Archives de catégorie : English


Attention, during all the series ” The body of the artist “, it’s recommended to the sensitive souls to abstain from such a reading. Note that the images will remain visible all the same.

Previously, we studied the artists’ bodies as instruments of art, it was the body that paints. Then, we noticed that the bodies of the artists could then be more than that, they were capable of more than simply painting, it was the body which makes, which acts. Today we will see that certain artists push their body in more transgressive situations.

This new type of action on the artist’s body really began in the 60s, when artists started to leave the galleries. It was at this time that the idea that art could truly transform society if given the opportunity began to slowly make its way into more and more concrete actions, committed by more and more transgressive artists. From the beginning, we owe it to the group of Viennese actionists to have wanted to overturn the most obvious taboos (nudity, death, sex, etc.). The public is easily shocked by certain performances, and this is normal, it’s precisely the objective. In reality, the reaction of the public to these performances is precisely what the artists are looking for. The body must be used here to test not only the artist himself, but also those who will see (or live?) the work.

© Engin Akyurt

The way in which the artists put themselves on stage in this kind of work (because it’s not always necessarily a question of performances) aims at shaking the spectator, but also at making him leave this simple role of spectator precisely. Freedom is the watchword of these very particular artists. The real freedom is reached only with the trampling of the societal taboos. Nothing is neglected, and everything becomes susceptible to make art in this research: sex, body moods, food, etc. These works slip then slowly towards a definition a little more vague of the art. Here, the body of the artist does not make simply creative work, it forms part of a ritual intended to “initiate” the public.

In this objective of ritual, of passage of test, of initiation, the artists do not hide their multiple sources of inspirations. The works often borrow from real religious rites, when they do not imitate them completely in a pantomime sometimes pushing until the grotesque. We thus find numerous crucifixions of all types: from Nitsch’s First Action which sees him sprinkled with blood while dressed in a white robe he is tied to rings in the wall arms spread; to his 80th Action where he explicitly incites to blasphemy and profanation with forces orgies, evisceration of animals, blood and entrails; or to parodies of mass with the very famous Mass for a body of Michel Journiac during which he distributes “osties” of his own blood. But the artists are also largely inspired by cults of traditional or ancient societies, which they interpret (or reinterpret) in their own way (it’s the case of Ana Mendieta with Death of a chicken, where she is inspired by a Cuban ritual of purification during which a chicken is sacrificed, but to which she gives a whole other dimension in her work).

© Maan Limburg

In this vision the body of the artist can occupy several roles, but they are always transgressive and above all, always ritualized. The body becomes the center of the ritual, whether it’s the master of the work (it’s the body of the shaman artist), or as a “victim” (it’s the body of the sacrificed artist). In all cases, one should not fear being confronted with nudity, blood (which is a form of inner nudity), death, and other such taboos. Most of the time, the artists even take advantage of the occasion to cumulate the taboos in a deluge of references, sometimes explicit, sometimes more subtle, provided that the result shocks, challenges, upsets, even totally transforms the public, and in this way, the whole society.

Thank you & see you soon !

What is a “gift”?

Ah Christmas and its incredible flood of gifts under the tree! Yet, even if this holiday originally had little to do with material possessions, it has become emblematic of them. Today is an opportunity to revisit the notion of what a gift really is and what it represents in a profound way.

A gift is generally understood to be a selfless giving of ‘something’ by one person to another. It can be an object (the famous children’s toys), money (increasingly popular these days it seems), or a card promising a service or a non-material gift (such as a dinner or a trip). Such gifts are often carefully wrapped in disposable paper, newsprint or kraft paper, or even in pretty, decorated cloth wrappings that can be reused at will. But sometimes they are not wrapped at all.

Today, there are many opportunities to give gifts to each other, but people still prefer to wait for an occasion to make such a gift. Special occasions are birthdays, weddings, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas of course, etc.

© Nina Mercado

The festivals that I study, particularly Burning Man, place a great deal of emphasis on what they call the ‘gift’, which can be translated as both present and donation. In this particular form of subculture, the gift can therefore be a service rendered, such as the repair of a bicycle, a hug, a glass of liquor, a scarf to shelter from sandstorms, or a work of art.

The gift is a very special form of giving. It symbolises attention, a form of affection for someone (whether real or simulated). Some psychology studies would suggest that giving a gift is more rewarding for the brain than receiving it. This would be in line with certain primitive customs and practices in which the recipients are in some way obliged to those who have given them a gift. In this case, one is happy to give, sometimes even to the point of sacrifice. This process is reminiscent of the buying frenzy at the end of the year, which suggests that the more money spent on gifts (the sacrifice), the more successful the holiday. Moreover, this giant exchange of gifts that is Christmas is also accompanied by large festive meals, as well as a deluge of very specific rituals (buying and decorating the tree, decorating the house, turning on the lights, etc.).

