Sandy Amerio interviewed
by Frank Lamy and Julien Blanpied
Sandy Amerio during her concert War Songs at the Mac Val Museum.
Though the history of relationships between art and economy is a long and complex one, with a range of forms that could rapidly be grouped under
the label of economic art, from Marcel Duchamp's
Monte Carlo Bond in 1924 to the entrepreneurial
activities of Fabrice Hyber, it has been well-charted
by many important exhibitions.
With Zones de Productivités Concertées, a series of twenty-one monographic exhibitions in three parts spread over the 2006-2007 season, it is a case of shifting the perspective. Combining artistic worlds that, at some point, bring economic questions into play (work, exchange, production, stock, activity, function, flow, the workshop…), it is not so much thematic expositions to which the visitor is invited, but a sideways analysis. The economy — its questions, its concepts, its thinking — is taken as a critical filter for some of today's artistic practices. The works of the artists invited are not set in some illustrative or mimetic rapport with the economic sphere. Complex and polysemic, they go well beyond these notions.
An amoral and romantic anthropologist of images and representations, Sandy Amerio deciphers the signs and schemas given out by society today: impact, resurgence, revolution. She analyses the way in which certain social phenomena help construct the world's collective and machinic unconscious.
How did you perceive the invitation to take part in this series of exhibitions based around economy?
Sandy Amerio: I like 'around' - very different from 'on' We're
not sure, we're searching. It's a bit like describing
a shape without drawing it. Applying oneself
to the area, the field of research in question.
Metaphorically too perhaps, it's like keeping a close
watch on a fort one's about to attack. One polishes
one's weapons. This is more or less how I saw the
invitation. It coincided perfectly with my research
and projects in progress.
In your opinion, where does the economic dimension of your work lie?
S.A: In the very first place some very practical questions
must be addressed (as with any artistic work). How
does one finance a project? What added values will
this particular project generate? In terms of time,
energy, social cohesion. How much is the project
worth? What are the assessment criteria?
What's more, I'm particularly interested in management, economic theories and the workplace. I see
a certain poetry in them. For example, I've studied
business storytelling, an Anglo-Saxon managerial
practice.1 That led to the huge project 'Storytelling'
(presented at the Espace Paul Ricard in Paris and
the Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers in 2004) and to the
publication of my first book2.
I've also examined the economy obliquely in other
films, such as Waiting Time / Romania (produced in
collaboration with Alexis Davy) and Surfing on (our)
History. In Waiting Time / Romania, the subtitle 'Romania is
waiting for Europe' comes up fairly often. I filmed
inside two French subsidiaries there: Lafarge and
France Telecom. Economies of encounters with the
Other. In Surfing, I featured my mother, who was always talking about the change in currency, the euro and her financial problems. I also shot Freine, Tiphaine Freine, which is about a go-slow at a factory, and Exiting the factory, with the workers of
the OCT factory in Dourdan.
You've created a specific project for the exhibition. Can you tell us about it?
S.A: Recently, I've increasingly been dealing with issues
relating to military strategy, and in particular what's
known as PSYOPS3 hence the title of my proposition
for the MAC/VAL. I'll be giving a concert. This is a new form for me
I've written the texts that I'll be singing, and will be
accompanied by Jean-Marc Montéra4 on guitar. All of my texts focus
on the economy, war and love. And then a short film will be shown that was shot in New York around Fort Wadsworth on Staten
With PSYOPS, your work seems to be taking a new direction. It's more 'sentimental' in a way. How do you think this film fits in to the rest of
S.A: The question of distancing5 (in the Brechtian sense of the word) is very important to me. For example, in Surfing on (our) History, in which I put myself on
stage, my family played themselves in the second
part of the film. The emotions were there, but
always at a distance, or at any rate they were in
I quite agree with more 'sentimental' I try to put in
more skin, more flesh. To be in empathy with my
characters. To love them. The song written for Lynndie England exemplifies
this new direction. It's difficult to feel compassion
or have any close relationship with an image. Even
more so when the image is one of a woman in
the act of torturing or simulating torture. What can
one say when faced with such an image? There's
indignation obviously. Collective one. But indignation
also prevents us from asking ourselves other
questions, pursuing the story, considering the image from a more personal point of view, recharging the image in order to free oneself of it, exorcise it.
