DJAMEL KOKENE

Judge and jury, by Jean-Claude Moineau, 2013

Judge and jury, by  Jean-Claude Moineau,
in "DOUBLE BIND, Djamel Kokene",
ed. Les Ateliers de l'Euroméditerranée, Marseille, 2013


 

DK is above all a mobile artist, if not nomadic. He is an

artist whose work cannot be simply labelled “artwork” or

“process”. He is even more flexible than the portrait of an

artist as a flexible worker in a world consumed by

flexibility described by Venger. DK's work is not a search

for unity or an immediately identifiable formal or

stylistic sign or identity (a “signature” or “mark”). On

the contrary, he tirelessly seeks to remove any process of

identification from his work while continuing along the

path upon he originally set for himself. This path is that

of the artiste-stagiaire (artist-apprentice), which goes

against the usual artistic myth constructs. The artistapprentice

is an artist who has not been trained but is in

training, who has not found yet (if he or she ever must)

an identity (path). DK is still reluctant to label himself

an artist (in the sense that the term is overly restrictive)

or to consider himself an artist (unlike art school students

who have a tendency to portray themselves as such). DK

has taken part in many diverse activities, taking on

other roles (or “identities”) than that of the artist. He has

been an exhibition curator, an artist-curator, as well as

the founder of various associations (Laplateforme, a

mobile programme for exchange, meetings and research),

journals (Checkpoint, another mobile space for

exchange), and École Mobile (mobile school – a

temporary artistic zone or TAZ that focuses on learning

and exploring rather than teaching).
 

DK refuses overly rigid interpretations of his work that

might weaken it or dictate what it means. His pieces are

not didactic, nor a form of propaganda. When taken at

face value, they may appear to be slogans, as in Venez

investir chez nous… (Come invest in us), but the

intention is to question, not affirm (or transfigure, as

suggested by Danto1).
 

This is not to say that DK does not put thought into his

pieces. Nothing could be further from the truth: DK is

an artist who thinks a lot (and who intends to make

viewers think too). His art is not only about illustrating

ideas and formulating concepts, even though it may use

language (artist-apprentice and mobile school are not

concepts or metaphors, or even absolute metaphors as

defined by Blumenberg2). It stimulates ideas, ideas not

considered by the artist (to me, a “mobile school” makes

me think of a school where both the school and the

students move, not only within a city but from city to

city throughout the world). And while his pieces are

carefully developed, they are not meant to be selfcontained

hypothetical masterpieces of ingenuity but

suggestions that are as open as possible, both in terms of

interpretation and the world (and not only the art

world). They go against Duchamp's famous views by

preventing any interpretations that the viewer (or

critic) may attempt to give them. His work does not aim

to provide an answer, but to inspire questions, including

about its artistic status.


These questions often include issues related to identity

and community. Surprisingly, these notions have held

their ground in the globalisation era. They do not oppose

globalisation, but are an integral part of it. DK's work

explores how individual or collective identity is

exclusive: Foucault3 criticised how identity leads

individuals (and groups) to withdraw into themselves,

while Serres4 pointed out how it is a logical error to

confuse a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. DK

examines Nancy's5 deconstruction of the notion of

community, and Agamben's6 view that the only valid

form of community is one that is formed by beings

without any sort of identity and has no conditions of

belonging.
 

DK's work goes against all forms of communitarianism,

identity without identity and community without

anything in common. It questions pre-existing identity

or identity constructs, whether ethnic, social or genderrelated.

It is the “queerisation” of all identities. It

explores shared space, and the creation and crisis of

public space that are all a part of the bourgeois public

sphere described by Jürgen Habermas.7

For this type of work, we must not attempt to provide a

key to understanding or an interpretation, or even to

attach a meaning, as understood by Barthes.8 This means

eschewing the tendency to choose from the many

interpretations that emerge through the usual criticism.

Instead, the work should be approached through a sort of

metatextual reading (beyond the metatextuality that is

already present in any reading).

The paratextual elements of artwork – the titles – tend

to give too much direction to the meaning of a piece.

Unlike many artists, DK often titles his pieces, but he is

cautious about doing so and spends much time searching

not for the most “suitable” title but the most open one

possible.


As DK was looking for a title for Double Bind, he and

I exchanged numerous emails on the subject. At his

request, I made several suggestions, but there was

something not quite right about each of them:

(JCM, 27.09.12) Another possible title for your piece

for which I've already suggested TRANCHÉE:

TRANCHE DE VIE [Sliced: Slice of life], excluding

any reference to naturalism.

(DK, 27.09.12) It's funny, I'd made a note of that title.

You're referring to Hitchcock, right? Particularly Hitchcock regarding
the question he was asked: “Is cinema like a

slice of life?” To which Hitchcock answered: “No, it's
more like a slice of cake”9. I had considered that one.

 

(DK, 29.09.12) I also thought of: FRAGMENT DE

DÉCOR [fragment of decor]. The courtroom is often

likened to a theatre stage.
 

(JCM, 29.09.12) I much preferred the titles we

discussed earlier, but I'll leave the choice up to you.
 

(DK, 29.09.12) The thing is that TRANCHE DE

VIE seems too vague and moves the piece to another

reality which doesn't reflect this piece. Don't you think

it's too much of a objet rapporté ? The other thing is that

justice, the setting for justice, is seen and understood as a

space of power. COUPE [cut] seems overly harsh.
 

(JCM, 29.09.12) FRAGMENT DE DÉCOR is much

more vague.
 

