University in New York from 1952–8, with artists in
attendance who included new music composer John Cage, with whom
Filliou collaborated, and concrete poet Jackson Mac Low, a founder of
Fluxus (Pearlman, 2012: 52, 59).
Suzuki taught that dualistic rationalism obstructs enlightenment key
for Fluxus, and of the impermanence of all things (crucial for the not-
made). He discussed the Heart Sutra (Perfection of Wisdom), a dialogue
between the Buddha and a disciple on the ‘relationship between
Figure 3. Robert Filliou, Portrait non fait: toi, 1970. Paper collage and pencil on canvas,
60 60 cm. ßCopyright the Estate of the Artist, Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery,
Collezione La Gaia, Busca, Italy.
Fredrickson 5
‘‘emptiness’’ and ‘‘form’’’, on the impermanence of all things and the
delusion of sensate experience’ (Pearlman, 2012: 17).
Curator Mary Jane Jacob, writing on the influence of Buddhism on
contemporary art, compares the ‘empty mind’ to that of the artist at
work: ‘In the space of art dwells the ‘‘empty mind’’ that is the creative
mind’ (2004: 164). Zen directs the student to transcend polarities
that structure mental life and through the non-extraordinary rediscover
a sense of his or her place in a greater unity in flux. D. T. Suzuki writes:
‘What Zen aims at is to realize this form of unification in one’s everyday
life of actualities, and not to treat life as a sort of metaphysical exercise’
(1964: 35; see also Suzuki, 1952). Zen guides the student beyond thinking
that makes everything a choice: beyond yes and no, subject and object,
pleasure and pain, and life and death. The goal is an understanding
beyond distinctions (Pearlman, 2012: 17). Immediate sensations in the
here and now are as significant as any others: ‘The idea of Zen is to catch
life as it flows’ (Suzuki, 1964: 74). Common yet personal experiences are
the primary authority; Zen does not teach through transcendence
(Suzuki, 1964: 35). Its ‘direct method’ is to ‘foster a direct, unmediated
relationship between the mind and reality, an immediate experience of
the world as such (Doris, 1998: 100).
Notably, as Patrick comments, ‘only Filliou... actually integrat[ed]
Buddhist teachings into his life as well as his art’ (2010: 4). His Portraits
Not Made exemplify a Fluxus adaptation of Zen to art, being fully present
in the moment of creating, and as creation. As Ellen Pearlman puts it:
‘Creation involves moments of silence, contemplation, spontaneity, and
streams of consciousness (2012: xvii). An example is an ‘action-poem’
that Filliou performed with Alison Knowles on 8 February 1965 at the
´au Go Go in New York City. The first section, Yes’, and the second,
‘Le Filliou Ideal’, were performative creative acts. Filliou sat silently in the
cross-legged posture of Zen meditation while Knowles described the pro-
cesses of his body, even those automatic and below consciousness. For the
Soto Zen School, sitting (zazen) replaces the koan: ‘The act of sitting is
perceived as a dynamic stillness one sits in a vigorously prescribed pos-
ture, unmoving, yet constituted by interior processes in constant motion:
the heart beats, blood courses through the veins’ (Patrick, 2010: 52). For
Filliou, the ‘secret of Permanent Creation: is what I called the Filliou Ideal;
the absolute secret I took from Soto Zen tradition which says: not choos-
ing, not wanting, wide awake, sitting quietly doing nothing’ (1984c: 96).
Philosopher Shigenori Nagatomo explains that ‘Zen aims at a perfec-
tion of personhood’, learned through seated meditation (zazen) through
which the ‘practitioner attempts to embody non-discriminatory wisdom
`-vis the meditational experience known as ‘‘satori’’ (enlightenment)’
(2017). It takes great effort to do nothing. To return to Filliou’s state-
ment: it paradoxically proposes that by doing nothing one disengages
from the critical common mind with its proclivity to judge. In doing
6Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
nothing one refrains from deciding, choosing, desiring, and owning
activities that separate us from ourselves and the world through opposing
subject and object, among other polarities (Doris, 1992: 32). A poet,
Filliou expressed his ideal through a poem of action/inaction that
anyone can perform, a Zen and Fluxus.
Permanent Creation
Filliou conceived of the principle of ‘Intermedia’ of ‘Permanent Creation’
with artist George Brecht. As an economist, Filliou understood that the
production, distribution, and consumption of commodities and the flow
of assets and capital are part of a larger abstract system (i.e. capitalism)
that affects all transactions within it. Brecht, a chemist, recognized that a
limited number of base elements (the 118 elements of the periodic table)
combine to catalyze the immeasurable mutations of energy manifest on
the material plane. The synthesis of these perspectives produced an
understanding of creativity as energy in action and of creation as an
economy (or system) of incalculable numbers of links, all intrinsic to
the everyday. In Greek, ‘economy’ signifies household management
the realm of the commonplace and mundane while ‘chemistry’ derives
from the medieval word alchemy, the art of transmuting base matter into
gold, or, philosophically, of transforming the self. Alchemy combines the
Arabic al-, ‘the’, with the Greek kh
emeia, the ‘art of transmuting metals’,
or the pouring of a substance from one state of being into another,
intimating the flux of creation (OED, 2nd ed.). Filliou’s transposition
of capital exchange to poetic exchange gives equal value to every bit of
matter and energy, no matter how ephemeral or elusive, that is manifest
within the Eternal Network.
In his critique of laissez-faire economics, John Maynard Keynes (1936)
argued that capitalism is not a stable and self-regulating system, but a
synergy of forces to be regulated and stimulated. Filliou’s interventions
were through art as exchange in a poetic economy that, like Keynes cap-
italist economy, was/is qualitative rather than quantitative. In his economy
the relation of artist to world is active (political and otherwise) rather than
passive, as in observation and description. Awakening the viewer to his or
her innate creativity necessarily changes the world, by altering perception
seeing with an innocent eye. As an alternative to a capitalist economy and
in the spirit of Permanent Creation, Filliou and Brecht set up the C¸ edille
qui Sourit (the Smiling Cedilla) in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a storefront/work-
shop where they occasionally made and sold ‘useless’ ideas and objects
from 1965 to 1968, but generally engaged in social exchanges that were not
monetary but experiential (Higgins, 2002: 129).
