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The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly

“The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly” is a tribute to those who always fail, by choice or exclusion, to fit a name, starting with the question of utterance as a performative act that cannot be reproduced or be enclosed in an identity, a political system, a language, and that is doomed to disappearance.
In his book How To Do Things With Words (1962), the philosopher of language J. L. Austin observes that a speech is made of a constative element but also, simultaneously, of a performative one: to say something is to do something at the same time. Once it is said it is done, once it is done it is said. And we immediately lose the control of this act/statement. This unique quality of enacting the speech was used during the 70s and the 80s by different semiologists, art historians and artists (body art, conceptual art, process art, feminist art, cultural activism, institutional critique etc.)
Today, in the shifts of global order, the collapse of ideological systems, the unknown of a post-pandemic context, it seems relevant for us to revisit such reference and to raise fascinating questions related to:
– How language and body can be thrown out of themselves instead of being used to signify, to tell, to narrate, to identify oneself or the other?
– How gap, discrepancy, misidentification, misunderstanding, silence – but also sometimes rough and blunt speech act – can be a precious practice to develop in different social, cultural and political contexts where things and people can be assigned to a place, a country, a culture, a nation, a language. Or simply monitored, silenced, censored and disciplined?
– How the performative speech act can be considered as a unique practice of displacement?
– How the practice of naming is a rich and complex one, holding in itself different layers
of name dropping, un-naming, de-naming, re-naming, especially when it refers to a private or collective history, colonization, adoption, deportation, concentration etc.?
Ocean & Wavz, Lost & Found (Self-Portrait), 2021, photograph. © Ocean & Wavz – OW
“The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly” takes the forms of


a sound
a sign
a space in between
a silence
a word
a picture
a gap
a montage
a combination
a cut
a noise
a friction
a construction
a blank
a body
a texture
a vibration
a resonance
a soul
a dis/re-appropriation
a trauma
a hope
a whisper
a disappearance




a video
an installation
a story
a music
a document
a fiction
a cinema genre
a musical genre
a visual display
Ocean & Wavz, Lost & Found (Escaped), 2021, photograph. © Ocean & Wavz – OW
“The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly” originates as a performative, processual and research project.


“The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly” reflects our very intimate feelings during the pandemic, the (self or imposed) quarantine period, new arbitrary legislation and regulation that generate a mix of profound isolation, separation, solitude, vertigo, as well as of intense focus on extremely detailed and essential physical percepts, affects and artistic creation.
Thus, the challenge of this project is to translate and to rearticulate these percepts and affects
in a critical, constructive, generous, individual and collective experience.


The performative dimension of The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly is also related to the concept and practice of the precious One Moment in Time (Whitney Houston) for each single individual and for the humanity in this post pandemic context.
One moment in time that can never be reproduced, recorded but only be experienced, remembered once in a lifetime by each individual and as a group of individuals contributing to this performance.
Each performative occurrence of The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly is unique and so will be (re)invented according to the specificity of each context.


Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance. To the degree that performance attempts to enter the economy of reproduction it betrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology. Performance’s being, like the ontology of subjectivity proposed here, becomes itself through disappearance.
Peggy Phelan, “The Ontology of Performance: Representation Without Reproduction”, in Unmarked , p.146.


The Ones With No Name is more deeply engaged in the question of the formation of language and genders, repeating but also observing that the mere fact of identifying and condemning an oppressor-speaker is necessary, helpful, efficient, but in the same time no longer enough. The point, now, is to invent new ways of acting through different forms of language and actions that transform the power of insult, indifference and oppression. There are still grounds for infiltrating the new order of discourses,  reacting to them from within, creating counter-representations in the form of new modalities for the re-signification of discourse, and for the legitimation of emergent forms.