Broadly speaking, how would you define the backbone of your research in a few words?
S.A: I'm afraid I might be suffering from scoliosis. My research is quite eclectic. Some things do recur however. Narration and the constant search for different ideas and theories generated by society.
PSYOPS, storytelling, news items - what one might call extra-artistic phenomena - are the driving forces behind your projects. How do you link this quasi-anthropological interest with the artistic domain?
S.A: As far as I'm concerned, these extra-artistic
phenomena are not dissociated from contemporary
questions of aesthetics. Categories and the division
of knowledge prevent us from thinking through
the world and from adopting a critical point of view.
Every individual thing is linked to another, firstly
to its opposite but also to whatever resembles
it, right down to the tiniest of differences. Bonds,
tensions and lies fascinate me, be they real or
totally fictitious, analogical or metaphorical. That's
one of the reasons I adore urban legends. Bonds
are to be found everywhere, but it's interesting to
draw attention to some of them so as to restore
some meaning to things. Recharge. It's a mystical
quest. Somewhat illusory and never ending. One
can't embrace everything, give a meaning to
It's true, it may seem strange, but you will never hear words such as 'post-modernism' or 'avant-garde' coming from me. It's a vocabulary I don't use; it doesn't work for me. I don't think 'from' the aesthetic field; at least, I should say, not from the contemporary art field, which is a setting rather, a context, modes, tendencies, l'm familiar with, but it isn't a vehicle. It's not simply a case of feeding my practice with varied pieces of knowledge, but of reinvigorating, recharging the fields of research in relation to one another. I think, today, this tendency is be found both on the level of society and in research in the broader sense. What is quite interesting is that this happens through fiction. To give an example, Francis Affergan6 is trying to breathe new life into ethnology through the introduction of narrative principles. Christian Salmon explains this very well when he talks of the arrival of neo-capitalism and with it a 'narrated' or 'storied' individual7 who little by little will replace the exploited, dominated or simply alienated individual. What will be interesting to see is which stories will be told and for what purposes.
Interview by Frank Lamy and Julien Blanpied
1 A managerial practice that consists of telling stories to managers in large company groups so as to produce certain emotions and thoughts in order to get them to accept redundancies or relocations.
2 Sandy Amerio. Sensitive index for non representative agora, Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers / Espace Paul Ricard / ENSBA, Paris, 2004.
3 'Psychological operations are operations planned to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective, reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.' Joint Chiefs of Staff, Doctrine for joint Psychological Operations, JCS Publication 3-53 (Washington, D.C. U.S joint Chiefs of Staff, 10th July 1996)
4 Founder of GRIM (Groupe de Recherche et d'improvisation Musicales) and co-founder of Montevideo.
5 'The principle of the processes of distancing consists in making one aware of an object, character or process and at the some lime making it unfamiliar. The object becomes strange. Distancing 'consists indeed in destroying identification. The objective sought is to prompt the spectator into distancing himself in relation to the reality shown him, to appeal to his critical mind. The aim is to sharpen one's consciousness. Distancing has a political effect of disalienation (not that answers are forthcoming, but rather due to the fact that it reveals the basic characteristics of the attitudes orchestrated by spectacle). Distancing might also be likened to laying a process bare. It is a case of destroying illusion by emphasising the constructed nature of the reality represented.' Bernard Dort, on distancing, in Lecture de Brecht. Paris, Seuil, 1960.
6 La Pluralité des mondes, vers une autre anthropologie, Albin Michel, Paris, 1997.
7 New edition of Verbicide, to be published in March 2007, Actes Sud 'Babel'.