We conceived the C¸ e
´dille qui Sourit as an international center of
permanent creation, and so it turned out to be. We played games,
Fredrickson 7
invented and disinvented objects, corresponded with the humble
and mighty, drank and talked with our neighbors, manufactured
and sold by correspondence suspense poems and rebuses, started to
compile an anthology of misunderstandings and an anthology of
jokes, and began to film some of these along with our one-minute
scenarios. (Filliou, 1984f: 40)
Applying such an analysis and play to art works and life events, Filliou
linked them within the abstract overarching system of the Eternal
Network, which, can also be altered.
The Eternal Network
The Eternal Network, boundless by definition, interweaves heteroge-
neous experiences habitual, accidental, or extraordinary with all
things in a creative weave of encounter in flux. It connects all that
has been, all that is, and all that might be. Creation within it goes
beyond artists (all people for Filliou) to such aleatory processes
as rain in an abandoned cup, dried by the sun, whose residue has
discolored and transformed the object, as an artist might, albeit with-
out consciousness. The order of the Eternal Network is dynamic
and creative disorder, if one does not consider order as bound by
logic or reason.
In a prose poem, of and about the Eternal Network, Filliou and
Brecht allude to the deceptions of categorical dualism, by adding a
third term to chosen binaries:
There is always someone asleep and someone awake/Someone
dreaming asleep
Someone dreaming awake/Someone eating Someone hungry/
Someone fighting Someone loving/Someone making money
Someone broke/Someone traveling Someone staying put/Someone
helping Someone hindering/Someone enjoying Someone suffering/
Someone indifferent/Someone starting Someone stopping. (Filliou,
1984c: 96)
The term that triangulates two of these pairings destabilizes the sym-
metry of the whole. ‘Someone dreaming asleep’ and ‘Someone dreaming
awake’ introduces dreaming as a state between apparently opposing
states of being: sleep and wakefulness. ‘Someone indifferent’ appended
to ‘Someone enjoying/Someone suffering’ upsets the poem’s implicit
contrapuntal structure to suggest the perspective of enlightenment: of
seeing beyond pain and happiness.
8Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
Principle of Equivalence
The triadic structure of poem and Eternal Network reappears in Filliou’s
Principle of Equivalence that equates the well made, badly made, and not
made, which abjure such dichotomous judgements as skillful and failed,
leading into questions of existence and not existence. This principle was
crucial for Filliou and is evidenced in the Portraits Not Made, which he
sealed with a stamp that makes an ironic nod to bureaucratic authoriza-
tion (Figure 2). Like seals stamped on passports and visas that allow
passage across borders that authenticate or endorse, Filliou’s version
has a concentric ring labeled Principle of Equivalence, and the
Permanent Creation encircling a vertical list: Well Made, Badly
Made, and Not Made. This converts administrative certification or
decree into a refutation of hierarchical distinctions, including those of
aesthetic judgement, as suggested by the categories well made and badly
made: beautiful and skillful, on the one hand, unsightly and poorly
crafted, on the other. The wild card is the not made. In order for a
work to be well or badly made, it must be completed. Not made
evades these categories; it refuses, even, through lacking finiteness, to
participate, as something at the level of a thing still coming into being,
in the act of being made (or not made). If no work achieves completion
then well and badly made remain merely concepts that are never located
in objects.
Art in Life/Life in Art
By referencing the Principle of Equivalence in his Portraits Not Made,
Filliou extended this sequence to life his own and in general. An exhib-
ition catalogue, The Eternal Network Presents Robert Fillliou, published
in 1984, the year that his cancer recurred, episodically narrates his life.
We learn that he was born on 17 January 1926 in the medieval village of
Sauve (Gard), Languedoc-Roussillon, in southwest France. In 1943, he
joined the Resistance and the Communist Party, and after the war immi-
grated to the US (Filliou, 1990: 211). He earned an MA in economics
from UCLA while a menial employee at Coca Cola. In 1951 Filliou
taught courses on political economy to American soldiers in Okinawa,
Japan, before moving to Korea to work on the ‘Five Year Plan for the
Reconstruction and Development of South Korea’ (1953), for the United
Nations Reconstruction Agency (Filliou, 1990: 211). He resigned in 1954,
perhaps fearing persecution for Communist Party affiliation or perhaps
opting out for a nomadic life. He went on to Japan, Africa, America, and
Denmark, where he met Marianne Staffeldt (to become his wife), then to
France, Belgium, Du
¨sseldorf, and to the Dordogne in France, dying four
months short of completing a year retreat at the Tibetan Buddhist
Centre d’E
´tude de Chanteloube with Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, of the
Nyingma tradition (Wijers and Filliou, 1996: 129, 248).
Fredrickson 9
Filliou’s life narration unfolds within the Eternal Network’s configur-
ation of the catalog/monograph as an alphabetically organized autobio-
graphical lexicon linking significant terms, ordered from A to Z, with
corresponding texts and images. It catalogs relatives and artists who
appear in photographs, are mentioned in texts, and whose names are
topic headings. Though lexical, the logic is illogical in this structure,
yet integrates life and art from the intimate to the public, and to the
dissolution of all temporal things in a greater reality. The catalog sug-
gests a life comprised of small creative acts, even those performed uncon-
sciously, as in the vascular system. Filliou’s catalog presents all acts be
they practical, artistic, or familial as significant, connected, and cre-
ative. It compares, in its encyclopedic intertextuality, to A Lover’s
Discourse by Roland Barthes (1978). Unlike an encyclopedia or diction-
ary, though, arrows orient viewer/readers to subheadings, texts, art-
works, and principles elsewhere in the catalog (or outside it), a
branching rhizomic system. Irmeline Lebeer explains: ‘Robert was
seduced by the little arrows that direct you somewhere else whenever
you think you’ve already arrived (that’s the relative secret of
Permanent Creation): sometimes in the opposite direction, sometimes
to a dead end’ (2016: 9). This framework privileges relationships, ideas,
and principles over material objects and conclusions.
The first section of The Eternal Network, ‘A’, juxtaposes family
photographs with a statement on ‘Admiration’ and a question entitled
‘Ample Food for Stupid Thought’: ‘Would you like to die of old age?’ On
this page ‘Age’, ‘Admiration’ and ‘Ample Thought’ meet through the
arbitrary nature of the linguistic signifier A (Figure 4). The first section
of Page ‘B’, ‘Biography’, says that Filliou went to America in search of
an absent father, leading him to study economics and work in Korea.
