Les Immatériaux

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Exhibition held at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris on 28 March - 15 July 1985. Commissioned by Jean-François Lyotard and Thierry Chaput.

Set in a radically new scenography, with exhibits from science, art, and high-tech industry, Lyotard and Chaput posed the question: Can the ‘immaterials’ change the relationship of humans with the material, as it is fixed in the tradition of modernity, for example in the Cartesian programme: ‘to turn oneself into the master and owner of nature’? Lyotard believed that the development from an industrial society (handling matter) to an information society (processing data) would have profound effects on the human spirit. Now, he presumed, when technologies, above all telecommunications and computer sciences, are able to take over the tasks of the logos – by storing and processing dematerialised data – the relationship of humans with the material will have to change fundamentally.
New technologies were simultaneously the starting point for Lyotard’s philosophising Les Immatériaux, the central model for the exhibition’s layout, and the principal artistic means of the exhibition. Through the large number of computers, projections, and other high-tech devices, the exhibition as a whole functioned as a vast database, in which visitors, objects, scenographic elements, and sounds were in a steady exchange with one another. With these features Lyotard and Chaput transformed a picture of the future into an actuality, where visitors would glimpse the disconcerting experiences they would encounter a few years hence. In our lecture we will show how Lyotard and Chaput used the exhibition as a complex medium to sensitise the visitors to the effects of new technologies on society and individuals. The starting point of our presentation will be Lyotard’s educational-philosophical principles, which had extensive consequences for the medium “exhibition”, for the role of the museum visitor, for the selection of the exhibits, and for the design of rooms, paths, light, sound and textual information. [1]

  • Bernard Blistène, "Les Immatériaux: A Conversation with Jean-François Lyotard" [2]
  • Anthony Hudek & Antonia Wunderlich, "Between Tomorrow and Yesterday: charting Les Immatériaux as technoscientific event", [3]
  • Antonia Wunderlich, "Les Immatériaux von Jean-François Lyotard. Der Philosoph als Kurator" [4] (German)
  • Ine Gevers, "Practices that matter", [5]
  • Simon Biggs, "Re: <thingist> immaterial semiotics", [6]