It’s tempting to draw parallels between the end-of-year celebrations and the celebrations of the tribes of the First Nations of America who practised the potlatch. This custom consists of distributing more and more gifts, more and more sumptuous, each part trying to give the other more grandiose gifts each time it’s their turn. Indeed, it’s reminiscent of families taking turns hosting year after year, each time trying to show that “their Christmas” is the warmest, with the best meal, the most beautiful decorations, etc. To a lesser extent, this spirit of competition can also be found in Christmas decorating contests, where neighbours compete in ingenuity and extravagance to the point of making their houses totally invisible under the mountains of lights. This is the potlatch spirit at its purest. It’s spent without counting the cost, to offer the most beautiful lights, to impress those who benefit from it, to almost glorify themselves. There is a joy in having the most decorated house for Christmas in certain neighbourhoods, there is a joy in having been the one who gave the most expensive or the most extraordinary gift in most households, just as there is a joy among the chiefs of their First Nations tribes, in being the one who gives the most, even if it means finding oneself ruined afterwards, without anything at all, not even a fur to face the winter.

© Lina Trochez

The final stage of the potlatch is the most fascinating, it’s not systematic, usually one of the two rivals finally admits defeat long before this. But it can happen that the overbidding exchanges are not enough. The ultimate potlatch practitioner is the one who gathers all his possessions, especially the most luxurious, the most beautiful, the most precious, and who gives a big party during which one sings, dances, eats and drinks well, at the expense of the sponsor of course. At the end, all the piled-up wealth is destroyed beyond repair, the metal plates that have taken hours to make are knocked down, the hand-painted dishes from the best craftsmen are thrown on the floor, the gold ornaments and jewellery are twisted, and sometimes, better than all that, the whole thing is simply burnt in a huge bonfire and danced around.

The line between sacrifice and gift is often blurred. In between these two lines there is the possibility that what is offered is only offered to impress the recipients (even if they are gods), or simply to feel a selfish joy. Gift-giving is not simply the act of giving as is so often believed. There is something behind it, there is always something. As for what it is, it’s often difficult to determine unless you are one of the two parties. And yet.

I hope you’ll enjoy your holiday season for other reasons than purely material, unless that’s what you want 😉

Thanks and see you soon!

Wine, beer & sacred drinks

– Beware, alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health –

If it’s difficult to determine exactly when human beings started to ferment food to obtain alcoholic beverages, one thing is certain, they did not take too long to do so in their history. To date, archaeologists believe that as early as the Paleolithic period (which begins about 3.3 million years ago), humans discovered the principle of alcoholic fermentation, but that at this stage it was rather accidental. In contrast, during the Neolithic period (which begins about 11,000 to 12,000 years ago, depending on location), our ancestors understood how to “create” alcoholic beverages, and they most certainly consumed them.

At the beginning, the first alcoholic beverages are not very strong and look a bit like beer (if we really have to compare with what we know today). And at the very beginning, it’s likely that not everyone consumed it. The first suspected use as a ceremonial drink was found in Raqefet (Israel) in a burial site. It’s known from ancient authors that alcoholic beverages, which are similar to beer, were consumed in Mesopotamia for religious or at least sacred reasons. From there, alcoholic drinks entered Egypt, where they were improved and developed. Later, in Greece, and then especially in Rome, it will be wine that will be closely associated with the cult, but also with the festival, with the god Bacchus (or Dionysus). In this case, the alcoholic beverage is no longer ceremonial, but its consumption still has a form of sacredness insofar as it allows communion with the god of the vine and of excess (and also, we forget too often, of fertility; we wonder why…).

© Pylyp Sukhenko

The alcoholic drink is the sacred accessory that allows to enter into mystical ecstasy, to get closer to the gods. For the ancients, alcohol, or more precisely wine, is a “fire drink”. It’s the drink that allows to get closer to the gods, to understand the existence. After all, wine is a drink of truth, not only one does not lie when one has consumed it, but for them, it would even allow to discover THE truth, the one that everyone seeks to know. When Dionysus became Roman, the bacchanals were festivities that lasted for days where almost everything was allowed, and the alcoholic beverage naturally flowed freely.

This sacred use of alcoholic beverages was taken up by the first Christians, who adopted wine as a triply sacred beverage, since in their eyes (when it was consecrated) it was nothing less than the blood of Christ. Thus, God is literally in the wine. One moves from wine as the drink of the gods (which is basically what mead is, for example), to wine as a drink made from God. This perspective will later inspire alchemists who will see in wine the alliance of the five elements, but also of fire (again!) and water, the alchemical quest for meaning being found in the quest for meaning of the one who seeks the truth in his glass. The quest for truth, for goodness, for beauty, for rebirth from the mysteries discovered, is also very similar to the quest for the Grail, another cup, this time containing blood. But in the end, wouldn’t the blood of Christ and the wine be the same thing? The Bible, as early as the Old Testament, praises wine and consecrates it. Wine is love in the Song of Songs, it is rejoicing and celebration in Judges, it is literally sacred in Isaiah, and even wisdom and glory in Ecclesiasticus. In the New Testament, to drink wine is to sign the Covenant with God, to unite with him.

