THEBARLEBYOFMODERNTIMES

THEBARLEBYOFMODERNTIMES_2THEBARLEBYOFMODERNTIMES_3

THEBARTLEBYOFMODERNTIMES_2

THE BARTLEBY OF MODERN TIMES

2015Installation - Vinyl lettering.
Fragmented text on 9 walls.


A sentence rolls out through the nine walls of the gallery. The viewer is confronted with a cut and fragmented text that he must try to follow in order to link back together its meaning, its story. The piece uses a classical transfer technique and can be set on all kinds of walls, all kinds of material, in order to actualize a space as “a space of potentiality”.

What is the content of this story that is, in a way, “printed” in the space?

The Bartleby of modern times is part of whole reflection, in my work, on the metamorphosis of the literary culture and what could call, the “migration of text into space”. I had worked on that for the BNF in Paris (Bibliothèque nationale de France) in 2011, and also through the piece called “Hantologie-s”. The question in a way, if one wants to survive the melancholy of “the end of the literary culture”, is how does the text is reconfigured in space, how is the text transformed and exteriorised. This piece “The Bartleby of modern times” is an extract from the book: Potential lives (C. Toledo, 2010, Vies Pøtentielles, éditions du Seuil) and it tells the story of a young man who refuses to engage into life, who always answers to his relatives that he could do this, he could that, he could be this, he could be that, but does not actually do it, staying in an eternal and very affirmative possibility of being.

How does this story relate to the narrative of “potentiality”, of what you call “pensée potentielle”, potential thinking ?

Unlike the Bartleby in Herman Melville’s short story (Bartleby, the Scrivener: a Story of Wall Street) who affirms his resistance through negation using the phrase “I would prefer not to”, here the character adopts a radical affirmation: “I could”. This change or turn from negativity to potentiality, from “I would prefer not to”, to “I could”, sets for me the change in time, from postmodern critical theory, to theory and ideas as living forms, as part of the realities we inhabit. The verb could shows not only the individual position of this young man in life, but also the potentiality of all species: the transformative forces of all elements. The underlying philosophy of this piece is linked to the speculative realism hypothesis and what has been coined as the “flat ontology”. The young man endlessly says, “I could”. He translates the possibility of all things to become and welcomes those infinite possibilities. And the piece again replays what the story says, in order to “print” those potentialities into space. As such, it is materializing the potential, making the potential real.

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