Manifest II of the Sociological Art (1975)

by Hervé Fischer, Fred Forest, Jean-Paul Thénot
May 1975

The sociological art, that we were again alone to defend a few months ago, cause various obstructions, that tempt to get involved in the confusion. Therefore, it’s time to make some recalls and to reaffirm the sense that we always gave to the concept of sociological art.

Indeed, the sociological art distinguishes itself as much as the sociology of the art as the conceptions laxistes of a “social art”.

On the one hand, as active practice in the social field, here and now, resorting to the approaches theoretical that it submits to the prove of the action, putting in work of the strategies in relation to the real, but also in relation to the institutions, to the power, inventing the techniques of its experiences – the sociological art comes out of the setting of the scientific and academic speech. If it resorts necessarily, as to a knowledge, instrument of the action and if it presents in return, with every new experience new materials of analysis, it goes past it dialectically in the elaborated practice.

On the other hand, the sociological art, by the specificity of its relation to the sociology, have nothing to see with the cultural carryall of the theme “art and society”, in which some stretch abusing of their authority as critical of art, to dilute it to recover it. Others, as us, today, understand this danger. This confusion cleverly kept constitutes currently the more insidious threat against our process.

Politically committed, our sociological practice distinguishes itself of traditional militant art with which one also wants to confound it. This last express again with the aesthetic formalisms and the pictorial middle-class, to which we want to substitute an active practice of critical questioning. The militant painting was an important stage but prisoner of the clichés and the cultural conformisms who made it inoperative, it lets appear today its limits and its failures with too evidence, so the sociological art binds it on others ways, implying the new media, of the critic educational methods and the fundamental recourse to sociological analysis.

We have defined the sociological art by its epistemologic necessary relation with the sociological science. This relation is dialectic. It founds the artistic practice that experiments it and that objects it in return the force of the social reality. This relation is specific to the sociological art: it distinguishes it of all other traditional steps or avant-gardists. It means, against the traditional expression, the art as mystifying ideology of the irrationality, the will to resort to the scientific speech of sociology and to confront our practice to the rationality of this speech.

The sociological art is a practice that founds on the reversal of the sociology of the art against the art itself, and that takes into consideration the sociology of the society that produces this art. It probably constitutes one of the first tentative (excepts some experiences of socio-dramas), of implementation of a sociological practice known beyond the traditional concept of art. Indeed, sociology, unlike the other sciences as economy, the mechanics, the psychology or the biology, has caused no practice, only establishment to the level of the social field.

The project of the sociological art, it’s at the end to elaborate the sociological practice itself.

But unlike these sciences and their applications, the sociological art doesn’t aim to manage the real, present or to come, but to exercise in relation to the social reality and to ourselves, a function of questioning and disruption. This interrogative and critical function implies not to make the questions and the answers. Indeed it aims not at all to justify a dogma, nor to reinforce its bureaucracy, but to cause some non-alienating awareness. It forces to establish, where reign the one-sided diffusion of the information, dialogic structures of communication and exchanges, implying reciprocal engagement of the active responsibility of each one.

The sociological art tempts to put in question the ideological superstructures, the system of values, the attitudes and mentalities conditioned by the massification of our society.

It’s in this goal that it resorts to the sociological theory, to its methods and that it elaborates a educational practice of animation, of inquiry, of disruption of the communication channels.

The concept of sociological art, as we proposed in 1972, as we practised it since longer again, in an almost general indifference at that moment, imply today as yesterday the rigor of its constituent relation with the materialistic sociological theory, of which it is at the end the consequence and of which it marks the passage to the act as practice operating in the social field.

Hervé FISCHER, Fred FOREST, Jean-Paul THÉNOT, Paris, May 1975


Published in the catalog of the Galliera museum, Paris for the exposition of the collective sociological art.

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