Headings on Page ‘M’ name his wife, Marianne, also the subject of art-
works, as in Je disais a
`Marianne (I said to Marianne) (Figure 5). ‘Marx’
follows ‘Marianne’, then ‘Measurement’, on another page a photograph
of Filliou measuring himself with empty picture frames (Filliou, 1984g:
106). Biography in this monograph moves outward to human experience
generally rather than locating identity in a singular subject. Works of art,
like the catalog, are points of intersection between artist and viewers. For
Michael Erlhoff, Filliou’s catalog marks ‘disorder as an interaction... an
infinite dependence of all things on each other; nothing can be isolated,
everything like people, things, material, motion, time, history, space,
thought, is in a state of amalgamation’ (Erlhoff, 1984b: 5–6). Such dis-
order thwarts the logic of categorization, hierarchical division, and devel-
opmental narrative.
For Owen Smith (1992), such non-hierarchical interweaving makes art
non-functional play, without determinative object or end. The alogical
logic of Filliou’s catalog exemplifies Smith’s point that unpredicted con-
junctions create ‘new and unexpected meanings and awarenesses [whose]
10 Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
Figure 4. Robert Filliou, ‘Section A’ (Robert Filliou, Michael Erlhoff and Hannover,
Sprengel Museum (1984) Das immerwa¨hrende Ereignis zeigt Robert Fillliou ¼The Eternal
Network presents Robert Fillliou ¼La fe
ˆte permanente pre
´sente Robert Fillliou, p. 13.).
ßCopyright the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany.
Fredrickson 11
processes... establish multiple possibilities and [do] not set transcendent
orders of associations’ (1992: 118). As art objects, though, unable to
escape market or archive, if saved, artworks only gesture to this utopian
realm in which multiplicity overcomes inequality and hierarchy.
Figure 5. Robert Filliou, ‘Section M, Marianne !Cumberland’ (Robert Filliou, Michael
Erlhoff and Hannover, Sprengel Museum (1984) Das immerwa¨hrende Ereignis zeigt Robert
Fillliou ¼The Eternal Network presents Robert Fillliou ¼La fe
ˆte permanente pre
´sente Robert
Fillliou, p. 105). ßCopyright the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany.
12 Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
Nevertheless, to take Smith’s point, Filliou favored art as play rather
than work, i.e. making money by producing a commodity, and as a
creative performative process.
The Eternal Network is in itself a work of art and a guide for the
viewer/reader to recognize art in her/his own life and live performatively,
i.e. creatively. Such prompting of viewer/reader to a creative act is also
demonstrated by the blank pages that Filliou left for reader contributions
in Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts (Filliou, 1970). With the
Eternal Network and the Principle of Equivalence in mind, I suggest that
for Filliou multiplicity is also unity, the only overarching principle or
truth. Filliou presented himself as a transient being connected with all
other beings and not-beings, who attempted to live his life as a creative
process. His catalog blurs distinctions between present, past, and future,
enfolds private and public, even suggesting poiesis and noein, or thinking
and poetry, in the pre-Platonic philosophical sense, originally of the same
In Filliou’s non-metaphysical metaphysics it is precisely in the
everyday dealings of life, events, relationships, work, or doing nothing
(evidenced in artworks, prose, poems, and in direct address to the viewer/
reader) where being and non-being coincide.
Mr. Mack’s Proposal and the Portraits Not Made
In a prose-poem, ‘The 3rd Eye: Mr. Mack’s Proposal’, in section ‘E’ of
the Eternal Network, Filliou elucidates the significance and origins of the
Portraits Not Made:
The Not-Made is in my eyes the most important element of per-
manent creation. I proposed to myself to make Portraits Not-Made
of all the artists whom I know. I would have wanted to then make
Portraits Not-Made of all the artists that I do not know. Then I
would have wanted to make all of the Portraits Not-Made of people
that I know and finally of all the people that I do not know. (Filliou,
1984a: 68)
This poem highlights the ‘not made’ in Filliou’s triumvirate of conceptual
non-categories, leading from the artists he knew to all he did not know,
and to the people he knew and to those he did not know inexhaustible
in number. His Portraits Not Made invite all viewers, readers, artists to
similarly make or imagine other Portraits Not Made. As Mr. Mack
explains, Filliou began with artists whom he knew. In Portrait non fait:
Andy Warhol (1970), in English, he wrote the words ‘warhol blue’ in
lowercase letters, a modest descriptor for a famous artist (Figure 1).
Warhol blue may refer to Warhol’s film Blue Movie, in which a
couple in bed discuss social issues and have intercourse. The focus,
Fredrickson 13
as in Filliou’s work, is on the everyday, which includes sex, and
Filliou produced two versions of Portrait non fait: George Brecht,in
one of which he did not write the name of the portrayed artist on the
canvas, and the other in which he did (Figure 6). Though he titled each
Brecht, he only wrote ‘George’ on each. In one example Filliou stamped
the seal of the Principle of Equivalence, but on the example (pictured here)
on canvas he inscribed in red pen ‘bien fait’, ‘mal fait’ and ‘pas fait’ in
lower-case letters. Though the stamp may not have been at hand when he
made the work, the intimacy of his friendship and collaboration with
Brecht on the C¸ edille qui sourit may have precluded the formality of a
stamp, in the one case, and the formality of the last name in both. Their
store/workshop had few sales but forged connections with neighbors and
friends: collective sharing versus monetary exchange. Aptly, in this ver-
sion, the phrase ‘of course’ follows ‘portrait of George’.
Filliou also produced two Portraits Not Made of Josef Beuys, an artist
famous for actions and objects he called Social Sculpture (Beuys and
Rinpoche, 1982), one titled Josef Beuys (bien fait, mal fait, non fait)
Figure 6. Robert Filliou, Portrait non fait: George Brecht, 1970. Collage and felt on canvas,
60 60 cm. ßCopyright the Estate of the Artist, Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery,
Collezione La Gaia, Busca, Italy.