Understanding performativity as a renewable action without origin or clear purpose suggests that discourse is not, in the end, constrained either by a determinate speaker or a context of origin. Discourse is not defined only by a social context, but also by its ability to break with such contexts. Performativity has its own social temporality, in which it is rendered possible precisely by the contexts with which it breaks. (…) The political possibility of reworking instances of discourse so as to bring them into play against the force of insult consists of reappropriating the power of discourse by deflecting it from its previous contexts.”
Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, London: Routledge, 1997.
Ocean & Wavz, The Ones With No Name, A Desire for Anomaly, 2021. Installation view of Curtain exhibition, 2021, Para Site, Hong Kong. Courtesy of Para Site, Hong Kong, 2021. Photo: Samson Cheung Choi Sang. © Ocean & Wavz – OW
“The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly” embraces the « mise en abyme » of the image as a pure artefact of artefact. Thus the importance of what can happen on the surface of a screen, a fabric, a sound, a curtain, an interstice, a distance or connection between two bodies, a word and a sound, a sound and a picture, a picture and a combination of sound/text/image.


The images and sounds of “The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly” do not pretend to speak about, around or besides a (hi)story, a locality, a people, a subjectivity.
It just utters/happens with paradoxical materials.
The friction, the collusion, the repetition, the distance between images, texts, sounds, silences, languages create the rest… as a re-presentation, a trauma, an affect, a dream, a critical question, a vibration.


I don’t care, I just do it  (…) When we shoot with a Bolex, we hold it to a place, not exactly at the level of the brain, a little bit lower, and not exactly at the level of the heart, slightly higher… And when we wind up the spring of the Bolex, we give to the camera an artificial life… We live continuously inside the situation, in a temporal continuum, but we shoot only by bits of squirting, as much as the spring can allow itWe never stop to cut the reality of what we are shootingWe take it back again and again.
Jonas Mekas, « The Film-Diary (about Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania) » in The Avant-Garde Film – A Reader of Theory and Criticism, P. Adams Sitney, New York: New York University Press, Anthology Film Archives, 1978.


Jonas Mekas’ statement is extremely precious for us today. Not to refer to such practice as a nostalgic way of making image but, on the contrary, to question its validity (or not)  today: it is an evidence that the Bolex is now replaced by digital bank of existing, polished images and by cell phone camera. So the challenge is to dig into such radical changes and practices of making, editing the image (but also sound and text), re-appropriating a so-called reality with such spirit of cutting, squirting, editing, uttering.


“The Ones With No Name, A Desire For Anomaly”
the act
the activity
the action
the activism


We openly claim our affiliation to a decisive moment of cultural activism in the 80s when anti-AIDS activists radically reinvented the economy of making and consuming images in the age of capitalism and neo-liberalism. Many of them were artists, writers, curators, musicians, art historians and they decided to quit their own individual position in favor of collective actions, often ephemeral and anonymous, or to contaminate their own field of practices with unexpected sounds, images, texts, out of the framework of the institution. During the 80s and still today, this revolutionary moment was very much neglected, despised or too lately acknowledged by the (left) academia, the artistic institution and the art communities.
Such practices were considered as being not enough subtle, elegant, meaningful, complex, beautiful and being too much straightforward, provocative, radical, blunt, reductive etc.
But it is just a fact that they were at that time tremendously efficient into revealing the exclusion of minorities in dominant media, giving and accelerating the access to health care and treatment, negotiating the compromise of governmental inactions with greedy pharmaceutical industries.


Working on the artificiality  and the mirroring effect of the image, we are also very much inspired by a « camp attitude » that still exist today and had different variations in the past, that consist of duplicating, repeating, exaggerating the image in such a way that the narrative and the form enclosed in the « legitimated », « commodified »  image, often perceived as « natural », suddenly appears as a codified and entirely constructed one because of social norms, intellectual references, artistic (exclusive) disciplines, gender identification.


