Allan McCollum - The Book of Shapes - Exhibitionmfc-michèle didier | Paris - Brussels - PARIS

The Book of Shapes
22 Mar - 18 May 2013
Inquiry about the exhibition

From Friday March 22 to Saturday May 18, 2013
Opening on March 21, 2013 from 6pm to 9pm in presence of the artist

The Book of Shapes
exhibition is based on the eponym publication by the artist Allan McCollum, produced in 2010 by mfc-michèle didier. As the title indicates,The Book of Shapes is specifically interested in shapes; it is directly related to The Shapes Project, a project initiated by McCollum in 2005. It is therefore interesting to take a moment to remember the origin of the MFC acronym that is part of the name of the publisher, mfc- michèle didier. MFC are the initials of « Maîtres de Forme Contemporains » (Masters of contemporary forms) and directly refer to the Bauhaus masters of form. The Bauhaus' faculty members were form masters, artists, craftsmen and workshop masters. Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919, after the merger of the Weimar Academy of Fine Art and the School of Arts and Crafts:

« Let us then create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist! Together let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity (...) », he said.

It was be more complex than he expected to build this future without any division where «autonomous creation» would equal «industrial creation». The Bauhaus masters didn't agree with Gropius' vision. If they concurred on the same goal, namely an art shared by all, they were categorically against the notion of turning towards industry. In reality, most of them already thought that the crafts and the arts weren't subject to the same rules. Yet they considered that there could be interactions and analogies between both practices. Contrarily, a relationship betweeb  art and industrial modes of production was for them impossible. For them mechanical and industrial production methods directly opposed the alleged goals of creative work. 

In a way, The Shapes Project consists of a possible extension of the Bauhaus' internal concerns and the ideological conflicts that developed between the defenders of the arts & crafts opposed to industrial production and the supporters of the disappearance of the limits between discipline and production process. Allan McCollum overcomes this contention, with the aim to make a work that has an almost ecumenical dimension.

More concretely, The Shapes Project consists of a system that generates more than thirty-one billion different shapes, made from a combination of six groups of elements. Each shape is supposed to be assigned to a single individual. Since the UN established that the world population would peak at over 9.1 billion people in 2050, this system offers an ample supply of shapes allowing everyone to have their own «form-shape», whose use could be left to each and every one's discretion.

Allan McCollum's The Book of Shapes publication is composed of two volumes. Volume I contains the patterns, while volume II includes the instructions and guides for creating all possible combinations made from these components. Based on the analysis of mass production, The Shapes Project presents a paradox: the artist's wish to produce a work of art at a massive scale, but ensuring at the same time that none of these objects, although created from the same mold, are similar. The Book of Shapes lets thus grasp the magnitude of this ambitious plan.

The exhibition at mfc-michèle didier gallery displays the publication along with a selection of Shapes made by Allan McCollum up to this day.

The foundations of The Shapes Project have today been laid, but Allan McCollum alone won't be able to complete the mission he wants to accomplish. The artist invites us thus all to contribute and to really materialize the monumental ensemble. Let's make the count in 2050.

Lecture about the Shapes by Allan McCollum himself

Thursday April 25, 2013 was held the presentation of The Shapes Project by the artist Allan McCollum, initiator of this major project in 2005. For the exhibition of The Book of Shapes, THE book of The Shapes Project, produced and published by mfc-michèle didier, we had invited the artist to come present the story behind the famous Shapes and which future he has in mind for them.

The Shapes Project provides a system for producing shapes, each shape different and destined to be assigned to a single individual. In order to do so, McCollum conceived a combinatory system, built from a shape made from 4, and later 6, groups of elements. The combinations made possible by this system are able to generate over 31 billion shapes,  which is an ambitious supply of shapes for everyone to have their own form «forme-shape», even if we take the important world population growth into consideration.

The Book of Shapes, consisting of two volumes, aims to the transmission of this system and makes The Shapes Project complete. Volume I contains the patterns. As for Volume II,  it includes the instructions and guides for creating all possible combinations of these components. 

The Shapes Project has therefore an eminently utopian dimension: to offer everyone a unique work of art of equal value, allowing each individual to own one of the 31 billion shapes and, perhaps, to set aside the frightening question of his own irremediable loss. The Book of Shapes let's us grasp the magnitude of this plan and the valued possibility for the conceptual art work to survive the artist's own demise.

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