14 Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
(1970), on canvas, and a second also on canvas (Figure 7). In this
example, Filliou painted Beuys’ full name in uppercase letters and
stamped his seal of the Principle of Equivalence on a small circle of
canvas collaged to the surface of the primary canvas. To the top, left
of center, he wrote ‘his hat on’ in black lowercase letters in reference to
the felt hat that Beuys wore in art actions. In the other, Beuys’ name
floats above the Principle of Equivalence stamp, sharing the field with the
phrase ‘FOR THE 3RD EYE’, emphasized by the uppercase letters. This
phrase also appears on Portrait non fait: Dieter Rot (1970) of a Swiss
Fluxus artist, and on Portrait non fait: Arman (1970), a Nouveau re
sculptor (Figure 1). In Buddhist iconography Buddha’s third eye sees
beyond suffering and pleasure and existence and nonexistence. In
Hinduism, Shiva’s third eye denotes wisdom. In either case, the third
eye renders distinctions illusory, with implications for questions raised
in Filliou’s art regarding representation.
Hand written by Filliou, the letters and number in ‘FOR THE 3RD
EYE’ are text and image: levels of representation that are material and
temporal. In the Portraits Not Made, names are arbitrary linguistic
denominations of individuals, but are not the subjects. Neither level of
Figure 7. Robert Filliou, Josef Beuys (bien fait, mal fait, pas fait), 1972. Oil and canvas col-
lage on canvas, 60 60 cm. ßCopyright the Estate of the Artist, Courtesy Richard Saltoun
Gallery, London, UK.
Fredrickson 15
signification visual or verbal corresponds to the person named or
suggested, just as the words ‘for the 3rd eye’ stand in for but cannot
represent an ineffable reality that, paradoxically, only finds expression
through such particular and contingent manifestations of being, in this
case as the artists named in Filliou’s works.
To i
Portrait Not Made: toi (1970) omits names altogether (Figure 3). Toi (the
informal second-person pronoun in French) addresses ‘you’, as individ-
ual and category, encompassing all of the people that Filliou knew and
did not know, including the viewers of the portrait. The place of the
subject was, is, and may be occupied by anyone whose looking draws
him/her into the picture’s representational cycle; a subjectivity that defies
limitation and definition. Portrait non fait: toi rhetorically positions those
who view it as its subject. Because each portrait in Filliou’s series
‘depicts’ an artist, toi interpellates ‘you’ as artist and co-creator, and,
given the informal mode, as a friend of Filliou, like the ‘subjects’ in
the other portraits. Addressing the viewer potentially anyone and
everyone as a collaborator defies the paradigm of artist (or ‘cultural
producer’) as unique. Filliou invites all of ‘you’ to recognize yourselves as
co-creators within the larger systems of Permanent Creation and the
Eternal Network. Portrait non fait: toi performatively calls ‘you’ to
action, even if that action is as immaterial and ephemeral as a thought.
Though few in number, the Portraits Not Made invite variation from
other artists, known and unknown, who do not require skill or talent to
make portraits of others, contributing to a potentially unknowable chain
of variations, and calling regimes of representation into question.
Portraiture in the West
The title of ‘portraits’ refers us to the western genre of naturalistic por-
traiture, whose focus on likeness evinces preoccupation about individu-
ality (West, 2004: 17). The history of portraiture correlates with changing
notions of identity, revealed in how portraits have been ‘perceived, rep-
resented, and understood in different times and places’ (West, 2004: 11).
The genre, increasingly important since the Renaissance, as Ernst
van Alphen writes, ‘doubly cherishes the cornerstone of bourgeois
western culture. The uniqueness of the individual and his or her accom-
plishments is central in that culture’ (1997: 239). But in affirming the
subject as a singular and autonomous personality, somebody’s ‘continu-
ity or discontinuity with others is denied’ (van Alphen, 1997: 239).
Filliou’s ‘portraits’, by contrast, suggest that subjectivity is relational,
but also illusory.
Conventions of representation, of the portrait’s function, and the
status of subjects worthy of portrayal, differ in time and place; though
16 Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
they may appear to ‘have the tangibility of a document or fact’, the
specifics, argues Shearer West, ‘are inevitably partial and mediated,
and subject to the contexts of their production, display, and reception’
(2004: 14). In the 19th century, as members of the mercantile middle-class
sought to distinguish themselves from the aristocracy and the working
class, they commissioned portraits to display status and profession, and
‘the essential inner quality which was considered to justify his privileged
place’ (Woodall, 1997: 5).
The avant-garde altered the role of the portrait. Artists without
patrons and commissions chose who to portray, enhancing, Joanna
Woodall writes, ‘the authority of the artist by making worthiness to be
portrayed dependent upon one’s relationship to him or her’ (1997: 7).
This shift from commission to relationship is demonstrated (and
extended) by Filliou’s choice of naming friends who were artists as his
subjects and then expanding subjecthood to embrace toi. This parallels
the deconstruction of the ‘subject’ as a construct of modernity and cap-
italism: unstable and socially constituted, not singular and immutable
(Woodall, 1997: 12). Portraits reflect the ‘limitations of representation’,
which preclude anything other than ‘a partial, abstracted, generic, or
idealized view of any sitter’ (West, 2004: 22). Just as resemblance
proved inadequate to represent identity for artists of the historical
avant-gardes, it was so for Filliou: his portraits do not resemble their
named subjects.
In engaging the history of portraiture, they also dispute its claims
to representing identity. None of the portraits depict subjects through
a life-like image, nor do they visualize power, prestige, and beauty, or
convey a sense of individual subjectivity. No confirming gaze reflects that
of the viewer. The sparseness of the Portraits Not Made calls into ques-
tion their status as art: on what basis can a name, a phrase, or a stamp on
a canvas be a portrait? Must a portrait reveal something essential and
unique about its subject? Do the titles and names inscribed on the
Portraits Not Made depict the subject, or simply gesture to their status
as arbitrary signifiers for indefinable entities? These works interrogate
expectations of portraiture and engage artistic conventions that are
also social formations. If we leave aside the question of artistic genres
and categories, and take the title of Portraits Not Made literally, Filliou’s
artworks seem directive signposts, guides to non-normative ways of
understanding representation, with the stamp a nod to how art is
assessed as Art.
