Principles of Poetical Economy

Robert Filliou


Mixed Media, 95 × 140 cm.
Materials: soft lead pencil on 22 paper cards, stamp, hooks, string, installation

Collection: Collection Michel Jolivet, Lyon.

Robert Filliou may be regarded as an activist who wants to substitute a poetical economy for the political economy, but also as an entrepreneur (who hardly made any money), a pedagogue (in theory and practice) and a mystic (whose last project was to be a three years, three months and three days long meditation retreat in a Buddhist monastery in Dordogne).

Excerpt of the conversation between Robert Filliou (RF) and Irmeline Lebeer (IL), Flayosc, France, August 1976.

RF: Through my experience of art, rather early in the 1960s (no later than in 1963), I began to talk about the Principles of Poetical Economy. I developed this little by little, remembering that all economic theories, like Marx’s, start with developing a new theory of value. I told myself I should do for our times what Marx had done for his. That was ‘tongue-in-cheek’. And above all, Fourier had done it already. Therefore the small publications that I'm preparing right now – Principes d’économie poétique (Principles of Poetical Economy), Dessins sans voir – Desseins sans savoir (Drawings without Seeing: Designs without Knowing) – are all dedicated to Fourier. Grâce à Fourier (Thanks to Fourier), that’s the first page. I moved from the poetical economy to researching a new theory of value and practice. These are theoretical points of view that I don’t even know how to apply myself.
            I speak about the idea of ‘Work as Play, Work as Reward’ already in Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts. I must say I haven’t made much progress since. This is a kind of research that should be subsidised. I remember that in 1973, when Allan Kaprow and I were in Berlin at the time of ADA, we visited East Berlin for the first time. While we were walking, he said to me: ‘When I go back to the United States, I’ll try to propose the creation of an Institute of Futurology. That way, we wouldn’t need to bother with art galleries, schools and universities. We’d be a group of artists working and being paid like normal researchers.’ But even Allan, who has good organisational skills, couldn’t do it in the US. I leave it to others to do this kind of thing, which I talk about in Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts. I make them available to others, because I can’t do them myself. We should have teams. We need to live. We should be paid. This continues in the stage of ‘Art Fiction’ or ‘Life Fiction’. This, I think, is the relation between the two.

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