That is also why we are quite suspicious of academic and curatorial concepts of horizontality, equality, solidarity, ecology.
Not because we do not believe in this (on the contrary) but because these concepts are often used by artists, curators, museums as mere concepts inside their own intellectual comfort zone and standards, instead of acting them as a critical practice in/outside their institutions, social status or directly in the daily life of public or private spaces. Means taking the risk of making these concepts simply a practice that is able to reflect, to act and to question differences, rather than levelling every people into a scheme, a system, an identity, a name.
From a fundamental and necessary legal framework of equality (human rights, democratic participation etc.) to the on going practice of the differences between us, that is for us the real meaning of equality.
Ocean & Wavz, Lost & Found (Heaven), 2021, photograph. Copyright©2021 Singapore WAVZ PTE LTD. All rights reserved.
But of course, claiming such affiliation to cultural activism for us is also to recognize the limits and even the impossibility of re-enacting activism today.
Just because of:
– a dramatic change in the geopolitics
– the raise of new forms of authoritarianism
– the ongoing repetition of already existing institutional formats of curating, exhibiting, thinking.
– the ingestion of arbitrary regulation, surveillance, censorship by and in in people’s mind and body
– the overall control and manipulation of people’s movements, speech acts on social media


That is also why we feel so close to Lee Kit’s blunt statement that overtly addresses the silent compromise with such apparatuses of control as a person, an institution, a country:


In fact, lately I find you repulsive.
The damage was done by you alone, but the trouble you caused harms everyone.
You are a hypocrite in a sincere world.
In your heart, you are convinced that no one understands you.
But to tell the truth, it doesn’t matter much anyway.
You are still just as disgusting.
Slowly, you begin to think of hypocrisy as sincerity. Slowly, hypocrisy becomes sincerity.
When the neck grows weary and aches for a massage, he misses his head.
He feels as though the bright lights in the city where he grew up gradually transformed into a kind of sound.
It is like the sound of bowing your head.
When you look down, every place seems the same.
Lee Kit, Taipei, 2019
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Heman Chong – Displaced, 2016


Heman Chong’s exhibition at the Rockbund Art Museum brings the visitor to the threshold of paradoxical emotions and concepts. 
Space is too empty
Object is too much 
Sound is too loud
Display is too artificial
Picture is too large 
Transition is too disturbing
Emotion is too unstable
The act of making an image in Heman Chong’s art never resume to an immersive, seductive, narrative display.
Solitude in the act of seeing is mixed with frictions to social political address. 
Language never tells the truth. It is an act of translation, transition, transformation.
Gossip is gossip is gossip.
Deploying layers of texts and images that are made of disruptions, contaminations, interruptions, extensions, combinations, additions.
From the entrance of the Museum the visitor confronts an erotic kind of red and yellow neon sign flashing the Chinese characters: 书书书 which means BOOK BOOK BOOK and which has the similar pinyin sound of  SHŪ SHŪ SHŪ which means LOSE LOSE LOSE.
Such word-sound-visual play announces Heman’s obsessive love of looping with text and image as a disruptive process of making and experiencing the picture. 
Book as a sign is soon materialized at the reception lobby where the Museum’s souvenir shop has been transformed into a full bookshop. People enjoy leafing through books but it appears that the majority of these books are related to law: how strange. Law about law, law of physics, law for inventing of language, China and law. But this Legal Bookshop is “contaminated” with other books related to poetry, lego play, history, art, science fiction, fantasy. The selection has been made by Ken Liu, a speculative fiction writer, a legal expert, a translator, a programmer who has blown up the codes of writing.
There is never a stable and fixed message in Heman’s pictures. 
A text consists of multiple writings, issuing from several cultures and entering into dialogue with each other, into parody, into contestation; but there is one place where this multiplicity is collected, united, and this place is not the author, as we have hitherto said it was, but the reader: the reader is the very space in which are inscribed, without any being lost, all the citations a writing consists of; the unity of a text is not in its origin, it is in its destination; but this destination can no longer be personal: the reader is a man without history, without biography, without psychology; he is only that someone who holds gathered into a single field all the paths of which the text is constituted.
Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”, 1968, Manteia, Translated by Richard Howard
So let’s go straight up to the Museum’s sixth floor where the space is brightly white, contrasting with the dark dimmed bookshop on the ground floor: “trapped” into a glass platform, a “reader” is reading on his/her cell phone the Baidu Baike (equivalent of Wikipedia) news of the day with the rule given by Heman Chong to systematically browse the Baidu text from the fifth link to other fifth link. The monochord voice of the reader is broadcasted through “speakers” all over the Museum café where the visitor can sit, walk, listen and look through the window glass the reader. But not easy to rest and chat in this pure white cube filled with sound. Such performance highlights the strange relation of the visitor his/her position of uttering/producing words, language and knowledge: it becomes and evidence that the act of reading is not only an act of ready it also an act of translation: Baidu Baike highlights the automatism/obsession of language as the site of knowledge production but in the same time it questions the reciprocity and the conditions of exchange. It is a full act of dissemination, mediation, appropriation, transformation of words. Translation is not about fixed meaning but travelling words. 
In Baidu Baike we are facing the extreme saturation of space with words, opposite to what Mallarme was calling for the spacing of words and the spacing of reading. By acting/reading this saturation of knowledge, Heman Chong brings back the question of thought and speaking as a real process of alienation. As Jacques Derrida was stating: 
Because to speak is to know that thought must become alien to itself in order to be pronounced and to appear. It wishes, then, to take itself back by offering itself.
Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, London Routledge, 2005 (1968), translation Alan Bass, p.383.
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Paola Pivi – Innumerable, 2012