Nevertheless, the portraits also fit into the tradition; as West asserts,
portraits convey intimacy because (traditionally) they required frequent
lengthy sittings, thus connecting the genre ‘with the implicit or explicit
presence of the sitter’ (2004: 12). This insight can be extended to consider
the sitter as a co-creator even if he or she did not actually ‘sit’ for the
artist (i.e. portraits based on earlier portraits). Filliou’s works exceed
Fredrickson 17
conceiving of art as co-created by artist and the sitter or named subject to
include the viewer, made explicit by his address to ‘you’ in Portrait Not
Made: ‘Toi’. This ‘subject’ is always potential, and because it is a pro-
noun, replacing an unknown noun, it is anyone who views or imagines
the work. In his analysis of early modern portraiture, Harry Berger chal-
lenges fictions of the pose and the fallacy of ‘physiognomic ecphrasis in
art history’, i.e. claims to understanding character from an image (1994:
88–9; see also Berger, 2000). He argues for an understanding of the por-
trait as index and effect of the ‘style and performance’ of the artist and
the sitter, implicitly a co-creator, though he does not use that term. Artist
and sitter contribute to the portrait as a mutually constituted act (Berger,
1994: 94).
The Portraits Not Made are intersubjective and transactional in allud-
ing to relationships and including the viewer as co-creator. For West, this
is true for all portraits: ‘whether or not a portrait was actually based on a
sitting, the transaction between artist and sitter is evoked in the imagin-
ation of the viewer’ (2004: 41). According to David Lomas, writing from
a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective, ‘To speak of portraiture as a
transaction is to insist upon the constitutive role of an intersubjective
relation of self and other in generating the portrait image’ (1997: 167).
This relates to my understanding of Filliou’s works as translational
connecting artist and viewer; here the subject of the work is a co-creator,
as is the viewer. The translational replaces the transactional (in an eco-
nomic sense).
Well Made
Filliou’s Portraits Not Made pose questions about quality in art, sug-
gesting that if we ignore the social values that sequester art from life,
we might perceive existence to be an indissociable integration of life and
art, or performance, returning us to the Principle of Equivalence. The
principle’s first concept-category, well made, signifies ‘Fine Art’: well
conceived, well crafted, and well received; it includes religious and secular
works created by specialists, following academic convention or those
produced by, for instance, avant-gardists who break with tradition to
establish alternative standards of excellence. Sanctified in museums, gal-
leries, exhibitions, monographs, and catalogs, such works constitute the
canon, emblematic of prestige, taste, and cultural patrimony.
Badly Made
The second category, badly made, repudiates the cult of the precious
object, though not the modernist paradigm of innovative negation, dis-
tortion, satire, and supplanting convention. T. J. Clark defines practices
of negation as ‘some form of decisive innovation, in method or materials
or imagery, whereby a previously established set of skills or frames of
18 Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
reference... are deliberately avoided or travestied, in such a way as to
imply that only by such incompetence or obscurity will genuine picturing
get done’ (1985: 55). The avant-garde works to which Clark refers display
distortion and/or awkwardness of handling, celebrate the ‘insignificant’,
employ non-traditional artistic materials, undermine academic rules, and
transgress social expectations (1985: 55). An example is Paul Ce
defiance of perspective in iconic paintings of Mont Sainte-Victoire.
Unaesthetic by most standards, excepting those of the postwar neo-
avant-gardes, Filliou’s bricolaged artworks convey an understanding that
reflects Marcel Duchamp’s rejection of the retinal as the basis of art. As
Filliou observes, beginning by quoting Duchamp, ‘‘‘We must abolish the
idea of judgement [sic]’’ I have worked it out further. I think we must
abolish the idea of admiration’ (1984b: 13). Calling himself a specialist in
the badly made, Filliou implies that crude, imperfect, and incomplete
things or concepts have meaning because they fail to achieve ideal
form. His approach does not simply privilege the conceptual over the
material/visual or art as provocation rather than an object of contem-
plation. We are to ‘see’ beyond such binary dualisms and repudiate the
values instantiated by academic standards of craft and finish, the value of
materials, and/or commodity status. The badly made identifies potential
value in any person, object, or action, suggesting that the uncountable
multitude of nonabstractable and contingent things and events of the
lived world materialize a greater and ineffable unity. We too might find
meaning in the ignored or debased.
Not Made
If the badly made negates well made, then not made is Filliou’s most
radical refusal of art as commodity, it circumvents modernist negation
altogether by including all that is not. Oriented at once to the singular
and the general, the ‘not made’ alludes to, even supersedes, divisions of
imperceptible (metaphysical) and perceptible (material), to blur onto-
logical demarcations of being and nonbeing, enfolding what may be
and what may not be. This destabilization of categories is most evident
in the Portrait Not Made, which has no named human as its subject.
The canvas is simply stamped with the seal of the Principle of
Equivalence, making the ‘not made’ the subject of the portrait.
Another work from this period, the assemblage Principe d’e
bien fait, mal fait, pas fait (1969), also employs the triad of terms in the
Principle of Equivalence that disrupt categories:
I made the first version, which I called ‘well made’ [a red sock in a
yellow box] then I made a version, which I called ‘badly made’: I did
not take care any longer to see that the proportions corresponded
and that the color was well applied. Then, I made a third version
Fredrickson 19
‘not-Made: simply the concept ...if I made a series of 100 objects,
instead of 5, the dimension of the 100th object would have been: 5
times around the earth ...I wondered: isn’t it conceivable that the
initial gesture of the Creator has consisted as it were, in merely
‘putting a red sock in a yellow box,’ the principle of equivalence
being responsible since then for the permanent creation of the uni-
verse? (Filliou, 1984d: 59)
Through these stages of ‘making’ well made, badly made, and not
made Filliou signaled that all a ‘Creator’ needed to do was to make
one move that set into motion the creation of the universe.
Correspondingly, any act, no matter how insignificant putting a
sock in a box initiates an unending process. In comparing the con-
joining of sock and box to ‘the permanent creation of the universe’,
Filliou signals that creation is inherent to all: not reserved for special-
ists or transcendental Beings. The sublime is immanent to the sock in
its box even as the materiality of such common objects evades abstrac-
tion. As he continued:
[The] Principle of Equivalence can give rise to an infinite progres-
sion of artworks [applicable] to any idea, any thought, any con-
cept ...what we call the universe, what we call Creation, Creator,
God, etc for the essential NOT-MADE, but is in the making
according to the Principle of Equivalence. (Filliou, 1984d: 59)
Although enigmatic, this statement underscores the notion that any
action inexorably engenders another according to the triadic equation
of the Principle of Equivalence. It suggests that for Filliou, Creation,
Creator, God was/is the multiplicity of specific beings and things and
their process of change that leads to not-being.