For the Jews, a Sabbath never opens without a kiddush, a special prayer that is recited with a glass of wine in hand. And while it’s true that Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, it recognizes its virtues by calling it “pure drink” or “spring liquor”. In fact, certain alcohols have often been considered in history as “medicines” or at least as “tonics”. Hildegard of Bingen, known for her remedies that are often surprisingly in line with modern medicine, prescribed a glass of wine to heart patients. It was later proven that the antioxidants it contains can indeed fight against cardiovascular diseases by preventing the formation of atheromatous plaques. Since its official formulation in 1605, chartreuse liqueur is reputed to have cholesterol regulating virtues, to calm heart palpitations, and to soothe insomnia. The list of alcoholic beverages used for their more or less medicinal uses could be quite long…

© Kevin Hikari

Today, in our countries, it’s rare that alcoholic beverages are considered ceremonial or sacred. However, under the surface, we notice behaviors that come out from time to time. But beyond these remanences in everyday life is the sharing, free distribution, and heavy consumption of these beverages in a setting that is not only festive, but also creative. The festivals that constitute my object of study are a seemingly endless reservoir of examples of exchanges or gifts of alcoholic beverages, often explicitly consumed for sacred use in the sense of communion with greater than oneself, with the divine (be it nature, the other, the inner, etc.) and with a form of artistic creativity that claims to be in search of the truth. When one adds to that the importance of fire in these space-time, the loop is closed. Symbolism ? Rediscovery of a meaning or virtues once lost? These are the thoughts that must be led, with a glass in hand.

Thank you and see you soon!

Art(s) & Classification – Part 1

What is art and what is not? It’s a very complex question and to cut it short immediately, let us say clearly that I would not answer it (or at least not today). What occupies me in reality is precisely how inside what constitutes Art, thinkers have considered it necessary to constitute categories. It’s these same categories and their evolutions that will be the object of this reflection.

To go back as far as my modest knowledge allows it, it’s necessary to go in Ancient Greece, where the notion of Art as such does not exist. Not really. In fact, they did have a form of classification of the arts since, under the term “techné”, they included a certain number of elements that we readily qualify as art today (and others less so!). Each techné is governed by its own muse, which the specialists of these activities do not hesitate to name when the need arises. First, there are the muses of what we still call art today: Calliope the muse of epic poetry, Erato the one of lyric poetry, Euterpe who deals with music, Melpomene for tragedy, Polymnia for rhetoric and religious songs, Terpischore for dance, and Thalie for comedy. And then there are the techné who come out of the field of what we call “art” today (although obviously the notion is debatable): Clio the muse of history, and Urania the muse of astronomy and geometry. There is no trace of architecture, for example, which does not hold their interest.

In the Middle Ages, what we call art and what we call science today were not yet completely distinct. Overall, we can say that the activities of the “art” type were grouped into three main categories. The first, that of the arts of the mind, contained two sub-categories: the trivium, that is to say the arts of grammar and rhetoric for example, and on the other hand the quadrivium, that is to say astronomy and geometry for example, but also music. The second category gathered the “mechanical” arts. It included what we call today the Fine Arts (painting, architecture, sculpture, etc.), but also everything that could be called crafts: goldsmithing, haberdashery, ironwork, etc. The last category, the “noble arts”, included activities specific to the nobility such as the handling of weapons, chess, dancing, hunting, etc. It should be noted that at the time, several different classifications intersected and overlapped. As an illustration, Hugues de Saint-Victor, theologian and philosopher of the 12th century, spoke of the “Seven Mechanical Sciences”: spinning, architecture, navigation, agriculture, hunting, medicine and theater. We can therefore find what constitutes “arts” according to our contemporary definition. During the Renaissance, the term “art” was used to describe the gestures necessary to master a technique or a trade. It’s also at this time that the well-known expression “arte del disegno” appears, which includes both the arts of volume and surface.

© Pavel Nekoranec

Some philosophers then proposed to give other classifications of art that are their own. To quote only the two most known we will speak about Kant – who distinguishes (to say it roughly) the arts of the image ” bildenden künste “, the arts of the word ” redenden künste ” and the arts of the sensations ” künste des schönen spiels der empfindungen ” -, and of Hegel – who divides the arts in architecture, sculpture, painting, music and poetry, considering that the other arts are not so important.

Today, the principle is agreed upon for about ten arts. The first would be architecture. The 2nd would be sculpture. The 3rd the visual arts. The 4th is music. The 5th would be literature. The 6th the performing arts. The 7th the cinema. The 8th the media arts. The ninth would be comics. And the 10th would be video games and multimedia. But what about tableware? Perfumery? Floral and landscape art? In which category to place a performance when it’s at the same time music, painting and theater? And if this performance is filmed, to which art does the result belong?

In the course of my research, each step forward makes me discover a new form of art that apparently does not fit into any of the categories I mentioned above, neither the old nor the new ones. Where to put the extraordinary costumes of the participants in some festivals, and which however have no vocation to be a prop in an artistic staging? Where do we put the vehicles modified for these same festivals, from the fire-breathing locomotive to the steampunk-style bicycle with trailer that can carry up to twenty people? Some arts are on the border between several categories, others do not correspond to anything we know today. Maybe it’s time to develop new categories of art?

Thank you and see you soon!

Getting organized as a PhD student – part 2

As a doctoral student, whether on contract or not, time is one of the most precious resources we have. And let’s be frank, as a human being, that’s true too. If I’m perfectly honest, time is the thing I dread the most. How do you fit everything into a limited amount of time? How to accomplish everything, read everything, write everything, when time does not slow down? In fact, the doctoral student must necessarily worry about time, after all, in principle, he has only three years.