SHARE, BUT IT’S NOT FAIR is a pretty strange title for an exhibition that puts on show four hundred red and yellow cushions hung from the ceiling, twenty-four bear skins which form a loop in space, more than one million white pearls which spring forth from a painting, nine fountains of colored liquids, innumerable threads of multicolored ribbons photographed, a multitude of miniature vases and chairs transformed into lamps, a print on canvas showing an airplane flying upside-down and transporting a community of individuals busy in their day-to-day activities.


At first sight, the works express nothing but the power and simplicity of forms, the diversity and generosity of colors and the subtlety of the ordering of objects in space. The first perception that predominates in the exhibition SHARE, BUT IT’S NOT FAIR is thus one of visual and aesthetic jubilation.


A specialist of contemporary art, accustomed to cultivating a necessary critical distance from works of art and often demanding from them a form that is, at a minimum, serious and conceptual, could very well misinterpret Paola Pivi’s œuvre in reducing it to a simple strategy of aesthetic seduction.
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Adel Abdessemed – The Power to Act, 2011

The Power to Act

The Power to ActAdel Abdessemed - The Power to Act


Organized around an extensive essay by Larys Frogier, this reference monograph offers an overview of Abdessemed’s work.


Adel Abdessemed (born 1971 in Constantine, lives and works in Paris and Berlin) deconstructs identity codes, tackling head-on the tensions that permeate our society. His works, with their typical simplicity—sculptural installations, drawings, photographs, videos and performances—echo precise facts and familiar situations, but go beyond narrative commentary and militant criticism. Adel Abdessemed questions, among other things, the social and economic status of the artist in a system where his foothold is slight, by shrewdly keeping a distance in a gesture of subversive and committed resignation.

Abdessemed refuses to be limited to a single ideology. In his early works he passionately tackled religious, sexual, and taboos subjects and his later exhibitions have often focused on the theme of global violence. In an interview with Elisabeth Lebovici he stated, “I do not live between two cultures. I am not a postcolonial artist. I am not working on the scar and am not mending anything. I am just a detector … In the public sphere, I use passion and rage. Nothing else. I don’t do illusions.”

Sometimes reduced to a simple word, as in “Mohammedkarlpolpot” (1999), a condensation of names evoking totalitarism and religion, and sometimes complex and monumental installations such as “Habibi” (2004), a suspended skeleton of 17 meters propelled by a jet engine, Abdessemed’s practice belongs to a new generation of artists who appeared recently on the French art scene, looking to offer another perspective on culture and identity.

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Paola Pivi – Like Lightning, 2010

Paola Pivi works at thrusting the image into the world: sixteen long metal tubes from which coloured liquids pour uninterruptedly (It’s a Cocktail Party, 2008); a huge steel structure reaching from floor to ceiling in a crystallisation of myriad, multicoloured artificial gemstones (If you like it, thank you. If you don’t like it, I am sorry. Enjoy anyway, 2007); a dummy polar bear covered with vivid feathers (What is My Name?, 2007); a helicopter resting on its propeller (A Helicopter upside down in a Public Space, 2006); two live zebras photographed in a vista of snow and ice (Untitled, zebras, 2003); and more. 


