Assembly (Generic & Specific)

Exhibition    Rendez-vous    Things


  • From the 10th October 2015 to the 3rd January 2016
    Private view Friday 9th October at 18pm30

AGENCY: name given to administrative organisations charged with tasks relating to information, to coordination; commercial establishment serving as an intermediary between clientele and professionals; by metonymy, the word also designates the buildings, the offices of an agency. In the etymological essence of the noun, we ultimately discover the principle of action (from the Latin agere) in a broad sense: the agency houses that which acts, operates — the body taking part in the production of particular phenomena.

When Kobe Matthys began his “list of things” activity in 1992, he embraced the term Agency in all its acceptations: to inform, to coordinate, to link notions originating in external professional, social and cultural fields, and to consider the space that contains the content. By choosing this word rather than his own name, he was already calling into question the nature of his activity and his status as an artist.

But what is in this “list of things” that Kobe Matthys has been elaborating for twenty years? It refers to judicial procedures that deal with intellectual property, cases where the author’s action is not obvious, affairs that create jurisprudence and sometimes bring about controversial debates. These are concrete cases, taken directly from life; they call into question trademarks, copyright, patents, they concern objects such as a frisbee, a boat, an exhaust pipe, a corkscrew with rabbit ears, a record sleeve, a performance…

These things frequently express a particular tension, between originality and banality, the individual and the collective, body and mind, nature and culture. Kobe Matthys pays particular attention to objects that do not fit within any clear category, and which sometimes have uncertain links with the art world. Illusions, burlesque spectacles, photographic reproductions, works dictated by the spirit world; forms that are all difficult to define, where the creators are poorly identified, or where the use-value obliterates their artistic dimension. This is precisely the heart of what Agency is aiming at: the exercise of doubt, that Marcel Duchamp used so well, and the attempt/temptation to define art’s limits in the face of objects which go beyond those limits. What is an artistic act? By insistently seeming to ask this question, Kobe Matthys emphasises the subversive aspects of playing with the boundaries of art.

Who is he? An enthusiastic investigator into the protocols of the judicial world, but also an archivist, a collector, a lecturer and a curator... His things are displayed in space according to a very rigid visual system: the installation is made up of metallic shelves, on which are disposed plain wooden boxes filled with documents and items of evidence (printed texts, press cuttings, books, DVDs, etc.), all numbered and available to the public. Specific cases (the object and a summary of legal opinions) are also presented on tables, and the suspended lighting hanging over them creates the atmosphere of an archive. All of these litigious objects are very ordinary, which helps, perhaps, to bring out the irreducible, unsolvable, nature of each case. Classification, here, is accompanied by a kind of perpetual surpassing, where the real can be approached according to new rules and from unexpected angles. It recalls Borges’s Atlas, quoted by Foucault in his work The Order of Things, as a model of a system that «shattered, as you read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of your thought»1

The public needs to participate to activate this flow of information: the reader sorts, chooses and makes her own way, combining the isolated elements at his disposal and putting them together to articulate a coherent assemblage.

For Le Grand Café, Agency is proposing a selection from his list of things. The first family of controversies explores the following problem: how can the commonplace be included in artistic practices? “Many art practices get classified as common, because they are considered utilitarian. The design of useful articles, no matter how satisfying, gets exempted of copyright protection as works of art. Intellectual property law defines useful article as “having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information.””2
The second series of controversies concerns the question of machines: how can non-humans sometimes be included in artistic practices?
“Certain art practices involve collaborations with non-humans, including machines. At the same time copyright law seems to eliminate non-humans as authors. Intellectual property law describes authors as “the person who effectively is, as near as he can be, the cause of the work which is produced”. Although the definition of “authors” does not explicitly refers to humans, it implies that humans are the intended group. Machine made things, get exempted of copyright protection as works of art. Intellectual property law excludes non-humans as authors.”3 These are some research directions that are, incidentally, quite close to the programme of political ecology described by the philosopher Bruno Latour. Noting the impact of scientific discoveries on the organisation of society, Latour expresses the wish that the country’s Constitution take into account not just humans but also “non-humans”. He proposes the creation of a “parliament of things” with this in mind, whereby things would be represented by scientists or persons recognised as competent in a particular field, in the same way as citizens are by traditional elected representatives.4
These two series of controversies will be brought together and given form by Kobe Matthys during meetings that he calls Assemblies. In the company of experts, he presents real cases and opens up a frequently passionate and humorous debate, inviting at the same contributions from the public. An experience of dialogue, argument and controversy prevails: the things, presented in the form of texts, discussions and material objects, are like stories or metaphors raising not just legal issues, but also philosophical and artistic ones. In his way of seeking to explore all the mechanisms of intellectual property, Kobe Matthys sketches out a kind of ecology of artistic practices, a science of relations to the world around us, or as the biologist Ernst Haeckel defines it, ecology as “science as the conditions of existence”.
As a live extension to the exhibition, these three calls to the public will add to Agency’s unending quest – in which Kobe Matthys’s position is not unlike that of Don Quixote, a character about whom Michel Foucault, once again, gave a lovely definition of the poet: “he who, beneath the named, constantly expected differences, rediscovers the buried kinships between things, their scattered resemblances”.5