Without any pretension, here are a few little tips that have helped me a lot, hoping that they will be useful to you too. And since your time is precious, I’ll make it quick and to the point.

© Lukas Blazek

To start, of course, the inevitable to-do list. It obviously helps to clear your mind of all the tasks, but only if it’s perfectly exhaustive. It can take many forms: a simple list or a moving list in “to do”, “in progress”, or “done”. In my opinion, and this is very personal, it benefits from being as simple and sober as possible. On the other hand, I refuse to make daily lists. It always seems more relevant to me to have two big lists: one with everything that needs to be done for the month (personal, professional and school included), that allows me to keep an eye on the tasks that come up every month; and a bigger one, more durable, that carries everything that is not especially urgent, but that deserves to be taken care of, or the longer projects.

By the way, speaking of what is urgent and what is not. There is another well-known technique, which is to divide the things you have to do into 4 categories. “Important and urgent”, “urgent but not important”, “important but not urgent” and finally “not important and not urgent”. This method is called the Eisenhower matrix (it would have been developed by Dwight David Eisenhower). But as far as I’m concerned, since I’ve incorporated it into my two to-do lists by nature, this work is only done in my head and doesn’t need to be written down.

When it comes to getting to work and actually eliminating tasks, there are several methods. The one that I think is the most useful is the Pomodoro method but with some adjustments. This method basically consists of activating a timer of 25 minutes during which you concentrate fully on the task. Then you take a 5 minute break, and after 4 sessions of 25 minutes, you can take a longer break of 15 minutes. It appears that 25 minutes is about the time it takes me to concentrate on a task. This makes it very difficult for me to take advantage of my 5 minute break, knowing that I am still, let’s say, “in the mood to work”. So I adapted this method to my needs as follows: I work for an undetermined amount of time, but I always set a stopwatch at about 1h30 or 1h45 just in case. Then, option A: I work without fatigue or weariness for that hour and a half and end up taking a break at the end when the timer rings and I’ve accomplished a lot, or option B: around 45 minutes for example, I feel some weariness, I’m not inspired, etc. and so I take my break at that point. To do this, I need my breaks to be optimal. A break of less than 15 minutes does not have enough impact to make me feel rested. To optimize my break, I give myself real relaxation time: I make myself a cup of tea and drink it quietly on the balcony, I play with my cat, I read a chapter of a book or I watch an episode of a series. Experience has taught me that in order to be productive again, I need a real break before I get back to it. In the end, I get back to being more peaceful.

© Monica Sauro

Author Brian Tracy, in his book “Eat that frog! “recommends doing the most difficult task of the day first thing in the morning. In their book “Make Time”, John Knapp and Jake Zeratsky recommend, among other things, to choose one thing to do each day that is the priority of the day and focus on it. If at the end of the day, that one thing is accomplished, even if it’s only one thing, then the day is considered successful. As a PhD student this could be: writing a thesis page, answering a call for papers, etc. Combine these two techniques and your days will be much more relaxing, yet more productive. Even if you only accomplish one task a day, at the end of the year you have 365 tasks accomplished that you care about, and that’s what counts.

When it comes to time management, there are a multitude of ways to organize your schedule as such. For example, each day, I don’t make a list of things to do, I make a “clock”, on it, I know that I have 12 hours of work. I then divide up what I want to do in those hours. Others just dash on a post-it note and that’s fine too. What you mustn’t forget is to keep time for the things that don’t seem important, but that will help you progress much faster: leisure. Don’t be afraid to set aside some leisure time each day, with something you really enjoy doing and that has no real purpose other than to give you a good time. Read a novel, try a new recipe, play games.

Finally, what you need to do is to find your own method, even if it means cobbling together your own from ideas here and there. But above all, enjoy your time!

Thank you for reading this article, I hope it has helped you, see you soon!

The artist’s body Part 2 – The body that makes

Attention, during the whole series “The body of the artist”, it’s recommended to the sensitive souls to abstain from such a reading. Note that the images will remain visible all the same.

We saw last month that some artists have chosen to give more importance in their works to the action of painting than to the painting as a result. What counts is no longer the production itself, the concrete, palpable creation, but rather the action of doing, the action of creating, so the action. This is how the first happenings were born, which can be awkwardly translated as “event”.

The work becomes the action of the artist himself. It’s no longer possible to keep a trace of what has been created other than by another medium, such as photography or video for example. What the artists emphasize through this movement is the performance, and thus the link created in the moment with the spectator, whether he is voluntary or “undergoes” the work.

© Warhol Co

From there, everything can become a work, everything can be Art. Everyday life becomes the favorite subject of some artists. Even today it’s possible to find photographs of Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles’ performances, “Danger Music” during which Alison shaves Dick’s head in a particularly conscientious way. You can also go to the famous online video platform to see Andy Warhol eating his cheeseburger again and again with unparalleled care. In the same vein, we can also see Bonnie Sherk eating her meal in a cage reserved for animals, while eating a meal prepared in a restaurant. There is also a whole series of photographs on the performances of Mierle Laderman Ukeles who works to clean the streets and the ground around and inside several museums. Ben Vautier chose to “enter the water with an umbrella” and to make a work of it (on several occasions).

