30 Years after Les Immatériaux: Art, Science, and Theory
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In 1985, the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard curated a groundbreaking exhibition called Les Immatériaux at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The exhibition showed how telecommunication technologies were beginning to impact every aspect of life. At the same time, it was a material demonstration of what Lyotard called the postmodern condition. This book features a previously unpublished report by Jean-François Lyotard on the conception of Les Immatériaux and its relation to postmodernity. Reviewing the historical signifi cance of the exhibition, his text is accompanied by twelve contemporary meditations. The philosophers, art historians, and artists - among them Bernard Stiegler, Sven-Olov Wallenstein, Anne-Elisabeth Sejten and Jean-Louis Boissier - analyse this important moment in the history of media and theory, and refl ect on the new material conditions brought about by digital technologies in the last 30 years.
ends of the arrangement of this world and the enjoyment of this world, the enjoyment of knowing, of power; and that, fundamentally, if we think the new technologies under the category of creation, if we continue to maintain this idea as if all the new technologies did was to fulfil this desire, this infinity of modern will that is called creation, then I believe we miss something that is very important in this technological mutation, in this third technological revolution, as it is known –
Louvre’s Galerie du Bord de l’Eau. It is not the façade of a house, it is the equivalent of the façade of a house but inside a house. That is, the gallery in its very construction is like a road within a building, within a palace—a road which, through the works shown, initially and essentially perspectivist paintings, opens onto an outside. Which means that the eye wanders as in a street, but what it sees through the windows are not scenes that it might see in the street. The visitor is on the
sensibility, of the knowledge and the power of man (futility, life, death), the modes of life (in relation to work, to habits, to food, … etc.).” 3 A constant return to the postmodern condition became a general method of Lyotard’s philosophical thinking to go beyond the modern imagination, and guided the construction of the exhibition which was, in his own words, a “manifestation”, a “non-exhibition”. 1 Jean-François Lyotard, La Condition postmoderne (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1979). 2
countries), or adapts itself to others’ technics and becomes subordinated to them. Culture here acts as a stabiliser of technics, either limiting it or promoting it. However, following the sixteenth century Chinese culture did not have the tendency to advance its own technics, which did not happen until the nineteenth century, when it was forced to adopt Western science and democracy. The situation is different in Japan, which had the consciousness of “overcoming modernity” before China started
and so it is merely high time that ecological approaches to the various forms of pollution of the biosphere are finally supplemented by an eschatological approach to technical progress, to this finiteness without which dear old globalisation itself risks becoming a life-size catastrophe.41 Virilio condemned the Enlightenment’s notion of progress, and the idea that the Orient cannot escape from the progress of the Occident. He quoted the French-Iranian philosopher Daryush Shayegan, who claimed