(Diplomacy) (Diplôme assis*)
* a pun on the French words ‘diplôme’ (= diploma) and ‘assis’ (= seated).
On November 16th 2011, Hugo Kriegel exhibits and defends his work in order to obtain his postgraduate diploma.
On the second floor of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (school of fine arts in Paris), the three members of the jury finish their visit and step into the last room of the exhibition. In an empty space, a woman and three men are sitting side by side opposite to a white wall. Kriegel thanks them: they have stayed silent and still for an hour from 9.30 a.m until the jury’s arrival.
Three types of documents are pinned to the wall: the e-mails which the participants have exchanged with the artist, their reorganised schedule for Nov 16, and the sum of money substracted from their salary as a result of their presence at the exhibition on that morning.
Three chairs are left empty. By reading the documents on the wall, the viewer understands that they could have been occupied by others: the individuals who declined the artist’s invitation. Those people went to work as usual.
What is invisible to the members of the jury (nevertheless suggested): the absence of the four willing participants at their workplaces, a direct consequence of their presence at the Beaux-Arts. Their schedules have had been modified and their colleagues have had to reorganise their workday.
The title of this artwork refers to the diplomacy that Kriegel had to show in order to convince the participants to spend an hour on the day of his diploma (diplôme assis*), sitting next to one another in an empty studio.
The e-mails pinned onto the wall show the numerous conversations that have preceded the artwork. Verbally and in writing, the artist justified his approach; he persuaded each one of the participants of the meaning, utility and power of this action.
By their presence - that day at the Beaux-Arts, the participants show their capacity as well as their will to enjoy free time. They leave behind the logic of producivity and decide to spend some time doing nothing. They open a breach in their workday and - for an hour time give up their usual productivity.
The austerity of the staging (the empty room, participants turned towards the blank wall) emphasises the absence of productivity. The four participants have stayed silent and inactive. They are not looking at anything in particular: they are simply there.
An osteopath, a sales professor, a commercial engineer and a director of the SNCF (French railway company) are there, pondering.
The documents on the wall give an idea of the reasons why certain people couldn’t or didn’t want to take part in this project. A subway driver or a baker for example could not afford to sacrifice an hour of their productive time. A psychoanalyst considered that hour too precious and chose to use it to pursue the writing of his book. The failure of dipomacy and negociation with those individuals makes us think about the link between their profession, their status and the worth of their time.
Diplomacy is not a performance. Neither is it a demonstration or an illustration: it’s a situation orchestrated by Kriegel. By moving the individuals and diverting the function of moments, the artist creates the conditions for possible events.
The way in which these individuals experience the artwork and the effective consequences of their absence at work are not important: only the gesture is meaningful.
The simplicity of means and economy of action generate a small but real disruption: Diplomacy is a subtly subversive artwork.
With Diplomacy, Kriegel imagines and creates a situation in the Debordian sense. For Guy Debord, ‘there is no revolutionary problem of leisure - a void to be filled - but a problem of free time, total freedom. (...) There is no freedom in a schedule without the possession of modern instruments of the construction of daily life. The use of such instruments will mark the leap from a utopian revolutionary art to an experimental revolutionary art.’
Diplomacy is a situationist artwork in its object but also in its method. Kriegel’s approach is not militant: the question of labour as alienating is raised at an angle, in an experience from which the viewer draws their own conclusions.
One notices Kriegel’s adhesion to the definition of situation as an artistic production ‘breaking radically with durable artworks. It cannot be separated from its immediate consumption and has a value in use essentially different from a conservation in the form of goods.’ Indeed, Diplomacy consists in a moment that is ‘perishable, ephemeral and unique’.
source of the quotes