But the artist’s body sometimes acts in a way that is out of the ordinary. This is the case of Yves Klein’s numerous attempts at levitation, who, after injuring himself several times, finally decided, with the complicity of a friend who developed photographs, to produce forgeries supposed to represent him in full flight, or between life and death, depending on the themes they decided to put forward. Or the numerous photographs of Bruce Nauman who represents him “as a fountain”, spouting water from his mouth. In “Parallel Stress”, Dennis Oppenheim suspended himself between two walls in a precarious balance, spread out just enough for him to cling on as best he could between the two (at least for the few minutes that the performance lasted).

Other artists have chosen to go even further and include the spectators in their works. The body that makes is no longer entirely that of the artist this time. Yoko Ono, in “Cut Piece”, which must have inspired Marina Abramovic, is simply sitting on the stage, and it’s the spectator who has the task of coming on stage and cutting up her clothes. The spectator and the artist are thus in a duality where the control of the situation and of what happens is at stake. The spectator is the one who acts, in front of a submissive artist, but who remains nevertheless the one by whom everything happens. As for Giuseppe Penone, with “Rovesciare i propri occhi” during which he wears mirrored lenses, sends the viewer back to his own image, to his own contemplation. It’s then up to the spectator to establish what he does with it.

© Volker Gleaser

With the project “Manifestation for all the senses” of Milan Knizak, the artist is only the organizer of a kind of amusement park in which the spectator has only to walk around to live an extraordinary experience. Olfactory because they are almost sprayed with perfume, musicians play, and the organizers then crowd around the spectators to shout, scream, etc.. Here the work has become a place and an experience to be lived by the spectator who “lives” the work. More recently (in the 2010’s), the Russian director Ilya Khrzhanovksy, for his project « Dau », built an architectural complex in the style of the USSR of the 30s and 40s and proposed to hundreds of people to come and live there, exactly as the habitants of the USSR of that time would have done. The experiment-work lasted two years and was carefully filmed by the artist, proud of his creation. He then offered to visit the places in question. But to do this, you have to proceed as in the former USSR, with a visa application and a visit that lasts at least 6 hours (up to unlimited time). The work here is more of an experience for the spectator, who is no longer so passive…

The artist’s body is extended into the viewer’s body.

Thank you and see you soon for the next part of this series!

The body or the artist, part 1 – The painting body

Artists have always liked to represent human bodies. From the time of the caves until today, there’s an infinity of representations of the human body. This motif, declined under all possible variations, is an interesting subject. However, today, we will rather look at what the artist does (or does not) with his own body.

Here again, the variations seem extraordinarily numerous, especially since the 20th century has given birth to facets of art that use the artist’s body in an unexpected or original way. For such a vast subject, it’s not reasonable to pretend to exhaustiveness. We will nevertheless try to focus our attention on several facets of the artist’s body in art today. The first, for a sober introduction of the subject, will be the body that paints.

Beware, during the whole series “The body of the artist”, it’s recommended to sensitive minds to refrain from such a reading. Note that the images will remain visible all the same.

From the middle of the twentieth century, Art is no longer only interested in the painted canvas, in the result. Critics, thinkers and artists redirected their attention to the act of painting itself. The action, the act of painting, had become the main subject, or at least a significant part of art itself. This is how action painting is born.

© Mike Petrucci

This current, at first mainly led by male artists, first focused on the action of the painter, then the body became a tool that allows to paint, to spread the paint, to act in the painting activity. The artist’s body becomes in turn a brush or even a canvas. Female artists then took over this trend as well, and the whole world of Art was modified without any possible return.

Of course, everyone knows the brilliant Jackson Pollock, who represented almost the entire action painting movement, as evidenced by the numerous videos of his painting “performances”. But we must also mention the brilliant Georges Mathieu, who combined his painting with a very particular gesture. His monumental paintings, often done while wearing period costumes, were executed in spectacular scenes photographed or filmed, which were sometimes more like theater than painting in the traditional sense.

It was then up to the Japanese to take hold of this movement where the artist’s body was solicited as a tool for artistic creation. Shozo Shimamoto making his paintings by throwing his paint pots directly on the canvas, or Kazuo Shiraga rolling in the mud, the act of making art becomes closer and closer to the artist’s body, organic. From there it’s only a step towards Yves Klein’s anthropometries. The latter proposes indeed representations where women, naked, the body coated with paint, became the tool used to apply the paint on the canvas, that the painter now, hardly approaches. What the brilliant Niki de Saint-Phalle understood well with her painted works which are in reality only canvases with bags of paint, which she bursts by shooting a gun directly on them, thus letting the paint flow, in explosions of dripping and cathartic colors.

© Amauri Mejia

But others choose this pretext to get closer to their work than ever. The artist Marcel Duchamp, well known for his subversive mind, went so far as to use elements of his own body (hair, hair, …) or his bodily secretions (his semen in this case), to constitute paintings where he mixed manifestations of his own body and paint, Plexiglas etc.. Original materials that are understandable when you know that these paintings were intended for his lover, the Brazilian artist Maria Martens. There are also those who continue, obstinately, to hold the brush, but who have made it slip from their hands… This is the case of Shigeko Kubota, who, as a sign of protest against the action painting mostly practiced by men and therefore almost “ejaculatory”, will use her vagina to hold the brush in her works.

