But Jerszy Seymour’s temperament enables him to see further than our imagination is accustomed to going. He is an anticipator, that is to say that he gets his art to go beyond itself, to constantly stretch past the limits of its reason for being. Jerszy Seymour is a designer. His background is in the industrial world, for which he drew ordinary objects meant to fill the homes of millions of people. Of course this alone was enough to make this creator interesting to Lafayette Anticipation, Fondation d'entreprise Galeries Lafayette, which is on a mission to support contemporary art, design and fashion. The mere fact that Seymour has been one of the most prolific agents of an intelligent modernity over the past few years would have been enough to invite him, given that Lafayette Anticipation, through the history of Galeries Lafayette, is anxious to “bring together creativity and commerce for the benefit of everyone”.
Over the years, he has managed to redefine his design practice through a broadened relationship with the world and with things. His research has led him to divert industrial codes that he fed on in a world without boundaries or authorities, where forms could be generated by advantageously zany services and situations. And what was the solution advocated by Seymour? New Dirty Enterprises, “a freely reproducible franchise system that spreads by imitation, a non-gesamt-gesamtkunstwerk, a non-total, total work of art”
When it was first presented at ABC Berlin in 2013, New Dirty Enterprises offered its shares to the public and launched a pizza delivery franchise. “After a year of active development and research for the sake of a re-evolution of the human condition and a new subjective manifestation of social reality”, Jerszy Seymour occupied Lafayette Anticipation, Fondation d'entreprise Galeries Lafayette's temporary space in order to write The First Annual Report - Dialogue Is Not Possible, presented in the form of a non-opera opera at Garage MU in Paris.
No one could have called this strangeness “design”, and yet that is exactly what it came from. This same incongruity was the basis of the Extra National Assembly that Lafayette Anticipation helped build on a Swiss mountainside. This structure, intended for the gathering of an assembly unfettered by questions of identity, norms or belonging, explores the very principle of what Seymour again calls a non-total, total work. This one-of-a-kind object, combining architecture, design, art and philosophy, backs up the singular thought of all of its creators in their ability not only to take part in societal change, but also to anticipate it. Since it transcribes universal values to a local scale, since it celebrates dialogue between independent citizens and their territory or history, since it is a vehicle for humanism and criticism, the Extra National Assembly sketches the outline of a new artistic, philosophical and participatory map.
THE EXTRA NATIONAL ASSEMBLY #1
In housing, transport and public services, the futures cities we have been promised are being symbolically constructed based on models of horizontal cooperation, following the broad principles of technological development described in Jeremy Rifkin’s book The Third Industrial Revolution. If we believe this prophesy, the intelligent city will mix everything that constitutes the identity of an analogue or so-called industrial city, in a synchronous ecosystem without boundaries: territory, history, identity and language will all but cease to be absolute values, becoming data that is relative and interchangeable according to each person’s needs or expectations. The intelligent city will develop what could be called media potential, until all distance is abolished.
In the course of this evolving urbanity, Jerszy Seymour’s Extra National Assembly reintroduces a zone for presence, encounters and reflection on the future of inhabited, shaped, named territories constituted by the human mind. The Assembly, whose name alone describes a structure, was born of the Swiss landscape, whose nature conceals a complex historical, economic, literary and political construction. Originally perched on the side of the Klöntal valley in the canton of Glaris, this low-tech cabin made of studded, openwork planks was an invitation to experience the landscape paradoxically. Behind its broad red and black stripes, the structure—obviously foreign to the romantic landscape—had to become the place where Edouard Glissant’s “Tout-Monde” (“Whole-World”) became a reality. Philosophers, researchers, artists or passers-by filed through it over the course of two days in October 2014 without any common heritage but their humanity, in order to enter into exchanges on the nature of being, its physical diversity and the representations it inspires.
Jerszy Seymour wants this embassy of pure thought—where no authority is exercised other than that of the community which sporadically meets there—to be part of the “Grand Paris” development. The designer, artist and philosopher is developing an active form of thought there, a vision that is called to spread in the privacy of the Assembly, not just here and now but everywhere and nowhere. This is the meaning of its every-topia, which constitutes a true parallel micro-world. The Extra National Assembly suspends our economic, aesthetic and social models to give precedence not only to the disenchanted search for a happy ending, but also to creative euphoria. It employs design beyond objects, in a poetical relationship with urban or natural people and places. Like most of Jerszy Seymour’s works, it has the value of an unfinished total work, constantly augmented by its instigator and those who wish to claim it.
