P.N.R. Worldwide



Art in Ruins, ABR Stuttgart, BP, General Idea, Group Material, Fiction Publicité (IFP); Stille Helden e.V., all artists who as much in London, Stuttgart, Paris, Toronto as in New York or Hamburg... approach art today using a different name from their own personal name, a collective name, through a refusal to express each person's own individuality. This disindividuation is certainly part of a general impulse which has marked the history of art since Manet in a significant way, inparticular trough the various breaks in continuily provoked by successive avant-garde movements up until the 70's, then trough people's individual approach. However, this idea of artists being grouped together under a collective name, a decisive step in this individuation process which has its roots in history - from the Surrealist Bureau to European artists grouped around publications like De Stijl, Gegenstand, Ma, ... right up to N.E.Thing and Co, l'Office de Fend, Art and Language - is being particulary developed at the present time, involving countries such as Sweden (Paperpool Intenational Corporation), Italy (Premiata Ditta), Belgium ( P.N.R Worldwide ).
Far from being merely the result of fashion, this attitude exposes a social phenomenon in the widest sense of the term: the disposal of "I". In a society in which man is increasingly an "individual with undefined outlines: sex, appearance, life style" (Michel Maffesoli); an individual who has become social and melted into the collective cause; an individual who can only subsist, extend and defend himself - "becoming indignant is a group activity" (Durkheim) - through a group, in a world made up of endlessly interlocking structures, whether they be political, social, religious, sporting or cultural ....
"Living man is a group", Proudhon maintained in his time, and by giving man this feeling of isolation, post-industrial society has at the time created in him an increased need to belong to a group, no matter how ephemeral, which technological development (cable, the various data processing message services) has made possible and swept along with it, as Michel Maffesoli again noted in his "Tribe Time", where he speaks of "neo-tribalism". Identity has passed from the particular to the general and the image from the specific to the generic. "Us" is a new identity in the contemporary world, despite today's stubborn desire to assert one's difference within the generality.
It is from this perspective that we can look at the problem posed by those artists who use the image of structure under a generic name, with all the "impersonality power" (Gilbert Durand) that can imply. But by taking their means and their new identity from the world, they are in no way evading the issue so they can blend into the world or find the comfort of a refuge. It is on the contrary, for each of the generic names, a way of taking up a deliberate position. Individuality, which was in a certain way one of the historical bases of the exhibition - "When attitudes become forms" - here, to some extent, meets its opposite. It leaves room in each of the "groups" for a shared adventure, a common programme; a programme which is defined but open, a policy which is not in any way doctrinal, the opening we generally find in the collective name put forward.
But they are not groups in the strict sense of the word and the problems they pose are not those of artists working in duos such as Gilbert and George, or Clegg and Guttmann...even though these combined names may appear to be a trade name (Saatchi and Saatchi, for example). In a kind of way they work just like in a company or an agency, within the trade name which is declared right from the start, from that point in time becoming a corporate body and no longer individuals. A structure which without any doubt corresponds to contemporary society which hinges on companies and consultancy firms.
It is no longer the artist as individual, that heroic and slightly idealistic figure taking on the world alone, but an "artist-cell" which can be represented by any one of its members and which does not exclude the intervention of other artists who may be allowed into the "cel".
It is no longer exclusively the idea of the artist producing art objects, but can serve as an organism which things out and can intervene at all levels of this modern multi-media society, in which each person plays a role in terms of the social model he is attributed.By being both actor and spectator at the same time,each member reproduces the world's theatrical side. In a certain way they plunge straight into a new dimension of the idea of representation which, from being an exclusivity of the art world, has now in the era of omnipresent, planetary communication, taken hold of the modern universe.
Their name, metonym of their collective will, of their attitude to history, art and the world, often speaks for itself and is vivid like a word picture.In a period when the images has trouble existing, has trouble resisting, so often is it called into question and replaced by others; in a period when the image has lost its power as an icon even though it still has the power to fascinate and man is still trying a trifle frenetically to produce even more, despite the prevailing plethora - and the same is true for data and objects - the only ones to be rescued from oblivion are repeated or generic images. In applearing as an emblem or a sign, their name toys with this new specificity: the name - sign, producing sense, at a pinch suffices by itself and can be put forward as a work. Not without a certain desire for ambiguity.
A name which exists over and above the individuals which make up its entity, which can therefore go on lasting concretely and do away with the idea of a cycle being limited by an artist's lifespan.
An ambitious project which can seem like some new challenge thrown in face of death, of urgency entailed by the world of a man like Paul Virilio; and also like the possibility of fixing some trace in time over a longer period, for an individual "is not end, but an ephemeral episode in the history of know - ledge" (Michel Foucault). A project nevertheless which in fact keeps an idea of the fragility which reigns over the contemporary world intact.
This is a long way from Marcuse's negative vision, which saw massive 0 conditioning in industrial society through technological rationalization, imposing the same products and the same behaviour on everyone. The attitude of these artists working under the same emblem, truly contemporary behaviour which for all that has not led them to formulate a genre nor standardize their desires, is in fact the emblematic face of a new freedom in relation to art and to the world. It is as much a question of attitudes as emblems. (By concept of Jèrôme Sans)

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