And then, of course, there is a moment when the paint disappears altogether. Claes Oldenburg or Carolee Schneemann have chosen in some of their works to paint with unidentified organic matter, or even waste or garbage. Ana Mendieta chose to paint with blood. Andy Warhol explored the question with a process of action painting that involved his own urine.

Thus, the body of the artist becomes not only an element of “doing”, it’s what must be looked at, the center of the work. There is certainly no shortage of examples, and these are just some, taken from thousands, of artists who have chosen to see their bodies, as artists, differently.

Thank you for hanging in there until the end and see you soon!

Getting organized as a phd student – Part 1

Some time ago, I once again found myself in a state of panic. Luckily, unlike what happened to me when I was not yet optimally organized, this time I was able to get out of it and get back on track. But without the new measures I had taken, it would never have been as easy or as quick as it was.

I have to say that I don’t make life very easy for myself. Take last year for example. I had to manage my PhD (which should already be a full-time job!), as well as two research masters, combine jobs to put food on my plates, and also of course to take care of my personal life (family, friends, volunteer work, fulfilling projects that are usually always put off, etc.) and all this in full covid. To my great surprise, I turned out pretty well.

© Stil

Of course, the ideal situation for any researcher looks more or less like a quiet and spacious office, with all the books you might need at hand, a durable work surface, on which you can rest your reading cards and come back to them later, leave a few interesting journals open on the right page, and an assortment of pens that always write well and without making a mess.
But the reality is often quite different.
So here are a few keys that, in my humble opinion, have worked for me and should perhaps help you get organized, especially if, like me, you’re crazy enough to do so many things at once.

In the physical world

No office? Slip your laptop into a lidded box when you’re not using it, with planner, bic pen, a few draft sheets, book in progress. All you’ll have to do is move the box wherever you can. I’ve already experimented with the dining table, the bed, or the sofa with some success (for Zoom sessions where you have to show your heads, try the most stable place possible, at worst, the computer on a chair and you sit on the floor against a neutral wall, no one will pay attention).

No library nearby? I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be difficult. But you have two options. Either you decide to work only from sources that you can find online, but this assumes that your internet connection is concrete and that your subject can be used without a dead end. Or, what I advise, go to the library anyway, even if it means 3 hours of transportation there and 3 hours of transportation back, but make the most of this outing. Choose the library in question carefully if several are possible, check the catalog before you go to see what is part of your bibliography imperatively or what may be worth a look, consult a maximum of books on the spot and borrow as much as you can, if possible consult a map beforehand so you can get to the library without wasting time. Above all, if you can only go once a month (or even worse), don’t go without knowing what you need and prepare yourself as much as possible.

Impossible to find what you’re looking for among books bought and stored at home? Sort your bookcase! Separate the books that you clearly use for your thesis from those that are for your personal entertainment, separate your books from those of other people you live with, if applicable. And if this means that you no longer have a bookcase to store your books in, that’s fine. I’ve been known to store books in dresser drawers, carefully sorted and arranged so that you can see the edge of them. If your clothes can fit somewhere else, do so, it’s very pleasant: top drawer antique philosophy, third drawer art aesthetic, bottom drawer reference works, etc. If not, don’t hesitate to experiment with crazy places for your books. Just remember that the kitchen or the bathroom are obviously not good ideas. But apart from that, you can do just about anything you want, the idea is to be able to see all the slices of the books easily at a glance, don’t bother trying to make it presentable for an impromptu visitor.

Too many papers? This problem is rather rare nowadays, but tenacious in some people. Remember my lidded box? At the bottom, in a place that rarely moves, there is a set of pockets that I use to store the papers related to my thesis. A pocket for the lectures, a pocket for the reading cards, a pocket for the flying papers of the style “a bright idea came through me and I wrote it on a bar napkin with lipstick”. At the very back, I also put away a special pocket with transparent sleeves, in which all the important things are stored. In my doctoral school we call it a portfolio. In it I have all the certificates of the training I have completed, conference programs, my school certificates, that sort of thing. Don’t keep paper documents for your thesis if they have nothing to do with this classification (in the humanities anyway), you can always get the rest in digital format and you’ll save space (unless of course your subject imposes you by nature to do things differently).

© Tom Hermans

In the virtual world

Not enough storage? Lost all my documents? Nowadays, it’s impossible to do without proper storage equipment. You need to buy at least two USB flash drives, of identical size, on which you save your entire “Thesis” file every time you make a change without exception. The ideal is to have three, but two can do the trick, if you store them in radically different places (still not in the kitchen or the bathroom…). If you can, protect their access with a password, data theft between researchers is not a legend, protect your work, you took a long time to do it. All disciplines that require something other than text or pdf files, don’t forget to provide storage space accordingly, photographs, videos, or audio files take up space (not to mention those who develop graphic simulations that rocks, but I doubt those need me to double check their storage).