The evocation of non-being implicit in Filliou’s statement recalls the
Buddhist conception of a unitary reality, described as empty, that exceeds
the particularities of existence. Paradoxically this void is not empty, as
the term might be understood in the West. Thomas Merton explains:
‘Buddhism prefers to speak of ‘‘emptiness,’’ not because it conceives of
the ultimate as mere nothingness and void, but because it is aware of the
nonlimitation and nondefinition of the infinite’ (1968: 85). The Principle
of Equivalence gestures to this unlimited and undefined eternal infinite by
refusing the stasis of binary logic: as Jean-Hubert Martin relates, the
principle ‘puts in place an exponential development [that expresses a]
concern to escape the binary system which founds the core of Western
thinking’ (1990: 54). This corresponds to Buddhist disinterest, accepting
what cannot be controlled, of what occurs or not, which is intrinsic to
the triad of well made, badly made, and not made.
20 Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
To judge beauty for all the subject must be disinterested, i.e. not
have something to gain from that object. Kantian ‘disinterestedness’ is
therefore entirely different from Buddhist disinterestedness in that
Buddhism sees no difference between the subject and the object.
Buddhist disinterest, i.e. the state one achieves with satori or enlighten-
ment realizing that all is impermanent and experience illusory tran-
scends desire and the dualism of self and other, and of subject and art
Buddhism contrasts the wisdom and compassion of the enlightened
mind, which sees beyond the either/or of everyday thinking, to categor-
ical reasoning, for which intellect is the authority. For Buddhists, mental
judgements produce distinctions that are not grounded in reality
(Nagatomo, 2017). The self is a fiction, empty of existence like all
phenomena: a collection ‘of parts that rise due to causes and conditions
[and] lack essence’ (Powers, 2008: 14). No ‘self or essence exists’ (Powers,
2008: 49).
In Self Portrait Not Made (Robert Filliou), Filliou lightly outlined a
rectangle, perhaps that of the snapshot from which he had cut an image
of himself, pasted at the bottom of the canvas (Figure 8). Within the
rectangle he wrote d’apre
`s photo (from a photograph) and, below and to
the right, stamped the seal of the Principle of Equivalence and wrote pour
le 3ie
`me oeil (for the third eye), an allusion to the third eye that sees
beyond duality. An arrow points down from the rectangle to the frag-
ment of photograph collaged below. Although his lower body is cropped,
Filliou appears to be seated cross-legged. The faint outline and words
denote an immateriality in contrast to the likeness of snapshot and the
material objectness of photographic paper. D’apre
`s photo tells that he
worked from a photograph; its juxtaposition with the dedication pour le
`me oeil evokes the third eye that pierces the veil of representation and
the illusion of being or not being. Dedication to the third eye may signify
an effort to accept being and self as temporal fluctuations of body and
consciousness, and the inevitable return to the void upon death, even if a
person’s name and likeness continue to signify in his or her material
Though payment may be exchanged for a portrait, for David Lomas,
‘artist and sitter are implicated in a transaction of a more subjective
nature’ with a possible effect on the representation (1997: 167). Self-
portraits are also transactional as ‘a dialectic of self and other’
(Lomas, 1997: 167). Filliou’s Self-Portrait Not Made evokes a sense of
self divided, and as contingent and ephemeral. In other Portraits Not
Made a name indicates a relationship with a subject who is not pictured.
In the self-portrait, the fragment of a snapshot of Filliou was taken by
someone else wife, daughter, or friend and is the trace of an inter-
subjective moment. Though he is pictured, the photograph is the work of
someone else, his action was to attach it to the canvas. Hence the self-
Fredrickson 21
portrait is also a co-creation with someone the viewer cannot identify.
This poses an unanswerable question of whether it is or is not a self-
The small cut-out image of himself that Filliou pasted to Self Portrait
Not Made, though he laughs, evokes the pathos of the Barthian punctum.
Filliou seems visible and invisible, present and absent, a creator from the
past who appears in the present of the viewer. For Roland Barthes, the
photograph ‘mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existen-
tially [...] it is the absolute Particular, the sovereign Contingency [...] the
This (1981: 4). He identifies two aspects of the photograph: the studium,
i.e. information that is neutral and generally known, and the punctum,
triggered when the viewer notes details that appear out of place, engen-
dering a sensation of an accidental pricking or cutting as in the image
of Filliou. A feeling of loss or pity pierces the critical distance of the
studium, eliciting emotion. The punctum must be ordinary, Barthes
insists, without the intensity of shock effects, significant gestures, feats
Figure 8. Robert Filliou, Autoportrait non fait (Robert Filliou), 1970. Ink and pencil and col-
lage on canvas, 60 60 cm. ßCopyright the Estate of the Artist, Courtesy Richard Saltoun
Gallery, London, UK.
22 Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
of expertise, or ‘technical contortions’ (1981: 33). It is the particularity of
something familiar that elicits fascination by alluding to an absent pres-
ence that cannot be recovered (Barthes, 1981: 45).
The punctum pricks because we recognize impermanence. Stephen
Batchelor writes that photographs convey the ‘This’ absolute contin-
gency, quoting Barthes, who draws on Buddhism:
In order to designate reality, Buddha says sunya the empty; but
better still: tathata, the fact of being thus, of being so: tat means
‘that’ in Sanskrit and suggests the gesture of a child pointing his
finger at something and saying: Ta! Da! Tat! (Batchelor, 2004: 143)
Considered as a punctum, like a finger pointing at ‘that’, Filliou’s self-
portrait (or non-self-portrait) addresses a future viewer: ‘You’, who
wonders who took the photograph and where. One mourns because
the ‘that-has-been’ of photographs reminds us of death. For Barthes it
matters not if the pictured subject is alive or dead, the moment is irre-
coverable (1981: 4). The photographic image is an effigy, situated in a
transitive space between subject and object. Because of their particular-
ity, photographic images participate ‘in the vast disorder of objects of
all objects in the world’ (Barthes, 1981: 6). This disorder is marked by all
moments unrepresented and forgotten. What is passes away immediately.
Filliou’s Self-Portrait Not Made alludes to this impermanence, he seems
to acknowledge his own passing.
