Group – Paris, France
Bureau d’études are a Paris-based conceptual art group founded in 1998 by LéonoreBonaccini and Xavier Fourt. They produce maps that depict relationships and ownership ties between, for example, transnational organisations or the European Union. The maps typically reveal links between think tanks, financial firms, regulatory bodies, intelligence agencies, media groups, networks of consumer distribution, weapon makers, and satellite companies. Other maps explore anarchist positions, dissident knowledge producers, squats, and charts that relate to various forms of non-capitalist exchange. In their practice, knowledge becomes inherently political and the question of access to knowledge becomes paramount.
They collaborate with the unemployed, squatter communities and the sans papiers [undocumented migrants] through their self-organised space in Strasbourg, the SyndicatPotentiel, which operates within a ‘free economy’, as well as the UniversitéTangente which is a project for autonomous knowledge production. These projects were set up in frustration with the art world in order to produce and disseminate work collectively, outside the institutional space of the art gallery.
Bureau d’etudes’ collaborations with the critic Brian Holmes have produced an ongoing discourse on the possibilities of using cartography as part of social movements. Holmes describes their maps as ‘subjective shocks’ that through showing a totalitarian vision also highlight its weaknesses. To this end, Bureau d’etudes give free access to highly specialised knowledge by producing their maps cheaply in large print runs for specific activist events, such as the European Social Forum and the No Border camp. Their maps can therefore be seen as tools of spatial agency, promoting an understanding of the highly complex workings of advanced capitalism, a necessary step towards imagining a counter-position and effective resistance. They have influenced a growing number of artists, architects and geographers who are exploring the potential of mapping as an emancipatory tool, including Hackitectura and Counter Cartographies Collective, amongst others.
Bureau d’etudes, Governmentality of Information. (2003) http://utangente.free.fr/anewpages/govinfo.html.
Holmes, Brian, “Cartography of Excess (Bureau d’etudes, Multiplicity).” Mute: Culture and Politics After the Net (7)(2003). http://www.metamute.org/en/node/6243.
—, “Counter cartographies,” in Else/where: Mapping New Cartographies of Networks and Territories, eds. Janet Abrams and Peter Hall (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Design Institute, 2006).
—, Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society. http://brianholmes.wordpress.com/.
—, “Maps for the Outside: Bureau d’Etudes, or the Revenge of the Concept,” in Geography and the Politics of Mobility, ed. Ursula Biemann (Koln: Generali Foundation, 2003).
‘These maps aspire to be cognitive tools, distributing as broadly as possible the kind of specialized information that was formerly confined to technical publications. Yet on another level they are meant to act as subjective shocks, energy potentials, informing the protest-performances as they are passed from hand to hand, deepening the resolve to resist are they are utilized in common or alone.’
– Brian Holmes, ‘Maps for the Outside: Bureau d’Etudes, or the Revenge of the Concept’, in Geography and the Politics of Mobility, ed. Ursula Biemann (Koln: Generali Foundation, 2003), p. 167.
Created with Raphaël
Maps of the French State and its Relation to Living Bodies. This work was first shown in France in an agricultural context and is presented here in an exhibition on cartography. Zagreb, Croatia, 2007. Courtesy: Bureau d’études