Problem organizing digital documents? Create a system. Your brain needs to stay available for research (or the countless other tasks you’ve set for yourself), so help it. Even when you’re very messy and scattered by nature, it’s possible to make compromises. Create a large “Thesis” file and within it several sub-files: your reading cards, your digital books, your writing progress, your proposals for conferences or study days, etc. Each element must be distinct. And remember to give easy and short titles, you don’t want to bother to find or put away a document. Finally, for the ultimate slackers (of which I am one) for whom it’s impossible to sort all the documents as soon as they arrive in your life, plan a file “to sort” and set one day per week when you can take a few minutes to put everything back in its right place.

Other important tips :

Take care of your lifestyle. It’s out of the question to sit still for 6 hours at a time without getting up to stretch your legs, to miss a meal because you don’t have time, or not to do any sports during the week (except for medical reasons of course). Organize your time in blocks and forget the to-do list for all that is hygiene of life, you will not do it in the duration otherwise.

Take care of your social and emotional life. With the covid, it’s not easy, I agree. But try to reserve one evening per week (or 3 hours if you really can’t do better) to enjoy your family, friends or your other half without thinking about anything else (if the sanitary conditions require it, it’s not as good, but in webcam it counts too). Sometimes you’re afraid to lose time by doing this, but in the end, it’s those 3 hours that will recharge you and give you the shape for the rest of the week.

Compartmentalize! If, like me, you are curious by nature and multiply commitments, make sure they don’t interact with each other. No document that is not related to your thesis should end up in a pocket where you only have this, and your thesis documents should never end up in your health book or with your calendar for the volunteer marauds! Your life has many facets and that’s fine, they can sometimes get mixed up intellectually, that’s what makes it so rich, but don’t let them pile up without a head or tail, you’ll quickly get lost.

I hope that one or two things that may have helped me can help you in your turn. In the next section, we will discuss the organization in more detail, addressing a major problem: time. Lots of great achievements to you and hang on!

Thank you and see you soon!


Lavoisier tells us that: “nothing is created, neither in the operations of art, nor in those of nature, and one can posit in principle that, in any operation, there is an equal quantity of matter before and after the operation; that the quality and quantity of the principles is the same, and that there are only changes, modifications”. This law of conservation is generally simplified by “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”. Somehow I could stop my explanation at this simple quote, but some of you might be a little disappointed.

The word metamorphosis comes from the Greek meta, which means after, and from morphe, which means form. Together they give metamorphoun, transform, and metamorphosis, transformation. The Romans would later adopt this term in Latin. In antiquity, metamorphosis is one of the most common events in Greek-Roman mythology. Ovid, a famous Latin poet, wrote in his famous Metamorphoses, the stories of humans transformed into birds or terrifying beasts. But sometimes they were also changed into mountains or trees, or even constellations of stars. In this book, metamorphosis is alternately a punishment from the gods or a reward from them.

In the Middle Ages, alchemists desperately sought the secret of the transmutation of lead into gold, of vile matter into precious matter. During this time, humans were accused of transforming themselves into crows or frogs and were condemned to death for this. Metamorphosis is therefore always a mysterious, almost mystical event. However, it will soon become apparent that many animals are subject to changes of this nature. Insects for example, like the butterfly in its chrysalis, see their shape change radically. To do so, however, they must go through a stage of dormancy, of rest.

© Suzanne D. Williams

But humans also seek change for themselves, a way to metamorphose. In “primitive” societies, for example, there is always a will to change, to transform oneself. We wear feathers in our hair or ritual paintings on our faces. In some tribes (the Jivano) it’s even considered that body paintings are more representative of a person’s being than the shape of his features. His identity is therefore the way he has chosen to metamorphose. Elsewhere, among the tribes who go hunting in disguise (=metamorphosed into an animal), it’s feared that the metamorphosis is stronger than reality. This tactic does not go then without fear: after all, what will be stronger, what will prevail, the difference of the bodies or the similarity between the soul of the human and the soul of the animal?

Descola tells us: “The metamorphosis is therefore not an unveiling or a disguise, but the culminating stage of a relationship where each person, by modifying the position of observation that his original physicality imposes on him, strives to coincide with the perspective under which he thinks the other sees himself. »
The human being who metamorphoses, disguises himself or tries to transform himself (including one could say it by surgical operations nowadays, or modifications such as tattoos or piercings, etc.) not for himself, but in relation to others. He metamorphoses in order to get closer to others, or to distinguish himself from them. He’s in any case always in a relationship. A metamorphosis is meaningless if it’s not faced with a reaction. The ultimate expression of oneself cannot occur if it does not have a spectator (be it an animal, a deceased person, etc.).

© Joe Green

Metamorphosis is a complex subject. We get up in the morning wanting to change the world, or change ourselves, or sometimes (although it’s probably riskier) change others. This may explain why metamorphosis is addressed in so many works of art: Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Apuleius (The Metamorphoses), or Kafka (The Metamorphosis) and even the Harry Potter saga (the Polyjuice potion), etc. References are not lacking.

Cornelius Castoriadis asserts that “man can create nothing”, because “true forms are immutable, incorruptible, unbreakable”. But perhaps this is because one does not seek to metamorphose what can be. For Giordano Bruno, human nature has a “power of transformation” of its own. It’s then enough to master this power, which links humans to a kind of “cosmic infinity”, so that through philosophy, Man becomes a master of metamorphosis, and can thus “permanently transform his power to act and think”. These encouraging words suggest that metamorphosis can very well leave the world of mythology and fairy tales to become part of the world of the possible. And therefore, that nothing stands in the way of a radical metamorphosis of the world for the good.