Eva Prouteau

1 - Michel Foucault, Les Mots et les Choses, Paris 1966, éditions Gallimard, preface, p. 7-11
2 & 3 - Kobe Matthys, traduction de l’anglais Eva Prouteau
4 - Bruno Latour, Nouvelles règles de la méthode scientifique, Revue Projet, 2001.
5 - Michel Foucault, Les Mots et les Choses, Paris 1966, editions Gallimard, p. 62-63



  • Thing 002112 (Pull It): Sunday 11th October at 3pm
  • Thing 001796 (Millionaire of the month): Sunday 15th November at 3pm
  • Thing 000868 (Taxidermist mannequins): Sunday 6th December at 3pm
    Free entrance


What if commons become mutually included within art practices? (functionality)

thing 000493 (Dentlab)
thing 000495 (Quattro)
thing 000496 (Windows 3.0)
thing 000781 (Feist 1983 Directory)
thing 000797 (Second National Bank of Gotham City)
thing 000840 (Auto Drive)
thing 000848 (Dannon Healthy Habit Cookbook and Great Tasting Recipes) *
thing 000849 (Rodigy Truffle)
thing 000852 (nose masks) *
thing 000864 (SOT-1, SRC-1, SRC-4A and SWTF-3)*
thing 000885 (Daley Bicentennial Plaza)
thing 000891 (Moth Europe) *
thing 000892 (Liza) *
thing 000934 (Cherry Ripe)
thing 000969 (advertisement of a circus)
thing 000970 (Explosion Zeichnungen)
thing 000986 (McClintock)
thing 001009 (Koosh) *
thing 001015 (Skyy’s vodka photographs)*
thing 001029 (Letty Lynton) *
thing 001039 (ABC Green Version I)
thing 001042 (children sweaters)
thing 001049 (Easy Pin Shell Forms)
thing 001051 (fabric design)
thing 001053 (fabric pattern)
thing 001054 (rhomboids knit pattern)
thing 001055 (Stars and Clouds)
thing 001056 (cloth print)
thing 001057 (envelops)
thing 001058 (belt buckle)*
thing 001059 (Cycloops 2107)
thing 001060 (Missing Persons) *
thing 001061 (scarf cap)
thing 001062 (costumes) *
thing 001063 (bridal dresses)
thing 001064 (lace design No. 3076)
thing 001065 (toe socks)
thing 001066 (base table lamp)
thing 001072 (casino uniforms)
thing 001075 (It’s’ a Jungle Out There) *
thing 001077 (flower corsages)*
thing 001095 (E.T.-The Extra-terrestrial)
thing 001143 (stuffed toy animals)
thing 001149 (shoe sole)
thing 001169 (Frisbee) *
thing 001170 (Kenwood A103)
thing 001172 (cartridges)
thing 001173 (Tyco bricks) *
thing 001175 (Marguerite)
thing 001177 (exhaust system) *
thing 001194 (ceramic models of a cocker spaniel)
thing 001198 (lamp)
thing 001203 (Jewelers’ Index)
thing 001229 (Saint Rita and Saint Theresa)
thing 001241 (mezzotints of The Blue Boy and Pinkie)
thing 001243 (post office Kayenta, Arizona)
thing 001262 (lighting fixture)
thing 001275 (cemetery monument)
thing 001277 (children’s wear)
thing 001278 (antique telephone)
thing 001281 (Flying Eagle I)
thing 001290 (light house hole)
thing 001292 (lobby)
thing 001312 (Illustrated Catalogues of James N. Clow and Son, Manufacturers and Dealers in Supplies for Plumbers, Steam and Gas Fitters, Water and Gas Works, Railroads and Contractors) *
thing 001359 (Chico Mendez Mural Garden)
thing 001367 (broderies du grand parterre)
thing 001371 (grass Reflected Tips)
thing 001388 (Kenzo pont Neuf)
thing 001401 (Original Stormtrooper)*
thing 001406 (Amazon)
thing 001407 (woolen sweaters)
thing 001433 (scarves)
thing 001445 (Elegance Constellation)
thing 001447 (dress patterns)
thing 001448 (china)
thing 001452 (Orion) *
thing 001453 (Thrifticheck banks)
thing 001460 (wire wheel covers)
thing 001461 (Stuffed Monkey, Stuffed Hippo, Stuffed Fish and Stuffed Frog)
thing 001462 (eyeglass display cases)
thing 001469 (dress)
thing 001535 (Introductory Language Work)
thing 001637 (bus stop)
thing 001653 (Liberty Lid)
thing 001654 (jungle animal heads)
thing 001798 (Chinese Kitchen n1 menu)
thing 001819 (Awning Grids)
thing 001820 (carpet samples)
thing 001821 (Westerly Stud)
thing 001822 (California Costume Collections)
thing 001823 (iron tables)
thing 001824 (Halloween costumes)
thing 001825 (wrapping paper)
thing 001868 (Niagara)
thing 001904 (slurry pump)
thing 001907 (Female Treasure) *
thing 001913 (T-6985 Group)
thing 001914 (clothing on stuffed toy bears)
thing 001919 (tiger costume)
thing 001921 (But’N Up Vest and Apron Dress)
thing 002083 ()
thing 002096 (technical drawing)
thing 002098 (Cuisenaire Rods) *
thing 002099 (The Sharp Featured Man)
thing 002100 (JS 9000)
thing 002101 (tables racing guide)
thing 002109 (Hysport fabrics)
thing 002110 (Carry Cape)
thing 002111 (Mink and Tangerine)
thing 002112 (Pull It) *
thing 002113 (red frock)
thing 002114 (pants)
thing 002122 (hookah)
thing 002123 ()
thing 002124 ()
thing 002125 ()
thing 002126 ()
thing 002127 ()
thing 002128 ()
thing 002129 ()
thing 002130 ()
thing 002131 ()
thing 002132 ()

