IMAGES 1 - 3 Equipped with a discreet camera obscura, Alain Declercq took a series of photographs of buildings, where photography is strictly prohibited. The buildings included Manhattan and Brooklyn police precincts and prisons as well as bridges and tunnels in the city. (International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York, 2008.)
IMAGE 6 A series of 14 portraits created by firing 4000 bullets from a 22 long rifle at melamine board.
alain declercq | marie cozette
Manipulation, disinformation, apparatuses of control and systems of repression, such are the subjects that guide the work of Alain Declercq, who is passionate about everything that borders from near or far on security measures with paranoiac tendencies, on the politics of fear in its mass hysteria version or on all forms of conspiracy theory. He does not try to know who benefited from the crime, but he brings up to date the methods to sidestep the real and to scramble the waves. For that, he becomes himself a scrambler, but always unostentatiously, closer to an anti-hero1 than to a militant and charismatic agitator. ‘Man in the background’ and ‘invisible actor’ are the terms that he uses to describe his positive double, Mike, the main character of his eponymous video, docu-fiction post 9/11 that retraces the itinerary of an alleged secret agent between Cairo, Washington, Paris, and Amsterdam.
In an interview 2, Felix Gonzàlez-Torres declared that ‘the most effective ideological edifices are those that don’t appear to be so. If you say: ‘I am political, I am ideological’, it doesn’t work because people know where you are coming from. But if you say: ‘Hi, my name is Bob, and that’s it’, they say to themselves, it’s not political. It’s invisible and it’s really effective’. Then he adds: ‘The red flag with the raised red fist didn’t work in the 1960s and it won’t work now. I no longer want to be the enemy; it is too easy to attack and reject the enemy’. Alain Declercq seems to apply to the letter Felix Gonzàlez-Torres’ injunction. With him, the fist closes on a reproduction of this same fist (Les Manifestes/Manifestos, 2000), which refers back to himself, empty of a symbol of struggle and protest. Today, it would seem that the real guerrilla warfare advances masked.
In slipping into the skin of an investigative journalist, cop or secret agent, the artist thwarts from within the systems of power and prevailing attitudes. With the interview of Major Pierre-Henri Bunel3, he proposes a dissonant and minutely detailed analysis of the attack on the Pentagon and sheds new light on an event that has become illegible by its overexposure.
In an essay published in 19704, Louis Althusser distinguishes apparatuses of government from the ideological apparatuses of the State. According to him, the first ‘function by violence’ (administration, army, police, prison, courts, etc.), and the second (religion, school, politics, culture, the media, etc.) by ideology. Alain Declercq’s targets are as much the repressive and violent apparatuses as the ideological apparatuses that he broaches by means of fiction. ‘If I talk about serious subjects like terrorism, it is in the manner of a spy novel, a literary genre I enjoy, and from which I borrow a lexical field and archetypes. [...] What is important is this constant to and fro between fiction and reality. I always very consciously introduce a doubt on the nature of the images or information we see. Their quotient of credibility takes shape in reality, but they always remain of a fictional order’. The search by the Criminal Investigative Department of the artist’s apartment in Bordeaux likewise distils in a troubling manner the fictional within the real. The make-believe weapons, the plane tickets, the newspaper clippings for the shoot of Mike (2005), led the anti-terrorist unit to question Alain Declercq on the existence of this mysterious character.
Confronted with the conditioning of bodies and minds, he proposes tools to re-appropriate distended and incomprehensible reality: ‘What interests me is the possibility that a work can be activated by others. In short, to propose tools to the viewer who becomes a potential user. For example, when I answer handwritten letters by imitating the writing of my interlocutor, thanks to a computer program (Faux en écriture/False Handwriting, 1997- 2004), the work can be seen as an instruction leaflet’. Neither agitation, nor propaganda, Alain Declercq’s work chooses the method of deciphering and inquiry, in reproducing and in documenting the tools of power in order to give us a new hold over them.
1. One of Alain Declerq’s first photographs is entitled Anti-héros (1998). The full-length self-portrait shows the artist decked out with two left arms. 2. ‘Être un espion’ (To Be a Spy), interview between Felix Gonzàlez-Torres and Robert Storr, in Art Press (January 1995). 3. Former officer of the French Secret Service, he wrote chapter 4 (‘L’effet d’une charge creuse‘) of Thierry Meyssan’s book on the Pentagon that reveals the inconsistencies in the versions circulated by the American authorities regarding the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11. See: Thierry Meyssan, 9/11: The Big Lie (London: Carnot, 2002). 4. Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, in On Ideology (London; New York: Verso, 2008).