Thank you & see you soon.

Little bibliography : 
- Giordano Bruno, A Philosophy of Metamorphosis.
- Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society.
- Philippe Descola, Par dela nature et culture.
- Kafka, The metamorphosis.
- Antoine Lavoisier, Elementary Treatise on Chemistry.
- Alexander Roob, Alchemy and mysticism.
- Ovide, Metamorphoses.

Search the Archives

It appears that in many cases, worthy research work cannot go without an investigation in archives, in some form or another. It’s tedious work, not always pleasant or rewarding, and in some cases one may come away from the expedition washed out, but no more informed. However, if your research topic includes archival material (and mine does), it’s essential to delve into it, at least once, just in case something might have escaped us.

The term “archives” is generally used when referring to old documents. These documents are stored and classified for conservation or historical purposes (often both). These types of documents are not always officially referred to as “archives” by those who manage them, or by those who are the source of the documents. However, when a document that was useful in the past, is no longer useful today because it has lost its relevance, and is preserved, then this document is a form of archive (at least in the context that interests us here).

The main difficulty in digging through archives is that it can be anything and everything. In the social sciences and humanities (SSH), one can find manuscripts, journals, memos, activity reports, but also flyers or leaflets. But some documents are not necessarily text, they can be visual, even graphic, such as event posters, maps, advertisements, or tickets. Others may simply not be palpable. These are videos (official or amateur), podcasts, recorded radio transmissions, etc. The list is endless. Of course, all this can also be found in its digital equivalent (online or offline), especially when it comes to recent documents. In the case of my thesis specifically, especially in cases where there are few archives in quantity, I prefer to err on the side of caution and not pre-sort what I’m going to look at without knowing what’s in it beforehand. All types of documents have their advantages and defects. Their selection must depend above all on your subject and your problem. Which documents can you use to highlight what you want to talk about?

© Marjan Blan

The very first phase of an archive excavation is the collection phase. It’s by far the most tedious, although it’s not the longest. Finding archival data can be done in several ways depending on what you are looking for. The ideal case is when you are interested in what is called “public archives”. In other words, the state archives. Since they are official items, these types of documents often surprise you with valuable information. However, beware of the legal side of things. In France, for example, public archives can be used after a certain period of time, which is governed by a law contained in the Code of Relations between the Public and the Administration, in article L 321-1. However, this law no longer applies when it concerns documents that may contain someone’s personal data or if the document is rather intellectual property of someone. Keep in mind that each country has its own rules and laws concerning its public archives. It would be a matter of not breaking the law somewhere, even in the opposite side of the world…

The other major source of documents is obviously private sources. This documents are more difficult to obtain, so one must search longer, especially when it comes to documents that are not required to be published. In spite of this, private archives have the advantage that they can be used at the owner’s discretion. That is to say that if he likes you, or if he doesn’t care at all (which happens more often than you might think), you can use the documents he entrusts to you in your research. But beware, this is a matter of private law, it’s always preferable to have your back by asking him for a written record of his agreement.

This is just a piece of advice, but I recommend that you keep a complete and well-informed list of all the archives you consult from the start. I personally indicate the provenance or source, the date of creation of the document, the date of availability sometimes, a maximum description of the document and my own notes concerning it, as well as of course, a basic characterization (title or name, etc.). I treat this list almost as preciously as the few paragraphs I have already written of my thesis or my bibliography (copy on my computer, on my external hard disk, on two different USB keys, etc.). If I were to lose this work, duly classified and analyzed, it would be me who would be lost!

© Ula Kuzma

Archive work undoubtedly allows for direct immersion, especially if your theme includes one-time events that are now over. The historical aspect is another undeniable advantage of archives. They are a time machine, literally. Rereading an old newspaper is exactly like going back in time, you can feel the atmosphere, the concerns and sometimes even the feelings of those who wrote it. In the social sciences and humanities, this is an element that I consider not to be neglected, in order to better grasp the ideas and concepts of people at a given moment in time.

The contribution of documents gives the research work a kind of scientific support, as it’s a reliable source element, often attested and sometimes accessible (and therefore verifiable) by everyone freely. Finally, what I call archive excavation or archive search is first of all a compilation work. Even in so-called “abstract” subjects, because certain elements can help to conceptualize and even make more concrete some aspects of the research. Then, it’s a work of analysis, which I’m sure you know how to do perfectly well. It’s this analytical work, which will be your biggest effort, that will give full prominence to the documents that have caught your attention, so that you can bring out your working hypotheses.

Finally, you will then have to exploit the data within the thesis, but how? After several half-days of pain, I finally realized that the solution is often contained in the documents themselves. Sometimes it will be photographs in the appendices, or complete transcripts when justified. But it can also, in the case of text documents, be a quotation within the text of your work if this is possible and sufficient. The important thing is to link your document to the rest of the thesis especially! It’s not a question of talking about a document in order to talk about it, it must bring something to your problem and to your demonstration. Otherwise, it’s archiving, not a thesis friends!

Good luck in your research & see you soon!