Manifest III of the Sociological Art: Methodology and Strategy (1976)

by Hervé Fischer, Fred Forest, Jean-Paul Thénot
March 1976

The practice of the sociological art substitutes for the affirmative and aesthetic traditional finalities of the art of the objectives bound to the transformation of the ideological attitudes, in the sense of an awareness of the social alienation. It’s not to propose new models of social organization, but to exercise the dialectic power of a critical questioning. This conscientisation must permit, in the moments of rupture of the social system (economic and bureaucratic structure crisis) to put forward the fundamental questioning susceptible to orient the steps of those that want to transform the social links. Such is our deliberated project. The philosophical question of the sense, in a social system that doesn’t tolerate its setting in question, is inevitably subversive.

It implies that the collective of sociological art considers the methodology and the strategy as two fundamental concepts of his practice.

1. The methodology of the sociological art. Its fundamental goal is the setting up of deviance devices. Its action field is directly the one of the interpersonal subjective relations. It can’t hardly borrow to the official sociology, in this sense that this one aims to note and to manage, to manipulate the attitudes of the electors/consumers in relation to the alternative and fictitiously propositions of the social system itself, and not to put in question these propositions. The story of this methodology of establishment and bureaucratic is bound to the demands of the governmental and economic organism that financed the social investigations in the goal to assure the exercise of their power. Only the practice of a critical questioning can allow us to use these methods, diverting them.

Our methodology is entirely to invent It aims to make appear concretely the reality of the social relations that determine the individuals, but that the dominant ideology occults variously to the level of the imaginary in the individual consciences, by its political, moral and cultural speech. The sociological art visualizes the social relations that reveal the theoretical sociological analysis and the practice; it makes emerge his abstract structures to the conscience of each, object of the sociological speech, ideologically blinded to the level of the daily lived. This subversive educational practice reveals the working of the real social relations between the social categories, the modes of exploitation, the political logic of the dominating systems of values, their daily mystification, allowing thus to each an critical exercise critical of his judgement and his liberty in comparison with to a social order that presents itself falsely as natural and necessary. This self-management of the thought can be gotten thanks to multiplied effect of different techniques: displacement or transfer of information in comparison with their places or the supports of cultural process belonging to levels or social spheres usually partitioned, synthetic steps provoking subversive short circuits, everywhere where the dominant ideology divides and breaks up carefully to avoid the dialectic confrontations, in short a combinative deviant of the real cultural elements, putting in question their social logic and therefore making appear what their consistency owes to the dominating and repressive political power.

Questionings, debates, energizations, disruptions of the affirmative circuits of communication, provocations, refusal, critical counter-uses fictions, anti-institutions can constitute this transforming practice.

It’s not only direct action, but also an experimentation of which the partial or deferred effect is so important as the confrontation with the hypotheses of the theoretical research theoretical of a critical sociology.

2. The strategy of the sociological art. Realism and diversion are its two principles. It practises specifically against the institutions in place of the dominant system, that it wants to put in question. Constituted in collective, we don’t only meet some individuals, we are also confronted constantly to these institutions, that are on the one hand artistic and cultural (galleries, museums, critical of art, magazines, biennials, fairs of the art, etc.), on the other hand politic and administrative (mass media, political parties, unions, townships, polices, organisms of control, of censorship, groups of pressure etc.). The recuperator processes of the market of the art and the justification of our activities by these different institutions make problem. With regard to the market of the art, the collective took the decision not to participate and to contest it radically; with regard to the parties to be held outside and to question all of them refusing the dogmas. Our critical interrogative function is against all militancy.

The strategy of the sociological art aims to rest on the artistic institution permissiveness, to widen its activity to a sociological practice wider than the category of art. The goal is to lay hands on the power of the institutions in place either in resting on some of the men exercising some responsibilities there, either thanks to the logic of the acquired power, to divert this power, so possible to overflow the processes of neutralization of our action that makes in principle the institutional executing of the micro-environment of the elite, and to return this power against the institutional system that we want to question.

In a society dominated by economic and technocratic high-class to which the majority middle-class delegated its political power, it is possible to rest our strategy on a part of the intellectual class that contests the power of the administrators and their finalities.

The realism of our strategy constantly implies a calculation of the risks in the game of the institutional guaranties, of the mechanisms of neutralization and recuperation, and of the possibilities of experimentation or of effective setting in question. If the short-term is not negligible the long-term is a perspective of hope that necessarily legitimizes all will, as derisory that it appears to transform the social contemporary relations. It’s maybe the will to continue in spite of all, that will give its strength to our refusal of a society of men/objects controlled by the cybernetic.

Hervé FISCHER, Fred FOREST, Jean-Paul THÉNOT, Paris, March 1976


Published in the international catalogue of the 37th Biennial of Venice, June 1976.

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