Matthieu Laurette (b. 1970)
Deja Vu: The 2nd International Look-alike Convention at Castello di Rivoli (Making of) (2001-02)
By turning the laws of marketing and the mass media to his advantage, Matthieu Laurette incorporates his work within a strategy of infiltration and redistribution. In 1993, he established his artistic birth certificate by taking part in a TV game called Tournez manège where the female presenter asked him who he was, to which he replied: "A multime- dia artist". Since then he has been using TV as both a work-place and a work-tool, by instrumentalizing the ability of this medium to bring together not only means of produc- tion and broadcasting, but an audience to boot. In an initial phase, by assuming the status of passive viewer, which is offered to all citizens by the spectacle system, he took his place among the audience in a whole host of TV shows, putting together a series of Apparitions/Appearances--ready-made images which owed as much to Duchamp's idea of rendez-vous as they did to Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame. When the cable TV channel aptly named Spectacle offered him air time, he elected to make the video Le Spectacle n'est pas terminé/The Spectacle isn't Over (1998), where he got passers-by on the Champs-Elysées to read excerpts from Guy Debord's book, thus showing the extent to which the society of the spectacle had cynically encompassed his own criticism.
Being on TV can of course create a precarious form of fame, when it happens repeatedly, but not enough to earn a decent living. Based on a pragmatic line of thought about his means of subsistence, Matthieu Laurette introduced, with his Produits remboursés/Money- back Products, a system enabling him to meet his main needs. His method of consuming without spending anything is founded on the basic marketing system of the major food corporations. He feeds himself for nothing by only ever buying products with the rider: "Satisfied or your money back" or "Money back on first purchase". He makes the most of invitations from the media to broadcast the instructions for using his free consumer system. By merely systematically operating an advertising gimmick, Matthieu Laurette symbolically challenges the capitalist mercantile system.
The same system of turning rules and laws inside out in favour of the individual informs the Citizenship Project (1998-° ), which involves him in investigating the conditions for obtaining several different nationalities by making this precious information available on a website. His goal is to obtain as many nationalities as he can, by going beyond the restrictions set by the idea of citizenship, in a world that is then truly globalized. This critical power of the artistic proposal also lies at the root of the Laurette Bank Unlimited project (1999-° ), which will help him to keep control of an offshore capital.
Matthieu Laurette systematically introduces a trading system, which invites the specta- tor to play an active part in his operations. El Gran Trueque (2000), the TV game he has created, with its copyrighted concept, thus offers TV viewers in Bilbao a chance to buy consumer goods at knockdown prices. A Fiat Seicento is bartered and bought in exchange for a computer, which is in turn swapped for a TV set, and so on, right down a pack of six blue glasses. This paradoxical system scales objects down using a principle of deva- luation and equivalence. The negiotiations required for this loose, informal economy set up a contract between the artist and the onlooker, which certainly describes Matthieu Laurette's transgressive economy, intentionally placed under the aegis of recycling in a world in the grip of commodification.
Text previously published in the catalogue : La Biennale di Venezia — 49a Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte : Platea dell'Umanita' - Plateau of Humankind — Plateau der Menschheit — Plateau de l'humanité, Electa, Venice, 2001.