(DK, 03.10.12) What about DOUBLE-BIND? To

convey an idea of uncertainty…
 

(JCM, 03.10.12) I feel like that title is too catch-all.
 

(DK, 03.10.12) Maybe, but how exactly is it “catchall”?

The expression reflects what justice is all about, and

not only that of course. And that's what it's all about. It

seems to me that we're talking more about an allegory.

Only that the use of allegory in terms of justice is too

often a simplistic representation…
 

(JCM, 03.10.12) In that case, I think you should call

your piece ALLÉGORIE [allegory], without making a

direct reference to what the allegory is.
 

This is an allegory, as understood by Benjamin10 and

according to what Foster11 called “post-structuralist

postmodernism”12 to get away from the supposed

modernist “literalism” (already criticised by Fried13)

without falling into the symbolism that Foster described

as “neo-conservative postmodernism”.


Here, DK's work does not refer to Rawls' theory of

justice, nor is it a metaphoric or symbolic representation

of justice. I will not even seek to conceptualise the reason

for a coupe (cut) through the courthouse, the citation

(summons) to a courtroom. According to Marin14, this

cut is followed by a greffe (a graft – a botanical and

surgical term with legal connotations in French), a

re-contextualisation (here in the courtroom where the

cut was made diagonally, similar to a bar of division or

opposition) and an assembly. The cut puts a new twist

on traditional sculpture by giving it an axonometric

perspective. This can be read as an allegory of justice even

if it is not as obvious an allegory as that of the

blindfolded Lady Justice holding a set of scales

(according to Buchloh,15 assemblies are of allegoric

nature). For Benjamin, an allegory, as opposed to a

symbol, openly embraces its arbitrary nature, the

arbitrary nature of the sign (and the cut).


It is not a theory of justice or even a questioning of

justice in itself, but rather an exploration of the act of

judging, an act which is similar to an act of dissection, a

cutting of sorts (almost surgical, according to Bataille16).
 

Here, the cut reduces this process to a face-off between

judge and defendant, in true Kafka style, and the

solitude of the person handing out justice and the person

being judged (the same solitude felt by a jury, which is

cut off from the outside world during a trial). This is

even though there are no actual people involved (as in

Agamben's work) but a simple representation of empty

seats.

Double Bind (the title that was finally chosen) reflects

the impossibility of judging and the suspect nature of the

inherent dichotomy involved even though, regardless of

what Deleuze17 believes, there is an obligation to judge,

even for that which cannot be decided. In French law,

all registered voters have an obligation to serve on a jury

if requested. The obligation to make decisions is not only

inherent to the judiciary but also political power, which

implies the necessity of democracy that is both

representative and deliberative, not to arrive at a

consensus but to break from it, as discussed by

Rancière18. And, with regards to art itself, there is an

obligation to make aesthetic or artistic judgments (about

the work, if not the artist) even though there is no law or

concept to this effect. This is despite attempts by art

historians and sociologists19 to remain neutral and refuse

any value judgments.

--

Jean-Claude Moineau

(Translation: Rhonda Campbell, Toni Jones)

--

Jean-Claude Moineau – 01.01.2013

 

Jean-Claude Moineau has long taught, beyond the division into disciplines devoted, art and art theory at the University of
Paris 8 and was in 2006-2008, Advisor to the 15th Biennale of Paris. He is the author of Art in the indifference of Art (Paris, PPT, 2001), and Against the global art for an art without identity (Paris, è®e 2007) and Back future, The Art against the current (è®e / Art 21, 2010).

 

1 / Arthur Danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A

Philosophy of Art, 1981, Harvard University Press.

l'art, 1981, tr. fr. Paris, Seuil, 1989.

2 / Hans Blumenberg, Paradigms for a Metaphorology, 1960, English

translation, Cornell University Press, 2010.

3 / Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power”, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 8,

Issue 4 (Summer 1982), pp. 777-795, The University of Chicago Press.

4 / Michel Serres, “La Faute”, Libération, 15 November 2003 and

L'Incandescent, Paris, Le Pommier, 2003.

5 / Jean-Luc Nancy, La Communauté désoeuvrée, 1983, Revised and

expanded edition, Paris, Bourgeois, 1986.

6 / Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community (Theory out of

Bounds), 1990, English translation, University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

7 / Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public

Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, 1962,

English translation, The MIT Press, 1991.

8 / Roland Barthes, “Rhétorique de l'image”, Communications, Issue 4,

Recherches sémiologiques, Paris, Seuil, 1964.

9 / Reference to the interview with Hitchcock by Jean Domarchi and Jean

Douchet (Cahiers du cinema, Vol. 102, December 1959): “People who go to

the cinema lead normal lives. They're going to see extraordinary things,

nightmares. For me, cinema is not a ‘slice of life' but a slice of cake.”

9 / Reference to the interview with Hitchcock by Jean Domarchi and Jean

Douchet (Cahiers du cinema, Vol. 102, December 1959): “People who go to

the cinema lead normal lives. They're going to see extraordinary things,

nightmares. For me, cinema is not a ‘slice of life' but a slice of cake.”

17 / Gilles Deleuze, “Pour en finir avec le jugement”, Critique et clinique,

Paris, Minuit, 1993.

18 / Jacques Rancière, La Mésentente, Politique et philosophie, Paris,

Galilée, 1995.

19 / Here, in sociology and art: Nathalie Heinich, Ce que l'art fait à la

sociologie, Paris, Minuit, 1998.