Pivi’s works are the outcome of weird but extremely, cogently precise orderings of things: representations often striking in terms not only of their shape, colour and lighting, but above all of their capacity to assert themselves as lightning-like intrusions into reality – with no narrative gambit, no symbolic justifications, no metaphorical or allegorical convolutions. It is as if, inevitable and unchallengeable, they are colliding with reality. They are there because they have to be there. Unshrinkingly the artist works towards material expression of an image that has taken over her mind and is driven, imperiously, to find existence in the world. In other words, the art of Paola Pivi systematically gambles on images with the power to be more real than any other reality.


Obviously the experience of the real must be understood as the testing and manifestation of an object incapable of being symbolised through language – unlike reality, which is already a form of representation of the world. 


All of which makes Pivi’s works infinitely delicious and disquieting.  

Nonetheless, the artist’s mode of image production can be reduced neither to creation of works through surrealistically unconscious process, nor to visual presentation of some private or public trauma. Pivi simply sets out to situate in the real world an image that seems more real than real. 


Or to put it another way: the image is fantasy within reality.  


Her titles often set in motion the beginnings of a fictional narrative, but one immediately suspended so as to reinforce the works’ enigmatic character. In other cases the titles are purely descriptive or testify almost tritely to a perceptual state.   


Pivi works with pre-existing, decidedly ordinary materials, as well as such living creatures as the horses, ostriches, dogs, giraffes, llamas and butterflies that activate her many photographs and performances. And yet the conjunction of these materials and creatures generates extraordinary situations, projects that seem a priori unimaginable, technically aberrant and semantically inconceivable. Who else would have thought of setting two ostriches afloat in a little boat or making a painterly photograph out of an alligator covered with whipped cream crawling over brown earth (Fffffffffffffffffff, 2006)? And once these events have happened – once they have been made visual – they suddenly seem self-evident, yet with no diminution of their mystery and their capacity to stop us in our tracks. 


It is this realisation that sparks the sublime in the aesthetic experience of her works, yet without luring the viewer into the trap of mere vacuous contemplation. 


It was in this spirit that Pivi created for the La Criée Art Centre in Rennes If you like it, thank you. If you don’t like it, I am sorry. Enjoy anyway, a huge steel structure entirely covered with fake, multicoloured gemstones. Entering the exhibition space, the visitor comes face to face with a crystallisation of colours calculated to induce contradictory perceptions: the lightness and simplicity of the work contradict its monumental aspect; the visual appeal of the stones is concurrent with a sense of menace induced by the impassable wall of the grid; and the work’s flashy superficiality clashes with a latent intimation of violence. 


It’s a Cocktail Party, first shown at Portikus in Frankfurt, offers sixteen vats hooked up to pumps and towering steel tubes from which pour olive oil, water, syrup, glycerine, red wine, black ink, espresso coffee and other liquids. Visually the visitor is hemmed in by splendid monochrome gushings, while the steel structures stationed within the space present as perfect Minimalist sculptures. At the same time the sound of the liquids and the mix of odours take the visitor into a work in a state of perpetual transformation, a generator of Dionysian chaos.  


In her art Pivi displays an endless fascination with the infinite possibilities of matter and form, yet ensures that her quest never loses even a fraction of its gentle mockery, subversive force and critical vigilance. In this respect Alicudi Project is magisterial: in 2001 Pivi began her 1:1 scale photographic reproduction of the of the 5.1 square kilometre island of Alicudi off the northern coast of Sicily. Completion of the task will ultimately require the printing of 3472 rolls of PVC, each 50 x 5 metres, but the work’s visual force is already present in the wild idea of the 1:1 scale and the ongoing unrolling of the fragments in different venues. 


This might appear a titanic undertaking, but in respect of this island it is, for the artist, quite simply a modest personal response: here we are at the opposite pole from territorial ownership.
Art for Paola Pivi is certainty.
Not as a form of authoritarianism or binding truth, but rather as commitment to making images more powerful than any conventional, totalitarian depiction of reality.  


Larys Frogier