you have three seconds

I was asked by the gallery La Maison to produce an A5 pamphlet, or tract, for a collaborative project as part of the 2011 summer event L’Art Contemporain et la Côte d’Azur. Cure d’Azote, the name of the project, is a wink at the puns in Duchamp’s experimental movie.

I focused on the manifesto nature of the format, often printed by revolutionaries and outcasts to spread information on the streets. Nowadays, containing suspicious offers under the guise of advertising, these pamphlets are usually trashed after a brief glance. I wanted to work on this dichotomy between the communicator and the receiver. This absurdity between the passion to communicate an idea, the effort put into getting it out there, and how fast and effortlessly it is labelled irrelevant, perhaps even baffling, and cast aside by the receiver. I am also inspired by the fous littéraires, or cranks, although the french term underlines a certain genius in madness, people with delusions of grandeur that were misunderstood and were, often, ahead of their time.

I thought about consumer culture, the internet, spam, how we are fed pre-chewed information that must take the path of least resistance to the brain’s lazy gut if it is the hit the thinking spot. 3 seconds is the time we allot to make the decision to keep or trash a piece of info.

I like to play with words. Keeping in mind the title of the project is itself a play on the term “Côte d’Azur”, I stayed in that frame of mind and wrote a text in a made-up nordic-looking language. I typeset it into two formats: one looks like a quote or an introductory text, and the second is an excerpt of dialogue from a book. It is obviously trying to tell a story, something is being highlighted here, this passage here from page 57 has been selected specifically… But what does it say? Is it for me? I assumed that at least 80% of people would chuck the pamphlet within 3 seconds. The fact that the text is set in a nordic-looking language, I am hoping to encourage the anti-foreigner attitudes of the local Niçois to do just that. Not be bothered with something that doesn’t concerne them. I chuckle lightly at the fact, wondering if the joke is on them or on me (Congratulations! You have just thrown away a text that says nothing! And you don’t care! What a performance, how predictable these not-acting actors I have staged, I am at your service for your next show that no-one will watch.)

But to those of a more curious nature, they might notice that the words on both sides of the pamphlet are identical. Perhaps raise a feeling of being duped. There is a fallacy. Is there? Isn’t there? They might get a feeling about something that is trying to be said. Read it once. Even in a single reading the reader will feel some kind of empathy for what is being “said”. And that’s really all I want at this point. You get out what you put in. Everyone has their own idea of what could be said. It is very, very important, surely. And inaccessible. So perhaps now you should make it up.

I like this last layer, if you find a fondness for this pamphlet between your hands even though you don’t know what to do with it, you go and tell your own story through the words. I live in Berlin and don’t speak fluent german, so I find myself constantly inventing meanings to my friend’s conversations. But your own thoughts, now, they are saying something to you, are they not? Can you be aware of the meaning you feel when you read?