Goaty Tapes, US
Robert Filliou is one of the more elusive figures of European Conceptualism, and this tape is perhaps his most obscure document.
Born in France, Filliou fought in the Resistance during World War II before emigrated to Los Angeles, where he worked as a laborer at the Coca-Cola bottling factory. He went on to earn a Masters in Economics at UCLA while supporting himself as a night watchman, busboy, and research assistant. Filliou then traveled to South Korea, where he worked for United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency.
He launched his creative endeavors only later, in 1960, at thirty-four years old. Like other latecomers (Marcel Broodthaers, Yves Klein) Filliou sat awkwardly between art movements, pivoting between Fluxus, Neo-Dada, and early Conceptualism. His sculptures, performances, and writings were primarily a means of articulating his theories: the Eternal Network, the Creative Economy, and Permanent Creation, which salutes Antonio Gramsci’s “Permanent Revolution”. But Filliou subscribed to his own, curious brand of Socialism—a utopian concoction of Charles Fournier and German Romanticism shot through with contemporary interest in Marshall McLuhan and Mao Zedong.
“Robert Filliou Sings Marquis de Sade” is not listed in Filliou’s catalogue raisonné, and as far as I know, he never performed it. I found a copy in his old friend’s basement. The piece was presumably conducted casually and sent as a gift (an anti-artist as determined as Robert Filliou must have enjoyed presenting his art as gifts for amusement).
Here, Filliou sings passages from Marquis de Sade, the eighteenth century’s favorite sexual extremist, antipodal moralist, and scandalizer of the feudal elite. Interestingly, Filliou excerpts passages in which Sade describes how nations torture and kill their prisoners, not the more famous passages that describe the author’s deviance. Sung a’capella, Filliou’s tenor quivers with an Old World vibrato, lending Sade’s text a peculiar ambivalence: is Filliou promoting Sade’s criticisms or deflating them? Is he shedding light on state violence or mocking our obsession with it? In Fluxus fashion, such answers are left unresolved.
Covers are marbled, letterpressed, and individually splattered.