Concluding Thoughts: From One Good-for-Nothing
to Another
In blurring the separation of art and life, Filliou’s Portraits Not Made
propose that we see everyday acts and events as within a greater process
of creation. Through imagination, innocence, play, or by doing nothing,
we rediscover our intrinsic creative genius.
Uselessness has positive
value, and everyone is good-for-nothing in Filliou’s non-instrumentalist
I create because I know how/I know how good-for-nothing I am,
that is
Art, as communication, is the contact between the good-for-nothing
in one and the good-for-nothing in others/Art, as creation, is easy in
the same sense as being god is/easy. God is the perfect good-
for-nothing/The world of creation being the good-for-nothing
world, it/belongs to anyone with creativeness, that is to say
anyone/claiming his natural birth gift: good-for-nothingness.
(Filliou, 1970: 79–80)
Fredrickson 23
To call god good-for-nothing, and thus creative, i.e. productive, or good
in not being productive, lampoons the sacredness of art and the Weberian
work ethic, just as the implication that art is communication between two
good-for-nothings mocks qualitative hierarchies that underlie aesthetic
judgment and viewing. Simply by being one is good, absent of qualifying
conditions. This refutes giving value because of utility or profit. In equi-
vocating between subject and object, author and viewer, art and life,
Filliou reframes art as dialogue and exchange in place of commodity
production. In his utopian Poetic Economy, wealth (material and con-
ceptual) belongs to no one; it is to be given away, not accumulated. The
creativity that one has already transforms life.
Art being for him communication between good-for-nothings, Filliou
dismissed the art/anti-art debate as a conflict of ‘old bottles’, proposing
that ‘new life’ (wine) be poured into them, redefining them: ‘art: creative-
ness’, then ‘anti-art: diffusion of the works resulting from this creative-
ness’, and, finally, ‘non-art: creating without caring whether one’s works
are diffused or not’, a new aspect of his triad (1984e: 180). By accepting
the premise that art is an experimental process, rather than the ‘old
bottle’ of the ‘Master’ work, one becomes an artist. Filliou presents
‘anti-art’ as performing, i.e. being aware of oneself as acting, a process
of communication (even if mental), and ‘non-art’ as being present in
what one is doing and communicating without caring if one’s works
are ‘diffused or not’ (Filliou, 1984e: 180). Let us assume that art can
be non-art or can be rejuvenated as old bottles or anti-art.
Filliou also observes: ‘For what I am doing now I propose its equiva-
lent: whether it’s well-made, badly-made, or not-made’ (Erlhoff, 1984a:
28). Perhaps we should do the same. Although the man Robert Filliou is
dead, he is part of that ineffable reality to which his art/non-art refers. He
is present and absent, as in the photo in the not made self-portrait.
Filliou appears in two photographs of the Portraits Not Made, though
only hairline and finger tips are visible at the edges of works he holds up.
The portraits gently scoff at distinctions between art and life that delimit
the revolutionary potential of creativity (of doing something differently)
by delegating art to a class of specialist ‘geniuses’. For Filliou everyone is
a genius. Anyone and everyone is the artist identified as ‘you’, who
through mental images or material creations furthers the series of
Portraits Not Made.
In the sound piece Whispered Art History (1963), after telling us that it
all started on 17 January (his birthday) 100,000,000 years ago, Filliou
states ‘a man took a dry sponge and dropped it into a bucket of water.
Who that man was is not important. He’s dead, but art is alive.
Let’s keep names out of it... time goes by’ (1963). His Portraits Not
Made model how to recognize oneself as an artist who in innocence
‘not knowing’ adopts the tools of unbiased research and imagination
to understand how the tangible and the intangible emanate from an
24 Theory, Culture & Society 0(0)
indefinable reality within which we are always and already co-creators.
Translational in nature, Filliou’s portraits made and not made draw us
into an ongoing collective process of making in the Eternal Network.
I have many to thank for support and assistance in bringing this paper to fruition: the
editor and board of Theory, Culture & Society, and the peer reviewers for constructive
comments and queries, He
`ne Fredrickson, Jacob Haubenreich, Stephen Laptisophon,
Susan Peterson for reading and commenting on the paper, and Lisa Regan and Amyrose
Gill of TextFormations for editorial assistance. I thank Marianne Filliou for permission
to reprint images and the following individuals and galleries for their assistance either
locating works and/or for images: Richard Saltoun, Niamh Coghlan, and Chun Man
Kuen Angel of the Richard Saltoun Gallery, London; the Collezione La Gaia, Busca-
Italy; Peter Freeman and Mora Martinez Basualdo of Peter Freeman, Inc, Paris; Javier
Peres of Peres Projects, Berlin; Tobias Baumer and the Galerie Michael Werner;
¨rkisch Wilmersdorf; and curator Carina Plath and the Sprengel Museum,
Hannover. Thanks especially to Hannah Higgins for shepherding me through my mas-
ter’s thesis, the origin of this paper, and Kristine Stiles for her ongoing mentorship.
All translations from French are my own, unless otherwise noted.
1. Filliou was inconsistent in hyphenating ‘Not Made’. I choose to not hyphen-
ate in order to avoid confusion, except when in a quotation.
2. Eco’s indeterminate ‘open work’ (1989 [c. 1962]) compares to John Cage’s
conception of indeterminacy (1961), formative for artists in happenings and
Fluxus, through those who took his classes in experimental composition at
the New School for Social Research, New York City.
3. For definitions of Fluxus see Jenkins (1993); D. Higgins (1976); H. Higgins
(2002); Stiles (1993: 62–99).
4. Welch (1995) and others credit Filliou with inventing the term the Eternal
Network, noting his formative influence on mail art and internet art.
5. See also Filliou and Brecht (1969); Filliou (1995). Harren (2012) gives an
analysis of the anti-capitalist implications of the C¸ e
´dille based on a reading
of Hannah Arendt.
6. The three ‘L’s in Filliou’s name in the catalog’s title was deliberate.
7. For Martin Heidegger, the ‘everyday world of concernful dealings is a retreat
from the disclosure of Da-sein’s own indeterminate ‘‘Being-able’’ and fini-
tude, or ‘‘Being-towards death’’’. See Di Pippo (2000: 1, 15).
8. This work may be Portrait for Silence (1974), listed in Filliou (1984c: 174).
I have not been able to locate the work.
