PRINT February 2011

Claire Fontaine

Claire Fontaine installing Grève Humaine (Interrompue) (Human Strike [Interrupted]), 2009, for the exhibition “To the Arts, Citizens!,” Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, Portugal, November 2010.


“I HATE A LIE because it is an inexactness,” wrote Álvaro de Campos, quoting Ricardo Reis. Both “Reis” and “de Campos,” however, were only inhabitants of author Fernando Pessoa’s mind.

Pseudonyms are often motivated by a desire for specificity: to designate precisely, to name. But that precision—particularly when a single name is given to a collaboration—always coexists with ambiguity about individual agency. Working together means creating a shared space that isn’t the sum of the singularities that compose it. One’s own contributions needn’t be identified and evaluated; the line between yours and mine doesn’t have to be ceaselessly redrawn. Togetherness is a means without an end, just like communism, and work is nothing but a way to preserve it.

When things pass though this shared space, through the emancipatory device of collaboration, they are submitted to a peculiar type of expropriation: They lose their initial owner, but they don’t acquire a new one. In this way, freedom of use—applied to images, words, spaces, and lives—can be enjoyed, and things become disposable.

Claire Fontaine is a Paris-based collective artist.