What if non-humans creations become mutually included within art practices? (machines)

thing 000770 (Zwischen Zirkuskuppel und Manege)
thing 000782 (Bruits de la Nature nr2 ) thing 000800 (String of Puppies)
thing 000810 (Thierry Mugler Photograher)
thing 000841 (TAF and METAR)
thing 000845 (Good Night Ernie, Good Night Elmo) thing 000864 (SOT-1, SRC-1, SRC-4A and SWTF-3 )
thing 000868 (taxidermist mannequins) thing 000885 (Daley Bicentennial Plaza) thing 000889 (Compliments of Ehrich Bros. 8th Ave. & 24th St.)
thing 000971 (Flower in Flower Pot)
thing 001012 (Bridgewater’s labels)
thing 001025 (beanies) thing 001026 (Preston the Pig and Louie the Cow)
thing 001045 (glass-in-glass jellyfish)
thing 001077 (Double Gardenia)
thing 001081 (pin in the shape of a bee) thing 001085 (IQ200+)
thing 001098 (No. 212 Senior Swan, No. 345 Donkey, No. R-350 Life Size Deer, No. 353-R Stanthing North Woods Fawn, No. 355-R Reclining North Woods Fawn, No. 357-R Medium Size Standing White Tail Deer, and No. 447 1/2 Lady Grecian)
thing 001143 (stuffed toy animals) thing 001144 (Prehistoric Pets)
thing 001145 (jewelry) thing 001155 (The Cardinal)
thing 001193 (Tea Song Rose)
thing 001194 (cocker spaniel)
thing 001195 (Precious Cargo)
thing 001198 (banana leaf lamp)
thing 001199 (Baroque Rose)
thing 001209 (lilac)
thing 001210 (turkey decoy)
thing 001226 (Bingo!)
thing 001227 (Scramble 2 )
thing 001228 (The Bible Code)
thing 001229 (St. Rita and St. Theresa)
thing 001230 (Fighting Dinosaurs)
thing 001232 (K.C. Munchkin)
thing 001233 (Flower Plaid)
thing 001234 (Gravures sur bois des plantes) thing 001236 (Cats)
thing 001241 (Blue Boy)
thing 001252 (repertoire Hank Williams)

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