A world of its own

local.contemporain 07 / 80 pages / publishing le bec en l’air

Texts by Patrick Chamoiseau, Daniel Bougnoux, Maryvonne Arnaud, Yves Citton, Images by Maryvonne Arnaud

What does it mean to be a “human being”? How do you live up to this ever evolving notion metamorphosising before our very eyes, in amongst us and always growing? How do you conceive of or limit our idea of humanity in this era of globalisation?

Don’t let’s get hung up on any false or outdated idea of a human being: humanity lives in all of us in equal measure. This vague notion suggests that it is only ever shared by those with the same language or culture and consequently is implacably divided up. You cannot know what humanity is or could be, when you only have a little part of it, when you will only ever know the tiniest sample of it.

“Other people” boundlessly symbolise the enormous missing part which we must document and explore endlessly. The missing part is also a term used by scientists, when they call it antimatter, which we don’t know anything about, only having access to matter which to exist, needs the part that escapes us.

In our streets, as in the infinity of space, bodies express themselves and sometimes just skim past each other, at immeasurable distances from one another. How can you ever measure mankind?


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Points of Reference

Texts by Patrick Chamoiseau, Bernard Stiegler, Daniel Bougnoux, Yves Citton, Thanh Nghiem, Chris Younes, Jean Guibal, Olivier Frerot, André Micoud, Janek Sowa, Luc Gwiazdzinski, Henry Torgue.
Images by Maryvonne Arnaud, Sylvain Pauchet.

Disorientated! It’s the term we often use to describe the state of incomprehension into which we are plunged by disconcerting situations on a personal level as much as by the changing world in which we live.

There is an overwhelming feeling that stable points of reference which guarantee the correct and more or less permanent direction in a person’s life are vacillating and thrown into doubt. It’s a fact, the world is changing faster than human consciousness. Life’s certainties, family, work, religion, politics, the economy, and even money… are proving to have feet of clay. What will become of us when the points of reference which allow an individual to navigate and position himself are no longer anchored down? Is an era of no shared reference points viable?

You can see a double change: on the one hand a lost quest for beacons and mooring lines to anchor and reference our broken lives, or values that are being consumed as if by fire echoing frenetic consumerism; on the other hand,there is the fevered policing of the individual on a local level and of our day to day lives, trapped in a labrynth of computer passwords, where our every little action registers and is pinpointed on a rather alarming mysterious worldwide surveillance network.

To understand today’s reference points and the magnetic poles that work our compasses, this piece resonates with three ensembles: the regional localities which speak for themselves and bear witness to layers of history; the photography of Maryvonne Arnaud, providing visual commentary, bearing silent witness to reference points; followed by open reflection navigating three fundamentals: the place and its roots; objects, technology and science; language, tradition and meaning.

All these collaborations are a product of the “Workshop of the World”, a series of meetings arranged by Philippe Mouillon and supported by La Criée, the Centre for Contemporary Arts at Rennes. Philosophers, researchers, artists and poets debate freely these issues, building a “World Collective of Doubt” , trains of thought that are far from being doctrine and are more like a game – in both senses of the word: like a fun pastime and equally, a gentle relaxation, which keeps you mobile and active.

“There is no fundamental truth only fundamental errors. Truth is an error corrected.” wrote Gaston Bachelard. It’s with a view to “correct” that is the aim of this piece: to tease out nuances, to have an open mind to every piece of knowledge, ancient or alien, to become involved in the analysis of artistic vision and poetic intuition, in order to turn doubt into a point of reference.

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Crowds of People

Texts by Daniel Bougnoux, Jean-Pierre Chambon, Luc Gwiazdzinski, Henry Torgue, Philippe Mouillon, Bernard Mallet, Xochipilli

Images by Maryvonne Arnaud.


No-one likes a crowd. A crowd is the exact opposite of the individual as king of all he surveys, who in contemporary ideology is persuaded he is at the centre of the universe, making his own choices, divorced from all social pressures.

The media would have us all believe that crowds exist in menacing countries and are from another era: political cohorts in Iran, religious ones in Burma, the masses suffering floods or earthquakes, or more than that, in wealthy countries, the memories of political movements no longer current: political demonstrations, liturgies of anger…

In day to day life, the word “crowd” is no longer proffered to describe those flocking to shopping centres, the conspicuous collective consumption, the traffic jams repeated over and over in the suburbs or our systematic use of public transport.

Nontheless, if pushed from the forefront of our minds, relegated to “elsewhere” or “in the past”, crowds are never far from our lives. Public audiences consistently gather us to one spot, while the media and the latest communication technology form the crowds of our modern age.

Trying to make ourselves aware of the fantastic potential energy of our collective lives, this is a burgeoning vista of aspects of “being together” before it becomes just part of everyday normality for the masses. It’s a major issue because we can never escape being part of a crowd.


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Fragility, today’s questions

Texts by Bruno Latour, Yves Citton, Janek Sowa, Stefano Boeri, Lionel Manga, Henry Torgue, Daniel Bougnoux, Philippe Mouillon

Images by Maryvonne Arnaud.

Sound chronicles by Laurent Grappe

We don’t really have the mental geography that fully equips us to live in today’s world… It’s this claim by philosopher Bruno Latour when we first met that gave rise to the wish to shine a light on how to interpret and represent reality escaping through our fingers like the sands of time. We have chosen to test this fragility in how the world works, the paradox of a society greedy for images and information, to test it by considering the insecurities of our age.

Beyond the obvious and lamentable social fragility, insecurity is one of those great polarising forces of the european social experiment. In a survey carried out in France in December 2007 more than 50% of the inhabitants cited insecurity as one of their main worries, so that it seems that fear of being poor exceeds the actual incidence of it.

To be able to live in this world, to change it, you have to understand how this modern day fear has been created. It’s this work of social (re-)engineering that artists and philosophers from all over Europe are invited here to participate in.

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