Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Monory: Screens


12 Apr – 2 Jun 2013

It was through an unsolicited letter that the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard (1924 – 1998) first made contact with the painter and filmmaker, Jacques Monory (1934 – ). Lyotard, yet to begin his critical examination of postmodernity and at the time writing his seminal take down of the new orthodoxy of ‘68 leftism: Libidinal Economy (1974), sent Monory what he later described as a ‘rather crazy’ bit of writing about the artist’s work. Despite the fact that Monory claims to have not understood much of what Lyotard wrote, the letter marked the start of a regular and enthusiastic engagement between the two men – culminating ten years later with the filmed studio dialogue around which this exhibition is built. 

The dialogue was commissioned as part of Les Peintres Cineastes, a project by the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) exploring – through a series of films and a publication – the activities of artists producing both paintings and films. Monory was of course a natural choice … as was Lyotard: at the time the focus of international attention for his writing on cinema.

Juxtaposing the energetic and excitable artist with the more languid chain-smoking philosopher, the recording focuses on Monory’s work to date; Lyotard acting as an informed theoretical provocateur, teasing and receiving from Monory multiple critical possibilities. During breaks in the dialogue Lyotard slips away into the studio kitchen. During these solitary moments he reflects what is evidenced elsewhere in his writing: that in Monory’s intensively figurative canvases and dreamlike films, Lyotard identified shades of the Freudo-Marxist dispositif compelling the major texts of his early years (again, most notably, Libidinal Economy).

As the curator and historian Sarah Wilson has argued, the anti-philosophical expressionism ofLibidinal Economy remains theoretical and opaque without the “parabolic illumination of Monory’s painted and filmed narratives”. It seems that Lyotard discovered in Monory a visual analogue to his own textual universe, identifying on the ‘screens’ of his paintings and films the acute problem of power in a libidinal political economy of capitalism: “power of the creatures provisionally enslaved on stage, power of the spectator-stager who is the encager.”

The dialogue between Lyotard and Monory has been translated into English for the very first time for the exhibition. The 32 minute film is presented alongside further films by Monory, including Ex (1968) and Brighton Belle (1974), a series of serigraphs, photographs and archive publications.

Screens has been made possible due to the kind support of Fluxus, The Institut Francais and the CNRS. SPACE would like to thank Jacques and Paule Monory, Jean-Michel Arnold, David Carr-Brown, Robert Silman, Sarah Wilson, Herman Parret, Jonathan Lahey Dronsfeld and Caroline Ferreria. Film translation by Roland Francois-Lack and Julia Marchand.