Therefore, the Assembly is not a place to withdraw from identity. Quite on the contrary, it is a place for expressing singular words. Through its form and presence, it aims to symbolically abolish boundaries and invites us to freely consider the citizen’s humanity. Like bandstands constantly appropriated by the public despite their primary purpose, the Assembly will each time fill with the vibrations and harmonies that have inhabited it. Thus this form, both simple and clever, provides the landscape with a public place for contemplating the essence and resources of our contemporary life.
NEW DIRTY ENTERPRISES: THE FIRST ANNUAL REPORT, DIALOGUE IS NOT POSSIBLE
Jerszy Seymour arrived from Germany in a red VW van in November 2014. In front of the Lafayette Anticipation’s temporary space, he was seen with three acolytes unloading crates of material whose purpose neither he nor anyone else could have known. Over the weeks that followed, the gallery at 46 rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie really became his studio, or more precisely his enterprise. The main space, whose depths are usually visible from the street, was now obstructed by spotlights facing directly outside, dazzling passers-by. At the back, Seymour had to get his joyful gang of artists and designers working on a field study for the propagation of New Dirty Enterprises.
Presented for the first time at ABC Contemporary in Berlin, New Dirty Enterprises explore new models of economic, aesthetic and social exchange dominated by the disenchanted search for a happy ending. It employs design beyond objects, in a poetical relationship with urban or natural people and places. Thus the value of New Dirty Enterprises is that of an unfinished total work, constantly augmented by its instigator and those who wish to claim it. Like his pizza delivery service, his “Council for the Progenesis of the Archaic Festival”, his “Committee for Happy Endings” and his “Creative Death Services”, the vision developed by Jerszy Seymour and his community infuses reality with humour, employing the most demanding philosophical research logic.
From the production space at 46 rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie through which philosophers, publishers, curators, colleagues and friends have passed, Jerszy Seymour has investigated the margins or our everyday life, explored the gates to Paris and its surrounding area. Travelling by cycle or by van with his studio collaborators, he drew the map of New Dirty Enterprises’ new territory.
After having considered developing new, fantastic NDE activities in the shadow of Paris’s outer ring road, the team ultimately opted to draft a manifesto. The walls of the Lafayette Anticipation’s temporary space quickly became covered with notes, drawings, photographs and texts to the point of transforming the production area into an encyclopaedic playground. Knowledge accumulated there—printed, taped and scrawled from floor to ceiling. As swiftly as the world bursts forth in Seymour’s imagination, it became clear that this mass could not find expression in expected forms. So amid the enterprise’s jumble there appeared a guitar, a synthesiser, a drum kit and a microphone so the gang, transformed into a band, could make its profession of faith through music.
All of this gave rise—after days of private rehearsal—to NEW DIRTY ENTERPRISES: THE FIRST ANNUAL REPORT, DIALOGUE IS NOT POSSIBLE, a non-opera opera presented at Garage MU in Paris. On the occasion of this unique performance, a Paris audience was able to see Jerszy Seymour and his team wearing serious faces of a strangely childish kind, with fuchsia make-up respectively representing rabbits, mice, bears. Decked in black, impassive beneath their care-bear pouts, the six performers spent a long time mixing with the crowd before finally reaching the centre of the concert hall (also delimited by a black circle), where they performed fifteen programmatic songs by New Dirty Enterprises. Extreme, comical and somewhat incantatory, the concert exploited all of the genre’s stereotypes precisely in order to demolish the standardisation of culture as industry.
The Extra National Assembly #1, a meeting held from October 11th to 12th 2014 as part of the Klöntal Triennale.
With Antonia Birnbaum, Rodney La Tourelle, Jerszy Seymour, Fabien Vallos and Christopher Yggdre. And also Yanik Balzer, Veronika Bjarsch, Lovis Caputo, Milos Djuric, Egon Elliut, Sarah Kueng and Kira Lillie.
Special thanks to the Kunsthaus Glarus.
New Dirty Enterprises: The First Annual Report, Dialogue is Not Possible, a non-opera opera presented on 12 December 2014 at the Garage MU in Paris.
With Yanik Balzer, Veronika Bjarsch, Travis Broussard, Victor Delestre, David Kaltenbach, Olivier Lellouche, Kerwin Rolland and Jerszy Seymour
Special thanks to Garage MU and its staff.