9. Filliou referred to imagination and innocence as integral to Permanent
Creation in the description of the Permanent Creation Tool Box, 111 &
112 (1969), reproduced under the heading ‘Tool’ in Filliou (1984c: 164).
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Laurel Fredrickson is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Southern
Illinois University Carbondale and historian of contemporary and
modern art, with her research engaging in cross-cultural and trans-
national intersections of experimental art and political dissent since
the 1960s. Her book Jean-Jacques Lebel and the French Happening:
The Erotics of Revolution (working title) is forthcoming with
Bloomsbury Academic Press. A second book, Deterritorialized Identity:
Transnational Women Artists and French Colonialism, is in preparation.
Fredrickson 29
Full-text available
A partir do estudo de processos de mediação institucional e atividades desempenhadas por agentes culturais intermediários, que operaram na emergência e consolidação da “arte contemporânea” como novo paradigma na história da arte no Brasil. Proponho uma análise desse processo, que se deu ao longo dos anos de 1970 e 1980, articulado às condições limitantes e provocantes de um cenário político que experimentava uma transição gradual e tutelada de um regime ditatorial-militar para uma democracia. Foco o estudo sobre a trajetória de um intermediário cultural específico, Walter Zanini, crítico e historiador de arte, museólogo e professor, que dirigiu o Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo entre 1963 e 1978, e foi a primeira pessoa a ocupar o cargo de curador geral para a Bienal Internacional de São Paulo, entre 1980 e 1983, organizando suas 16ª e 17ª edições.
Full-text available
The current essay comprises a discussion of the influential yet underrated work of the French Fluxus artist Robert Filliou (1926–1987) and aspects of his interwoven theory and practice, especially as recorded in his book Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts and related video works. I intend also to examine the influence of Filliou's work on other contemporary artists and the corresponding use of the critical formulation “relational aesthetics” (as posited by the French curator and writer Nicolas Bourriaud).
Full-text available
The pictorial genre of the portrait doubly cherishes the cornerstone of bourgeois western culture. The uniqueness of the individual and his or her accomplishments is central in that culture, And in the portrait, originality comes in twice. The portrait is highly esteemed as a genre because, according to the standard view, in a successful portrait the viewer is not only confronted with the "original", "unique" subjectivity of the portrayer, but also of that of a portrayed. Linda Nochlin has expressed this abundance of originality tersely: in the portrait we watch "the meeting of two subjectivities»l. Such a characterisation of the genre immediately foregrounds those aspects of the portrait that heavily depend on specific notions of the human subject and of representation. As for the represented object, this view implies that subjectivity can be equated with notions " like the self or individuality. Somebody's subjectivity is defined in its uniqueness rather than in its social connections: it is someone's interior essence rather than a moment of short duration in a differential process. Somebody's continuity or discontinuity with others is denied in order to present the subject as personality. One may ask if this view does justice even to the traditional portrait. AB for the representation itself, the kind of notion we get from this view is equally specific. It implies that the portrait refers to a human being which is (was) present outside the portrait. A recent book on portraiture makes this notion of the portrait explicit on its first page: , Fundamental to portraits as a distinct genre in the vast repertoire of artistic representation is the necessity of expressing this intended 'relationship benveen the portrait image and the human originaP.
This book was originally published by Macmillan in 1936. It was voted the top Academic Book that Shaped Modern Britain by Academic Book Week (UK) in 2017, and in 2011 was placed on Time Magazine's top 100 non-fiction books written in English since 1923. Reissued with a fresh Introduction by the Nobel-prize winner Paul Krugman and a new Afterword by Keynes’ biographer Robert Skidelsky, this important work is made available to a new generation. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money transformed economics and changed the face of modern macroeconomics. Keynes’ argument is based on the idea that the level of employment is not determined by the price of labour, but by the spending of money. It gave way to an entirely new approach where employment, inflation and the market economy are concerned. Highly provocative at its time of publication, this book and Keynes’ theories continue to remain the subject of much support and praise, criticism and debate. Economists at any stage in their career will enjoy revisiting this treatise and observing the relevance of Keynes’ work in today’s contemporary climate.
talk, and write about it.' The story it tells will never be more than part of the stories you and others tell about it. The stories-or interpretations, as they are sometimes called-come in different genres, such as the formalist, the iconographic, the connoisseurial, the genetic, the conservatorial, the contextual, and various mixtures of these and other genres.2 These interpretive genres are in turn conditioned by the different genres they tell stories about, and in the present essay the generic parameters of the story I tell will be adjusted to-or by-those that move the portrait genre through the changing chronotope of the Early Modern (formerly known as the Renaissance) in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy. My story will also be conditioned by its opposition to a psychological subgenre of genetic interpretation, which I shall baptize the physiognomic because it organizes a variable mix of the data constituted in other genres (the formalist, iconographic, and contextual) in the service of a venerable and familiar project: reading the face as the index of the mind. Portraits tell stories: they are interpretations of their sitters, visual narratives for which we assume sitters and painters are, in varying degrees, responsible. In that sense they are representations of both the sitter's and the painter's selfrepresentation. Additionally, since art history has been going on for a long time, they come to us framed within the interpretations, representations, and selfrepresentations of art historians. The stories that constitute the physiognomic species are woven of four different strands of commentary:
In a lecture delivered in 1935 entitled An Introduction to Metaphysics, Heidegger forges what appears to be an un-Platonic link between poetry and philosophical thinking. This lecture offers the first extensive treatment of these two topics, to which Heidegger will dedicate a great deal of attention in the years to follow. This apparently un-Platonic link is, in fact, only apparent, since the very concepts of thinking (noein) and poetry (poiesis) to which Heidegger refers in this lecture are themselves un-Platonic. To be precise: they are pre-Platonic. Turning to the Pre-Socratic thinkers– in this case Parmenides and Heraclitus– Heidegger retrieves a notion of philosophical thinking supposedly more original than that of the tradition beginning with Plato and Aristotle, for whom thinking was adapted to the 1 All references to An Introduction to Metaphysics, translated by Ralph Manheim (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1987), will be indicated in the body of this discussion by the abbrevia-tion IM; Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (San Fran-cisco: Harper Collins, 1962), will be indicated by BT; The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, translated by Albert Hofstadter (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), will be indi-cated by BPP. The theme of this paper fits into my larger project of examining the place of art in the development of Heidegger's thought.